Alexa knows Bill Hammons.
A few months back, when Hammons was sitting around the table at Thanksgiving in Austin, Texas, chewing the fat with family, the topic turned to what Uncle Bill was doing. Addressing the Amazon device in the room, his sister asked, “Alexa, who is Bill Hammons?” Almost immediately, Alexa spit back, “Bill Hammons is the current chairman of the Unity Party of America.”
“There’s a snapshot of where I’m at in life,” Hammons, the party’s founder and a traveling life insurance salesman, said with a chuckle.
“People have this vision of politicians being something else. They think they’ll instantly recognize a politician when they walk in the room. No one recognizes me as that. I find it amusing.”
The 43-year-old bachelor is also running for governor. He’s the likely nominee of the Unity Party of Colorado, which became the state’s fourth minor party last summer when it notched its 1,000th registered voter – joining the Libertarians, the Greens and the American Constitution Party. Before that, it was what’s known as a “qualified political organization,” but its new status means the party can nominate members – known as Uniters – directly to the fall ballot at its state assembly in March.
“We’ve got the voice and the platform now to make a big impact in the 2018 election and beyond,” he said. “I would love to win, but I’m going to break the mold of a politician to say for me to win, it’s a long haul. We’ll see what 2018 holds. I’d be happy with 10 percent.”
It’s been a long time coming.
Hammons founded the party in 2004 with some friends and fellow Wesley Clark supporters after the Democrat’s presidential run sputtered. Hammons, a long-distance runner, was living in Manhattan working for Newsweek – he was the one to talk to if you wanted rights to use any material from the magazine – when he started Runners for Clark, a network of supporters in 17 states who ran marathons to raise money for the retired general.
The next year, Hammons moved to Boulder – “the most perfect spot on the planet to train for marathons” – and began cultivating the Unity Party, which has since grown to 37 states. He ran in the 2nd Congressional District in 2008 and 2010 and was the party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate the past two cycles, winning more votes each time – 6,427 in 2014 and 9,336 in 2016, both times about 0.3 percent.
“Definitely there’s an upward trend,” he said. “Previously, my pie-in-the-sky goal was to get 5 percent,” he said. “Now it’s to get 10 percent and become a major party.”
Bill HammonsParty: Unity Party of ColoradoResidence: moving from Thornton to Colorado SpringsAge: 43Occupation: life insurance salesman, Unity Party of America chairmanPolitical experience: Founded Unity Party in 2004, ran for Congress in 2008 and 2010, ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014 and 2016Family: Single, dog named Jake
This is a weekly series of personal interviews Colorado Politics is doing on all the gubernatorial candidates so we can learn who they are as people before we tear into their political positions.
Hammons is on the road a lot – since last summer, he’s spent the majority of his days outside Colorado – selling insurance for American Income Life across a five-state region, from Texas to Nebraska.
“We have a lot of policy holders in outlying areas. Being in life insurance, being in sales, you do better serving underserved areas,” he said. “I’m still going to be producing life insurance, and I’ll probably be headed out of state on a somewhat regular basis in 2018 but also driving around the state, doing the traditional grassroots politicking.”
Hammons said he’s focused on selling enough insurance policies to achieve financial independence “so I cannot be bought” and to have the freedom to devote his days to campaigning, but he’s not there yet. “Selling life insurance, if you sign folks up who don’t die and continue making their premiums, you’ve got a long-term, passive income, and you won’t even have to work full time.”