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Canine candidate no wag

Write-in campaign seeks to raise money for animal nonprofits

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2006

ANCHORAGE - Brinkley is 2 years old. His interests include sniffing people, poop and going for "walkies." He'd appreciate your vote.

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At least that's the impression you'd get from the "Brinkley for Governor" campaign signs that popped up seemingly overnight in Anchorage this week.

Brinkley is a golden retriever who belongs to Ruth Sisk, an Oceanview dog-lover who started a write-in campaign for the pooch to raise money for the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other dog-friendly nonprofits.

She's already sold $4,000 worth of T-shirts made popular by the campaign, and she plans trips to Fairbanks and Juneau to sell Brinkley merchandise, Sisk said.

There's even talk of a campaign commercial. "The slogan is 'Get off your tail, hit the campaign trail, vote.' "

Sisk got the idea when friends kept telling her that whenever they saw campaign signs for gubernatorial candidate John Binkley, a Fairbanks Republican, the name made them think of her Brinkley.

Late-night jokes with friends - what if Brinkley ran for governor? - evolved into a stunt to amuse a few of her neighbors. That led to the T-shirts and pins, until Sisk found herself posting Brinkley campaign signs until 4:30 in the morning Wednesday.

Sisk described the fundraiser outside her Oceanview townhouse next to a Chevy Tahoe with "4BRINK" license plates. Brinkley himself charged out the door but quickly settled down, lying at Sisk's feet.

The retriever is named after her favorite newsman, David Brinkley. "When I was a girl, I thought I was going to marry him," Sisk said.

Her other dog, a retriever-and-Siberian-husky mix named Molly, watched from a second floor window. She barked.

"Molly, come on. I'm right here, sweetie," Sisk said.

She had originally planned to give 50 percent of her profits to the local SPCA, Alaska Dog & Puppy Rescue and Friends of Pets. But Brinkley's campaign is getting more attention than she expected, Sisk said, so that number may end up closer to 75 percent.

"They can have almost all of it," she said.

Human candidates follow all kinds of rules when it comes to financing a campaign, raising the question: Are dogs any different?

"If she's making people aware that this is a fundraiser, then there's nothing under our law that would come into play," said Christine Ellingson, assistant director of the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

John Binkley faces former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin and incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary Aug. 22. Sisk said she told the Binkley and Palin campaigns about her T-shirts and signs and that both camps liked the joke.

Murkowski's campaign manager, Mike Scott, said he'd just heard about the canine candidate Wednesday afternoon.

"You know, you got to have fun in campaigning too," he said. "As long as it's legal and what have you, the more the merrier."

Leslie Ridle is campaign manager for former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, who is also running. She said it's common for strange candidates to draw votes - Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck regularly show up as write-ins, for example. It wouldn't be a factor in the governor's race, she said, but in the 2003 Anchorage mayoral election, those votes could have actually mattered.

That's because Democrat Mark Begich needed 45 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff election - a threshold he met by fewer than 20 votes.

Sisk is chief financial officer for a medical clinic. On her voter registration, she selected "undeclared" rather than a party, and didn't want to say who she plans to vote for.

She said she likes the idea of people who usually never vote or care about politics getting involved this year because of her dog and a few funny T-shirts.

Sisk says a few people told her they actually intend to vote for Brinkley.

If elected, he might have trouble meeting certain requirements Alaska places on its governors.

The state Constitution doesn't appear to ban dogs from running, but it does state that a governor may not be younger than 30 years old -- in people years.



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