Colorado's most interesting politician, Mike Dunafon, wants to be governor and change politics forever
Politics in America are absolutely fucking lost. Somewhere after the creation of a fairly easy-to-interpret doctrine of rights and responsibilities, the train ran off of the tracks.
If one side of the governmental spectrum isn’t chastising the other for something so completely devoid of reason, then it’s out systematically dollar grabbing to create unmanageable short-term solutions to long-term issues under a thinly veiled guise of civil service. All of this counter-productive inaction is unethical, it’s immoral, and it’s wasting everyone’s most precious asset: time.
One Colorado-bred politician says voters can redirect the seemingly unstoppable train, and he believes it can be done within a lifetime. Namely, his. Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon and his gubernatorial campaign team tout him as the world’s most interesting politician, making a solid case to support the heavy claim.
In his grassroots campaign, Dunafon projects himself as a bold, unassuming man with ideals that stride on universal principles surrounding common liberties. It’s a campaign based entirely on social media participation and a dedicated YouTube channel that showcases an antagonistic, but humorous, approach to his run for the governor’s seat.
“I don’t quit political parties every day,” Dunafon says in one of his campaign videos, “but when I do, I quit them for liberty, and I quit them forever.”
So he’s vying for the governor’s seat this November. What began as a straightforward wager with his supporters has evolved into a full-on campaign unlike few before it. He asked his fans to get his page 60,000 Facebook followers before his 60th birthday, promising to run as an independent candidate for governor if they did. And he said he’d do so by taking no financial contributions, simply showcasing a steadfast respect for individual freedom.
The most interesting politician in this state isn’t just interesting because he’s a former Denver Bronco, Glendale mayor, long-time fiancé to the woman behind Shotgun Willie’s celebrated empire or co-creator of a Wyclef Jean video. He’s an anomaly because he won’t take any amount of money to fund his campaign.
Why would a politician spend $10 million to get a $100,000 a year job?
“He’s gonna give you all sorts of lip service about, ‘We need change, and we have these social ills, and we need to fix this,’" says Dunafon. "It’s Chicken Little, the sky is falling. The sky is not falling.”
He says he wants the governor’s seat because he believes in real change, which requires a curious, empowered voter base without debts to political contributors. Political contributions, and running a campaign without them, remains an issue Dunafon readily admits is more easily verbalized than cured, but he says he would rather accept no donations for the cause of liberty, than be tied down with the so widely accepted and thus often-ignored crippling debts pervasive in the political sphere.
Back room deals like that, which require politicians to align with specific causes, and consequently their financial backers, pose the biggest problem in politics today, Dunafon says. Taking dirty money — no political contribution comes altruistically — costs big, and it’s the citizens who pay with surrendered personal choice and rampant social control.
Combined with a universal lack of critical thinking and fear mongering on both sides of the misguided coin, he points out it’s inevitable that voters feel powerless. He wants to be governor not because of the power within, the fame or even the opportunity to shoot pool with the president, but to eliminate politically bent legislation and practices in the state to give power back.
He says he believes critical thinking can empower the public to change the political system to benefit the people once again. He’s insistent Coloradans can empower and educate themselves into a better government and more honest politics. What he wants, aside from the votes necessary to put him in the governor’s seat, is 10 minutes a day from everyone willing to suit up and fight back, 10 minutes for them to educate themselves or share healthier political options with others.
“The problem is convincing voters that money doesn’t count in politics unless it’s used properly,” says Dunafon. “Nobody does that. So how could I get into office if somebody gave me $30 million to run? Would I owe them something? Sure, and they’d ring it out one penny at a time.
“I’m asking people to spend 10 minutes a day on their own liberty and on their future. If people become aware of the fact that they can simply spend no money and a little bit of time to (raise) the awareness necessary to maintain their liberty, millions of people can control their own lives, and it can change the world.”
Dunafon, theoretically, stands as a challenging independent competitor in the convoluted wash of red and blue thinking, armed with optimistic thinking, a social media strategy and the promise that nobody purchased his loyalty. The practice of his almost-utopian thinking comes with a cost, however, as most political campaigns do. His funding options keep him out of important debates and other such opportunities for voters to know him as much as they do the two leading competitors.
