Elm Street Insanity

Campaign Diary

MANCHESTER, N.H.--It was a nightmare.

A guru campaigning for a Sacred Cockroach. A pack of supporters carrying signs for a write-in candidate named Larry Head who bore a strong resemblance to Julius Caesar. A move to draft former New Hampshire Gov. and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu into the campaign.

Passers-by and mainstream campaigners on Elm Street, the main artery here in the Granite State's largest city, saw all these things as voters went to the polls around the state--or at least they thought they saw them.

"I don't know where [the unusual campaigners] came from," muttered Renee Bonner, a local woman holding a sign for Sen. Bob Kerrey at the corner of Elm and Merrimack. "And I don't really know their message."

But conveying a message was not the first priority of demonstrators yesterday; they were simply interested in getting attention for one last-ditch effort to attract support for their respective candidates. All the major candidates had large representations along the busy thoroughfare, but those groups were joined by those favoring minor candidates, non-candidates or no candidates at all.


The commotion on Elm Street was overwhelming for some residents.

"I've never seen anything like this in all my life," said Virginia A. Murray, 69, a life-long Manchester resident. She said the streets are usually empty in the late afternoon of election day.

A giant cockroach, which appeared to be a large painted chair atop a rusty red Radio Flyer wagon and adorned with signs reading "Kiss me," attracted the attention of passer-bys and several camera crews. The insect was led by three people dressed in togas, scraps of multi-colored cloth and a boot--on one of the men's head. All were running for president, but two--Guru Bonanza Swank and the Rev. Red Moses--had endorsed the cockroach.

When questioned about why the cockroach and the men were running for office, one of the gurus, going by the name Vermin Supreme, replied, "It's obvious." However, Supreme mumbled more specific reasons too quickly to be understood by listeners.

When two police officers nearby saw that the "cockroach" was blocking the sidewalk, they questioned Supreme about the boot on his head.

"If the boot fits, wear it," he responded immediately.

But not all was utopian bliss for the cockroach supporters. Later in the day, they became entangled in a brief verbal confrontation with six supporters of Larry Head, a candidate whose name did not appear on either party's primary ballot.

But more serious demonstrations took place, as well. The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power stationed members of their organization on street corners holding signs reading "Bush Gets Away With Murder: One AIDS Death Every Seven Minutes," and "Honk if you hate Bush." Passing drivers honked every few seconds, including at least one bus driver.

One door down, however, a bookstore called for a different Republican longshot to be elected.

"No more wimps! Draft Iron John Sununu for President!" screamed signs in the windows of Amoskeag Books. According to Bill Petch, an employee, owner Laurie Saxon came up with the idea for the placards last week after considering all the announced candidates.