The Battle of Aspen

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"The Battle of Aspen" was an article published in Rolling Stone #67, dated October 1, 1970 and written by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. The cover of the magazine ran the teaser "Freak Power in the Rockies", and the article was later reprinted in The Great Shark Hunt with that same title.

The article's subject is the 1969 mayoral election in Aspen, Colorado, in particular the candidacy of Joe Edwards, a lawyer, 'biker' and non-conformist resident of Aspen. It also details the Freak Power platform Thompson himself was to adopt while running for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado the subsequent year.


Though unsuccessful, the Edwards campaign was notable for its attempt to garner nearly all of its support from 'freaks', 'heads', and 'dropouts' from the surrounding areas - Freak Power, as it was dubbed. Thompson, who became de facto campaign manager for Edwards during the race, devotes much of the article to the local politics of Aspen and the entrenched politicians it supports. Simultaneously a screed against politicians who sacrifice the quality of life of their constituents for short term gain or notoriety, and an outline of optimism regarding the possibility of the marginalized to take power, the article details the campaign from its inception through the run-up to election and ends with a consideration of the results and the impact they may have had.

Results of the mayoral campaign[edit]

In both the 1969 Mayor's election and the 1970 Sheriff election, Edwards and Thompson narrowly lost to more conservative candidates. A coalition of the Democratic and Republican candidates during the Mayor's election (along with mail votes and alleged vote-fixing) managed to defeat Edwards by 6 votes (although there were 5 absentee ballots for Edwards, but they did not arrive in time to count), which Thompson said had confirmed his suspicion that both Aspen and America at large could be more radical than he had imagined, and thus that a "Freak Power" campaign on a local or national scale could work.

Thompson's campaign for sheriff[edit]

The next year, therefore, Thompson put together a campaign to elect himself as Sheriff. It combined aggressive radicalism, a higher level of organization than the previous Freak Power campaign, more controversy and danger as well as some frivolous moments. These would include:

Freak Power political poster created by artist Tom Benton with Thompson
  • Legalization of drugs on a recreational basis (although profiteering dealers would be prosecuted harshly.)
    • Thompson did make a concession on the drugs issue - he promised that if elected, he would not eat mescaline whilst on duty.
  • "1.) "Rip up all city streets with jackhammers and sod the streets at once."
  • "2.) "Change the name Aspen to Fat City. This would prevent greed heads, land rapers, and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name 'Aspen'. These swine should be fucked, broken, and driven across the land."

"3. "It will be the general philosophy of the sheriff's office that no drug worth taking shall be sold for money. My first act as sheriff will be to install on the sheriff's lawn a set of stocks to punish dishonest dope dealers."

  • Firing the majority of the conservative county officials and bureaucrats.
  • Thompson shaving his head bald and referring to the crew-cut, ex-army, Republican incumbent as "My long-haired opponent."
  • The distribution of Aspen Wall Posters and flyers across the county.
  • Threats received by Thompson during the campaign, including one sent to City Hall following a dynamite theft in the County, insisting that the explosives would only be used if Thompson was elected. This led to Thompson's house and campaign HQ at Woody Creek taking on the aspect of an armed camp on election night, with guards patrolling the grounds with guns and flashlights.

Ultimately, the 'Thompson for Sheriff' campaign was also unsuccessful, partly due to a Republican/Democratic agreement not to stand against each other in certain key elections in order to allow all 'Non-Thompson' votes to count towards one candidate and partly due to an article Thompson wrote for Rolling Stone shortly before the election, revealing his strategy.

Thompson ultimately took a philosophical view of his defeat, telling The New York Times, "If we can't win in Aspen, we can't win anywhere."