Indiana News

Survivor: Indiana Election

Reality-show star Rupert Boneham eying Libertarian run for governor

8/30/2011

Rupert Boneham
Rupert Boneham

A former reality TV star is considering a bid for governor of Indiana.

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Three-time "Survivor" contestant Rupert Boneham has opened an exploratory committee to seek the Libertarian nomination for governor. A spokesman says he's not commenting publicly yet, but in a statement on his website, Boneham questions whether the major-party candidates understand Hoosiers' daily lives.

Party chairman Sam Goldstein says Boneham approached the party about a run a year-and-a-half ago -- he says Boneham could shake up the race. He compares Boneham's candidacy to wrestler Jesse Ventura's successful third-party run for governor of Minnesota in 1998.

"(He can) reach out to disaffected voters, to people who have never voted, to younger voters," Goldstein predicts. "I was at two events with him and he had hordes of people following him around."

Goldstein says Boneham's name recognition is high. And he declares Boneham has "more personality and charisma than the major-party candidates put together."

IUPUI political scientist Brian Vargus is skeptical. He says Ventura benefited from Minnesota's same-day voter registration, and from anger against the other two nominees. Unless there's a massive "throw the bums out" sentiment, Vargus says, he doesn't see Democrat John Gregg or Republicans Mike Pence and Jim Wallace sparking any similar resentment.

And Vargus questions whether Boneham's TV fame will translate into votes.

Boneham never won on "Survivor," but did win a million-dollar prize on "Survivor All-Stars" as fans' favorite contestant. He used the money to start the "Rupert's Kids" program for at-risk Indianapolis teenagers and young adults.

He's had a low profile politically, but did speak at a May rally denouncing an Indiana Supreme Court ruling which limited Hoosiers' right to resist warrantless entry into their homes.

Boneham says on his website he'll make a final decision on the race in the next few weeks.

Boneham wouldn't be the first reality contestant to make the jump to politics. Former "Real World" cast member Sean Duffy is a freshman Republican congressman from Wisconsin.

And "Apprentice" also-ran Raj Bhakta made an unsuccessful run for a U.S. House seat from Pennsylvania in 2006.

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