Constable: Suburban teacher on ballot as third-party VP candidate
In the 2016 presidential election, Amar Patel of Lombard was so turned off by the prospect of choosing between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that he voted for himself as a write-in candidate.
"Little did I know, four years later…," says Patel, who also will be voting for himself in the 2020 presidential election. This time though, his name is on the ballot in Illinois as the vice presidential candidate running on the American Solidarity Party ticket with 70-year-old retired California teacher and evangelical Christian Brian Carroll.
Patel understands if you aren't aware of that.
"I don't talk about it at school," says Patel, 47, a math teacher at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates. "Just recently, when the ballots came out, did my co-workers find out."
Patel, who says he pulled a Republican ballot in the 2016 primary race and voted for Marco Rubio for president, didn't become a member of the American Solidarity Party until 2018.
He says he was lured by a platform that would ban abortion, calls universal health care a right, advocates for the environment, supports an economic restructuring to stop wealth inequality, defines marriage as between a man and a woman, supports a ranked choice voting system, favors "a generous policy of asylum for refugees," and wants to combat racial injustice and work for peace.
Patel quickly moved up the ladder of the party, which was incorporated in 2016. He was party chairman until June, when presidential nominee Carroll asked him to be his vice presidential candidate.
Patel and his wife, Angie, who teaches biology at Lyons Township High School, have a daughter who is a freshman at the University of Illinois and a son who is a junior at Glenbard East High School. Patel graduated from Glenbard West High School in 1991 and graduated four years later from the University of Illinois with bachelor's degrees in math, chemistry and psychology.
"I got three degrees. I was never satisfied with one thing," says Patel, who got his master's degree in education from the university in 1997.
He also isn't satisfied with an election process that generally boils down to a Republican vs a Democrat.
"I usually took the Republican ballot because I voted on life issues," says Patel, who is an anti-abortion Roman Catholic and a strong union member. "But when President Donald Trump was the new way, I said, 'This can't be right.'"
Patel says he is "pro-life from womb to tomb." His party opposes medical-assisted deaths for the terminally ill and would abolish the death penalty. The party's "whole life" platform also supports paid parental leave, affordable child care, an increased investment in higher education, more money for public defenders and teachers, and laws that "ensure that all people have access to everything they need to thrive."
The party identifies as a Christian Democracy, which grew out of Catholic social teachings. Patel recently retweeted an encyclical from Pope Francis about the need to care for all people, and kiddingly thanked the pope for his endorsement.
He also has fun away from politics. He sings for the band, Hard Lockdown, which mostly consists of educators playing for fundraising events. He wrote a religious novel under his pen name Mark Andrews titled "The Joy of the Lord." And he pitches and packs some power as a hitter for his 12-inch softball team.
Patel says people who could fall into the American Solidarity Party voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and voted for Trump in 2016. His party was on the ballot only in Colorado in 2016 and captured just 6,000 votes.
"If we could do 10 times that, and four years later do 10 times more, that would be something," says Patel, whose name will be on ballots in eight states and available for write-in votes in another 32 states. "There has to be a starting point. We're building momentum."
He says his campaign hopes to rebuild the "moral capital" of the United States.
The son of immigrants from India, Patel says his father, Manilal Patel, and mother, Kanta Patel, came to the U.S. for college educations. But their story isn't the standard American dream fantasy about coming with nothing and building successful lives, their son says.
"His story is not about rugged individualism," Patel says of his father. His father's small village raised money to support him, and their families also offered support. That spirit is reflected in the #FamilyFriendsFaith hashtag for Patel's campaign.
Patel says that "solidarity" of coming together for a common interest is something our nation needs today. But he has no illusions of winning. The last third-party ticket to win a state was the American Independent Party of 1968, when the team of George Wallace and Curtis LeMay won five southern states and 46 Electoral College votes.
Because of his party's mix of conservative and liberal positions, Patel says he doesn't know if his votes will come from people who have soured on Donald Trump or from people uninspired by Joe Biden. But he says those candidates' debate performances seem to turn off voters.
"A couple more of those things," Patel says, "and who knows what could happen?"