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A postcard from the Lesser-Known Candidate Forum, a New Hampshire primary tradition

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When voters in New Hampshire look at their presidential primary ballots next month, they're going to see a lot of options and not just the candidates you've already heard of. NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith was in Manchester for what's called the Lesser-Known Candidate Forum.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Richard Rist is a business owner from Maryland frustrated with how divided the nation has become. His solution? Run for president because why not?

Do you see a clear path?

RICHARD RIST: No. No, I'd be lying if I said that. Do I hold out the possibility that I could grab some traction? Yeah, I do.

KEITH: He was wearing a navy sport coat and a floral tie. His adult son was there to support him. But when Rist turned to take his seat onstage, he suddenly realized he was going to be sandwiched between a man wearing a big black rubber boot on his head and a candidate named Paperboy Love Prince, whose outfit evoked a wish-granting genie.

RIST: Oh, my gosh. I have to go see who's sitting next to me.

KEITH: Twenty presidential candidates came out to share their ideas. They ranged from deeply earnest, like Donald Picard from Cambridge, Mass...

DONALD PICARD: When I began this rather quixotic journey a few months ago, I had as a stretch goal that I would be participating in a presidential debate. And here I am. Like, wow.

KEITH: ...To what one hopes was performance art.

VERMIN SUPREME: Vermin Supreme will take away your guns and give you better ones.

(LAUGHTER)

SUPREME: And these better guns will shoot marshmallows, but they will still be lethal.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: That was the perennial candidate Vermin Supreme, known for the boot he wears on his head. In a lot of states, it's really hard to get on the ballot. In New Hampshire, there's a $1,000 filing fee, and anyone can run, including Republican Peter Jedick, a firefighter from Cleveland.

PETER JEDICK: You can actually run for president here. That's why we have all these people.

KEITH: He's trying to get attention for his ideas, moving the government out of Washington, D.C., and dealing with the debt. But he also has the kind of optimism that even some better known candidates are fueled by.

JEDICK: Well, I'm not going to be Trump, but I think I can move up there with, like, Nikki Haley and those guys, you know?

KEITH: When it was all over, Richard Rist had answered questions about gun control and the conflict in the Middle East and also promised that a vote for him would prevent the zombie apocalypse. He declared the evening a success because if people were looking at the colorful candidates on either side of him - and they were - then they were looking at him, too.

Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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