The Tiger King Has Entered the Ring: Joe Exotic Running for Democratic Nomination from Jail

Brett Welcher /
Brett Welcher /

Joe Maldonado-Passage has big ideas for the Democrat party, and he isn’t letting a pesky little 21-year jail sentence get in his way.

Move over, Biden; the “Tiger King,” Joe Exotic, is coming for your seat. 

The Tiger King refers to Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, more commonly known as Joe Exotic.

He gained widespread attention after the release of the Netflix documentary series titled “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness” in March 2020. Joe Exotic owned and operated the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, where he bred and exhibited various big cat species, including tigers. 

The murder-for-hire plot centered around Joe Exotic’s alleged attempt to hire someone to kill Carole Baskin, who is an animal rights activist and the founder of Big Cat Rescue, a sanctuary for big cats. 

The Tiger King was convicted of the plot against Carole Baskin, but his plan failed. In 2019, Joe Exotic was found guilty on multiple charges, including two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act (related to wildlife trafficking), and various other charges of animal cruelty. He was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison. 

In 2020, the nation was addicted to the Tiger King series.

The documentary delves into his eccentric personality, his feud with animal rights activist Carole Baskin, and his subsequent arrest and conviction for a murder-for-hire plot against Carole Baskin, as well as other charges related to animal cruelty. Joe Exotic became a controversial figure, known for his flamboyant style, love for big cats, and tumultuous personal life. 

In 2020, Maldonado-Passage requested a pardon from then-president Donald Trump. Trump refused to grant The Tiger King a pardon, however, and the would-be killer remains in federal prison. 

There are no legal obstacles to prevent a candidate from running an election bid while serving time. In fact, several felons have done so in the past, with the most notable being socialist Eugene Debs. Debs racked up an astonishing 3% of the popular vote while incarcerated in 1920. 

Despite the ongoing legal battles of former president Trump, the embattled candidate remains poised as the one to beat in 2024. If he wins, any prison sentence will be put on hold, and Trump could grant himself a pardon.

That’s a strategy The Tiger King plans to employ if elected. “First of all, as soon as I’m sworn in, I have the right to pardon myself,” he said. 

Joe Exotic made a failed presidential run in 2016 as an independent and lost a Libertarian bid as Oklahoma’s governor in 2018. He is currently running on a platform of reproductive rights, criminal justice reform, mental health, and responsible gun regulation, all of which are pet projects for the Democrat party.

In addition, Maldonado-Passage is openly gay. If his bid is successful, he will be the first incarcerated gay man to run for the highest office in the land, a new milestone for the Democrat party. 

While The Tiger King claims he is officially on Colorado’s presidential ballot, Colorado Secretary of State confirms he is not.  

“On June 20, 2023, the Secretary of State’s Office received certified mail that included a check from Joseph Maldonado’s lawyer on behalf of Joseph Maldonado for $500. The Secretary of State’s Office requires candidates to personally sign official documentation affirming they acknowledge state law requirements in addition to providing payment for ballot access. Since the 2024 presidential candidate paperwork has not been published and therefore was not completed by Maldonado, the Department will be returning the check with instructions for steps the candidate must take in order to be on the ballot. The Department cannot accept presidential candidate paperwork until the date of election has officially been announced.” 

Additionally, COCOS only places candidates on the ballot if they are officially affiliated with a political party and part of a list submitted by that party. If this requirement is not met, candidates can become write-in candidates. 

While it’s unlikely that Joe Exotic’s campaign will gain traction, it does shed light on the possibility of a Trump victory from a jail cell.  

As far as Democrat candidates go, Joe Exotic checks many boxes. He is gay, he is progressive, and he dislikes Trump. As a criminal, he fits the Democrat party’s unspoken requirements of moral bankruptcy. 

 The only difference is that, unlike Biden, he is serving time for his crimes.