VERMONT, 1998—Fred Tuttle, 79, Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, wants you to vote for the other guy.

In solidarity with this platform, Fred’s wife Dottie insists she will flee to Canada if her husband is elected and Fred vows he will join her before he would ever move to Washington. His campaign budget of more than $200 has been spent to familiarize voters with Fred’s simple electoral philosophy, “Why Not?” Lest that claim appear boastful, Fred reminds Vermont voters his opponent, four-term Democratic incumbent Patrick Leahy, is “a good man” worthy of their consideration. At last night’s five-cents-a-plate chicken dinner fundraiser (four cents for seniors and children), Tuttle identified nostalgia for family farms as his legislative theme, but insists he has no plan to revive them.

“Spread Fred” bumper stickers, first sported by manure spreaders, were sold to promote an amateur film about a 79-year-old dairy farmer with bad knees who runs for Congress to pay a $5000 tax bill he can’t afford. “What other job pays well and doesn’t require any references?” he explains. With his bib overalls and gap-toothed smile, plainspoken Fred Tuttle (played by plainspoken Fred Tuttle) charmed moviegoers, who petitioned the Assembly to get Tuttle on the primary ballot.

Seeking his party’s nomination, Tuttle characterized his opponent, Massachusetts millionaire Jack McMullen, as a carpetbagger “monumentally unqualified” to represent Vermonters. “Well, Vermont,” Fred told voters, “He’s not the only candidate who’s monumentally unqualified!” Tuttle invested $16 in the primary race ($9 on a print ad alone!), under-spent his opponent by $475,000, and defeated him by 5,000 votes.

UPDATE, 2007—Recently deceased, but widely admired for his legislative inactivity, Fred Tuttle declined to comment about upcoming elections, although nothing in the Vermont constitution specifically prohibits the non-living from seeking office.

Copyright © April 3, 2007 David Hodges

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