DENVER – In Colorado, where microbreweries are common and the biggest beer magnate is running for the Senate, a battle is brewing among teetotalers over who should be their presidential candidate.
Earl Dodge of Denver, the Prohibition Party’s candidate in every presidential election since 1984, is running again in November. But dissident members complain that he is more interested in his political button business than the party, and they say the 71-year-old Dodge needs to hand over power to a younger generation.
Because of the split, Colorado voters will have two anti-alcohol parties to choose from Nov. 2: Dodge and the Rev. Gene Amondson of the newly formed Concerns of People (Prohibition) Party.
“There is no dispute over the platform,” said Jim Hedges, executive secretary of the breakaway party. “Dodge has been dragging us down into the grave.”
In 2000, Dodge got just 208 votes – the party’s worst showing ever. He was on the ballot only in Colorado, which allows any political party to nominate a presidential candidate.
The Prohibition Party, founded in 1869, once got 2.2 percent of the nation’s presidential vote (John Bidwell, 1892), elected a governor in Florida (Sidney Johnston Catts, 1917). Its high-water mark was in 1920, when the 18th Amendment banning liquor took effect. It has been in a steady decline since Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Hedges – the tax assessor in Thompson Township, Pa. – is the only party member who holds office.
The dissidents nominated Amondson, a 60-year-old , artist and preacher who splits his time between Vashon Island, Wash., and Alaska.
“Dodge is a good man. I am a good man,” Amondson said. “We both have a message that alcohol is for dumb people. Most preachers today are wimps. They don’t want to talk about gambling, alcohol or tobacco.”
Amondson, who said a Colorado campaign trip will depend on whether he can get a speaking engagement that will pay his costs, says the Prohibition era has been portrayed inaccurately in history books and movies.
“I’d rather have 100 Al Capones in every city than alcohol sold in every grocery store,” he said. “During the 13 years of Prohibition the budget was balanced, prisons were emptied, mental institutions emptied and cirrhosis of the liver declined.”
For his part, Dodge runs his campaign from a room in his house, where the walls are full of political banners and other trinkets, including a Carry Nation coffee cup honoring the saloon-busting temperance activist.
“If I didn’t believe in this I wouldn’t be doing it,” Dodge said. “I think the others are spinning their wheels and they will just go away.”