Plenty of Americans find it strange that Donald Trump — a former reality TV star with zero political experience — was somehow elected 45th president of the United States. But while many aspects of the 2016 election left citizens utterly confused, one thing that actually wasn’t that strange was the candidate himself.
Anyone can run for president, as long as they meet a few basic qualifications regarding age and citizenship status. Admittedly, no wild card candidate has ever won the election before. But when it comes to presidential wannabes, Donald Trump may not be the weirdest one the country’s ever seen. From convicted felons to real-life vampires, read on to discover the most bizarre presidential candidates in American history.
1. Vermin Love Supreme — performance artist
For anyone questioning President Trump’s mental capacity for running the country, just consider this: a man named Vermin Love Supreme who is known for wearing a boot on his head and carrying around a giant toothbrush also ran for president in 2016.
If elected, he promised to enact a law that everyone in America should brush their teeth (not a bad plan), promised to devote research funding to time travel so he could go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler, advocated zombie apocalypse awareness, and to the delight of every supporter, promised free ponies for everyone.
In a press conference after filing his official paperwork for the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot, he said, “Together my friends, we will ride our ponies into a zombie-powered future.”
Next: This preacher sought to abolish the separation of church and state.
2. Homer A. Tomlinson — NYC preacher
It’s not that strange for a religious leader to run for president — if fact, hundreds have attempted to rise to the highest office of the United States many times throughout history. The weird thing about Homer A. Tomlinson is just how many bids he made.
Tomlinson refused to take no for an answer. This New York City advertising professional turned Pentecostal preacher put his name on the ballot for five straight elections, from 1952 until his death in 1968. Religion was the core of his stance — he founded the Theocratic Party and had plans on replacing taxation with tithing and adding new cabinet posts for the “Secretary of Righteousness” and “Secretary of the Holy Bible.” So much for the separation of church and state.
After losing, he elected himself King of the World by donning a painted gold crown and ruling from a hotel room in Jerusalem with a folding chair as his throne.
Next: This candidate had strong feelings about deceased rapper Tupac Shakur.
3. Cynthia McKinney — Tupac advocate
The Green Party nominee in 2008, Cynthia McKinney, served as a member of Congress until 2006. While in office, she tried to pass a bill to release the government’s secret records on Tupac Shakur and reportedly assaulted a Capitol police officer.
As if that’s not crazy enough, McKinney publicly claimed that the government unlawfully executed 5,000 men in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and dumped them in a Louisiana swamp. The source of her information? A phone call from a “verified source.” Sounds legit.
Next: It’s possible he would have burned down the White House — just like he did to his own home.
4. Jack Shepard — disgraced dentist and suspected arsonist
Jack Shepard is likely the only candidate in history who ran for president while simultaneously running from the law.
All of Shepard’s political moves had to be conducted off U.S. soil thanks to an outstanding warrant for his arrest issued 25 years prior to his 2008 presidential bid. His alleged crime? Burning his Minneapolis home to the ground.
And it gets worse. Shepard also had his Minnesota dental license revoked for “a string of violent incidents.” Maybe he just wanted to be president so he could pardon himself and return home without fear of jail time. Anything’s possible.
Next: He ran for president 8 times … and he hated Jewish people.
5. Lyndon LaRouche — conspiracy theorist and vehement anti-Semite
Lyndon LaRouche ran for president a total of eight consecutive times starting in 1976, first as the U.S. Labor Party candidate and later for the Democrats. But he had some particularly heinous ideas.
For starters, he believes that the Holocaust never happened, or if it did it wasn’t actually that terrible. LaRouche claimed that everything evil came from Jewish people, including drugs, Satanism, and the KGB.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1989 for scheming to defraud the IRS and intentionally defaulting on more than $30 million worth of loans from his supporters. But that didn’t stop him from placing his name in the mix during the 1992 election. LaRouche became the second person in U.S. history to run for president while incarcerated.
Next: This candidate had a unique solution for ending terrorism.
6. John Hagelin — doctor and transcendental meditator
Natural Law Party candidate John Hagelin had a radical solution for terrorism. Ready for it? Transcendental meditation.
According to Hagelin, all the world’s problems, including terrorism, could easily be solved by getting people together in a room and having them think very hard about a solution. He said that this theory has been tested and proven for 25 years.
The reason this hasn’t worked before is that there’s never enough people ruminating on the problem at once. But if he would have won the presidency in 1992, that could all be different. Too bad we’ll never know.
Next: As president, this famous singer planned to legalize every drug.
7. Jello Biafra — punk musician
Dead Kennedys frontman and punk musician Jello Biafra attempted to become the Green Party candidate in 2000, but lost out to Ralph Nader. That could be because he chose death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal as his running mate. Or it may be his radical stance on a few issues.
Biafra promised to enact a maximum wage, abolish the military, withdraw from NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, and lower the voting age to five. He also planned to end the War on Drugs by legalizing basically every drug from marijuana to heroin. In a Biafra-run nation, slum lords would be sentenced to live in their own buildings and polluters would be forced to, “inhale and swim in the mess they’ve made until they clean it up.”
Next: She was the first female candidate to run for U.S. president — and she couldn’t even vote.
8. Victoria Woodhull — entrepreneur and suffragette
Think Hillary Clinton was the first plausible female presidential candidate? Think again.
A woman way ahead of her time, Victoria Woodhull ran in the 1872 election on the platform of women’s rights and the pro-labor movement. She and her running mate Frederick Douglass were added to the ticket under the Equal Rights Party, advocating strongly for sex education, vegetarianism, and legalizing prostitution.
