Barte P. Hess says his chances of becoming the next President of the United States are as remote as encountering a snow-cone vendor in the Gobi desert. But that's not going to stop him from trying.
Hess has amassed 80 signatures so far. The West Jordan resident needs 1,000 signatures and $500 to become an official candidate. The 49-year-old project-safety director for a mechanical contractor was inspired to make his bid for the presidency by what he saw as the widening gap between elected and aspiring politicians and the people they claim to represent.
He cites Mitt Romney's comment in a Florida coffee shop last week -- who Hess says recently donated $9 million to his own campaign -- about "how he's unemployed, too." "That illustrates my point right there. Whether they are our leaders or they aspire to be, they don't understand how the middle class is being squeezed right now. The average citizen needs to step up and say this is enough."
Hess's son warned him, however, that a presidential bid might lead to media inquiries about his past, that reporters might try to "dig up all the things I did when I was younger." But Hess told his son, "That was a different me, a different Barte, a guy who used to drink and didn't see a problem with his poor behavior."
That "poor behavior" saw Hess in and out of court in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with a long list of charges, most of which were dismissed, excepting a guilty plea for interfering with an arrest in 1989, a DUI the same year and guilty pleas to disorderly conduct- and criminal-trespass charges in 1993. Since then, his rap sheet has been clean. That's because, says the self-acknowledged alcoholic, "I quit drinking on Nov. 23, 1989."
A key part of Hess' inspiration to run was "the fiasco with the state legislature and the GRAMA act they tried to pass," he says. "It illustrated the sense of entitlement, of elitism" up on the Hill, he says, "and shows how they have a total contempt for the people who put them there." The well-publicized efforts by the legislature, including Hess' own representative, Rep. Mike Waddoups, to get the bill through before a storm of public opposition, "was the turning point for me."
Politicians, he continues, "have lost sight of the people who selected them to be there." An independent president, he argues, free of the mire of partisan politics, "should be able to stand up in front of the politicians, and say, 'Remember who put you here, remember the people.'"
The qualifications to become President are few: Along with the signatures and filing fee, you have be over 35 years old, an American citizen, and to have resided in this country continuously for the last 14 years. Hess is gathering the signatures the hard way -- going from door to door and to local car events and cruise nights, where he is well-known for his passion for automobiles.
If the response he's received thus far, he says, is typical "of what I can do countrywide," then, he concludes, "the people are ready" for a man called Barte P. Hess.