Has SC elec­tion gone to the dogs?

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Local - BY BRIS­TOW MARCHANT bmarchant@thes­tate.com

With just days left un­til Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions, one can­di­date is mak­ing a fi­nal push in a race that’s re­ceived less at­ten­tion than who will be the next S.C. gov­er­nor or which party will con­trol Con­gress.

Two weeks ago, his sup­port­ers planted signs all over Columbia’s up­scale Shan­don neigh­bor­hood to drum up some last­minute sup­port for his cam­paign.

With any luck, the cam­paign will make Axel the dog the next mayor of Shan­don.

Axel, a 5-year-old Ber­nese moun­tain dog, launched his cam­paign at the be­hest of his hu­man, for­mer S.C. Gov. Jim Hodges, who thought the friendly pup long had been work­ing for the job by go­ing up to every per­son he sees around the neigh­bor­hood.

“My wife joked that we fi­nally got a politi­cian in the fam­ily, and it’s the dog,” said Hodges, the last Demo­cratic gov­er­nor of South Carolina.

To help out, the Hodge­ses or­dered 40 “Axel for Mayor” signs and sur­rep­ti­tiously planted them in friends’ yards all over the neigh­bor­hood. They hoped neigh­bors would en­joy the joke, and Axel’s name would blend in with all the other cam­paign yard signs in Columbia — ex­cept for the dog’s face printed on it.

Erin No­bles found one out­side her bak­ery, the Sil­ver Spoon on Devine Street. She thought her cus­tomers would en­joy it since Axel is a reg­u­lar cus­tomer, in­tro­duc­ing him­self to any­one who hap­pens to be there.

“His par­ents come in, and he’ll sit out on the porch and say hello to peo­ple,” No­bles said. “He’s a big, dis­tin­guish­able dog.”

Be­sides the kick her cus­tomers get out of the sign, No­bles thinks the cam­paign for the imag­i­nary post — there is no mayor of Shan­don — does serve a se­ri­ous pur­pose, too.

“It re­minds peo­ple that there is an elec­tion com­ing up,” she said.

So what does Axel plan to do if he be­comes mayor? Hodges laid out the dog’s plat­form, which in­cludes more dog parks and manda­tory train­ing for ser­vice hu­mans.

“He’s al­ways be­lieved it’s un­fair dogs had to be leashed, and cats didn’t,” Hodges said. “He also thinks it’s un­fair to try to de­port Chi­huahuas.”

While the Hodges fam­ily put out the signs, Axel has re­ceived some tan­gi­ble sup­port from the com­mu­nity.

“He’s al­ready re­ceived a cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion,” Hodges said. “Jeanne Stiglbauer, the prin­ci­pal at Dre­her (High School), brought him some dog bis­cuits.”

Axel was un­avail­able for com­ment ahead of Tues­day’s vote. The Hodge­ses went out of town, so the can­di­date spent the last week of the race in a ken­nel.

“He’s so con­fi­dent we’ve se­questered him for the re­main­der of the cam­paign,” Hodges said. “(Columbia Mayor) Steve Ben­jamin might be a lit­tle ner­vous.”

Was that a good cam­paign strat­egy? At this point, it’s un­clear if Axel has any op­po­si­tion for the post, hu­man or oth­er­wise. But Hodges says he’s al­ready plan­ning to run Mayor Axel in next year’s St. Pa­trick’s Day pa­rade.

Columbia

Axel, a Ber­nese moun­tain dog, is run­ning for “mayor” of Shan­don.

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