King's political career began in 1960 when he ran for U.S. president, the first black U.S. presidential nominee, he claims. (Federal Election Commission records indicate that he finished eleventh out of twelve candidates, garnering 1485 votes. John F. Kennedy won the election with 34,226,731 votes.) That effort was the first of numerous quixotic -- and unsuccessful -- runs for various political offices in Georgia and Florida.
This time around likely won't be much different. King himself predicts Metro Commissioner and mayoral candidate Alex Penelas will walk away with the crown. "Even if Penelas wins, that doesn't make me a loser," he explains. "I think I shall have aspired to make people in an underdog position be more assertive." His candidacy in and of itself may also be an affirmation of his willingness to live, a personal declaration that he's still on this Earth. A year ago King was bedridden and emaciated, prostate cancer and pain wracking his body, and was preparing to fly to Ethiopia to die. First, though, he assented to his children's wishes and returned to Albany, Georgia, for medical treatment. Chemotherapy and drugs have sent the cancer into remission, King reports.
The evening after his appearance at the Black Business Association, King hits the hustings again. The occasion is a mayoral and District 3 candidates' discussion at an Overtown community center. Although he's ten minutes late, King is the first candidate to show. His campaign apparel remains the same, accented with a hefty dollop of fuchsia lipstick ("The Egyptian pharaohs wore lipstick," he explains). Eventually three commission candidates show, but by the time the event begins -- twenty minutes late -- King is still the only mayoral candidate present.
This time he's a picture of gentility and decorum, but he alienates the crowd with his tendency to ramble in his responses. Supposedly addressing a question about the needs of Overtown, King digresses into a seemingly unrelated story about his fourth wife, prompting one audience member to shout, "What about the question? Answer the question!" As he approaches the dais later in the meeting, King implores the heckler not to interrupt him again, then adds, "He may be jealous of me 'cause of my lipstick!"
Later King is frank in his self-assessment. "I made an ass of myself didn't I?" he mumbles. "Of course, I was an ass before I got there, but I made myself a bigger ass! But I'm not discouraged because I'm accustomed to being a fool.