By Jessica Voorhees
Long white locks, nails painted black and white, and giant rock star sunglasses on a smiling, weathered face characterize an unconventional gubernatorial candidate with an unconventional name: Blackii Effing Whyte.
The 68-year-old musician and t-shirt salesman from Berea, Kentucky, legally changed his name last April to reflect his place as the black sheep in his family and his intention to run as a “dark horse” in the 2015 Kentucky gubernatorial election, which he signed up for as a write-in candidate mid-May.
Whyte decided to run for governor as a nonpartisan “citizen candidate” after growing “sick and tired” of career politicians not fairly representing the people of Kentucky, he said.
“The government should represent a glass of moonshine: you hold it up and see your face in it,” Whyte said.
Whyte’s campaign principally advocates for the legalization of marijuana due to its medicinal benefits and potential to boost the Kentucky economy, he said.
He also wants to free prisoners convicted for marijuana possession or trafficking.
“This is not something that creates killers,” said Whyte. “No one should be in jail over a plant.”
State Sen. Perry B. Clark, D-Louisville, who introduced in January a now defunct bill to legalize medical cannabis, said he appreciates that Whyte is bringing light to the issue of marijuana legalization.
Clark supports Whyte’s campaign, defined by musical eccentricity and advocacy for important civil liberties, he said.
“I love me some Blackii,” Clark said. “He is the most unique individual on this Earth.”
However, Clark thinks both Whyte and Independent gubernatorial candidate Drew Curtis have “absolutely no chance” in beating Democratic candidate Jack Conway or Republican candidate Matt Bevin.
Curtis said voters blindly elect either a Republican or Democratic candidate and ignore Independents because of the traditional two-party mindset, which can prevent them from properly critiquing each candidate’s ideas.
“There’s a belief system in place that blocks people from doing the thing that makes the most sense to the point where they don’t even look to see if the solutions actually work,” Curtis said at a Frankfort press conference on Aug. 10.
Whyte believes an “underground silent majority who don’t care about Republicans and Democrats” will show up to cast their vote for him come Nov. 3.
To reach these people, Whyte embarked in May on a “120 county challenge,” in which he will attempt to visit every county in Kentucky and meet and take a picture with at least one citizen in each.
He conquered 58 counties so far and continues to traverse the Commonwealth in his band van, decorated on the side with their name —The Reefer Kings — in black, white and red.
The band’s saxophone and bass player, Philip Jacobs, will run alongside Whyte for the lieutenant governor seat.
Whyte promises an honest if unorthodox campaign that will challenge the government and the limits of political correctness, much like his name.
“Honestly, I just wanted to see if I could get away with it,” he said.