In the year of the outsider, another curveball candidate is seeking an upset – legendary former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee, a self-described socialist “left-winger” who’s running in the Bernie Sanders mold for governor of Vermont.
Only he makes Sanders look boring.
Known as the “Spaceman,” the quick-with-a-quip candidate is running a non-campaign campaign. He doesn’t have a staff. He’s not putting up yard signs.
He doesn’t even own a cell phone. It took days to get in touch with him as he traveled to Canada and back with his wife Diana. But when reached for an interview, Lee – a Vermont resident – explained he’s committed to his run.
“I’ve been mulling it over for months,” the Spaceman told Fox News.
His platform is a grab bag of initiatives; some serious, others not so much.
Lee is basing his grassroots “campaign,” for instance, on legalizing marijuana – and banning designated hitters. He said he wants to re-instate physical education by “forcing kindergarteners to run before they go to class,” as well as end the opioid crisis—without mentioning a specific plan to do so.
“I’m not putting up any signs,” Lee explained. “If they want signs, they have to make ‘em themselves. This has to be a grassroots organization.”
Lee, who entered the race in May, is running as the nominee for the Liberty Union Party – the organization that Vermont Sen. Sanders launched back in the 1970s.
He’d be up against some far more experienced competition for the open seat including Republican Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Democrat Sue Minter, who was the former Vermont secretary of transportation.
Asked about Lee’s unconventional bid, Scott said he did not agree with any of the candidate’s positions but has great respect for the political process.
“I feel it is important in a democracy for all voices to be heard,” Scott said. “While the Liberty Union Party is not as well established as the major parties, it would be unwise to overlook the candidates that run in statewide elections.”
Minter did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment. Polling in the race is scarce.
Lee described the Republican and Democratic candidates, though, as part of “the past.”
He said he was inspired to run by Plato’s “Republic,” explaining: “Socrates told a young Plato that if his peers asked him to govern, it was his responsibility – and if he didn’t, it would be the greatest disservice. ... I don’t want Socrates coming to bite me on the ass!”
He’s a long shot, no doubt. But 2016 has proven a year of unlikely faces, like Sanders and Donald Trump, gaining momentum in politics.
“I’m getting attention from the press just by doing nothing,” Lee said, comparing himself to Trump, though he acknowledged their messages are very different. He added, “I have better hair than him.”
The Spaceman’s only prior political experience came in 1988 when he was the presidential candidate for the satirical Rhinoceros Party, whose platform including banning guns and butter and repealing the law of gravity. But despite his lack of a traditional resume, he predicts he will be the next governor.
“Every time I go to the mound, I think I can win,” Lee said.
After nine years with the Red Sox, the left-handed pitcher spent a few years playing for the Expos – until he was forced out of the MLB in 1982, after boycotting a game in protest over a fellow player’s treatment.
The Spaceman, who is turning 70 this December, is still playing ball for the Vermont Senior Baseball League on the Burlington Cardinals.
Miro Weinberger, the catcher on the Cardinals who also happens to be mayor of Burlington, touted Lee’s candidacy – without going so far as to predict victory.
“His desire to win seems just as strong as it was in 1975 when he left Game Seven of the World Series with a lead,” Weinberger told Fox News. “I fully expect him to have a memorable and positive impact on the governor’s race.”
The only traditional campaign plan Lee has at this point is to participate in Vermont PBS’s “Candidates for Governor” debate on Oct. 6. A spokesperson from Vermont PBS confirmed they have invited Lee.
The Spaceman’s wife, Diana, told Fox News she’s supporting her husband’s political adventure.
“He just seems to be gaining popularity,” she said. “If he can sit still for a few years, the governor’s seat would be a great one to sit in.”