WASHINGTON – If it feels like there are more people running for president than ever before, it's because there are.
There are 442 people who have filed to run for president in 2016 through the Federal Election Commission as of Sunday.
That number is growing steadily and has already surpassed the 419 people who filed in 2012, according to the FEC.
Among the contenders are five from Minnesota, including Peter Breyfogle, a retired computer specialist from Shoreview. His platform, viewable on Facebook, consists of replacing the House of Representatives with a House of Citizens, which would include most U.S. citizens 25 years of age and over. To approve a bill, at least half those eligible would have to vote through an authenticated network.
Breyfogle says he's no expert, but follows politics with a sense of "disgust and disenchantment," and is convinced that direct voting would be best.
Ole Savior is a familiar name to those who follow Minnesota politics. This will be Savior's fourth run at the nation's highest office, having failed to go the distance in 2004, 2008 and 2012 (he's also run for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governor). On the political website Project Vote Smart, Savior lists his reason for running: "Save the world from chemical and nuclear weapons (WMDs) of mass destruction. … Ban land mines worldwide."
Savior, who could not be reached for comment, has the distinction of being the only one of the five Minnesota presidential candidates to have donated funds to federal political campaigns in the past, according to the FEC database.
His last donation was for $320, to an Independence Party Senate candidate in 2000.
David Larm, of Stewartville, and William Joseph McNeal Johnson of Zimmerman have also filed, but did not return calls for comment.
Rounding out the quintet is Ryan Joseph Quinton Perera, of Savage, who filed under the Communist Party.
In a field of long shots, call Perera a no-shot. He is 19 — the minimum age for being president is 35 — and a subject of Canada, which makes him doubly ineligible.
A sophomore at Iowa State University this fall, Perera also might have trouble explaining his arrest at 16 for fleeing a peace officer and the revocation of his provisional driver's license.
Perera said his candidacy began as "an experiment to see how difficult it is to begin the process of becoming a candidate."
He said he does not necessarily consider himself a communist and has no intention of actually running for political office.
Nevertheless, consumers can buy a "Ryan Joseph Quinton Perera for President 2016" mug on Amazon for $12.99 plus $8.25 in shipping. In fact, there's a mug for four of the five Minnesotans, with Larm as the holdout.
Which brings up a possible underlying motive for some of these candidates.
Ego can play a role
"Vanity is part of it," said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Every four years, he said, there is a group of people "who are hardly even heard of" who run. "I'm not sure how much of our time we want to devote to those people," he said, "because there is really no clear rationale for it."
Breyfogle said he was driven partly by curiosity. He wanted to see how difficult the process would be.
It turned out to be easier than he could have imagined — which alone may account for the hundreds of official presidential hopefuls.
He spent about 20 minutes filling out two forms online. No fee. No proof of identity or eligibility.
But don't expect to see Breyfogle's name among the presidential choices next fall. Filing may be easy, but getting on the Minnesota ballot is another story. For starters, candidates not affiliated with a party must file a petition containing 2,000 verified names.
Breyfogle said his campaign will go no further than the filing, but added, "I'm not withdrawing." Being a presidential candidate, he said, makes a good anecdote to drop in conversations.
"Now when someone says something [about presidential candidates] I can say, 'Well, I filed for president,' and people look at you and say, 'You did?' "