Fugitive from law 1st to file

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Secretary of State Bill Gardner, left, listens as Robert Haines speaks before filing as a candidate in the New Hampshire presidential primary in Concord on Monday. Haines is a Manchester Republican who served time in the New Hampshire state prison for pulling a gun on a man.
Associated Press photo

CONCORD An American fugitive living in Italy slipped past a costume-wearing ex-convict Monday to become the first to file as an official candidate in the 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary.

Jack Shepard's courier package from Rome beat Robert Haines' hand-delivered, incomplete petitions and $1,000 credit check to be the first accepted by the secretary of state.

Shepard listed St. Paul, Minn., as his permanent address and an address in Rome as his temporary home. A Republican, he ran for Senate in 2002 and for Congress in Minnesota's 4th District in 2004 and 2006. Authorities have said he was convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1979 and became a fugitive after failing to comply with the terms of his parole.

On his Web site, jackshepardforpresident.com, Shepard says he would extend full diplomatic relations to all countries, including Iran. The site also shows a photo of the late Pope John Paul II with the caption "Pope John Paul II Blessing of Presidential Candidate Jack Shepard."

Haines, a long-shot Republican candidate, served time in the New Hampshire state prison for pulling a gun on a man while campaigning in the 1996 primary.

Officials at first were uncertain whether they could accept Haines' line of credit check with a December expiration date, but by the end of the day, he was listed on the secretary of state's Web site as an official candidate.

He arrived early at the Statehouse to make sure he would be the first in line on the first day of the three-week filing period.

It took more than 90 minutes for him to finally turn in his papers, however, as he embarked first on a loud and erratic one-man show that included five costume changes, multiple characters and cursing.

In a fur coat and sunglasses, Haines first announced himself as "Rory Calhoun." Stripping through layers of clothing navy blue parka with American patches, a red-white-and-blue windbreaker, and several belts and hats, he delivered a winding, combative speech as Secretary of State William Gardner, his staff, and several reporters looked on.

"I'm no more psychotic than Bill Gardner. Right, Bill?" Haines asked at one point. Gardner, arms folded, said nothing.

Haines tried to prevent staffers from accepting the documents of another man who showed up, Michael Levinson of St. Petersburg, Fla. His efforts were not necessary as Levinson, a Republican, said he was there for the news cameras and not to file paperwork, as he hopes to be a write-in candidate on the Democratic and Republican ballots.

"I have to be on both sides so people know I'm on their side," Levinson said.