SALT LAKE CITY — The political party Rocky Anderson formed now officially has a candidate for president: Rocky Anderson.
Undeterred by his chances of winning, the former Salt Lake City mayor accepted the nomination Friday, attacking the two-party system and calling for voters to consider his run as a member of the Justice Party.
“This is not my campaign,” Anderson said during his remarks at the University of Utah. “This is a campaign of, for and by the people. We join together in this endeavor for the sake of justice — social justice, environmental justice and economic justice.”
Twenty minutes before, the auditorium was a classroom for an intro to children’s literature class for approximately 30 students. The crowd more than doubled before Anderson took the stage.
“I’m a very good friend of Rocky’s,” said Jerry Floor, a musician who co-founded the Salt Lake City Jazz Fest with Anderson. “I don’t know much about (his campaign). He’s been a good friend and he called and invited me.”
Campaign staffers did their best to transform the auditorium into a setting worthy of a presidential political rally. A campaign banner was hung across the white board on stage, and a pixilated image of the Justice Party logo was printed out on a paper attached to the front of the podium.
The audience featured a large number of young people, some, perhaps, enticed by the free pizza. A group of four students from China said they came interested in hearing a presidential candidate and they hoped listening to his speech would be a chance to practice their English.
Anderson’s campaign manager, Ty Markham, sat on the front row, leading the audience in enthusiastic applause before he took the podium and throughout his remarks.
“He looks out for the rights of all,” she said. “He has the courage to stand up to big money.”
Anderson blasted Democrats and Republicans and urged voters to not settle for “voting for the lesser of two evils.” He touched on a wide variety of subjects, including environmental issues, corruption in the justice system and bail out of multi-national corporations.
“We will fight to make certain that, in the future, no banks will be 'too large to fail' and that the only thing we will consider to be 'too large to fail' is the interests of the American people,” he said.
Anderson said voters had to set aside their “fear-based notion” that third party candidates are “spoilers” during an election in order to see true change.
“Win or lose, we can, through this campaign, make a tremendous positive difference in our nation and our world,” he said.
The Justice Party was formed late last year and campaign staff estimated there are currently around 400 volunteers across the country. Their biggest challenge for party members and Anderson supporters will be getting his name on the ballot in as many states as possible.
“We’ve got 2,000 signatures to get in the next 35 days” in Utah, said Walter Mason, the party's ballot access national committee chairman.
Utah was one of the easier states, Mason said. Others required thousands more signatures to qualify for a spot on the ballot. It’s a costly endeavor, something that could prove challenging considering the campaign’s self-imposed $100 campaign contribution limit.
Anderson’s campaign staff points to the contribution limit as proof the candidate isn’t just spouting talking points when he talks about overthrowing “the dictatorship of corruption money on our government.” In lieu of a large campaign budget, the plan includes reaching voters through social media.
More than 100 third party and independent candidates are running for president in 2012 according to the website politics1.com. Many, like Anderson, have yet to qualify to get their name on ballots. Third party presidential candidacies have failed to gain traction in the United States, with Ross Perot’s 1992 run where he received nearly 19 percent of the vote the most successful.
Anderson admitted his candidacy is a long shot, but said it's a step to ending the two-party system.
“The odds are long, but it’s impossible if we don’t stand up and give it a shot,” he said.
Anderson is currently the executive director for High Road for Human Rights. He served as Salt Lake City mayor from 2000 to 2008 as a Democrat, but left the party in August 2011.