Inside Feature

"About a third of the letters came right back - many returned to sender. A good percentage of those I heard from are elderly. Another large percentage are people who have a Christian bias." Many hopefuls, much like Peter Finch in Network, are angered to the point of distraction. The aforementioned Frank Barela of the People's Revolutionary Continental Army, for example, sent back Moore's letter covered with a crabby scrawl: "WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO - ALL YOUR HOMEWORK FOR YOU?" My BarelaGram was notarized - by Barela - and stamped "Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Department of State. Commission Expires April 13, 1989." He questions my sanity ("Conjecture: Your letter = Signs of negativity, depression. Possibly hostile to me for my candidacy") and refuses to grant an interview until I send a resume, clips, a list of all the profs who shaped my world view, and an overall justification for being.

Surveying the mailings from candidates who share more willingly than Barela, Moore offers this on motive. "The major thing seems to be the value of having run. A lot of these people are good-hearted generalists. They look at all the problems and they feel an overwhelming urge to do something, and this is it. A handful seem fairly bright, and fairly articulate, and sincerely want to bring about change, and some are actually going around with that message."

Who fits Moore's bill is, of course, a subjective matter. Ask The Messiah or "Alamo" Scott if they do, and the answer will likely be "Yes!!" Others may disagree. In compiling my Candidates You Need to Know About ballot, I started by letting Moore guide me with his informed picks, which he obligingly rattled off with the gruff, insider chatter one would hope for from a flip-side Frank Mankiewicz. ("Barela is a complete schizoid crank...Susan Block's a terrific sex therapist. Thinks all problems trace to our loneliness and frustration.") Moore's tip sheet was bolstered (and cut) by my own research and prejudices. I purged the ballot of people who already get plenty of publicity (David Duke and Laughlin) or who have been around long enough to achieve protest-candidate infamy (Stassen, LaRouche, Eugene McCarthy). The Barelas of the world are nifty the first time you encounter one, but the novelty rapidly gives way to pathos, so I ejected all the screamers. (Several mutterers made the cut, however.)

Finally, sadly, there can be no Billy Joe Clegg. Despite B.J.C.'s sprawling post-office-box empire, he has eluded both Moore and me.

On Election Day, most of the people on the following ballot won't be on the one you get to punch. But don't forget, the glory of our system is that you are free to scribble in any of them as a way to protest the choice you will have: Bush versus whichever Demo Quintuplet survives (Bill Clinton, Tom Harkin, Bob Kerry, Paul Tsongas, or Jerry Brown). The list is arranged alphabetically so - Yo, candidates! - hold off the fax barrages about favoritism or conspiracy.

AGRAN, Larry. (Democrat: Irvine, California) The name probably means much less to you than STORCH, Larry, but within the universe of altie-candidates, Agran is one of the Big Swinging Dongs. Unlike almost all his colleagues, he has held elective office. (He was mayor of Irvine from 1984 to 1990, when he went down to defeat.) Basically, he is a Haydenesque liberal who used his mayoral perch to push futury visions of "thinking globally and acting locally." As a prexy candidate, says Victoria Miller, one of his soldiers, he is out to "reprioritize." For example, Agran would like to shift the bulk of our military expenditures in Europe and Japan to domestic programs, in a parcel-out that would leave most spending decisions to cities and towns.

Agran is best known for his maverick squeaky-wheel efforts to get equal time with The Quints. He disrupted the December 19 Democratic debate in Nashua, New Hampshire, moderated by Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-West Virginia), who grumbled that he would summon the police if Agran did not shut up. The People grumbled back, though, and none of the candidates objected to having Agran (and New Alliance Party candidate Lenora B. Fulani) participate. Since then the freeze-out has resumed. Agran wanted to be in the December 15 NBC debate, but Miller says the network kept "moving the goalposts" on the question of who does and doesn't qualify as a major candidate. Agran didn't make first team at the Democrats' January 19 debate, broadcast by WMUR-TV in Manchester. (That one desperately needed a wild card. Its moderator, National Public Radio's Cokie Roberts, controlled it like a dominatrix kindergarten teacher.) Agran wasn't invited to trade swipes with the big boys at the January 31 Democratic debate, either.

Agran is planning to file various complaints that, like most such efforts, will probably get him nowhere. But his fight brings up a key point: Who does decide who is presidential timber and who is clownish peckerwood? The question seems weirdly subjective in the Dan Quayle era. Why does Jerry Brown have more gravitas than Agran? He hasn't held office for more than a decade.

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