A look inside Libertarian Travis Irvine's run for office in Ohio's 12th District
Most doors are closed, most windows dark as Travis Irvine makes his way along the cracked sidewalks of North Linden in a white campaign T-shirt, alone, with a small handful of campaign fliers.
By now, two weeks before his Election Day showdown with Democrat Paula Brooks and Republican Pat Tiberi, he's used to this.
During the past five months, he's learned patience and how to keep moving. He's learned to place tracts where people will find them: poking from mailboxes or woven through the storm doors that dot the residential neighborhoods of Ohio's 12th Congressional District.
Since being endorsed by the Libertarian Party in June, he has fliered Newark, Bexley, Urbana and other neighborhoods throughout Central Ohio. He's an idealist at heart, devoted to the idea that he can make a difference one front porch at a time.
He's also rather broke. When you run a campaign on a dream and about $8,000, you don't stop. You go where nobody else goes. You work often on foot.
Every so often, a stranger will come home from errands or pass by on a bike, and Irvine gets to talk, his specialty.
"Hi, I'm Travis Irvine, and I'm running for Congress," he'll say, calmly extending a hand. "I'm not a Republican or Democrat - I'm tired of both of them."
His opening line usually works.
At 27, Irvine is the youngest politician most voters have ever met. His demeanor is laid-back, relaxed and disarming, and he looks a bit like Johnny Depp, with the ability to seem cool and put-together without trying. Earlier this summer, he cut off a mane of dreadlocks in a video explaining how he'd balance the federal budget.
During his route north along Cleveland Avenue, he's invited to porches, barber shops and sidewalk conversations. He talks about lower taxes, personal freedom and smaller government, then shares the most interesting personal bio of any candidate in Ohio.
He spent time on Capitol Hill as a press agent for a New York senator. He lived in the Bahamas for a while, running a field-studies operation. He ran for mayor of Bexley in 2007. He worked for Matthew Lesko, the guy who appears on late-night TV in a question-mark suit.
A front door is open several blocks down, and Irvine calmly walks up the stairs to find several older men watching TV. He starts off as usual and peers into the room, silhouetted by the bright afternoon sun.
"Well, what side you on?" says a mustached man who squints, turns in his easy chair and swigs eagerly from a Milwaukee's Best.
"I'm not on either side," Irvine responds. "I'm with the Libertarian Party."
"Hmm, so independent, huh? What if you had to pick a side? And if you pick wrong, you're gonna see the back side of this door in your face."
Irvine isn't phased and continues to state his case. Like most third-party candidates, he's the victim of a Catch-22: No one will cover him because he's unknown, and he's unknown because no one will cover him. Anyone who listens is valuable.
By the end of the conversation, Irvine emerges victorious: The man agrees to give him his vote. And, with a peculiar laugh, he tells Irvine he's pretty.