Finally, still trying to get attention, I tried another unusual tactic: I walked across metro Phoenix, from the Superstition Mountains to my downtown headquarters. With Liz joining me for much of the way, I covered 10 miles a day for four days. The daily high temperatures averaged 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and my trek didn't attract much of a following, save for a couple of volunteers who joined for short stretches. It could have been discouraging, but instead, it gave me time to reflect -- and to stretch my legs after nearly 20,000 miles of driving over the summer.

I'd learned that many voters say they yearn for a candidate willing to cut through the crap and lead a charge for genuine change. They are tired of slickly packaged, focus-group-driven campaigns. They know our nation is on the brink of disaster and want to avert catastrophe.

I came to believe our nation is on the threshold of a much brighter future. Unfettered access to information, reaffirmation of civil liberties for all, and the potential for abundant renewable energy can help us transcend today's failed politics of legalized legislative bribery, religious-based repression of individual liberties and fossil fuel addiction. We need a surge of new candidates and voters who are willing to push aside the multinational corporations and their traditional political handmaidens.

On election night, I drove my biodiesel-fueled, 1978 Bluebird Wanderlodge bus -- dubbed the Strayhound -- the 120 miles to Tucson. I had no idea how the night would end, but I felt a sense of relief. I parked the Strayhound, draped with campaign signs and American flags, across the street from the venerable Hotel Congress, where the Democratic establishment was holding a "unity" celebration.

A dozen or so volunteers arrived and we had a potluck dinner -- including salmon mousse -- in the bus and parking lot. A delightful light rain drizzled off and on, breaking the oppressive heat. Shortly after 8 p.m., the results began trickling in. We gathered inside the Strayhound and peered at a computer screen. When the count was over, Glassman carried the day with 34 percent of the votes. But I held my own, coming from nowhere to win 23 percent, finishing third with more than 68,500 votes. Eden got 26 percent and Parraz 14 percent. It didn't feel like a defeat. We had acquitted ourselves well and showed there is another way to campaign.

Accompanied by a bagpipe musician, we headed over to the Hotel Congress to congratulate Glassman. I gave a short concession speech. My run for office had changed my personal and professional life, and I had grown in ways I could never have imagined.

In September, I received an e-mail from Jane Wood, a Democratic activist in Green Valley who had hosted an untelevised debate. "I have been making calls for the last few days to independent voters and democrats on behalf of (other candidates) and just wanted you to know that you have made a big impression," she wrote. "People wanted to talk about you. We all hope that you are considering running for office again. ... Public life is hard but well worth it ... Hope our paths cross again."

Me too.


Other stories in our elections package:

Editor's note: Stringing up the Western sheriff

Introduction: Lynch-mob politics

Arizona: Obama's curse?

California: Dope, eBay, pollution and moonbeams

Colorado: The West's true swing state

Idaho: How a Democrat wins in the Northern Rockies

Montana: Utility regs and clean energy up for grabs

Nevada: A hairy ride for Harry

New Mexico: Wolves, wilderness, drilling and Latinos

Oregon: Tea Party limbo

Utah: A Sagebrush Rebel headed for D.C.

Washington: Tea Party limbo #2

Wyoming: A popular governor gets mysterious