He still dons a full beard, but he's lost the tie-dyed shirt. He now wears a suit and tie. While this might seem out of character for the famous three-time contestant of the game show "Survivor," Rupert Boneham is running for Indiana governor as a Libertarian.
About a year ago, Boneham decided to jump into the realm of politics. He's been campaigning ever since. With less than five months left until the November election, he is ramping up efforts.
Tonight, June 28, at 7 p.m., Marion County Libertarians will hold a callout meeting at the Rupert for Governor Headquarters at 129 E. Market Street. At the meeting, which is open to the public, Marion County residents will form ideas and assess resources available for campaigning in the area.
While Boneham is a Libertarian, he isn't trying to appeal to only Indiana residents who are affiliated with the party. He said he is trying to appeal to the "everyday Hoosier."
Even though the Libertarian Party is Indiana's third-largest party, and the fastest-growing in the United States, Boneham said many Indiana residents aren't even aware of the party.
"I was a Libertarian all my life, but didn't realize it," Boneham said, explaining he only recently realized his views coincided with the party. "I want to show people we really do have a third choice. People are disappointed with the Democrats and the Republicans."
Just like the majority of the Libertarian Party, Boneham's ideas reflect small government, minimal regulation and strong civil liberties. He's even tackling the issue of LGBT rights and discrimination, favoring same-sex marriages. However, coming in as a third party candidate and already having fame from being a contestant on "Survivor," some do not consider him as a practical candidate.
"I'm going up against two very strong machines generating money," he said. "Corporate America and big money dollars don't see me as a viable candidate, but even if they did come around, I don't even know if I'd accept them. I personally won't be beholden to anyone except the state of Indiana."
Money is Boneham's greatest disadvantage, but he's tackling the issue by focusing on grassroots efforts and directing Hoosiers to his website, rupertforgovernor.com. His biggest concern is getting his ideas heard by talking to as many Indiana residents as possible. According to Boneham's media director, Troy Hill, the lack of funds poses a problem, but Boneham does have a few advantages.
Largely due to his past three appearances on "Survivor," Boneham's name is widely known. According to Hill, Boneham does well with name recognition and is even up there with Mike Pence.
"Everyone knows his character who's seen him on three seasons of "Survivor," Hill said. "They know he has a heart of gold and stands by his word as true as possible."
Not only did "Survivor" give him name recognition, Boneham said the experiences he gained from the show prepared him for the campaign trail.
"Going through a game with very little food and water for days prepared me. My team said I'd be worn down from campaigning, but I realized ("Survivor)" was empowering. I came out feeling there was nothing I couldn't do," Boneham said.
Even though Boneham lacks big funding, he said he is confident when it comes to doing well in the election. He said people want an everyday guy they can relate to who understands the value of $20.
The drive to make a difference in peoples' lives is one of the reasons why he started his mentoring program, Rupert's Kids. He now wants to take that drive to another level. "Twenty one years ago," he said. "I started a mentor program. I wanted to help one individual at a time, one family, one community and now one state."
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