SALT LAKE CITY —
Directions to the Rocky For President campaign headquarters:
First, find an otherwise unmarked door with the number "314" written on it just below Carlucci's Bakery across from Pioneer Park on Salt Lake City's west side. Enter and go up a flight of stairs to the second floor, make your way through another door and continue along a winding corridor, and then, when you miss the small hand-lettered "Rocky" sign on the wall that points to another nondescript door, ask somebody.
And if you think that's difficult, when you finally find his office, ask Rocky about getting on the ballot for 2012.
"I had no idea how absolutely undemocratic this country is when it comes to forming political parties," says Rocky, sitting behind a desk next to a window that looks down onto an alley. "The ballot access is absurd."
Welcome to the third-party world, where former Salt Lake City Mayor Ross Carl "Rocky" Anderson, the human lightning rod, is running for president on the Justice Party ticket.
That's president — as in president of the United States.
Odds are, he won't win, although there is an outside chance he could finish third and wind up with the bronze.
Not that Rocky expects victory. "Not a prayer," is how he assesses his chances. But as always, there's method to his perceived madness. The reason he shut down his High Road for Human Rights foundation to run for an office he can't possibly obtain is because of the greater impact a third party can have, especially in an election year.
"A political party makes more sense," he says. "It's the same message (as High Road), and this way we're reaching tens of thousands of people each week."
No one could say he's doing it for the frills. Inside headquarters, the office staff is as spare as the furnishings. There's a total of five people, and that's counting Rocky.
There's Sally Soriano, the campaign coordinator. A former schoolteacher from Seattle, she heard Rocky give a speech in Portland after he announced his candidacy in January and was in her Kia Rio the next week, driving unannounced to Salt Lake City.
There's Nancy Karter, the office manager. An out-of-work accountant from Indiana, she was doing political research on the Internet back home when she came across Rocky's views and beelined it to Utah to volunteer.
There's Walter Mason, the ballot-access coordinator from Salt Lake City. He phoned up Rocky and asked specifically to be the point man in getting the Justice Party on the ballot in as many states as possible. So far they've made it through the red tape in nine states, including Utah. They're hoping for as many as 20, with write-in capability in all but five.
And there's Devan Bailey, the campaign designer from Centerville. Devan, 22, is one semester from graduating from Weber State. An admirer of Rocky going back to his antiwar demonstrations when he was mayor, Devan and a friend stopped by Rocky's house in Salt Lake City one night for a political conversation and the next thing Devan knew he was setting up Rocky's website, www.voterocky.org.
Nine months ago, Rocky Anderson knew none of these people.
One of the bedrock principles of Rocky's campaign is that money has corrupted politics, but it hasn't corrupted anything here. Nobody's getting rich. Bailey makes a small salary that he supplements by doing a landscaping job twice a week. Mason gets $200 a month, the amount he asked for so he could buy gas and an occasional lunch. Karter gets $500 a month, barely enough for the apartment she's renting downtown, and so far Soriano has received absolutely nothing, although Rocky is letting her stay at his house rent-free.
As for Rocky, "It's devastating financially," he shrugs, estimating he'll eat through $35,000 of his savings this year. It helps that he still drives his 1999 Honda that runs on clean natural gas, his mortgage is paid off, and these days he wears iron-free shirts.
"I always took my shirts to the dry cleaner," he says of those halcyon days when he ran things from a much bigger office in City Hall. "Now I've learned how to launder them myself."6 comments on this story
But there is no whine in Rocky's voice. His disdain is reserved for America's "march toward totalitarianism."
"There are so many people in this country who feel completely disenfranchised," he says. "People who feel they were duped by all the hope and change promised four years ago. I represent the issues that are important to people more than Obama or Romney. I really am mainstream."
The fact that he's saying all this in an office that would give GPS a run for its money is as lost on him as it is beside the point.
For Rocky, now as always, it's the message, not where it's coming from.