Skip to comments.Weedstock Organizer Attempts To Unseat Kohl
Posted on 09/09/2006 3:52:13 PM PDT by Extremely Extreme Extremist
(AP) MILWAUKEE -- Ben Masel says his top interests include "good hash" and "getting acquitted" -- not exactly what you'd expect from a candidate for U.S. Senate. But the 51-year-old liberal activist from Madison has made a career of doing things his own way.
In high school in 1969 he participated in a strike in which he says protesting students demanded and received the principal's resignation.
He was arrested for his prominent role in Vietnam War protests, which he says led to his being "indefinitely suspended" from the University of Wisconsin-Madison after his freshman year in 1971.
He ran for governor as a Republican candidate in 1990, for Dane County sheriff as a Democrat in 1994, and for Congress as a Libertarian in 1996.
And he has helped organize Weedstock, an annual pro-marijuana rally, for 35 years.
Political experts say Masel has no chance of knocking off incumbent Sen. Herb Kohl in the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday. Kohl, a Democrat, seeks re-election to a fourth consecutive six-year term.
Kohl's Washington office referred all comment to his Madison campaign office, which did not return several messages left.
According to federal records, Kohl had more than $1.6 million in the bank as of Aug. 23. Masel said he had $902 as of Aug. 25.
The primary winner faces Republican Robert G. Lorge of Bear Creek and Green Party candidate Rae Vogeler of Oregon in November.
Despite the long odds, Masel said he felt compelled to run after more electable Democrats failed to challenge the multimillionaire Kohl and "his bottomless treasury."
"I have more of a chance to win than someone who's not on the ballot," he said.
Kohl was easily elected to his third term in 2000, getting 62 percent of the vote compared to 37 percent for Republican John Gillespie.
Masel said he was unhappy with Kohl's votes in favor of the Iraq war and in favor of the Patriot Act. No fan of the current presidential administration, Masel said President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should be impeached over the government's wiretapping program.
By his own count, Masel has been arrested 139 times with seven misdemeanor convictions, mainly for offenses such as disorderly conduct and resisting an officer.
Ironically, the arrests also provide him his livelihood. He said he supports himself by winning court cases alleging false arrest or civil-rights violations.
Masel has his share of supporters. In a bid for Congress as a Libertarian in 1996, he received 4,247 votes, or 2 percent. Republican Scott Klug won with 57 percent of the votes and Democrat Paul Soglin got 41 percent.
Soglin remembers his debates with Masel as occasionally contentious. But Masel is "obviously sincere" about the issues he raises, Soglin said.
"I don't know if the average person takes him seriously or not," he said. "But if I were to ever appear in a debate with him again, in front of a live audience, I'd definitely take him seriously."
Masel, who is unmarried, is perhaps best known as the driving force behind Weedstock. He said he doesn't want his candidacy defined by his desire to see marijuana legalized.
"If I were elected, the first bill I'd introduce would be a major revision to the War Powers Act such that we'd go back to only having wars by formal declaration," he said. "And I'm also concerned with Internet free speech and privacy issues. I'm no one-trick pony."
David Canon, a political-science professor at UW-Madison, said candidates such as Masel run not with the intent of winning but generally to publicize a pet issue.
"Clearly, he's not going to have an impact on the outcome of the election," Canon said. "But by running he gets some media attention so now more people know who he is."
...or be as stoned as Ben. What golf course do you use, Paul? It is sounding about "par for the course" for you.
I KNOW! Ben could follow Bingo Jim's example and hand out spliffs! He would get more votes!
"Ben Masel for U.S. Senate: More weed for votes!" </bumpersticker>
*wipes tears of laughter*
Ben is probably too -- uh -- mellow to do the tire-slashing thing, though....