The Virginia Senate race is getting a lot of attention this week. This past Monday, a new candidate named Hank announced he was entering the race to succeed Democratic Senator, Jim Webb. The recent announcement has the media in a frenzy because…Hank is a cat.
Surprisingly, this is not the first time a pet has run for elected office. The town of Rabbit Hash, Ky. has had a long line of canine mayors. The current incumbent, Lucy Lou (Border Collie), won the election on a non-partisan ticket by defeating nine other dogs, a cat, a possum and a donkey. Her job isn’t a walk in the park, though. Lou’s responsibilities include being the town tour guide, attending fundraising and ceremonial events and providing a supportive canine presence in the town’s General Store, an important issue for Rabbit Hash’s citizenry.
Back in Virginia, Hank can’t expect the same perks of elected office. That’s because the Maine Coon doesn’t meet the federal eligibility requirements to become a senator. Certainly, those behind this campaign understand a winning outcome isn’t possible, so what’s the purpose of a nine-year-old house cat running for Senate?
I have a couple of theories as to why non-human candidacies exist. One, it’s a form of protest as mockery and ridicule can be a clever and unique way to lampoon the political system. I can’t tell if the tone of the Hank for Senate campaign is negative but the fact that he’s running for Senate office, not mayoral office, raises the question.
Animal candidacies are also a harmless way to raise awareness or bring attention to a political issue. It’s challenging to keep track of all the different candidates’ positions, but I’ll bet that at least half of your office or family members already know the issues in Hank’s platform. In addition to his pro-America stance, it goes without saying he’s a big proponent of napping.
This last theory has proven to be true. People elect animals to public office because it benefits their community in many ways. For Rabbit Hash, their canine mayors, which date back 23 years, got the media’s attention and put them in the national spotlight. The former mayor of Rabbit Hash, Junior Cochran, was the star of an Animal Planet documentary, “Mayor Dog.” Moreover, Lucy Lou may have helped Rabbit Hash get chosen for Readers Digest’s 100-city tour titled “We Hear You America.” (http://wehearyouamerica.readersdigest.com/)
Aside from getting famous, ambitious dogs like Junior Cochran and Lucy Lou make their citizen’s happy and raise town morale. I say to Hank, if you don’t win the Senate seat, you should consider a mayoral bid.
A version of this post was also published on Campaign and Elections blog, Campaign Insider