A True Blue Libertarian

Stan Jones, right, with Jessica Wagner, a student at Bozeman's Academy of Cosmetology.
Stan Jones, right, with Jessica Wagner, a student at Bozeman's Academy of Cosmetology. (By Blaine Harden -- The Washington Post)
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 12, 2006

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Stan Jones, a Montana libertarian widely known for his peculiar blue skin, can arguably be said to have recast the political complexion of the U.S. Senate, turning it from Republican red to the same color as his face.

That face, it should be noted, is not the dark blue of TV graphics that show where the Democratic Party increasingly holds sway. Nor is it the pale blue of the big Montana sky as autumn turns to winter. It is an ashen blue-gray, a flesh tone more suited to the undertaker's slab than the politician's stump.

In any case, this is what the 67-year-old candidate accomplished last Tuesday: He won 10,324 votes in the make-or-break Senate race in Montana, a contest that Democrat Jon Tester won by just 2,565 votes over three-term Republican incumbent Conrad Burns.

Jones is a quirkily conservative kind of libertarian -- opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage. So it can be argued that he took the bulk of his votes from the conservative Burns, which tipped the election to Tester, which tipped the Senate to the Democrats, which tipped the scales of U.S. political history.

"I'm tickled about that," said Jones. After some reflection, he added, "There is excitement for you to be talking to the guy who changed the country."

In the past, elections have given Jones little to be tickled about.

He is a perennial loser in Montana politics, a kind of Harold Stassen of the interior West, a fringe candidate who sometimes has to sue to get invited to television debates. He is also a man who accidentally turned his skin blue by drinking a homemade antibiotic laced with silver.

He first took the medicine in 1999, he said, fearing that the year 2000 would wreck computers, spread terrorism and disease, and make prescribed antibiotics unavailable. He concedes now that he miscalculated.

Jones granted an interview at the Leaf & Bean coffeehouse on Main Street in Bozeman and later at the nearby Academy of Cosmetology, where he sometimes gets cheap haircuts and where the fluorescent lighting brings out the blue in his face.

One of the students at the academy, Jessica Wagner, recalled that the first time she approached Jones to cut his hair, she caught a glimpse of him in a barber's chair and thought: "Oh, my God, he's dead." Over time, she said, she grew accustomed to his face and found him to be "really a neat guy."

Jones's excitement over the outcome of this election is substantially constrained by his contempt for Democrats and Republicans, for Tester and for Burns, and for the American political system, which he says has been ruined by big money.

Jones, it is safe to say, has not been ruined by big money.

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