AUGUSTA – Almost nothing has changed for the self-proclaimed “people’s hero” since he ran for governor four years ago.
Phillip Morris NaPier still wears his kilt and Scottish tam, accompanied by Belle, an extremely patient Great Pyrenees dog.
He still is railing against the state’s criminal justice system that sent him to the Maine State Prison after a 1995 run-in with the Windham Police Department. NaPier says he was just shooting old ammo into a woodpile, and he denies pointing the handgun at police who showed up to investigate. He also denies refusing to put the weapon down and says it was police who fired on him first. Nevertheless, he was wounded in the leg and later convicted on criminal charges for which he served a little more than half of a 15-month sentence.
And he’s still running for governor on a shoestring – but this time, he’s on the ballot. His independent, privately funded candidacy is proof that anyone who can collect enough signatures can run for governor in Maine. But having the public in general – and the mass media in particular – take his bid seriously is as big a problem for NaPier today as it was in 2002 when his write-in candidacy barely caused a ripple.
The 60-year-old veteran – and one-time hopper of freight trains – has raised virtually no money for his campaign. The lack of financing has prompted some organizations, such as the Maine Municipal Association, and television stations, such as WGME-13, to exclude NaPier from their candidate forums and debates even though his name will appear on the ballot.
As NaPier points out, “If one of the candidates is excluded – namely me – the people are not hearing the whole story.
“I’m at every function that I’m invited to,” he said. “I was at an event right here in Portland a month ago and they threw me out. They’re letting me in some of them though. This is a problem for every one of us. Money shouldn’t matter. I think I’ve spent $1.30 cents on this campaign and traveled about 700 miles. So this is a low-budget campaign.”
Likable and outgoing, the West Virginia native and Windham resident can’t tell you much about the state’s Pine Tree Economic Zones or offer advice on how to close the structural gap between expected revenues and projected expenses in the state budget. Still, he has some ideas on his Web site he would like to put in place if he were elected governor. Among them are:
. Pardoning all Maine residents who have been released from prison and labeled a convicted felon.
. Selecting judges from a jury pool of Maine residents. Lawyers would be excluded from holding judicial positions.
. Lowering the voting age to 16 to encourage youth participation in the electoral process.
. Suspending state funding for the state prison system and transforming it into a self-supporting institution.
. Abolishing the state income tax.
While NaPier has his detractors, he also strikes a supportive chord among some Maine residents, including a few felons who called in to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network last week saying they were moved by his candidacy. Regardless of how many votes he collects, NaPier insists the experience is its own reward.
“This campaign is going great,” he said. “I’m having a ball – and I’m going to win.”
Editor’s Note: NaPier did not respond to a Bangor Daily News questionnaire seeking his position on various issues. More on his campaign can be found at his Web site at: www.phillipmorrisnapier.com.