Paksas's flamboyant style as a stunt pilot carries over into his political career. Throughout the 2002–03 presidential election campaign, he flew himself by helicopter to various meetings, and on one occasion flew a small plane underneath a bridge. "I flew when I was Vilnius mayor, I flew when I was the prime minister, and I will fly when I am president," he said. His campaign slogan was "Vote for Change." Adamkus emerged with a clear lead in the first round of voting in December 2002, winning 35.3% of the vote to Paksas's19.7%. Adamkus had also been voted Lithuania's person of the year in 2002. However, Paksas mounted an aggressive campaign, and promised a better life for Lithuanians. He once defined his goal in politics as giving Lithuania its most radically market-oriented economy since independence in 1991. Although he has advocated the necessity for market reforms, he promises a stable social safety net for citizens. Paksas also campaigned on a platform of law and order: he proposed the death penalty for drug traffickers. However, he promised to continue with the progress made by Adamkus in moving Lithuania forward with regard to European Union (EU) accession, and membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although his politics come from the right, he has denied he is a populist or radical.
Paksas may meet with resistance from former president Brazauskas, who was named prime minister of a center-left coalition in July 2001. After his election, Paksas called for the resignation of several government ministers, although he has little constitutional authority to involve himself in the day-today running of government.