She also believed in the concept of “free love” and wished for everyone to have the right to marry and divorce as they chose without government intrusion. But perhaps the most revolutionary detail about Woodhull is the fact that she ran 50 years before women were even granted the right to vote with the 19th Amendment. Amazingly, Woodhull couldn’t even vote in the election she was running in.
Next: His main goal as president? Making contact with aliens.
9. Gabriel Green — friend of extraterrestrials
If you ever wanted a presidential candidate who was skilled in the art of negotiating with extraterrestrials, then Gabriel Green is your man.
Green founded the Los Angeles Interplanetary Study Group in 1956 and worked to promote interplanetary messages and music. He was a regular speaker at flying saucer events and published a national newsletter imploring Space People to reach out and make contact with humans.
During the 1960 and 1972 elections, Green ran as, “your write-in space age candidate!” If elected, he planned to disclose the existence of extraterrestrials and help humans benefit from the knowledge they could impart to mankind.
Next: He didn’t bother to hide that he was essentially a Russian spy vying for the U.S. presidency.
10. Earl Browder — communist
Communism never quite caught on in the United States, but if Earl Browder had won in the 1936 or 1940 elections, things could have gone very differently.
Kansas-born Browder was active in the U.S. labor movements from a young age and was jailed for draft dodging during World War I. He went on to become the leader of the Communist Party in America.
His collusion with Russia was something of an open secret. Many of his family members were Russian spies and he made no effort to hide his own dealing with the Soviets. Basically, he was a Russian secret agent running for president of the United States.
During his 1940 nomination, Browder was in the midst of appealing a conviction for passport forgery, which would have landed him four years in federal prison. So if he’d won, maybe they would have relocated the Oval Office there?
Next: His daughter is one the most infamous teachers convicted of having sex with a student — ever.
11. John G. Schmitz — California congressman
Ever call someone a “wingnut?” The phrase was invented to describe this kooky candidate.
John G. Schmitz, the congressman from California, ran on the American Independent Party ticket in 1972 against incumbent Richard Nixon. He managed to secure 10% of the Idaho vote and even beat Democratic candidate George McGovern in some counties. He was an ardent anti-communist and took strong stances in favor of states’ rights and against abortion.
Like Trump, Schmitz’s crazy quotes are destined to live in infamy. Speaking of President Nixon’s trip to China, Schmitz reportedly said, “I have no objection to President Nixon going to China. I just object to his coming back.”
His political career went down in flames after it was discovered that he had an affair, but that wasn’t even the most famous scandal in the family. One of his daughters is schoolteacher Mary Kay LeTourneau, who went to prison for having sex with a 12-year-old student whom she later married and had children with.
Next: This drag performer had a very suggestive campaign slogan.
12. Joan Jett Blakk (a.k.a. Terence Smith) — drag performer
Detroit native Joan Jett Blakk ran for mayor of Chicago and President of the United States on the Queer Nation Party ticket with the slogan, “Lick Bush in ’92!” After a failed attempt, she ran again in the next election with the slightly altered slogan, “Lick Slick Willie in ’96!”
While her manner was brash, her ideals weren’t too far from more traditional presidential candidates. In response to America’s health care crisis, she said, “The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a national health care policy. That’s a joke.”
Fans also cite that she brought attention to queer issues in a time before anyone was talking about them in the mainstream media.
Next: This man offered 70 nonsensical reasons for running for president.
13. Lee Mercer Jr. — Eye Spy Community Military Intelligence operative
Not only did Lee Mercer Jr. award himself a collegiate professional degree (based on his own academic training of … himself), but he also claims that the state of Texas installed an “intelligence hotwire” inside of him. Mercer asserts that this wire is capable of transmitting information, which is how he gains his vast knowledge.
Officially, Mercer listed 70 reasons for running for president in 2008. A few highlights include:
Reason 10: “To prove the United States of America has two Governments and they are Government #1 and Government #2 and I own Government # 1 a Private Ownership named Eye Spy Community-Military Intelligence.”
Reason 23: “To Prove I have solved every crime in the world as it happens from zero to start to finish for every crime done in Business and Commerce Intelligence National and International.”
Reason 34: “To Prove the government owes me Zillions of Dollars in money and is refraining to pay me and my business.”
Reason 49: “To Prove the United States Government killed my sex life, my wife sex life, my daughter-in –laws sex life both [my] sons and other of my family members sex life with Espionage Experimentation and Espionage Exploitation sex killing.”
Next: This convicted felon thought he should be president.
14. James Traficant — convicted felon
Anyone who voted for James Traficant in 1988 was actually voting for a real-life criminal.
This former member of the House of Representatives of Ohio was expelled and convicted of taking bribes, filing false tax returns, and forcing his co-workers to clean his houseboat. He served seven years in jail and was released in 2009. After imparting his wisdom at a Tea Party protest, he was killed in a 2014 farm accident.
Next: This guy drinks blood. Seriously.
15. Jonathon Albert ‘The Impaler’ Sharkey — former wrestler and self-proclaimed vampire
This former wrestler and 2012 presidential candidate is a self-described vampire who only drinks the blood of women because, “women are beautiful… they have such beautiful necks and arms.” He’s also a practicing pagan, though claims to have no issues with any religion.
For justice reform, he ran on a platform of instituting torture and impaling for criminals. He said former President George H.W. Bush was a “wuss.” Probably because of his strict no-impalement policy.
In case you missed out on voting for him previously, don’t worry: he plans to run again in 2020.
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