A new Senate candidate is hoping to rub his way into the hearts of Virginians. This would-be successor to Sen. Jim Webb (D) goes simply by Hank, has a great, um, coat of hair and his tie is always purr-fect. That’s right, Hank’s a cat and his recent decision to jump into the one of the most competitive Senate races in the country has caused a media frenzy.
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 nonpartisan 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. Firstly, it’s a form of protest. Mockery and ridicule can be effective ways to lampoon the political system. Hank’s owner, Anthony Roberts, told the Associated Press he and his partner set up the campaign as an inside joke. In a web video, the announcer says the feline pol will ensure America “stays the greatest land of all.” Hank’s then seen licking himself.
Still, the spate of publicity has elevated Hank’s run into the public consciousness.
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.”
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.
Mandie Suits works at Smart Media Group, a Republican political media buying agency in Alexandria, Va. She is from Saint Albans, W. Va. and is a graduate of West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism.
A version of this post was also published on Smart Media Group’s blog, Smart Blog.