Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, better known to the public “Joe Exotic”, has recently seen increased public fame due to the widespread success of the Netflix original series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
What many don’t realize, however, is that aside from his activities as a big-game conservationist and alleged murder, Exotic had a recent stint in politics. The major political parties have suppressed his popular agenda out of fear for their future. If Exotic’s message were to go out, both parties would be done for.
2016 presidential election
Joe Exotic entered the 2016 presidential election as a substantial underdog. Although voter satisfaction with the major-party nominees was low, the prospect of a Ross Perot-like third-party candidacy never materialized. Exotic entered the ring to blow the system up in order to fix the major issues of our day. He ran as a pro-choice, pro-LGBT, pro-immigrant, and pro-gun candidate with a concern for climate change.
This broadly appealing platform would have been an easy sell. However, in a major blow for Exotic, both parties managed to rig the system so he wouldn’t appear on most ballots. Only Colorado stood up to the two major parties and gave him a spot. Unsurprisingly, Exotic performed the best in Colorado, receiving 872 votes (0.03% of the vote), good for 11th place. Of course, if it weren’t for the media blackout, Exotic would likely have performed far better.
2018 Oklahoma gubernatorial election
After his loss, Joe Exotic immediately began plans for his next campaign. Exotic set his sights on the gubernatorial race in Oklahoma, where wildly unpopular incumbent Mary Fallin (R) was term-limited. Widely seen as a competitive race, Oklahoma seemed like a good place for Exotic to make a difference. Exotic decided to affiliate with a party this time and ran as a member of the Libertarian Party.
In an interview, Exotic explained that he “learned more in 11 months in running for president than I did in 12 years of school”. He cast himself as a politically incorrect outsider that would raise teacher pay, take care of the elderly, and pardon nonviolent drug offenders.
Exotic faced two opponents in his quest for the nomination: Chris Powell, the former chair of the state Libertarian Party, and Rex Lawhorn, the former chair of the Oklahoma Americans Elect Party. Exotic would finish third with 664 votes (18.7%). Despite missing the runoff, Exotic did manage to win three counties (Jackson, Garvin, and Bryan). Powell, the eventual nominee, would finish with only 3.4% of the vote. The Libertarian Party clearly blew a big opportunity by not nominating Exotic.
Exotic’s political future
Joe Exotic was found guilty in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme in April 2019. He is currently serving a 22-year federal prison sentence, which has left his political future in limbo. Exotic is seeking a presidential pardon from Donald Trump, which would allow him to continue both his tiger conservation activities as well as his political career.
Trump has not publicly commented on the request and might not have even received it. This is undoubtably due to meddling from both parties, who recognize the threat Joe Exotic could pose in the future. Regardless of if Exotic is freed or not, however, his political career offers some lessons for all of us. Exotic might not be free, but his dream lives on in all of us.