Lighting a fire off the campaign trail

August 26, 2010

Politicians rarely take a break from the campaign trail, but when they do they tend to choose mainstream R&R, unwinding on the golf course or tucked away on a private estate.

Not so John Mertens, a third-party candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Attendees of the annual Burning Man festival parade around a 50-foot effigy of a man at the annual event held in the Nevada desert August 30. The festival is an 'anything goes' event that's been described as "Mad Max meets Woodstock" and is expected to draw 20,000 free-sprited people.

The engineering professor turned candidate is off to Burning Man, a counterculture festival held each summer in the Nevada desert that ends with the burning of a 40-foot tall wooden sculpture. It will be his sixth time at the festival, which features extensive art exhibits but is also known for drug use and nudity.

“This year will be an abbreviated stay, because I don’t want to spend too much time away from the campaign. There’s no cell phone or Internet service. It’s going to be a nice break,” Mertens said in an e-mailed statement, adding that the trip to the festival — which in recent years has drawn more than 40,000 participants — fulfills a promise to his 22-year-old son.

Connecticut voters will have a choice of colorful candidates when they head to the ballot box in November. The Republican nominee is Linda McMahon, the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, who sometimes made appearances in the ring among the muscle-bound  performers.

Mertens is a long-shot candidate in a state where wealthy hedge fund managers head for home after a day on Wall Street. The most recent Quinnipiac University poll  showed McMahon narrowing the gap on Democratic state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who leads 50-40 percent.

That leaves Mertens with little ground to lose during his time off.

Photo credit: Reuters/David Ake (burning man)

One comment

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I’d like to share some information about my campaign. I’m a Professor of Engineering at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. I also teach courses in public policy and environmental science. I strongly believe that we need calm, intelligent, non-partisan problem-solving in government. I’m the only candidate in the race that is not a multi-millionaire, but I would argue I’m working harder than anyone, and doing a lot of things no one else is. Please take a look at our website that gives everyone a voice in the process:
I present more than 30 detailed position statements and solutions. I urge everyone to visit all the candidates’ websites, and compare what we have to say.

One the things I’m doing differently is presenting my views and solutions in a monthly 30 minute TV show that is running in every home in Connecticut that has cable, on public access (I have sponsors in all 35 districts). No one has every done this before. I discuss a different issue in-depth each month. You can watch some of them on youtube by searching for my name.

We’re trying to raise the level of civic discourse, and talk about issues and solutions. We will build a process that will live on beyond November to increase participation and give everyone a voice.

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