Cable channel Comedy Central has centered in on Ashland politics and is blogging about patchouli oil, an unusual first name and hippie talk.
The popular channel, with stars Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in fake news anchor seats, selected a contender for Ashland mayor as a One of a Kind Candidate for its Indecision Forever website.
The candidate: Keith Michael Erickson, who requested his name appear on the ballot as "Biome."
What: Community forum on education featuring Ashland's three mayoral candidates
When: 7 p.m. today, Oct. 10
Where: Commons room, Ashland Middle School, 100 Walker Ave.
Writer Dan Poppy, who scours the nation for local candidates with unique points of view, posted about the Ashland resident's stated goal to set the city straight, "on a course of holistic interdependence."
Also included in the blog posting was the statement the candidate wrote to introduce himself in a roundtable discussion that aired on Rogue Valley Community Television: "Likes local neighborhood figs and almonds for an afternoon snack. Thinks grizzly bears, earthworms, wolves, salmon and Native Americans are magnificent creatures."
Pulling phrases from Erickson's campaign website, biomeformayor.org, a Comedy Central poll asks readers to select which slogan best fits Erickson: "I'm a . . . Earthworm enthusiast; Fig-snacker; Human for humans; or Mayor with heart/other organs."
As of Tuesday, "Human for humans" was leading at 54 percent, which means Erickson will get a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan.
Erickson was busy working on Monday and Tuesday and could not sit for an interview with the Tidings. But when asked via text for his response to the Comedy Central posting, he replied in a text: "You get that sorta news quickly. It's not my cuppa tea. I read it. Supposed to be funny? I can sport it well. Cheers!"
He referred other questions to his campaign website, where he explains his platform of promoting sustainability and local commerce, and compares the United States to a tree that is decaying from a diseased Federal Reserve System. He supports creating local currency as an alternative to the Federal Reserve Note.
"Biome has realistic expectations about the election outcome, but he is putting complete effort into the campaign," says Carson Bench, program director at Ashland community radio station KSKQ, who knows Erickson through the candidate's work as a production foreman for the Pickle Planet on Water Street. "He is honest. He looks you in the eye. He's a serious guy."
Tonight, Erickson will speak on the financial challenges facing the Ashland School District at a community forum organized by the Ashland Schools Foundation and Educate Ashland to be held at Ashland Middle School.
Mayor John Stromberg, who is running for re-election, and another challenger, Alan DeBoer, who was Ashland's mayor from 2001 to 2004, will join him.
On his filing documents, he lists his current occupations, in addition to Pickle Planet foreman, as landscaper and farm laborer. In the past, he has also worked as a carpenter, roofer, cook and unpaid mendicant, a term that can mean a person who begs. When asked for clarification on the term via text, he did not respond but invited a Tidings' reporter to meet him at his Ashland home on Thursday evening. "I make a fine cup of tea," he wrote.
His campaign signs, which depict an alabaster-like hand with an extended index finger, are popping up on lawns. Opponent DeBoer says he likes the signs.
"They are two-colored," DeBoer says. "I could only afford one color for my lawn signs."
Both DeBoer and Stromberg dislike the tone of the Comedy Central posting.
"We should ignore Comedy Central," says DeBoer, who thinks Erickson was selected for the comedy channel's posting because he has a long beard and hair and doesn't fit the mold of a candidate. "We should respect the time and effort every candidate is making to create a place for themselves at the table. Biome's heart is in the right place and he has a good message."
Stromberg believes the posting says more about the writer than the candidate.
"I think Biome stayed fixed in the middle of the posting, authentic, and the blogger, Dan Poppy, Esq., flitted around him without even causing him to blink," says Stromberg.
Comedy Central's website editorial producer Mary Phillips-Sandy says she posted the story because she first found it "hilarious" and the candidate's statements fell in line with her impression of Oregon as having a "(granola) crunchy bent."
"It's a funny stereotype, even though I'm sure there is an uptight financial analyst running for office there, too," she concedes, before mentioning that she hails from a "whacky small town" in Maine and now she wants to fly across the country to visit Oregon.
"Biome is endearing," she says, noting that the intention of Comedy Central's project is to take the attention off the presidential race and focus on local candidates. "American democracy is great because anyone can run with a platform and an agenda. It's part of our civic duty."
Erickson states on his website that he wishes he didn't have to seek elected office. He says he would "prefer to just go on living a simple life basking in a one-sided view of bliss." But he is giving his time, space and energy "to bring relief to an imperiled world."
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or firstname.lastname@example.org