OGDEN — His electoral record is 0-10.
His best showing, gauging by share of votes garnered, came in his 2006 bid for the Ogden School Board, when he won 42.33% of the votes. His worst showing came in 2011, when he ran for mayor of Ogden and mustered just 1.96% of the votes, 115 of them to be exact.
Perennial candidate John Thompson, though, doesn’t get fazed. The Ogden man’s belief, and one of the guiding forces in his political career, is that no candidate for public office should get a free ride at election time.
“The point is, no seat should be unopposed. I don’t care what party is holding the seat,” he said. Likewise, he thinks voters should have a choice when they’re casting a ballot.
Thus he’s vied 10 times for public office dating from 2002, according to Weber County Election Office records, to most recently in the Aug. 13 primary for mayor of Ogden. He’s run three times for mayor of Ogden, twice for the Ogden City Council, twice for the Ogden School Board and one time each for the Utah House of Representatives, the Weber County Commission and the Weber County clerk-auditor‘s post. In each instance he’s lost — typically he’s been walloped — but in explaining what keeps him going, he paraphrases Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech.
It’s not the number of times you’ve been knocked down, says Thompson, whose longish white hair and bushy beard make him stick out in a crowd. “It’s how many times you get back up and try again and get back in the fight.”
His fourth-place finish in the Aug. 13 mayoral primary, just 382 votes or 4.67% of the total, stung a little bit. “But I know those are 380 very smart people,” he said, finding the bright spot.
Philosophically, Thompson — who served in the U.S. Marine Corps when he was younger and retired in 2014 after 15 years handling child support collections for the Utah Department of Human Services’ Office of Recovery Services — isn’t a firebrand. He doesn’t espouse an overtly partisan agenda. Serving in public office, as he sees it, is about helping constituents. That’s the bottom line.
“Government is there to help the people. That’s what you’re there for,” he said.
When he’s vied for partisan posts — the Utah House, Weber County Commission, the Weber County clerk-auditor’s seat — he’s run as a Democrat. But there are Republican government officials he respects and he claims a measure of independence from each of the two main parties. “Technically, I view myself as an unaffiliated or independent voter,” he said.
There are a few things that stick out, though.
He favors term limits — two terms in any given post is enough. “I don’t think any one office should be a career,” he said.
He thinks government moves too slowly at times.
And he’d like to limit the amount of money that gets pumped into campaigns. In his view, only eligible voters in a given race — certainly not groups representing business interests — should be able to contribute to the candidates vying for the post.
He recycles his political signs, using spray paint to change the name of the post sought and other key information from one campaign to another. A family member suggested he get a new set of signs for his recent mayoral bid, but he stood firm. “I was going to be danged if I was going to buy a new set,” Thompson said.
Such economizing probably doesn’t help in mustering broader support. Even so, he really would like a shot at serving in an elected post and he maintains a sense of optimism despite his 0-10 record. Though he trailed far behind Ricky Hatch, the eventual winner in last year’s clerk-auditor race, Thompson notes with pride the 27,337 votes he received. Indeed, a big part of vying for elective office, he thinks, is a willingness to put yourself on the line.
“That’s the name of the game — if you don’t want to lose don’t enter the game,” he said.
Whatever the case, asked about future ambitions, whether he’ll make an 11th bid for office, he expresses uncertainty. Time and the approach of the filing deadlines for the 2020 election cycle will tell.
“I’m 70 now. I can’t figure out an answer,” he said.