By Brian Mitchell
Scott Rupert is campaigning as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate and experiencing firsthand the difficulties involved in trying to win an election independent of a major political party.
Rupert grew up on Rosewood Drive in Sheffield Lake. His grandfather, Lynus Rupert, was the mayor of Avon in the 1950s. His bid for Senate is the first time he has ever run for office.
Currently, Rupert is self-employed as an owner-operator truck driver.
For now, Rupert is the only independent candidate running against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel.
“As for dealing with the party machine, so to speak, I really haven’t had to as of yet, because as far as they’re concerned I don’t exist,” Rupert said.
According to Rupert, there are two major obstacles standing in his way which he says are not allowing him to get his message to the voting public: money and the media.
Generally, in any major campaign for national office both of these needs are largely supported by, or supplied by, one of the major political parties and its backers. Rupert’s choice to run as an independent means he is completely on his own to raise money for his campaign, and on his own when dealing with the media.
“The biggest hurdle is the lack of media attention,” Rupert said. “Most papers and news agencies didn’t even run our press release back in January when we announced I was collecting the signatures to be on the ballot. Nor did they run our press release when we announced that we had the requisite 5,000 signatures to be on the ballet as a non-party candidate. As far as most of the media is concerned, I don’t exist.”
However, Rupert has recently received some national media attention for having more than $62,000 in tax liens. According to Rupert, his truck engine had broken down and he used his tax money to fix his truck. He added he tried to work out a deal with the IRS, but it rejected his payment plan.
“In their defense, they (the media) were more fair with me than they were with other people,” Rupert said of a national story that highlighted some of the troubled pasts of 13 U.S. Senate candidates from around the country.
Additionally, Rupert said he was the victim of media bias in a different national story that related to his current tax troubles.
“The folks at Dayton 22 (ABC News) called me and asked me if I would do an interview, and I told them, ‘Sure,’” Rupert said. “I went out of my way to make that interview happen. We had a nice, cordial conversation. In the end, they asked me to demonstrate what I do when I am hauling cars. That footage was then sent to a national news agency.”
According to Rupert, the footage of him demonstrating hauling cars was then edited by the national news agency to appear as if he was running away from the camera while they asked him a question. Rupert said in fact, he had waited 20 minutes for them to show up to the interview.
“We all know that there is plenty of media bias on both sides,” he said. “As a non-party candidate I am kind of rocking everybody’s boat.”
Rupert added that the polling agencies also ignore him and do not include him in the pre-election polls, despite his numerous e-mails.
“When people start talking, they (the media) will have to take me seriously,” Rupert said. “But it will be up to them to do it. I guess I could jump out of an airplane or something like that, or maybe jump my motorcycle over something.”
Rupert added that he has also not been invited to partisapate in any media debates.
The other major difficulty in running a political campaign as an independent is the lack of money, which the major political parties tend to raise for their candidates.
“You would be amazed at how much support I have from the people,” Rupert said, “though it’s not exactly showing itself in financial support.”
According to Rupert, his campaign is working with no budget. He reported that he has spent well under $5,000 on his campaign so far, using mostly his own money and a few thousand coming from money he has been able to raise though political donations to his campain.
“I am not working from a big political war chest,” he noted. “I am doing what I can with what I have.”
Rupert added that the current campain finance system is part of the reason he is running for office. He said it is not so much the money, but rather, where the money comes from that concerns him.
Rupert said he knows that his message sells itself, and he doesn’t need millions of dollars to run his campaign. Instead, his goal is to use what money he has to make sure that people know they have another choice.
“For not having any budget, we are doing very well,” he added.
Rupert said he is confident the money will come in once his message is out, and he thinks he can win in November. Until then he will keep campaigning around the state from the seat of his Harley-Davidson, one Ohio county at a time.