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In 1970 Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff of Aspen wanting to ban cars and legalize certain substances

Domagoj Valjak
Photo Credit:  Steve Anderson (director) 
CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo Credit: Steve Anderson (director) CC BY-SA 3.0

Hunter S. Thompson is often praised as the father of gonzo journalism. His explicit in-your-face writing style and lifelong battle against censorship inspired generations of writers and political activists.

Thompson is also known for his eccentric lifestyle, which included enormous quantities of alcohol and various drugs, anti-authoritarian rants, and a love of firearms. This pervaded his magnum opus, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, a graphic drug-fueled odyssey to the Las Vegas of the early 1970s that became one of the most significant literary works of the 20th century.

Although Thompson was a politically minded journalist and an outspoken supporter of drug legalization and the Civil Rights Movement, he never bothered to establish an actual political career. His only stint in state politics occurred in 1970, when he decided to run for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado, and the surrounding Pitkin County.


In the late 1960s, Thompson had moved to Woody Creek, Colorado, where he purchased a house with the $15,000 he earned from publishing his first book, Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. He named his home “Owl Farm” and lived there until committing suicide in 2005.

Aspen, Colorado
Aspen, Colorado

Thompson wrote an article about the 1969 mayoral race in Aspen titled “The Battle of Aspen,” running in Rolling Stone. He expressed his support of 29-year-old candidate Joe Edwards, a lawyer who was known for his support of the counterculture and his anti-establishment ideals.

In the article, Thompson argued that people should support the young unknown candidates with progressive attitudes, the so-called “freaks,” because they were the ones capable of rising against the old conservative politicians who weren’t willing to adapt their traditionalist ideals to the social and cultural needs of a progressive society. The article led to the term “Freak Power.” Joe Edwards used the term as a part of his campaign and Thompson wholeheartedly supported him.

Although the odds were in Edwards’ favor by the end of the campaign season, he ended up losing by a mere six votes. He decided not to remain involved in politics, but Thompson was keen on continuing with the “Freak Power” campaign. A year later, he ran for sheriff of Aspen and Pitkin County. His symbol was a raised fist holding a peyote superimposed over the sheriff’s star and the changes he proposed throughout his campaign were rather radical.

First, he proposed Aspen be renamed “Fat City.” In his opinion, this would stop greedy investors from exploiting the city’s land and ruining the picturesque landscape of the county. Second, he argued that the sheriff and his deputies shouldn’t be allowed to carry guns in public because trigger-happy members of law enforcement were, according to him, the main reason for most of the deadly shootouts in the U.S.

Furthermore, Thompson promised to ban hunting and fishing to all non-residents except  those who would obtain special temporary permits, as this would bring an end to the exploitation of wildlife and natural resources of the county. Also, since cars were the cause of most of the air pollution in Aspen, Thompson was keen on banning cars from entering the city; residents would rely on bicycles.

Hunter S. Thompson, Long Beach, California, May 1989. Author Rs79 –CC BY-SA 3.0
Hunter S. Thompson, Long Beach, California, May 1989. Author Rs79 –
CC BY-SA 3.0

Finally, since he was an avid drug user who advocated the legalization of drugs, he proposed the legalization of all recreational drugs and even invented a punishment for dealers who dared to sell low-quality drugs on the street. In his opinion, such dealers should be put in stocks and displayed in public places so that the locals could mock them and even molest them in various ways.

Read another story from us: Journalist Nellie Bly pretended insanity to expose the abuse in an asylum on Blackwell’s Island she called “a human rat trap”

While campaigning, Thompson received a number of serious death threats and armed guards patrolled around his house and office on election night. In the end, he lost to his Republican opponent, Carrol D. Whitmire, by around 90 votes. The county wasn’t ready for Hunter Thompson’s reforms.

Domagoj Valjak

Domagoj Valjak is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News