At the heart of Dunafon’s campaign is an honest, independent, unfunded and idealistic political venture, but it proves difficult to realize given loyalty to party lines and the swarming of voters to either the left or the right side of the gamut, says Denver-based independent political analyst Eric Sondermann.
“I think most young voters will not be all that different from most older voters,” says Sondermann. “The lion’s share of them will vote for one of the two main candidates. That said, somebody like Dunafon with his anti-political message has somewhat added appeal to younger voters who just want to flip off the entire system, and rightfully so.”
It would take an incredible mix of events to make his election possible, Sondermann continues.
“I never say never, but it would have to be the right candidate,” he says. “It would have to be a candidate that could self fund or who has some kind of celebrity status where the name recognition is already there. It would take the two parties being even further in the toilet than they currently are, and trust me, they’re currently both held in high disregard."
An independent win isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. He only needs 34 percent of the state’s voters, 34 percent of them independent or unaffiliated themselves, to defeat the other candidates, namely Democratic incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican candidate Bob Beauprez. Where Hickenlooper boasts beer empire and Beauprez a high-school running back’s disproportionate pride — despite failing last time he ran for governor — Dunafon was a Bronco, musician and comedian, and he unabashedly supports the marijuana industry.
The Glendale mayor turned self-proclaimed most interesting politician alive started life in a home for unwed mothers April 6, 1954. In his formative years, he bounced around from orphanage to house, family to friend; it was an unsure upbringing, but one he says shaped his attitude for “finding opportunity and challenge.” His life would later develop enough for a college football scholarship from the University of Northern Colorado to the Denver Broncos.
After pulling both hamstrings early in his career, he was cut from the team. He says the hardship bred new focus in his life, and after a future in professional sports was out of the question, he traded his life on land for an existence out at sea and took to the Caribbean. He spent the next 17 years paying bills on the islands through song writing and performing as a stand-up comedian. It was there that he also discovered a love of rugby and worked toward his USA Rugby Level 3 coaching certification. His love of the sport would eventually become Glendale’s own unique calling card.
Back in Colorado after those few decades abroad, he met his fiancé of more than 20 years, Debbie Mathews. She’s the owner of the famed strip-club Shotgun Willie’s, and when the previous city council charged after Mathews, attempting to legislate her property and business away from her, Dunafon teamed up with free beer, a few of the club’s dancers and a door-to-door campaign “to explain to everyone what the heck was going on.” After successfully running council members out of their seats and taking the mayoral seat shortly thereafter, Dunafon took the small city enclave and built a thriving culture around it.
In a matter of years after its Infinity Park sports and entertainment complex was built, Glendale went from “titty city to Rugbytown USA,” an idea Dunafon spearheaded, thrusting the city into the world’s spotlight of rugby prominence.
Being mayor of a successful town of only 4,800 people isn’t where his political carriage plans to let off either, he says. It’s a hopeful beginning in what could be the antithetical blueprint for future generations of governmental battle. Dunafon says his vision for the future is one of choice, of definitive freedom and of the ability to embrace individual liberty as necessary.
Dunafon says he hopes to spread the idea of using critical thought and personal philosophies to tackle issues Coloradans face. Using common sense, he says, and the ability to think rationally about oppression and unflinching party lines is the only way to get ahead of money and large corporations.
And he doesn’t fear the controversial issues. On the contrary, he has no political ties keeping him from supporting unpopular industries and revolutions of ideas. Dunafon vigorously aligns himself with the polarizing cannabis industry, pointing out uncountable opportunities for added growth, namely in marijuana research, development and hemp production. He went so far as to be the only mayor in the Colorado Metro Mayor’s Caucus to prevent it from taking an anti-64 stance, which in turn pushed the Caucus to now require five votes of opposition instead of one in such decisions.
“The voice of the state is the governor,” says Dunafon. “Do you want Beauprez speaking for you, or do you want Hickenlooper? I’d suggest you want me if you want a real voice to talk about the real issues and (who) will defend your right to smoke it, develop the opportunities associated with it and explain it to the world. You’ve got to have an articulate voice to explain hemp to the world and to lead this state in that industry and to take the bullshit that comes your way from Big Pharma and from the other politicians. I’m prepared to do that.”
