Paddlers and disenchanted New York voters alike have another option in Tuesday’s gubernatorial election—though they won’t find his name on the ballot. John Nemjo, the owner of Old Forge, N.Y.’s Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company—one of the eastern United States’ largest paddlesports retailers—is running as a write-in candidate, with the platform, “I can’t do any worse.” Nemjo is among a list of oddball challengers for state governor, including inimitable Jimmy McMillan’s “The Rent is too Damn High” party, with the New York election a favorite of satirists.
Behind his catchy slogan and classy beer coaster campaign, the 51-year-old Nemjo is no stranger to politics, having run as a write-in in municipal elections in Jacksonville, Fla., (an election in which he took 20 percent of the vote) and Inlet, N.Y. Though he doesn’t stand much of a chance against Democrat Carl Paladino and Republican Andrew Cuomo, Nemjo simply hopes to hit the “magic 50,000-vote level” that will automatically place him on the 2014 ballot.
The busy father, coach, shop owner, and now candidate recently told the Glens Falls Post Star that he’s “running for the common citizen of New York—people who have an honest job and expect to be treated fairly. I’m going to work for the individual, not the corporations that fund campaigns.”
There’s no doubt that Nemjo is a successful businessman. In the past 17 years he’s opened three Mountainman stores in the Adirondacks and an apparel shop in Saratoga Springs, NY. He’s also an avid paddler, having created the popular Adirondack Paddlefest, held each spring in Old Forge. On his website, (johnnemjo2010.com), he lists “Co-sponsor of the Great Oswegatchie Canoe Wilderness Campaign” among his credentials to be governor.
Though Nemjo’s name will not appear on the general election ballot, his website lists the details for voting for him as a write-in candidate: Voters must simply mark the circle next to “Other” and write his name in the space provided. Given rising voter angst, Nemjo expects to receive some support—though it isn’t likely he’ll be fulfilling his election promise of renting out the governor’s mansion any time soon. But with a Facebook page and genuine promises, Nemjo told the Post Star, “You can go from nobody to somebody important in four weeks.” Now he’s down to his last four days.
“Things are changing,” he added. “I think people are just flat-out disgusted.” — Conor Mihell