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October 24, 2012

Libertarians try to leverage ‘Survivor’ celebrity to win votes

Candidate draws crowd just by showing up

INDIANAPOLIS — The Democratic and Republican candidates running for governor this year are spending millions upon millions of dollars to get voters to pay attention to them. The third guy in the race just has to show up.

Rupert Boneham, the Libertarian Party’s nominee, is a crowd-gathering celebrity who has turned his fame as a fan-favorite, three-time cast member of the “Survivor” reality-TV show into a platform for his politics.

His polling numbers are low – the September Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll gave him just five percent of the vote – but ardor for him seems high.

After the first gubernatorial debate in Zionsville, where he stood on stage between Democrat John Gregg and Republican Mike Pence, fans waited in line to meet him and snap his photo with their smart phones. The other guys didn’t attract that kind of devotion.

But then, the other guys didn’t spend this past summer signing their campaign photos with “Argh!” –  Boneham’s signature victory cry from his days as a “Survivor” castaway.

Boneham’s bushy-bearded pirate persona is only part jest. As the campaign has worn on, he’s dug deeper into policy issues that impact the state and has used the televised gubernatorial debates to talk about need for more vocational education, more transparency in government, and a more redemptive approach to criminal justice.

He’s used his celebrity profile to elevate the profile of the Libertarian Party – the only political party outside of the two big ones that has a place on the Indiana ballot this November.

“To see Rupert do what he does is amazing. Everywhere we go, people line up to see him,” said Brad Klopfenstein, a longtime Libertarian and Boneham’s running mate. “He’s bringing people into the political process who are not the traditional voters.”

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