CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jesse Johnson, the Mountain Party candidate for governor, may be lucky if voters see his name more than a handful of times before they head to the polls Tuesday.
He has not reported raising or spending any money, and he often is left out of candidate forums.
But the Mountain Party is technically considered a major party in West Virginia, and Johnson thinks he's the only real choice for voters picking among him, Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Republican challenger Bill Maloney.
Johnson sees no daylight between the state's Democratic and Republican parties.
"I'm the only one that is fighting for the people and not the out-of-state multi-national industries that are coming in like the Roman hordes and taking what they want and spoiling the wells and salting the earth and burning the crops, so to speak, and leaving all of those externalized costs to us, we the people of West Virginia, to deal with," Johnson said.
It's a typically grand plea from a man who has run unsuccessfully for governor in 2004 and 2008, for U.S. Senate in 2010 and state House in 2010.
Besides the Democratic and Republican parties, the Mountain Party is the only West Virginia party that can automatically get its candidates on the ballot. The party must win 1 percent of the vote in each regular gubernatorial election to keep that right
Johnson, 53, said he's growing the Mountain Party, which first appeared on the ballot in 2000. As its name implies, the party is interested in protecting the environment, particularly the coalfield mountains from being blown apart and partially leveled to mine coal.
As for his occupation, Johnson said he is a private businessman working to make West Virginia a distributor of energy efficient light bulbs to the East Coast. He said right now his efforts are costing him more than they are bringing in.
About 1,400 state residents have Mountain Party voter registration cards. That's about 0.1 percent of the registered voters in the state, but Johnson received 31,500 votes in 2008, or about 4.6 percent of the vote.
In a tight race, the number of voters deciding to go with him could swing an election away from a Republican or Democrat.
But Johnson says he wants to win because Maloney and Tomblin seem to "agree on almost every single issue."
Johnson said both want to continue allowing gas companies to frack mine sites, something he would stop until its environmental safety can be proven.
Both Maloney and Tomblin are anti-abortion rights. Both are, in Johnson's words, "anti-labor, even if they get the support of the heads of labor — it's empirically evident that they do not truly support labor."
Johnson also wants to preserve Blair Mountain, the site of a historic clash between union miners and the government. The site is to be mined. He thinks it would be better for the state as a tourism hot spot.
Johnson also is critical of the state's media, which he said is trying to portray Maloney and Tomblin as diametrically opposed to each other. To him, they are not.
"It's lost because the public doesn't even get to find out the entire truth about these situations or issues," he said. "This is not a team sport we're talking about, this is life or death."
Johnson said he is impressed with neither Tomblin nor Joe Manchin, the U.S. senator and ex-governor who Johnson has unsuccessfully challenged three times.