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'Wig man' expects Senate run to pay

January 17, 2006|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

HAGERSTOWN

daniels@herald-mail.com

In an image-based society, Daniel R. Vovak has a clear edge in the form of a powdered wig.

To be fair, it's not actually powdered, but it is patterned after the colonial-style, white wigs worn by the nation's founders, including George Washington and James Madison. Vovak is hoping it will wear him to the United States Senate through the seat being vacated by Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.

"People underestimate the power of a big wig, it's not something I invented," the 33-year-old Ohio native and former newspaper publisher said Monday. "The wig works."

On Jan. 11, the Washington, D.C., ghost writer who resides in Rockville, Md., registered to run for U.S. Senate as Daniel R. Vovak, "The Wig Man," on the Republican ticket, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections' Web site.

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He faces a field of challengers, including the possible candidacy of Republican Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele. According to the election board's Web site, Steele has not yet registered for the election, but seven others have, including three Republicans, three Democrats and a Green Party candidate.

Vovak has never held public office, but not through a lack of effort. In 1999, while publisher of "Movers and Shakers," a bimonthly publication covering the City of Shaker Heights, Ohio, Vovak ran for mayor against the town's incumbent mayor and a city councilwoman. The incumbent mayor withdrew from the election, and the city councilwoman defeated Vovak by about 83 percent to about 17 percent, according to published reports.

After losing the election, Vovak moved to Connecticut, where he worked as an editor for the Greenwich Post, start a ghost-writing business and a public relations firm, and begin writing a manuscript on his failed election campaign. While watching the 2000 election between John Kerry and George W. Bush, Vovak decided to write a book titled "Will You Run for President?"

The book's main character, Luke Vovak, is a 33-year-old University of Connecticut professor too young, but with the perfect qualifications otherwise to serve as president. His students decide to launch a presidential campaign for their professor, who wears a wig to inspire his students, and the book concludes with teacher Vovak considering whether he wants to actually run for president.

It was not long before the idea took another form in his head.

"I'll blur life and art, because I'll make myself wear a wig and I'll blur art and life," he said.

While he wore it on is book tour, Vovak, at the age of 30, donned a wig and ran for president in 2003. After failing to pick up the state Democratic endorsement in Iowa, he withdrew from the race and moved to Palm Beach, Fla., penniless and defeated. It was there he conceived of the idea for a Third Party National Conference, to assemble the nation's independent parties just as the Republicans and Democrats do during their national conventions. He failed to gain any momentum for the idea at the time.

He threw his wig into the ring again in 2004, when Republican Jack Ryan withdrew from the U.S. Senate race in Illinois and the Illinois Republican Committee was considering nominating former Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka to run against Democratic candidate Barak Obama.

"That's when it hit me, that moment: If the Republicans thought that Mike Ditka could be a viable candidate, then I knew I could be a viable candidate," he said.

The state Republican committee selected former Republican presidential candidate and Maryland resident Alan Keyes, who later lost to Obama. Vovak tried to register as an independent candidate, though he had long-since missed the prior November's registration deadline, and he was not able to register. He appealed the decision up to the United States Supreme Court, which declined to hear his case.

Regaining his balance, Vovak unshelved his idea for a third-party conference, which he held in Merrimack, N.H., in October. The event was attended by about 18 of the nation's third parties, and the experience solidified his personal knowledge of the difficulties third parties face in running for elected office.

"I learned that candidates should be their own media," he said. "If third parties want attention, they've got to be their own media."

Bolstered by the success of the conference, Vovak set his sights on Steele.

Vovak said while new to Maryland, he hopes with a platform of "lean government," a connection to average residents and an extensive grass-roots campaign he kicked into gear at the beginning of the month, he hopes voters will elect him.

"I believe people in Maryland want someone with whom they can relate," he said.

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