Arizona Democrat Noah Dyer announced his gubernatorial run by coming clean about his unusual sex life and personal debt in hopes of heading off opposition researchers who have doomed traditional political campaigns.
Dyer, a tech entrepreneur, former teacher, and neophyte politician, knows that name recognition and free media will be key to a successful primary run. His press kit offers a brief outline of his beliefs designed to give reporters an idea about the type of candidate he will be. The press kit is similar to most others except for one section, headlined in bold: "Scandal and Controversy." Dyer hopes that shocking candor will cut down on "cleverly disclosed scandals that come out of the woodwork in the midst of campaigns … [that] divert and distract away from meaningful dialogue."
"Noah has had both deep and casual sexual experiences with all kinds of women. Noah Dyer is an advocate of open relationships. He has sent and received intimate texts and pictures, and occasionally recorded video during sex. Noah has always been forthright with his partners, seeking the same in return," the kit says. "All of his relationships have been legal and consensual, never coercive, or abusive, and he condemns such behavior. Noah is unapologetic about his sexual choices, and wishes others the same."
Dyer has always been remarkably forthcoming about his personal life. In 2014, Dyer attempted to raise $300,000 on crowdfunding sites in order to document every moment of his life for a year: bathroom breaks, showers, and sexual escapades included. He planned to use the project as a launching pad for a 2016 congressional run on a platform of total transparency—a world in which every man, woman, and child in the United States wore cameras—but fell about $298,013 short of his fundraising goal.
Dyer told the Washington Free Beacon that he was "moving on" from the transparency issue and stresses that it was a thought experiment rather than any sort of practical political platform. He has shifted his sights from Congress to the Arizona governor's mansion because he thinks the executive branch would grant him the "influence I want to have." Dyer also believes voters would be more open to outsider candidates at the state level. He intends to run on an agenda combining liberal social policies with business-friendly economic policies to attract independents and libertarian-minded Democrats.
"The Democratic state platform I align with 100 percent. I voted for Hillary," he said. "But I am business and Second Amendment friendly."
Despite Dyer's support for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump's victory inspired his campaign. He said the election outcome reflected the public's willingness to look outside of the traditional political arena to solve the nation's problems. He sees that trend at work in Arizona, where Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson won 4 percent of the vote and Trump carried the state 49-44.
"I decided to run on Election Night," he said. "I didn't feel that the American people were saying ‘Trump is amazing. This is what I love.' They were saying, ‘I don't trust the political establishment.'"
Dyer thinks his experience as a teacher, small business owner, and computer professional will allow him to earn the trust of voters across the political, social, and economic spectrum. He decided to be upfront about his personal life to neutralize the "historical political strategy of using the personal" to derail the political. No one would have cared about Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal if the disgraced New York governor had been upfront about his sexual habits, he speculates.
"That didn't change anything about him politically, but people were bothered by it. It got used against him not for what the information was, but because the information was hidden," Dyer said.
Dyer's disclosures go beyond his sexual tastes. He also disclosed large levels of student and personal debt in an attempt to avoid the scrutiny that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R.) underwent because of his personal expenses. Dyer admitted to paying "tens of thousands of dollars in child support" using credit cards and selling his home in a short sale after the 2008 financial crisis.
"Noah has a negative net worth, given that he has nearly $100,000 in student loan debt. His income based loan repayment plan is actually insufficient to cover the interest, and his balance grows every year," the kit says. "Noah has technically been homeless, and has enjoyed extended periods of couch surfing, living in offices, and other uncommon living arrangements. Thankfully, he has not known homelessness like that experienced by many people on the streets, with whom he sympathizes."
Dyer said the New York Times never would have published an opposition dump on Rubio if the former presidential candidate had publicly admitted his debts. Dyer said that he expected his financial situation to draw scrutiny given his position as a deficit hawk; he calls government debt an "immoral tax on the next generation," and "is opposed to any budget that does not rapidly pay down state debt."
"I have not used my brain and intellect to amass vast wealth for myself," Dyer said. "I'm hoping people recognize that it's not a one-to-one correlation between personal money management and the governor's role in the state budget."
Dyer said that his campaign has been well received by voters he has spoken to. On Feb. 15 he attended a going away party for a friend and mentioned his plans to reform the state education system to a stranger at the bar. The partygoer cut him a check for $50 at the end of the night. He acknowledges that his candor could hurt him and that he may be ahead of his time, but emphasizes that it could also clear the air for focused policy debates that will affect voters' lives.
"I'm not 100 percent confident the people of Arizona are ready for me and I recognize I'm an outsider candidate, but I'm a serious candidate," Dyer said. "As much as people wish they could dismiss me, I'm going to be around and it's going to be a fight in the primary."