Two former pro wrestlers are running for elected office this year on the kinds of conservative and outsider platforms that helped President Trump get elected, but with slightly different political styles — or at least, different decibel levels.
“I almost feel bad for the people I’m running against,” Daniel Rodimer, a Republican candidate for the Nevada state Senate, says with the kind of playful bravado that landed him a World Wrestling Entertainment contract in the mid-2000s and a couple of televised events. “I’m going to win. … Whatever my opponent does, I do three times more. Dude, I am the sign king.”
To be sure, Rodimer is keenly aware of how political stagecraft — including his 6-foot-7 frame — can command a room.
“You should see people staring at their smartphones at other politicians’ fundraisers. And they’re paying to be there. Who’s going to listen to them when they get to Carson City? People don’t look at their phones when I talk,” said Rodimer, who at a fundraiser last week brought a wrestling ring and auctioned a Hulk Hogan-signed belt to raise money for suicide prevention.
Beyond the swagger, Rodimer, who has a law degree, touts a conservative agenda that’s tough on border security, helping military veterans and protecting gun ownership while trying to stop school shootings.
“Another one will happen,” said the 39-year-old Rodimer, who’s pursuing the idea of a installing panic buttons in classrooms to perhaps get faster police responses than calling 911.
The Rodimer camp says voters everywhere this year are “looking for a fighter” like Trump who will go to a state house or the White House, or even a town hall, to “stand up for me.”
Rodimer admits he faces an uphill challenge, saying last week that he had until recently stopped his campaign because of a death in the family over the Christmas holidays. The primary is June 12.
Like the Rodimer campaign — and the candidate’s recent video ad that prominently shows a Trump hotel on the Vegas strip — the president and his agenda are never far from candidate Glenn Jacobs, either.
Jacobs is a Republican running for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, but with a more low-key style.
“I’m trying to project a softer image,” he recent said on Fox News’ “Your World with Neil Cavuto.”
The 51-year Jacobs, who wrestled professionally for roughly 20 years and won several world titles, considers himself a libertarian but acknowledges he’s also a populist with an “outside-the-box” campaign similar to Trump’s, aiming to capture the attentions of disaffected voters.
“People are sick and tired of career politicians, and we have seen that at the highest level,” Jacobs, whose most famous wrestling persona was Kane, told Fox News.
“I think a lot of people within the political realm, though, believe that President Trump was an anomaly and it only was going to happen at the federal level. And I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s going to happen through all levels of government, because whether you’re on the left or you’re on the right, we can see that government doesn’t work for you. And people are looking for folks who will work for them.”
Jacobs, a businessman, won the GOP primary and is now trying to win the general election in November for an open mayoral seat in the conservative-leaning region.
Both candidates say they have earned support from fellow wrestlers including Rick Flair and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Rodimer said he tried to contact WWE co-founder Linda McMahon, who mounted two unsuccessful Senate bids in Connecticut and now runs the Small Business Administration for Trump.
Her office did not fulfill a request last week for comment from McMahon on former WWE employees running for office.
The quests for elected office from Rodimer and Jacob are not unprecedented.
Jessie “The Body” Ventura, a member of the WWE Hall of Fame, in 1998 unexpectedly won the Minnesota gubernatorial race on the Reform Party ticket, after serving as a mayor in the state several years earlier. Ventura, who served in Vietnam, narrowly won the governor’s race on a campaign that urged Minnesotans to resist “politics as usual” but did not seek a second term.