Sebastopol maverick tosses hat into presidential ring

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He inhaled. He exhaled. And he inhaled again. But that isn't going to keep Joel Neuberg from the race for Republican Party candidate for president of the United States.

"It was the '60s," says Neuberg, 50. "And I can honestly say I was a draft dodger, too. That'll have to come out."

Politically savvy after an unsuccessful bid in 1992 — Neuberg captured 12 votes statewide — he knows how tough the campaign trail can be. But the tall, bearded, cowboy-boot-clad Sebastopol resident, who is Jewish, is ready to fight the good fight again. Neuberg is now included in the California secretary of state's certified list of write-in candidates for the March 26 GOP primary.

By simply filling out the required form, Neuberg became one of three Republican write-in candidates, joining Ralph Nader and Pat Paulsen.

And he's already been endorsed by such publications as The Lion's Roar of El Molino High School, where he works as a librarian.

"I'm on a roll," says Neuberg, whose press information contains such catchy slogans as, "He's never served in Congress or committed a felony."

What has he done?

The Congregation Beth Ami member served as director of the Northern California Holocaust Center in San Francisco for more than eight years. He was an advisor to the United Synagogue Youth in Sonoma. And among other stints, he has also worked as a park ranger, Peace Corps volunteer, book reviewer, steel mill laborer and cowboy.

It took none other than Republican contender Patrick J. Buchanan to lasso this Renaissance wrangler into politics.

"I feel that he's neither competent nor safe for the United States," says Neuberg, who describes himself as part Theodor Herzl and part Abraham Lincoln with a dash of Muhammad Ali.

As for his own platform, it begins simply enough. He favors education for all Americans, choice for women and solar-powered mass transit projects. He opposes government involvement in the tobacco industry and prayer in public schools.

But that's where Neuberg's ideas take a sharp turn off the highway to mainstream acceptance, and onto "Say what?" street.

"I'm for sending criminals to any country that could satisfy me that the prisoners wouldn't be abused," Neuberg explains. "It would cost us less to maintain them there. Why should it cost more to keep a prisoner for a year than send a kid to Stanford?"

As an aftertought, he adds, "I'm not sure it's legal, but we could fix that, change the Congress around a little bit."

As if that little nugget of Neubergese isn't enough to keep him off "Nightline," there's more: To support his foreign policy of opposing slavery "in all its manifestations," he proposes sending a delegation including former basketball star Kareem Abdul Jabbar to tour Africa with a message of freedom.

As for the White House, renovations would begin tout de suite with a paint job.

"Why should it be white? I'd like to see more color in the White House. You could say Neuberg would bring color to the White House."

The digs might be bright but they'd be lonely, too. It seems Neuberg's wife refuses to become first lady, saying she prefers to maintain her life as a preschool teacher and avoid the presidential limelight.

There's also the thorny issue of her own political leanings. Like Neuberg's son, an economy major at U.C. Berkeley, his wife is a Democrat and vows to remain one.

Still, Neuberg says he is going all the way this time.

"Dole will win all the primaries except California," he predicts. "That's where he'll meet his first real competition."