Anthony Wernicke will lose. Let's get that out of the way right up front.
He does not believe this -- he cannot believe this -- but it's true.
It's true every election year for people like him -- regular Joes who think they can change the system, who get fed up with what they see as a woefully ineffective government bent on trading favors instead of on helping folks get by. They have no money and no experience -- not a whole lot of political knowledge, either -- but they run anyway.
They are Sisyphus, condemned by their passion to roll that boulder up the hill ... and chase it back down again.
"I probably won't win, who cares? I think I'm going to win. There's no doubt," said Wernicke, 48, a first-time candidate for state Senate with virtually zero outside support. "Why am I doing this every day? Because I'm going to win."
The rookie candidate has already made a name for himself locally, of a sort; he has plastered hundreds of hand-painted campaign signs all over his district.
Wernicke is a bus driver, a former restaurant manager, a former break dancer (more on that later), a man with no wife and no kids and nothing to lose.
His opponent in the race, Valerie Wiener, is a 12-year incumbent without a scandalous history who hasn't had a close race since she first won her seat.
But he has some chance, however small, right?
No. None. People like him never, ever win.
"The only way they do is, like, if somebody gets thrown off the ballot by the Supreme Court or something," said David Damore, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas political scientist.
Nonetheless, people like Wernicke are as much a part of our political landscape every election year as mudslinging is.
"Sometimes," said Damore, "they run so often, people think they're the incumbents."
Who are you again?
Wernicke is a strange fellow. He talks with his hands and his arms and the bobs of his mullet-shrouded head as much as he does with his words.
During an interview last week, he wore bright red scrubs, as a nurse would wear (he is studying to become a nurse). They looked like pajamas, or a jail jumpsuit.
He lives in a rented house near Alta and Torrey Pines drives. It is in serious need of a makeover.
He's got an aging RV out front that he has spray painted over with UNLV slogans. He said he's a big Rebels fan.
He drives a moped, mostly, in fact calls it his "official campaign moped." He calls an old Subaru with the top chopped off his "official campaign Subaru."
The Subaru is spray painted red, white and blue with his name and his campaign slogans all over it.
"They're going to hate to have me in the state Senate," he said.
Wernicke was raised an Air Force brat and grew up mostly in California, he said. He moved to Las Vegas more than 20 years ago when his parents moved here. His dad was an electrician, his mom stayed home to raise eight kids.
Wernicke spent a few years in the Army, he said, but couldn't get a job afterward.
He had always been a good break dancer, he said, so he did that for a living.
He worked parties and sang singing telegrams and hung out in the local 1980s and early '90s nightclub scene. He made an OK living, he said, and earned a nickname that sticks with him today: Tonybop.
That's how he's listed on the ballot: "Anthony 'Tonybop' Wernicke."
So anyway, years went by. Break dancing lost its popularity, so Tonybop went to work in the restaurant field. He did that for a few years, he said, and moved on.
He got a job as a bus driver. He liked that job. He said he was really good at it. He earned the nickname "Squirrel" because, he said, he was always running around, trying to get stuff done.
This is why some of his homemade campaign signs say "Squirrel '08" on them.
But then his dad died, back in January of this year. That sent him tumbling into depression.
He said his job performance suffered. This and other issues led to his firing.
Though he has since gotten another job, driving a shuttle bus, he is still mightily upset about his firing.
And when a man gets that upset ... he contemplates doing something about it.
Those contemplations can lead to anger about corporations and anger about a government that seems to let those corporations do whatever they want.
So ... change. He wants to remake Nevada's laws so it's harder for companies to fire employees.
Wernicke drives a shuttle bus that picks tourists up at the airport. He earns enough to get by and usually comes home with cash tips.
He puts his tips into his campaign, which is run on the cheap. He has taken no donations, not that he's getting lots of offers.
His younger brother, Eddie, is his unofficial campaign manager.
"Has he always been this high-strung? Yes," said Eddie, who helps out making campaign signs.
Virtually all of Wernicke's signs are made in his backyard. You've seen them if you've driven through his district, which runs through the center of town from the west side through downtown. He said he has 300 to 400 of them out there.
The signs are spray painted on plywood he's found. On ceiling tiles he picked up from the trash. On hunks of wood somebody tossed out.
"I just want to get my name out there," he said, "and show I'm making a difference."
He buys spray paint at Home Depot. The color doesn't matter.
"Whatever's on sale, that's what color the sign is that week."
He glad-hands and talks politics whenever he gets a chance at stores or neighborhood barbecues around his district. He bought a list of the area's 32,000 registered voters from the Clark County Election Department, and he plans on calling every one of them in the weeks before the November election.
He and his opponent are both Democrats. Because no Republican is running for the seat, they'll face off in the general election. He said he has nothing against Wiener, in particular.
"She's an excellent senator," he said.
He has plans to make a TV commercial. He desperately wants Jon Ralston to interview him on his TV show.
But deep down, despite his optimism and hubris, Wernicke seems to know he can't win, even if he won't say as much to a reporter.
He showed off one of his signs:
"For the People"
He motioned toward the "State Senate" line.
"You see," he said, "what I'm going to do is, if I don't win state Senate, I'm going to put 'County Commissioner' on there next time."
Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.