A Candidate With Real Teeth

In this image taken on July 1, 2009, Michael Jackson fan Justin Duenas, 14, of Alhambra, Calif., poses for a portrait outside the home of Michael Jackson's family in the Encino section of Los Angeles. As Duenas reflected on Jackson's music, "His music was really inspiring, it changed it all". (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
AP Photo/Matt Sayles
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a key player in the 2000 presidential election recount battle, faces a dogged opponent in her campaign for Congress - a border collie-German shepherd mix, to be precise.

Charter boat captain Wayne Genthner of Sarasota, Florida, said on Monday he planned to enter the name of his dog Percy as a write-in candidate for the Republican primary ahead of the November election.

"We hope by running a canine against a nationally known political person we can draw attention to voter disenfranchisement and disconnect," said Genthner. "We hope that by running a canine against a nationally-known political person, we can draw attention to voter disenfranchisement and disconnect."

Harris has set her sights on a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and is viewed as the favorite to win the congressional seat from Sarasota, which is also being sought by five Democrats.

Genthner said he wanted to satirize what he viewed as absurdities and injustices such as campaign finance, which he said put running for office out of reach of ordinary people.

Since election rules would prevent a dog from running, Genthner said that later this month he would send in the papers entering himself as a write-in candidate - someone whose name does not appear on the ballot but can be written in as a candidate by voters. But Percy would be the name voters would write and Genthner said he intended to act merely as "campaign manager."

While the campaign is intended as parody, he hopes it will send a serious message. "We want people to participate in democracy before it dies on the vine," said Genthner.

The campaign has so far cost some $600, mostly in copying fliers, said Genthner, adding that he had taken Percy out to meet voters at events such as stock car races.

Percy's manifesto promises a tough line on crime since the dog "will personally chase down any criminal he sees." It notes that he "has himself never been implicated in any sex scandal, thanks, he says, to his timely neutering."

The unconventional candidate is furthermore described as a compassionate conservative who takes a hard line on social parasites, especially fleas and worms.

Percy has his volunteer campaign staff have been shaking paws and handing out flyers with slogans including: "Never made a mess in the House! Never will!" and "PERCY! Putting the LICK back into Republican."

Harris's campaign had raised some $1.7 million by the end of March and she is viewed as likely to steam-roller her challengers in a safe Republican district. Her campaign has taken the canine threat in good humor.

"The cute looking candidate, Percy the dog, has a lot of paws to shake to catch up with our grass roots effort and huge volunteer base," said her campaign assistant press secretary Jessica Furst.

Harris became a household name, praised by Republicans and vilified by Democrats, in November 2000 as supervisor of the hotly contested elections in Florida that turned out to hold the keys to the White House. George W. Bush won the White House after a five-week legal battle over vote recounting.

As for Percy, Genthner is undaunted, although he acknowledges it's an uphill battle.

"No one has a realistic expectation that a dog can get elected," said Genthner. "But plenty of people will be willing to vote for a dog, to represent their discontent with the political system."