Among the nearly 400 people who have filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in 2012 is a former Ames electrician named Jerry Lanser. A Pella native, the 60-year-old presidential aspirant says that the 2008 economic downturn spurred him from political apathy.
Lanser left Ames for Longmont, Colorado, in 1982 because of a “weak construction market.” In Longmont, Lanser owns an electrical business and a company that manufactures tools for the construction industry (as evidenced by the ladder in his campaign video below).
Like many of the relatively unknown, politically frustrated candidates for president, Lanser says he wanted to bring national attention to the actual issues rather than party-ascribed labels (he does describe himself as a “conservative Republican”). He announced his candidacy shortly before the Ames Straw Poll last August and says that it’s now “idle.” But he still had plenty of thoughts to share with the Progressive about the need for lesser-known candidates to stand up for nonpartisan change.
Why 2012, and why the presidency?
I didn’t think the debt issue was getting enough press. One of the reasons I got in was because I was tired of bitching about it. We don’t have many more chances left to fix things in this country and there comes a point when things just come crashing down if they aren’t done right. For me, every other issue comes down to the debt. Until we solve that, the rest of them are moot.
Discuss your platform, in your own words.
I think my platform could at least be tolerable to both parties. The two main things I was running on were that our current income tax system is ineffective at addressing the debt and that we need to combine that with a balanced budget. Over a three- or four-year period, I’d like to fade out the income tax and replace it with a national sales tax using a constitutional amendment. That’s not overly tolerable to the liberals, who like the progressive income tax, so I would exempt food and rent from the sales tax. There are a lot of freeloaders in this country who are making a lot of money off the government without contributing to the economy, and I think a sales tax would help even that out. We’re also going to have to start pushing back the retirement age for Social Security benefits and it wouldn’t break my heart a bit to push it back six months or a year.
How many people are on your campaign team?
Me — I’m it. I took a shot at making an impact in the straw poll or at least seeing if I could get some of my ideas out or get to meet some people. Since that didn’t happen, I put the campaign on idle. I will not be on the ballot in November because you have to pay a pretty sizable sum to get your name on there.
How does your background qualify you to run for office?
America’s been good to me. I started a business here and what I’ve finally deduced is that politicians put their pants on the same way I do and they don’t have any special qualifications. That’s why I think we’re at a point that you accumulate so much political baggage by the time you’re elected that you’re ineffective by the time you’re there. I don’t have any super political friends and I’m an average citizen with what I would consider above-average common sense.
How would your Iowa roots have played a part in your time in office?
I appreciate the upbringing I received in Iowa. I think I was taught American history well and developed a love of country. We haven’t always been right, but we’ve been right a lot more than we’ve been wrong. It’s the greatest country on Earth.
What do you dislike most about the presidential campaign process?
It’s a pretty grueling thing. It’s a tough road, and there’s a lot of abuse that you have to take. A lot of things are said about people that aren’t true. As far as campaigning itself, it doesn’t lend itself to looking at anything in detail. Everything is over-generalized.
What have you most enjoyed about campaigning?
I’ve learned a lot and I’ve met some nice people along the way. People were pretty receptive to my message and I don’t have any regrets.
What do you think you could accomplish in office that Romney or Obama wouldn’t be able to?
They each have a different focus than what I would have as president. Neither one of them want to address the debt issue in any depth, everything is going to be patchwork. I’m in the construction industry and business has sucked for me since 2008 and I don’t see that changing in the next ten or twenty years. Our debt now exceeds our GDP and there’s nobody to bail us out. I think it would be best for future candidates to run independent of a political party for just one term to see if we could get our fiscal house in order. Maybe something could be changed then.