Novelist, playwright and essayist Gore Vidal has written prolifically about the U.S. government. But despite two attempts, he has never been elected to it. In 1960, he took on what TIME called a "kamikaze assignment," running as a Democratic congressional candidate in a Republican New York district. He lost, but got more votes than anyone else in the party had managed in half a century. The grandson of Oklahoma Senator Thomas Pryor Gore, Vidal himself ran for the U.S. Senate from California in 1982 and lost the Democratic primary to then Governor Jerry Brown. But really, he couldn't help it. In between the campaigns, he explained to the London Times, "I wanted to be a politician, but I was born a writer."
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