In November of 2012, Colorado voted into law the controversial Amendment 64 with a 55.3 percent yes vote. Since its inception in January of this year, the industry has amassed more than 10,000 new jobs locally and more than $12 million in tax revenue, far surpassing what detractors argued would be the downfall of the state as everyone knew it to be.
He says Colorado could easily be the epicenter of the multifunctional hemp production arena, medical marijuana research and a pristine model for world-wide legalization.
“We can become the silicone valley of hemp,” says Dunafon. “We give so much talk about creating industry and business elsewhere, while here we have a vibrant, worldwide opportunity with a motivated youth that really understands hemp and wants to get involved with it.”
But cannabis faces a grim future under the current administration, he says, with signs already showing themselves that the state’s vote may be virtually worthless because of heavy federal regulations and push backs from big corporations and lobbies that will provide opportunities for the black market to take over once again.
“We go to Delta County, and the farmers there are saying, ‘Our county commissioners won’t let us grow hemp,’” says Dunafon. “(I dug) into this idea that a county commissioner or anybody else can tell you what crop not to grow. Well, it has to do with the Farm Bill. You grow hemp, you don’t get your farm subsidy. So the government is controlling the hemp industry.”
The amendment is a valuable asset, he says, but it’s not nearly the force needed for proper legalization.
“(Amendment) 64 helps,” he says. “It’s an inter-state commerce issue. We should be deciding what we want to do in our state. It’s a matter of local concern. It’s quite simple when you boil it down that way, but it’s very, very difficult to fight it unless you want to research it, think critically and use some common sense.”
He says he’s also prepared to address plaguing social concerns Hickenlooper has managed to slide around for most of his time in office. Most notably are the issues of irresponsible policing and the historically large numbers of citizens Colorado jails under a business-as-usual mindset.
“Why in the world hasn’t the governor let these people out of jail that are in there for smoking marijuana?” Dunafon asks. “It’s because of the jail lobby.”
Like any other growth industry, the Corrections Corporation of America requires contractual promises for jail capacities, and an effort to take that away, Dunafon says, is going to push the state to write more laws to fill the empty cells.
The United States remains one of 22 countries in the world that doesn’t allow retroactive ameliorative relief, which would free prisoners if the crime for which they’d been convicted were ruled no longer criminal. States may allow such relief, but Colorado doesn’t, despite popular support and ongoing outcry.
Dunafon takes an aggressive stance against all such governmental mistakes, to include the state’s “Don’t Be A Lab Rat” anti-marijuana campaign, which targets children and teens in public schools and on public property. Hickenlooper and the advertising agency responsible for the $2 million, state-funded campaign fear his dissent and campaign, refusing to give him a license to film in the “rat cages” they put up by calling them private property and an art installation. Dunafon filmed anyhow while shooting a music video for his campaign song “The Trap,” featuring Wyclef Jean.
“You realize what that cage thing is, those cages?” Dunafon asks. “That’s a picture of an empty jail cell, and it is pissing the state off. They’ve got to fill that back up. You’re looking at an empty jail cell, and it ain’t gonna work for the jail boys to have an empty jail cell.
“They need your ass back in that cage. If you’re not watching them, they’re gonna fill that cage up. That cage is a picture of what happens when marijuana is legal. The cage is empty.”
The $2 million campaign — enough money to feed roughly 7,300 students a healthy lunch for a year in Denver public schools — was funded primarily by grants from the City and County of Denver (read: taxes) as well as legal settlements from pharmaceutical companies. It’s a campaign, Dunafon says, that disrespects constituents, steering the country further toward a totalitarian state.
“When people become interested in the dynamic of taking care of their own life, they start to get these concepts, and they start to think differently,” Dunafon says. “When they do, the centralized authority can not fool them. And that terrifies the centralized authority; so what do they do? More laws, more laws, more laws. Make everybody a criminal! That’s the big secret to our good friend (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. Criminalize your country, then you will always be able to incarcerate them; you can take their freedom immediately.”
Glendale’s current theory toward flagrant legislation directly contradicts everything standard politics teaches about progress. Instead of writing new laws to change with the times, Glendale takes them away. During its “Year Of Freedom” campaign in 2013, the city voted each month to repeal obsolete, poorly phrased or unnecessary laws. Even after the full year was up, Dunafon continues to dismantle a law a month. He says his “Year Of Freedom” advances individual liberty and fights power exploitation.
