Many people claim to know how to tackle the problem of homelessness. However, the problem never seems to get solved, no matter what is done. Yet, what if the problem is not something to be addressed by those living in the best neighborhoods and who wear the nicest suits, but by someone who has actually lived on the streets and knows a thing or two about the issue firsthand? The Washington Post shows today that this may just be the case.
Democrat Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington D.C. is said to have “no credible opponent challenging” her, but that depends on how credibility is defined. Jeremiah Stanback, 32, admits that “he sleeps on sidewalks, buses, and in homeless shelters,” yet still feels that he has earned the right to have his name on the ballot for mayor himself. This self-titled “Homeless Candidate” is not willing to be condescended to just because of his lot in life, either.
It is hard to argue with Stanback since he has “submitted 2,040 nominating signatures to the D.C. Board of Elections,” a total that is 40 names higher than it needs to be to qualify for June’s democrat and republican primaries.
It seems that two other candidates, who are no better known than the homeless gentleman, are quite worried about his name being thrown into the hat. They are alarmed enough that they questioned the legitimacy of the signatures acquired by Stanback, and a mediator was called into yesterday to solve the dispute.
“They’re trying to crucify me!” complained Stanback as he pointed to the unfair treatment that he feels that he is receiving. He was adorned in a “button-down shirt, overcoat, and Redskins cap” and at his feet was a bag full of his few belongings which he totes with him everywhere that he goes.
He was sitting “in a reception area before a hearing at the board’s headquarters” waiting to learn the fate of his mayoral bid. “These people want to make me fail,” the hopeful man lamented. “I came with all these aspirations, but I’m homeless and they don’t want that.”
While the whole notion seems utterly foolish at first glance, the fact that Stanback truly understands what the average person faces on a day to day basis, may really attract voters who are seeing the larger picture. After all, a “man of the people” has really risen to the surface, of that there is no debate.
Billing himself as “The Homeless Candidate,” he has spoken to everyone (even Sgt. Timothy Evans of the Metropolitan Police Department) on his quest for signatures and support. His platform consists of trying to “expand affordable housing” in the area which is quite pricey.
The district leads the nation in homelessness as a result.
Four years ago, Bowser claimed that she was going to be able to solve the problem, but clearly, she has not.
When Stanback says that he is being nitpicked and looked down upon, he is not making up the scenario. Still, there are those who openly support the man, too. For example, Kelly Turner, a voter-services assistant, stared at him from her desk and told the candidate to eat a wrapped egg salad sandwich that sat upon his lap unopened.
“You’re not supposed to have any food in here, but I want you to eat,” the assistant said. “You did really well,” she said.
The man has been at the election board office enough that they are fully aware of who Stanback is by now. He has been gathering signatures and wants to run as a democratic candidate. This would put him nose to nose against the incumbent who is also a democrat but who Stanback says has let everyone down.
“Hi! I’m Jeremiah Stanback! Running for mayor!” the man is often heard saying, rather loudly, as he walks up to strangers with his pen and clipboard in hand.
The mayoral hopeful spent the night prior to his meeting with the board “beneath an outdoor table at a shuttered downtown restaurant.” Before that, he “nodded off on the 70 bus” which he said was jam-packed full of homeless people with nowhere to go.
“It was like a ‘Ride Hotel,” Stanback confessed. “At 2 a.m., it was packed. There were so many people I couldn’t take it anymore.”
When Rudolph McGann, “an elections board attorney who presided over the hearing,” showed up, the homeless candidate had some words for him, too. He seemed to be rushing Stanback, a possible sign that he felt that the man’s bid was meaningless. “You have got to slow down,” said the possible democratic candidate as the mediation was to begin. “You’re rolling like you had two cups of coffee.”
However, it was candidate Ernest Johnson who was “represented by three silent surrogates” who called into question the honesty of Stanback’s signatures. The assistant Board of Elections registrar, Deanna Smith, showed the homeless man “that Johnson had questioned 385 of his signatures,” so he was now 245 short on names.
From here, Stanback had to either pull his name from consideration or request a formal hearing of the Board of Elections so that matter could be solved that way. It is said that his list was “riddled with fraud,” but that he could run as a write-in candidate. He was reminded that “former mayor Anthony Williams had done” that in 2002 and he won!
Stanback spoke to the board and admitted to being gay, homeless, and “a bit theatrical,” but got quite serious when he declared that he would not be stopped from his objective. “I’m going to be the mayor. You may not like it” he promised.
Unphased, McGann attempted to tell Stanback that he needed to focus on “pertinent legal” information and the man snapped, “Don’t talk to me like I’m a child. You’re being very condescending.”
McGann then asked, “Mr. Stanback, what do you want to do with this matter?”
“If you were in my shoes, what would you do?” Stanback retorted. The mediator answered, “I can’t do that, sir. I can’t direct you.”
Undaunted, the homeless man demanded, “What would you do?”
Giving in, McGann replied,”I wouldn’t run for office.”
From there, things got a bit confusing as “Ernest Johnson’s surrogates, who were replaced by Stanback’s second challenger, James Butler” were dismissed by McGann. Butler, another candidate, has questioned 141 of Stanback’s signature but said, “I’ve rethought my strategy” and halted the challenge.
Either he saw the light or just feels that running against a homeless man may be easier than running against a field of candidates without him, he said, “everyone has a right to run . . . and it’s simply good for democracy to give the voters a choice.”
McGann still prompted Stanback as he sat contemplating his next move. “Either you withdraw or take it to the board,” he reminded the homeless candidate.
Ditching the democrats, he exclaimed, “I’m going to run as an Independent, baby!” grinning all the while.
So now, but August 6, he needs 3,000 fresh signatures. “I won’t rest,” Stanback pledged. “I will be mayor.”
With that kind of determination, perhaps he should be mayor of the nation’s capitol, after all.