Laurie Roth, a syndicated radio talk show host who broadcasts from Spokane County, is trying to parlay her strong conservatism, an unusual tax plan and the story of her near-death experience into a long-shot bid for the presidency.
The self-described Annie Oakley of the Airwaves says she was called by God about a year ago to make the campaign journey from her double-wide trailer in Elk, Wash., to the White House and turn the nation around.
“I am the comeback kid. I am the Seabiscuit story,” said Roth, a 51-year-old mother of two. “America is road kill, and so was I.”
On Saturday she’ll find out if the Constitution Party, one of the nation’s largest third-party organizations, will put her atop their ticket in the fall election. She’s one of three main candidates – along with Virgil Goode, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, and Robby Wells, a former college football coach – seeking the conservative political party nomination at its national convention in Nashville.
She’s campaigning on a shoestring – she relied on donations to attend that party’s debate in Michigan two weeks ago and to make the trip to this week’s convention in Nashville – and will have to run a low-budget, “outside the box” campaign if selected.
She hopes to capture the national media’s attention with a compelling story, use her broadcaster’s communication skills to connect with the public, tap social media, pick up the tea party vote, the Democrats unhappy with Barack Obama, the Republicans unhappy with Mitt Romney, the independents unhappy with both, and be the first president from a new party since that tall, lanky guy from Illinois in 1860.
It’s a tough road, but she’s not worried: “It’s kind of a miracle to be this far.”
Roth hosts a three-hour radio show on weeknights that is syndicated to 45 stations, including KSBN in Spokane. She regularly raises the alarm that America is straying from conservative, Christian principles. She’s big on the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Ronald Reagan. She considers President Barack Obama a usurper with a forged birth certificate that has America teetering on a Marxist cliff. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is, to her, little more than a conservative poser who waffles on abortion and gay marriage, and authored a big-government health care system. She’d tell Muslim terrorists that Mecca and Medina would be incinerated into glass for any new attack on U.S. soil.
A former singer who’d hosted radio talk shows in larger cities, Roth was working in Spokane in 2005 when she collided with a deer one night on her motorcycle, landing face first on the ground. The deer died, and she, too, was almost “road kill.”
Helicoptered to a hospital near death, she was in a coma for two weeks, and then faced questions of whether she’d ever walk or talk again. She had no health insurance, and her show was dropped by the radio network. She went through months of physical and speech therapy, and a year after the accident was back on the air.
“I’m numb from my lips down,” Roth said. Perhaps most imposing for a talk show host, she had to relearn how to speak.
She became a popular speaker at conservative meetings and tea party gatherings. In December 2010, she was elected vice chairwoman of the Spokane County Republican Party, part of a compromise that split leadership posts between different factions of the GOP, party sources said. On one side were traditional or “establishment” conservatives and on the other were a coalition of former Libertarians who had backed Ron Paul for president and evangelical Christians. Roth was identified with the latter.
Last summer she told party officials she was stepping down to run for president, County Chairman Matt Pederson said. At the time she planned to run as an independent, and couldn’t also be an official of a major party.
“God put that on my heart a year ago,” Roth said of her decision to run. She wrote a book, “The People’s President,” that outlines her platform. Among the ideas is replacing the federal income tax and all other federal taxes with a “point of purchase” tax that collects 2 percent for every transaction, whether buying groceries, a car or a block of stocks. She estimates it would raise between $10 trillion and $20 trillion a year and wipe out the national debt in four years. It’s a simple idea – so simple one might wonder why it hasn’t been tried already.
It’s not popular with a government that wants to control the public’s buying habits and uses the Internal Revenue Service to exercise that control, she contends.
Plans to run as an independent ran up against the hard reality of meeting different rules in 50 states to qualify for the ballot. “It’s a nightmare if you’re an independent,” she said.
Roth began looking at third party organizations, which have easier access to ballots in many states. She found the Constitution Party, which believes in strict adherence to its namesake document, Christian principles and low taxes. She thinks it’s pretty close to the Republican Party – the “classic, very pro-life, very conservative” Republican Party, not the “sellout, 50-yard line, establishment” Republican Party.
She secured support from state Constitution Party organizations in Washington, California and Missouri, participated in a series of telephone conference debates, and makes a speech to the convention delegates today. Roth said that if she doesn’t get the top spot, she isn’t interested in the vice presidential slot if offered. She’d have to pray on how to move forward on a presidential quest.
If nominated, she can keep her radio show until August, when the Republican and Democratic conventions formally pick their nominees. She’ll get guest hosts during the fall campaign, and FCC regulations allow her to make appearances. She won’t be able to overtly campaign, but the hosts will be able to interview her on how the campaign is going.
And if elected? “I’d do the show from the White House,” she said. “I would be a unique president.”