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Eye On Boise

MONDAY, JULY 27, 2009, 9:41 A.M.

Candidate: ‘They took advantage of the fact that I was crazy to commit me’

Now that we're starting the 43rd week before the next Idaho primary election - yep, it's way off on May 25, 2010 - the candidates for governor have begun emerging. Six already have filed preliminary paperwork with the Secretary of State's office (you can read about them all here in my Sunday column in Handle Extra). Today is the day that one of them, 58-year-old Ron "Pete" Peterson, an amateur comedian and retired state employee, will announce his gubernatorial candidacy at a Boise bikini bar, the "Torch 2." Why there? "Why not?" he asks. "Like everything else in my campaign, it sets me apart."

So does his arrest record. Back in the '70s, he was arrested and convicted for "defrauding an innkeeper" after leaving the Red Lion Riverside without paying for a meal ("I was kind of drunk that night," he said) and, also in the '70s, there was a disturbing-the-peace conviction related to his involuntary commitment to State Hospital South at Blackfoot for four months for "being a danger to myself and/or others." "I'm a manic-depressive," Peterson explained. "The way I always phrase it, is they took advantage of the fact that I was crazy to commit me."

Other than another four-month stint at Blackfoot in 1975 after going off his medications, Peterson says he's been doing well. "I've been religious since then in taking my medications," he said. He likes the advice a favorite social worker gave him: "He said, 'Look, Pete, you can be as crazy as you like as long as nobody knows. You can be crazy inside your own head. It's when you start talking and doing things that people start noticing." He added, "I'm much more fortunate than some people. Some people, their bipolar manic depression, they have real difficulty controlling it with any kind of medication. Mine has been relatively easy to control."

Peterson ran for office once before - he filed for governor in 1998 as an independent, but never got the required 1,000 signatures to make the ballot. He holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from BSU and worked as a computer programmer for the Idaho Transportation Department before his retirement. He's appeared at open-mike comedy nights from Boise to London. "I've done comedy and politics, and comedy is much more difficult," he said. "Politics, they may not like your politics, but in comedy they don't like YOU when it goes south, and it's a very personal thing." As for his run for governor - with the slogan (and Web site) of "Beat", Peterson said, "The main thing is for fun. I have a lot of fun meeting people, and when you don't have the concern about winning, it takes all the stress out of it."

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Eye On Boise

Short takes and breaking news from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.