Can Philly’s Ed O’Donnell Win the Presidency?

He's running on a platform of kindness and Christmas. He doesn't want you to distort his sports record. He's been doing this almost half his life.

Ed O'Donnell for president

Photo | Dan McQuade

Ed O’Donnell knows he’s not going to become president.

“The only way I can become president is if the vice president resigns,” O’Donnell says. “And the president appoints me president and then resigns. That’s constitutional.” But that has’t stopped him from paying the $1,000 fee to get on the New Hampshire democratic primary ballot next month. It hasn’t stopped him before; he’s been running for president for 32 years. He hasn’t been on the ballot every year, but he’s gone up to New Hampshire and campaigned for votes. He’s spent $1.2 million, he tells me, and has garnered 468 votes, or roughly $2,564.10 a vote. That sounds like a lot, but it still seems like a better return than Jeb Bush is getting.

O’Donnell lists his home base as Bridgeport, Montgomery County, in his New Hampshire filing, but the announcement for his candidacy proudly states that “Ed O’Donnell lives in Philadelphia.” He says during primary season he rents out of his apartment and lives in hotels for months. He’s from Delaware, where he went to Wilmington Friends before heading to upstate New York for college at Colgate.

He says he’s run a charity, the Winthrop Foundation, for more than 40 years and that it’s given out sports tickets to under-privileged kids and clothes to the homeless. O’Donnell — who made headlines in 2013 when he said he was a virgin — gets most of his clothes for free or cheap himself from a place at his favorite shore town, Ocean City. He says wears a lot of women’s clothing, because that’s what they have there.

He’s been on the board of several charities in Delaware. Several decades ago, he considered running for office in Delaware, but figured he couldn’t win. If he wasn’t going to win for a small office in his state, then why not run for president?

His platform is one of tolerance and respect, of encouraging people to not be as rude to one another. O’Donnell recently attended the New Hampshire Lesser-Known Candidates Forum, where this was his opening statement:

Look at a small child on Christmas morning. All people who have ever lived want two things: happiness and healing. The first step to that is for all of us to treat everyone with love, forgiveness, mercy, tolerance, kindness, respect, dignity, friendliness, chivalry, courtesy, and old fashioned manners. … Our job is … to bring the message of Christmas to as many people as possible.

I met with O’Donnell at the food court at the Bellevue yesterday afternoon to talk about his platform. (The Bellevue is also the home of the Palm, a spot for political power brokers, but to be fair I’ve also seen Ed Rendell in the food court there too.) He says he wants people to be nicer to each other.

He wants to end unemployment by hiring the unemployed, the homeless, the destitute, the disabled and others for what he says are shovel-ready jobs including, but not limited to, handing out fliers for small businesses and cleaning up litter both in public and private spaces. He’s all about cleanliness: One of his plans as president is to clean up hotel rooms, which he says he spends a lot of time in when he’s running. He also wants to make all gyms as nice as the one at The Sporting Club.

He knows he’s not going to win the New Hampshire primary, and he’s only running as a Democrat because the state doesn’t allow third-party candidates to run in the primary. (In 2013, he said he was going to run as a member of the Patriot Party.)

O’Donnell is 68, but says his advanced age — he’d be one of the oldest presidents ever elected — doesn’t hurt him. “if I dye my hair black like I did four years ago, if I go to the beach, shave, [use] half a bottle of suntan oil, three hours of sun, ocean, six hour working at The Sporting Club, whirlpool, sauna, steam, I can look 17.”

He’s not going to win. But O’Donnell seems to really enjoy running for president, spreading his messages of Christmas and being nice and cleanliness around to the people, oh, and defending his high school sporting achievements.

“As a Christian he has a strong ability to forgive,” he writes in a press release announcing his candidacy. “While he can forgive politicians for all their nefarious plots against him to prevent him from bringing the message of Christmas (Christianity) to the world as the first third-party president of the United States, he cannot and will not tolerate distortions of his sports career!! But he can forgive such distortions if those who make them correct the record in full and pay restitution to him in the form of free tickets to University of Virginia sports events and Phillies games.”

Hey, if you don’t win the presidency, you might at least get free Phillies tickets out of it.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.