MIAMI – When the Boston Tea Party's presidential candidate Charles Jay went to register to vote in Florida this summer the clerk at the elections office wasn't sure what to do.
"I've never heard of it," she said of his new political group, which joins the Christmas Party and Surfers Party of America among Florida's registered third parties.
Jay was unshaven and going on a few hours sleep, "I had to tell her, 'I'm the presidential candidate,'" he said.
Jay, 47, is on the ballot in Florida, Tennessee and Colorado. It is the first time his party has had a presidential nominee since Libertarians dissatisfied with their party formed it in 2006. And while Barack Obama's slogan is "Change we can believe in" and John McCain's is "Country first," Jay's party is telling voters that it is, "Time to party like it's 1773!"
"Obviously this is a party that wants low or no taxes, and I think we're just naturally rebellious," said Jay, linking his party to the colonists who tossed tea into the Boston harbor to protest British taxes. "We're bad boys and bad girls."
In speeches he often invokes colonists' cry, he said, "no taxation without representation."
Jay said he and his party, which counts 500 members nationwide on its Web site, also have one clear goal. What they want, their party's single-sentence platform, is to reduce the "size, scope and power of government at all levels."
Their four-point program is the same as former Republican primary candidate Ron Paul's: to bring troops home from Iraq and other locations around the globe; to repeal the USA Patriot Act and other laws the party believes infringe on privacy and civil liberties; to not increase the national debt; and to end taxpayer bailouts of corporations and corporate subsidies.
Jay, meanwhile, is frank about the fact he isn't a career politician. He has hosted radio shows, worked in television and promoted boxing. Now he lives in Hollywood, Fla., and develops content for companies' Web sites. He is not married and has no children.
Four years ago he ran as the presidential candidate for the Personal Choice Party along with Marilyn Chambers, who Jay describes by saying, "you know, the porn star." In Utah, the only state they were on the ballot, they got just shy of 1,000 votes.
This time he may do better. The party isn't on the ballot in Massachusetts, site of the original tea party, but it is on the ballot in Colorado.
"We don't have any oceans or harbors to keep the party alive, but they're on the ballot," said Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State.
"It's not like we're going to win the election," said Thomas L. Knapp, who founded the party in 2006 and is now one of its four vice presidential nominees — a way to generate interest in some states by putting a local person on the ticket.
Jay said he's like any other candidate running in a race where an opponent is heavily favored — a Democrat in a heavily Republican district or vice versa. Like those candidates, his goal is to get people to hear his message and provoke people to think about their choices.
Currently the party has 51 registered voters in Florida — more than six other parties recognized by the state — but Jay said he'd be happy to get 5,000 votes nationwide. For him, it's a win just to be on three ballots, to be invited to third-party debates and to talk at a number of high schools.
Still, Jay isn't sure if he'll run again four years from now. Being a third-party candidate has been tiring. He has spent $4,000 of his own money on travel and things like campaign buttons. He answers his own e-mail and picks up his own suits from the dry cleaners. In early October, he was in Nashville rushing to a third-party candidate debate when all traffic stopped. McCain's motorcade needed to pass. Jay, sitting in his Dodge Stratus rental car, had to wait.
Earlier this month, he spoke to students at a South Florida middle school and took questions.
"Who do you want to win the presidential election?" one student asked him.
"I looked at the teacher," Jay said. "And said, 'I don't know if I want to answer that one.'"