Frederick Herman "Fred" Tuttle (July 18, 1919 – October 4, 2003) was an American dairy farmer, film actor and one-time candidate for the U.S. Senate from the state of Vermont. He was born in Tunbridge, Vermont, and lived there all his life, except for his service in the United States Army during World War II.
Tuttle left high school in his sophomore year to work on his family's farm. He married his wife Dorothy in 1961, and later retired from farming in 1984. (He should not be confused with Frederick H(arlan) Tuttle of Charlotte, Vermont who was Superintendent of the South Burlington School District from 1971–1992, and after whom the South Burlington middle school was renamed shortly before his death in June 1992).
After his retirement, he appeared in several movies directed by Vermont filmmaker John O'Brien, including Nosey Parker and Man with a Plan. He starred in the latter, playing a retired farmer who decides to run for U.S. Representative from Vermont.
In 1998 Tuttle was persuaded to run in the Republican US Senate primary. His opponent was Jack McMullen, a multi-millionaire who had lived in Massachusetts for most of his life. McMullen faced opposition from some Vermont Republicans who felt that he was a carpetbagger who apparently moved to Vermont for the sole purpose of establishing residency for a Senate run. The Vermont primary structure allows Democrats and Independents to vote in the Republican primary, and many people foresaw the possibility that Tuttle would beat McMullen by drawing votes across party lines. In addition, some may have hoped that a Tuttle campaign would help to publicize the film Man with a Plan.
The ensuing campaign was remarkable in many ways. Tuttle campaigned on a platform that seemed absurdist by the standards of contemporary politics. McMullen and the state Republican Party challenged Tuttle's ballot petition and got 95 of his signatures invalidated. Tuttle needed 23 more to stay on the ballot and he received 2,309 more signatures. McMullen then gave flowers to Tuttle in the hospital while Tuttle was there for knee surgery.
During the radio-broadcast debate, Tuttle asked a series of humorous local knowledge questions rather than political questions. McMullen was unable to correctly pronounce the names of several Vermont towns, or correctly answer Fred's question "How many teats a Holstein got?," answering "Six", instead of the correct "Four". In the primary, Tuttle defeated McMullen by ten percentage points. Winning the primary with 55 percent of the vote, Tuttle promptly endorsed the incumbent Democrat, Patrick Leahy.
Tuttle's campaign against Senator Leahy was notable for the continuing publicity Tuttle received and for his endorsement of Leahy. Tuttle commented that he did not really want to win because he would have to move to Washington, D.C.. Despite his endorsement of his opponent, Tuttle garnered 48,051 votes (22 percent of the vote) in the actual election.
Tuttle was described by Senator Leahy as "the distilled essence of Vermonthood". He was considered by many to be an example of both the "everyman" and of the unique individualist.
Tuttle died of a heart attack after a day spent digging potatoes, at his home in Tunbridge, Vermont. He was buried in his overalls, with a pen in his pocket for autograph signing and a can of Moxie by his side.
|Party political offices|
|Republican Party nominee for United States Senator from Vermont (Class 3)