Updated: Jun 16
‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic files to challenge Biden in Colorado Democratic Party
By Steven Nelson
June 15, 2023 5:10pm Updated
WASHINGTON — “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic has filed to appear on his first state ballot against President Biden in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary, The Post has learned.
The 60-year-old former private zoo owner, who is campaigning from federal prison, sent a $500 check on Monday to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office in order to appear on the Centennial State’s Super Tuesday ballot.
Exotic, whose real last name is Maldonado, told The Post that he hopes to appeal to rural and libertarian-minded Democrats in the state — with unusual campaign pledges including requiring all federal candidates to spend 30 days in prison before they take office.
“I just signed and notarized my papers for the state of Colorado,” Exotic said in an interview from his prison in Fort Worth, Texas. “So I’m confirmed on that ballot.”
Exotic would be the first openly gay president and the first elected from prison — where he’s serving a 21-year sentence for allegedly scheming to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin and violating wildlife laws.
The big cat enthusiast says the US needs to crack down on public corruption with a 10-year minimum sentence for that offense and has strong words for leaders of both parties.
“If they’re gonna take an oath of office and they’re gonna put us trillions of dollars in debt and they’re going to launder money and take $5 million bribes and all that s–t, why are they off getting the easy train?” Exotic said, referring to allegations that President Biden accepted a $5 million bribe from a Ukrainian businessman while he was vice president.
Exotic isn’t easy on Republican front-runner Donald Trump either — describing his recent criminal charges for hush-money payments and alleged mishandling of classified records as “karma” for not pardoning Exotic when he had the chance. He calls Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the other leading Republican in the race, a “homophobe.”
The quixotic candidacy against Biden, however, is a point of amusement for Trump’s campaign.
Democrat primary voters finally have a ‘Joe’ who is well spoken, projects strength and knows what it’s like to run a business,” senior adviser Jason Miller told The Post. “The problem is that’s Joe Exotic and not Joe Biden.”
The Colorado Democratic Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
An official at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office said that Exotic’s check had not yet arrived in the mail — with delivery possibly slowed by Thursday’s parade celebrating the NBA champion Denver Nuggets.
Former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, told The Post that state law doesn’t allow parties to block candidates once they’ve cleared the filing requirements for a primary bid.
An assistant to Exotic said the check was sent Monday by certified mail and provided The Post with a photo as proof.
“Colorado is going to be my starting ground — for Colorado and Wyoming and New Mexico and Nevada — for [Bureau of Land Management] land issues and rounding up the wild mustangs and the way that Biden is trying to pass a thing now where the tree holders and animal rights people can lease BLM land for 10 years to prevent people from grazing cattle,” said Exotic, whose former zoo was in Oklahoma.
Anti-Trump former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) remains his top pick for a running mate, but the candidate says he’s been spurned.
I’ve even sent certified letters to Liz asking her,” he said.
“That’s one thing about politicians — Biden, on the campaign trail, when he was running for president, promised criminal justice reform and he ain’t done s–t,” Exotic said. “Liz Cheney got on world television during the January 6 hearings and said she would do anything she could to prevent Trump from being in the Oval Office. Well, I’m offering her that position to do anything possible.”
Exotic said he’s raised between $8,000 and $10,000 for his candidacy — enough to buy t-shirts and bumper stickers.
One of his “very smart” friends from prison — Casey Jobe, 40 — will serve as campaign manager once he’s released this month after helping strategize behind bars for nearly a year, the candidate said.
He’s going to start state by state and see if we can’t get most of these states all confirmed, and then I’ll give it my best shot,” Exotic said.
The former zookeeper is appealing his conviction and says that Netflix’s “Tiger King 2” series proved he was innocent of hiring Alan Glover to murder Baskin. He’s awaiting a decision on a motion for a new trial. Prosecutors have said Exotic’s own rants against Baskin showed he was guilty.
Exotic said he’s willing to pardon either Trump or Biden if they end up in prison for mishandling classified documents or other alleged crimes — but not until they served 30 days inside to get a taste of the system.
“Karma comes full circle and I don’t think he’s seen it all yet,” Exotic said of Trump, who publicly mused about giving a pardon to the zookeeper while in office.
“I think they’re going to get him in Georgia, too. If he would have pardoned me like he kept teasing me for a year, if he would have pardoned me before the election, he wouldn’t need to be on the phone begging for 11,000 votes in Georgia.”