David Kelly's home office in Briargate is a typical middle-aged guy's hideout. It has a computer, two desks, books stacked floor to ceiling and maps on the walls. But at the foot of one desk sit a couple boxes filled with buttons and bumper stickers promoting Sarah Palin as a 2012 presidential candidate.
The full-time library district worker spends up to 20 hours a week collecting money and mailing political paraphernalia as part of his federal political action committee's effort to persuade Palin to run.
The 2012 Draft Sarah Committee is the only one of its kind registered with the Federal Election Commission, but it actually represents the second effort by locals to elevate the former Alaska governor's political profile. Adam Brickley, a former Peyton resident and political science graduate of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, set up a blog in early 2007 to push Palin for vice president, and made the talk-show circuit after her selection in August 2008.
Now, Kelly, 50, a Republican Party regular who's voted in every election since he was 18, is at the fore. He's undeterred that Palin's folksy lingo, wardrobe expenditures and perky winks make comedy writers rejoice.
"She's not part of the Beltway," Kelly explains. "She's a mother who got angry one day and decided, 'I'm going to do something.' She's real. She truly is telling us from her heart what she wants to do, rather than what party officials are dictating to her."
Randy Highsmith, the committee's chairman, saw a story on the Web about the committee and volunteered to organize from Florida. He raves about Palin in an e-mail: "Palin excited me and many other conservatives due to her proven and consistent conservative stances." He notes she's pro-life, pro-business and favors oil drilling in Alaska wilderness.
Even as some moderate-courting Republicans denounce Palin for espousing extreme conservative views, Highsmith says the committee has hundreds of volunteers and thousands of newsletter subscribers. And Kelly says her down-home style and values appeal to Everyman and Everywoman.
Kelly formally announced the PAC in January and was soon interviewed by Washington, D.C., political columnists. His Web site, 2012draftsarahcommittee.com, rocked with 10,000 hits a day. Now, it has slowed to about 200 to 1,000 hits daily.
And he admits the PAC has been fodder for joke-writers.
"We made Comedy Central, maybe not in a pleasant way," he says. "Jon Stewart reamed us. I got a lot of hate e-mails — people saying, 'You're an idiot. You're drinking the Kool-Aid.'"
Nevertheless, Kelly and other organizers are honest-to-god serious about trying to persuade Palin.
"Be sure to add YOUR NAME to this petition urging Governor Palin to run," the Web site says. "This is just one way we intend to show Governor Palin she has a large base of support."
The PAC's contributions are small potatoes: about $8,500 in donations ranging from $5 to $355, including a $2,100 loan from Kelly, who notes that none of the committee's members draws a paycheck. Support comes from Hawaii to New York, including from Linda Mims, a lifelong South Carolina resident who recalls learning about the PAC from a Christian group's e-mail.
"Sarah Palin is an outstanding leader," Mims says in a phone interview. "She has the values and morals to lead our country in a positive direction."
Kelly says Palin is "careful" not to communicate with his PAC, although the group's New York-based spokeswoman has met her. He adds that he's not doing this to build his own political career; in fact, Kelly has other interests, such as learning how to play bagpipes, and looks forward to cleaning up his home office and declaring "mission accomplished."
"The day she announces," he says, "our job is done."