His rented storefronts, hangers-on and the ringing telephones are the same as political campaign lore the world over. But Hadi Ghaffari is a different kind of candidate, even by the standards of revolutionary Iran.
Setting him apart is not that he is a Moslem cleric, indeed a hojatoleslam, or ayatollah junior grade, for there are many mullahs among the nearly 3,500 candidates running in Friday's election for the new parliament.
Nor is his relative youth -- he is 39 -- that unusual.
Rather what distinguishes Ghaffari is his image as a gun-toting activist who claims to have assassinated between 30 and 60 high officials of the deposed shah's administration before and during the revolution in February 1979.
A tall, thin man, he would look like a raffish suburban dentist were it not for his white turban, collarless shirt and full-length cloak -- the "uniform" of all Iran's clergy.
But his campaign posters show him grasping an Israeli-made Uzi submachine gun with the determined and constant look of a man who is no stranger to violence.
Candidate number 277 among 358 candidates vying for 30 Tehran seats, he claims to have none of the fears of image recognition bedeviling many of his less known rivals. He is running on a right-wing clerical Islamic Republican Party ticket and is convinced he will win on the first ballot.
If true, that may prove a relative exception in the elections, which will have runoffs in early April.
His platform is straightforward and simple -- all Iran's problems, past, present, and, a visitor is tempted to suspect, even future, are the work of the shah and especially of the United States.
Born in the northwest province of Azerbaijan, he is the son of an ayatollah who his campaign literature claims was killed by SAVAK, the shah's secret police. Ghaffari studied Islamic law and theology in the old city of Qom.
He joined the Army, but his subversive antigovernment speeches to fellow soldiers landed him in jail for six months.
In 1978 he made a name for himself by making antigovernment sermons in mosques, then the only forum for political dissent tolerated by the shah. When SAVAK agents sought to arrest him, he would jump dramatically into the midst of about 40 followers who would spirit him out of the mosque to safety.
These hit-and-run sermons, plus his boast that he packed a weapon under his flowing garments, made him one of the revolution's most dramatic figures, as did his claims of escaping prison.
He obviously relishes recounting his role of the three-day, mid-February 1979 uprising that swept away the last vestiges of the monarchy and installed his idol, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in the shah's place.
Two days before the revolution, he claims he walked into a military office in central Tehran and killed the colonel sitting behind a desk. In the first day of the fighting, he claims he shot down a helicopter carrying top generals and in another incident he said he escaped death when his karate training allowed him to get the better of a colonel about to shoot him.
Even politics for him are a kind of warfare by other means.
Only this week he was quoted in the newspaper Ettelaat as saying that if elected he would assassinate any other member of parliament who professed pro-American ideas.
The other day he proudly pointed to a front-page denial in the same newspaper. What he indeed had said, he kept saying, was that he would "fight, not assassinate," any deputy guilty of such deviation.
The root was the same for both words, he insisted, but a visitor got the distinct impression he was amused by the incident.
A practiced debater thanks to his religious training, Ghaffari has campaigned 10 hours a day in a variety of venues ranging from mosques to universities, technical schools to cultural centers.
For him, if the economy is in its present mess, it's not because the revolution has rendered many Iranians jobless, or that mismanagement is rampant or hoarding widespread or prices skyrocketing. It is the fault of the United States.
For him, too, the United States is also behind Iran's political problems -- violence in Kurdistan to the west or the northeastern Turkoman area, sabotage in the oil-producing province of Khuzestan. The United States is determined also to "destroy our revolution," he insists, and even the Marxist and communist groups he also hates with a passion are "made in U.S.A." because the "great Satan," or America, is determined to stop the spread of Islam at any cost.
"All these small groups causing trouble," he said, "try to prevent us from concentrating on economic problems -- it's all Carter's fault."
The anti-American theme also has the advantage of providing a kind of lowest common denominator that all Iranians, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, can agree on.
If his party may be losing ground, it is not because, as visitors suggest, many Iranians are fed up with the "turbans" mismanaging everything.
He has a special distaste for the leftist Islamic Mujahideen, once the strongest of the underground guerrilla organizations opposed to the shah and now a full-fledged political party fielding candidates in the parliamentary election.
"They are not in the line of the iman," as Khomeini is called, the candidate says of them. Noting that his party slogan is "neither East nor West," he said, "the Mujahideen are only anit-American."
He stands up in the tiny ground floor office filled with plastic flowers, a small safe, Khomeini portraits and walls lined with glass shelves full of telephones to be repaired.
The two working telephones, which have been taken off the hook during the interview, are put back on the receivers. Ghaffari predicts a sweeping party victory, smiles and hands his visitor a polaroid photo of himself brandishing a submachine gun among other armed men.
"During the revolution," he explains, and carefully autographs the back of the photograph for his visitors in both Persian and Roman script.