“In Glendale, we were passing out 600 tickets a month 12 years ago,” says Dunafon. “That’s not policing. Right now, we’re lucky to do 400 a year."
It’s not about buying an armored vehicle for the boys in blue.
"If you’re going to give a monopoly on coercion of power to a police department," he continues, "you’d better make sure you have some control, because they’re gonna go crazy with it, just like every other gang.”
According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, the U.S. held approximately 2.3 million prisoners behind bars at any given time in 2013. That’s more than 25 percent of the prison population on the planet, and it’s the biggest known prison population of any other country in the world. It’s also estimated that one out of every 35 adults will be in some form of a corrections system in 2014.
What Dunafon says is stopping U.S. citizens from enjoying true, individual autonomy is the two-party system and redundant offerings from entities that have no business telling others what to do.
“The greatest idea that has ever happened on this planet as far as civilization is concerned is the American ideal of individual sovereignty,” says Dunafon. “When that happens, you end up with the potential to pass liberty on. The parties cannot tolerate that.
“What is it about them that gives the belief that they know better than I do what to do with my life? They don’t; they can’t possibly. How could somebody in Washington, D.C., know what to do with anybody’s life in Nevada? They can’t possibly. You can’t write an algorithm that will do that. We can’t get our children to do what we want them to do, and so we’re gonna buy the idea that somebody sitting in Washington, D.C., can tell you how much air you should put in your bike tire? It’s absurd. It’s a con game that’s evil, and it’s exposed when we talk to each other.“
And when the votes roll in, but Sondermann says swaying those votes away from party lines, no matter the logic, proves dually challenging.
“We’re living in such a polarizing time right now that the only thing laying in the middle of the road is a dead skunk,” he says. “Everyone has run to their respective corners. Democrats are overly caffeinated in their left corner and Republicans are overly caffeinated in their right corner, and there just doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.”
Common ground, however, is where Dunafon wants people to focus. The main role of the government, he says, should be to act as an unbiased, third-party mediator to balance as much fairness as possible when common issues arise.
“(The role of) government is not to tell you how much salt to put on your bacon and eggs,” he says. “That creeping aspect of it leads us down the road to the point where we’re letting them do that. We’re letting them tell us who to sleep with? It’s too much.”
He says a meet-in-the-middle approach is what unlocks public togetherness, and avoiding rampant legislation or arbitrary rule-making should be the basis of this country’s progress.
You have to protect your neighbors’ rights to enjoy your own.
“When people can actually have dialogue without the hyperbole, we’re all the same," he says. "Completely the same. We all want to believe in liberty. It’s the social elitists, the narcissists, that are leading our country, and there are a handful of people that we are allowing to manipulate us. We need to stop it.”
While most Americans grew up trudging through awkward years of childish innocence and misguided teenage angst, they were conditioned to fear dark, muscle-bound monsters that sported tattoos of illegal conquests past. Group affiliations, public stature and anti-social appearances were the scariest factors that defined the stereotypical criminals. Little did anybody realize, it was the bad people in suits with glistening smiles and made-for-TV rhetoric committing the most heinous of crimes: crimes of misconduct, of oppression, of control.
Mike Dunafon’s unlikely campaign is out to prove there are people willing to be in a position of power and on the side of reason helping fight clean-cut villains with Ds and Rs emblazoned on tax-funded suits. For the independent gubernatorial candidate, too much time has been wasted already with the current political madness and, “this idea that they get away with being a shitbag is over.” That idea ends with an election.
Truth, as spoken by the most interesting politician in the state:
- "So what's killing us? Bad ideas are killing us."
- "Never give a sword to a man who can't dance."
- "Trash in, trash out."
- "Slavery is a bad business model."
- "We're gonna have to get off the federal teat."
- "Laws are landmines."
- "I'm a queer Irishman: I like women more than liquor."
- "Any time somebody says, 'It's for the kids,' grab your wallet; it isn't for the kids."
- "Every narcissist needs his own dressing room."
To contact the writer of this article, Brian Frederick, email: Brian@TheRooster.com