GOP nomination debates are usually characterized by perfectly parted hair, immaculate suits, American flag pins and the squeaky clean folks who put them on in hopes of wooing enough of their conservative base to win their party’s nomination.
A Harley Davidson-riding, former Navy engineer and taxi driver named Harley (formerly Robert) Brown put a wrench in all that.
According to Wyoming Public Media, it was incumbent governor Butch Otter who demanded Brown and another equally eccentric candidate, Walt Bayes (hardcore anti-abortion, anti-government type and frequent office-seeker) be allowed on the bill. Maybe Otter thought the two would make him appear more reasonable to moderate Republicans. If so, it worked.
Even the fourth man in the debate, Tea Party candidate State Senator Russ Fulcher looked like Barney Frank compared to the two. If he thought he was anti-government, wait till you hear what Brown and Bayes have to say about the Feds.
Watch a supercut (courtesy of Victoria Montoya) that shows the best of Brown and Bayes:
Brown fancies himself a blue-collar candidate that’s as “politically correct as your proverbial turd in a punch bowl and proud of it,” and if you go to his website’s “Harleyisms” page, you’ll see he means it. The page is a list that’s half political philosophy and half grossly off-color jokes you might hear at the local town bar. He may be offensive, but he’s endearing in his own way.
He says he was told by God that he would become president of the United States, and had a Kenyan evangelist bishop verify it. He rides a 1982 Harley and drives a 1975 Dodge pickup truck. He let his 2-year-old grandson smoke his cigar. He’s also the only candidate who’s pro-gay marriage.
“I used to drive taxis in Boise for 20 years at night. I’ve picked up my fair share of the gay community and they have true love for one another,” Brown said. “I’m telling you, they love each other more than I love my motorcycle, and they’re just as American as a Medal of Honor winner. Liberty and justice for all, equal protection under the law. I’m glad that judge made that decision and I’m glad they want to get married and live like that.”
Brown was referencing a recent decision by an Idaho judge that ruled a ban on gay marriage in the state as unconstitutional. Gov. Otter has vowed to fight the decision.
The debate can only be appreciated if you watch it. It's a testament to our commitment to democracy, no matter how fringe the candidates are. It's also a hell of a lot more entertaining than any other debate we've seen in the last 20 years.
Brown put it perfectly in his closing remarks: “And you have your choice, folks. A cowboy, a curmudgeon, a biker or a normal guy. Take your pick. Thank you very much. We’re leaving it up to you.”
That's what America is all about.
While Idahoan Republicans are likely to pick either “cowboy” Gov. Otter or “normal guy” Sen. Fulcher, you can bet this won’t the last we hear of Harley Brown. Anyone with a penchant for juicy sound bites like Brown offers are bound to find their way back into the political discussion. Or at least we can hope so.
The Idaho primary will take place on May 20. Watch the full debate, there’s plenty more to see: