A vote for Alfred E. Neuman is a vote for change

by Brian Clarey

After Greensboro’s municipal election earlier this month there has been plenty of talk about all the write-in candidates, and much has been made about their degrees of success – how it happened and the overreaching meaning of these variances from the norm.

Certainly the fact that former Greensboro Police Chief David Wray received 458 official write-in votes for mayor – though he doesn’t live in Greensboro and has something of a… public relations problem – signifies something amiss among the Greensboro electorate. And not all of those who took up his cause did so because they read the Rhinoceros Times endorsement, as evidenced by a degree of misspellings, including one confused soul who wrote in “Wray Davis” for mayor.

More significant, perhaps, is the at-large write-in candidacy of Joel Landau, who managed 503 official votes. He was not immune to voter confusion either – “John Landau” received three votes; “John Landue” got one as did “Leon Landau,” whose first name shares dipthongularity with the candidate’s, but little else.

The worst victim of phonetic spelling was Guilford County School Board Vice-Chairman Amos Quick, whose first name was cast as “Amase” in the at-large race.

And my friend Billy “the Blogging Poet” Jones managed to garner 30 official votes in the mayor’s race, of which he should be proud – I just think the people of Greensboro are not ready for a mayor who cruises around town on a bicycle fitted out to look like a biplane. Yet.

Members of Greensboro’s media also fared well, as far as write-in candidacies go, even though journalism and public office are usually, by necessity, mutually exclusive groups. Our own columnist Ogi Overman, who has a day job editing the Jamestown News, got four votes in the at-large race (his lovely wife Janet got one as well), and Carolina Peacemaker Editor Afrique Kilimanjaro got two in District 4. The Rhinoceros Times got a fair amount of support with handfuls of votes for John, William and Cindy Hammer and a total of four votes for my friend and colleague Scott Yost in the District 3, at-large and mayoral races (though it would be remiss of me not to point out that one of them was cast for “Scott Big Head Yost”).

And there were plenty of votes for “None of the above” and its various permutations, the trees, “No Realtor” or “No Developer,” “Ron Paul” and some anti-Bush sentiments expressed by those who chose to use their vote to voice some level of general dissatisfaction with the status quo.

A write-in candidacy is far from a lost cause – these guys actually win sometimes, particularly in municipal contests where a barroom of people can sway an election, but it happens on the big stage too. In 1998 Charlotte Gentry Burks won her seat in the Tennessee State Senate as a write-in after her husband, who previously held the position, was assassinated by a political rival. In 1930 Charles F. Curry Jr. won as a write-in for his deceased father’s seat in the US House of Representatives when a snafu left the ballots devoid of official candidates. And lest we forget that down in South Carolina in 1954 Strom Thurmond won his Senate seat as a write-in candidate. And a Democrat.

Still, the write-in candidacy is seen as fertile ground for comedic commentary. Does anyone out there remember marble-mouthed rocker Joe Walsh’s 1980 run for president on the “Free Gas for Everyone” platform and the threat to make “Life’s Been Good” the national anthem?

Greensboro’s slate of write-in tallies, when looked at as a piece of comedy, approaches brilliance. I love, for instance, that “Uncle Johnny” got a vote in District 3, along with “Goofy” and “Pedro Sanchez,” cast, no doubt, by someone who follows orders on T-shirts in movies.

“Pedro” also got a vote in the at-large race, finishing even with “Mickey Mouse”, “Jimmy Buffett,” and the letter A.

The District 4 race was similarly hilarious, with votes cast for “Fidel Castro,” “Brewster Rockitt” and “Trash-collector.”

But people saved their A material for the mayoral election, which saw the Disney coalition gain another vote for “Mickey Mouse” (who, to be fair, seems to be the most electable of the lot, with the possible exception of Scrooge McDuck) and “Donald Duck.” “The Ohio State Buckeyes” also got exactly one vote, as did “Tom Sawyer” and the enigmatic “Window Cowboy.”

But if left to choose among the vast field of write-in candidates, I would throw my full weight behind one that I have admired since I was a young boy and by whose motto I try to live my life.

So I’m getting an early start on campaigning for 2008 by creating the “What Me Worry” ticket, and putting my endorsement behind that famous, gap-toothed grin.

Ladies and gentlemen, a vote for Alfred E. Neuman is a vote for change.

For questions or comments e-mail Brian Clarey at