Last Candidate Standing

Davie's Richard Grayson has built a political career of joke campaigns

Armed with yet another degree, Grayson moved back to Davie in 1993 to be closer to his parents. He took a job at Nova and continued politics on the side. In 1994, he registered as a write-in candidate against U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, a Republican in a district north of Clearwater. The Tampa Tribune published a half-serious profile of Grayson, listing among his issues "all kinds of liberal things." Grayson received a whopping 152 votes.

The following year, after Newt Gingrich commented that men are "biologically driven to hunt giraffes," Grayson founded another PAC: Giraffe Hunters of America. His organization garnered press in Roll Call and the Sacramento Bee.

Publicity on his side, Grayson in 1996 set his eyes on national office once again. He filed as a write-in candidate against U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Miami. Grayson garnered -- get ready -- eight votes.

Richard Grayson is of two minds.
Colby Katz
Richard Grayson is of two minds.

Now an administrator and English instructor at Nova, Grayson is back on the ballot in 2004. Crenshaw, he explains, would have waltzed into office without a November vote had Grayson not entered the race.

The long-distance candidate even has a high-profile endorsement. John Anderson, a professor of law at Nova who in 1980 became one of the nation's most successful third-party presidential candidates after garnering 7 percent of the vote, has thrown his political weight behind the long shot. "He presents to me the image of a man who has a sincere belief, not an irrational belief, that we ought to have competition for political office," Anderson says. "He is an individual that some will dismiss at quixotic. Others will use less-kind adjectives to describe what seems a futile, if not hapless, venture."

"What I'm doing now is not quite a joke," Grayson explains in a moment of seriousness. "I'm trying to make a point. In Florida, we have a system where, if one candidate files for an office and no other candidate files, then there's no election."

Grayson is also using his candidacy as something of a literary vehicle. A former recipient of a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship Award for writing, Grayson pens short stories for several websites. In May, he began a daily campaign diary for McSweeney's (www.mcsweeneys.com), an online literary journal founded by author Dave Eggers. It's as much humor column as campaign soapbox, steeped in the postmodernist idea of making just about everything your subject. When a reporter from Folio Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Jacksonville, called to interview Grayson, the candidate researched the journalist.

"I Googled him and found out he's into environmentalism and hip-hop," Grayson wrote. "Doing background research on a journalist sort of makes me feel like a smarmy politician."

Grayson takes a sip of his iced tea, pondering the question of what he would do should he miraculously be elected to Congress. "I don't know where I'd live in Washington," he says, rubbing his chin. "I'd see if I could get a dorm room at American University. It would be interesting to be in Congress. But it would probably stress me out too much. It's a lot of work. I'm too lazy to be in Congress."

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