Perennial candidate Frank Vondersaar died Sept. 12. He was 64.
Vondersaar filed for a seat in the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives for 10 years. He ran as a Democrat and usually polled a few thousand votes in the primary election. He raised little money and did little campaigning beyond his televised appearance on the public broadcasting candidate show "Running."
That's where I got to know him. I later learned he worked at the Salvation Army in Homer, his shoulder to the wheel in a modest endeavor to help his community. He had engineering and law degrees but apparently no longer used them.
Vondersaar was a big man, humble and self-effacing off camera. The camera transformed him into a relentless, uncompromising enemy of federal authority who believed government officials -- Sen.Ted Stevens in particular -- were persecuting him.
Nobody -- and I mean nobody -- who appeared on "Running" compressed as many forceful words into a short appearance on air. I am pretty sure he practiced his one-minute opening statement to get the timing down to perfection -- not a second was wasted. His was not persuasive speech crafted to win an audience: Frank Vondersaar was bearing witness against tyranny.
In 2008, he said "I am Frank Vondersaar. My goal in running for the U.S. Senate is to end the 28-year fascist culture of corruption and abuse of power personified by Theodore Stevens. I differ from the other candidates having been a political prisoner of the fascist criminal regimes of Cheney-Bush, Bush-Quayle and Reagan-Bush for the last 25 years. Having experienced first-hand the torture, terrorism and treachery of U.S. secret police terrorist criminal surveillance harassment teams and the subversion of the Constitution by corrupt, lying hard-core fascist-criminal politicians, bureaucrats, flag officers and their co-conspirators, collaborators and stooges, I am better prepared than the other candidates to fight on your behalf to end those abuses." Then he gave his web address.
I had to look up the definition of "flag officer."
How much of Frank's drama existed only in his head? Was "political prisoner" a metaphor or a fact? Frank did say on his website that he had been held in a psychiatric ward at Eglin Air Force Base (Florida) for six months in the mid-eighties after confiding to his commanding general that he was "under surveillance." The Air Force discharged him in 1987.
Frank Vondersaar was determined to tell Alaskans exactly what he believed as vividly as he could. He was incapable of dissembling, a virtue uncommon to politicians and unknown to "co-conspirators, collaborators and stooges."
Michael Carey is an Alaska Dispatch News columnist and a host of "Running" for many years.