CONWAY — While enough Democrats are running for president to form two baseball teams, the field is much smaller on the Republican ticket. Most think incumbent Donald Trump is running unopposed, but James Peppe wants everyone to know voters have another choice, him.
The 52-year-old Texas businessman recently wrapped up four days campaigning in the Granite State.
He believes Republicans are eagerly looking for an alternative to Trump.
Peppe, who calls himself “a regular American, not a professional politician,” spoke at Keene State College and Franklin Pierce University last Thursday.
Last Friday he had stops at Plymouth State University and Dartmouth College, and also dropped by the Sun Friday morning for a 45-minute interview.
Monday he appeared on the popular Breakfast Club Radio Show in New York City.
The ninth of 12 children, Peppe grew up in Minnesota and attended Yale University, where he played four years of football. Upon graduation in 1988, he interned on Capitol Hill with Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-Minn.).
Peppe went on to serve in various capacities for U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson and two Minnesota Senate minority leaders. In 1992, Peppe was recruited to run for the Minnesota Senate and lost by 1 percentage point to a longtime incumbent, his website says.
Peppe is now a licensed investment adviser, but his focus is on unseating Trump, and after serving two terms, would return to the private sector to teach high school civics and coach high school football.
This is not Peppe’s first visit to New Hampshire. He played football against Dartmouth twice, skied here several times and in 1988, campaigned for George H. Bush.
“Good people have to stand up for what you believe in and you've got to fight,” he said. “I will fight hard and I fight to win but I don’t fight dirty. I believe in integrity, honor and all those good things.”
Peppe isn’t sold on the notion that the candidate with the most money tends to win. “You don’t need $1 billion to win the presidency anymore,” he said. “Trump proved it last time.
"If you can create publicity and public awareness of who you are and what you stand for and what you’re trying to do, the internet and other media outlets, you can win on less.
"You know what I need to compete?" he asked. "I need food and gas money, that’s it. I just need to be here in the beautiful state of New Hampshire for three or four months straight.”
A lifelong Republican, Peppe said he believes in climate change; lists education at the top of his platform — he’s willing to explore tuition-free college; believes Obamacare can be repaired to better serve the public, and thinks there should be a commonsense approach to immigration reform.
Peppe said he didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election.
“First time in my life, I couldn’t pull the trigger for either of them (Trump or Hillary Clinton),” he said.
“My criticisms — and they are severe — of Trump should not be mistaken for any kind of defense of the Democrats. They’re off the reservation, too. ”
Peppe believes Trump's leadership "to be really lacking, to say the least. I believe that character matters. I believe that leadership matters, and I believe that the country is suffering under him.”
Peppe wonders why no one else is willing to challenge Trump.
“Clearly, there are a lot of people who feel like I do, who maybe have more resources than I have and the more wherewithal to stand up to this guy,” he said.
“I was raised by parents to stand up to bullies," he said.
"Where are (the other candidates)? I say the president's support is a mile long and an inch deep, and if I can get exposed to the broad masses of 50, 60 or 70 percent Republicans, I believe those people will roll really quickly to me.”
Peppe says in order to be viewed as competitive he needs to get “quick 1-5 percent showing in the polls,” and that would “get that snowball rolling downhill a little bit.”
Peppe, who said his favorite movie is “Lincoln,” was asked to finish the following sentence: “I believe I will win if …”
“I believe I will win if and when people believe I will win. That’s the thrust of our campaign and that’s why we’re here in New Hampshire to show people that I’m real, that I’m a normal guy. I care about my country and I’m not afraid to go out there and fight this fight even if it drains me of every last dime in my savings, which has already happened, and so be it.
"I’m standing up to this bully because no one else will.”