“Honest Gil” Fulbright’s presidential campaign is literally a joke, but that didn’t stop him from beating Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham in a New Hampshire straw poll over the weekend.
Played by actor Frank Ridley, Fulbright is a mock-candidate who skewers typical politicians for Represent.us, a nonpartisan group that is pushing for campaign finance reform. He’s not even on the ballot anywhere.
But after he gave a stump speech cracking jokes about Republican candidates at the libertarian Republican Liberty Caucus’s national convention in Nashua, Fulbright beat some of them in the straw poll.
“Face it, I am a puppet for special interests and lobbyists,” Fulbright said. “And I will break any campaign promises that rub my donors the wrong way.”
Fulbright picked up a dozen votes, putting him way behind Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who won with 445 votes, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. But that was still ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki.
His stump speech may have helped on that front, as it included digs at Bush and Graham. “Now there’s a guy who has raised hundreds of millions of dollars without saying anything of appreciable substance,” Fulbright said of Bush. “His donors even call him a straw man, stuffed with cash.”
“Some have pointed out that I’m not on the ballot anywhere,” Fulbright said. “But despite this obstacle, I’m still in a dead heat with Lindsey Graham.”
Josh Silver, director of Represent.us, said the straw poll success was a “pleasant surprise, but not a huge one.”
“Voters on both sides of the aisle are fed up with politicians who represent special interests and lobbyists instead of the American people,” he told TIME. “Honest Gil strikes a chord because he exposes our corrupt political system for what it is.”
The board of Represent.us includes an actual presidential candidate, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, who is running for the Democratic nomination on a platform of enacting campaign finance reform and then resigning as president. Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who briefly ran for the Republican nomination in 2012, is also on the board.