Make no bones about it — every vote for the unofficial mayor of Divide can be bought. The more the better.
“Straight up, we let people know you can buy as many votes as you want,” said Amy Elmont, who’s heading the parody that serves as a fundraiser for the Teller County Animal Rescue Shelter in Divide. The unincorporated census area southwest of Woodland Park has about 4,000 year-round residents, according to the Divide Chamber of Commerce.
Ten animals, including dogs, a cat, a goat and a fox, are vying for this year’s mayoral seat in a race that originated in 2010 as a spoof of municipal elections in Teller County.
“it’s a way of poking fun at politics while raising money,” Elmont said.
The fundraiser follows the same election schedule as city races, which are held every two years in April.
Here’s how it works: Local businesses and organizations sponsor candidates and in return receive promotion for their goods and services. The public can cast votes online from now through April 7 at tcrascolorado.org. The cost is $2 per vote.
The new mayor will be announced at noon April 8, the day after Woodland Park’s city elections, which will determine an official new mayor for that town.
The event averages $10,000 in donations, Elmont said. This year’s goal is $22,000, which benefits operations of the county’s nonprofit no-kill shelter. As of Friday, $5,630 had been raised. Bourbon the Labrador retriever was a head above the others with a slight lead.
Votes also can be cast in person at the shelter in Divide and at sponsoring businesses and organizations, which often present candidates who play a role in the company or agency.
Reigning Mayor Bentley, for example, is the office mascot at Ute Pass Trading Co. Two years ago, when votes were $1 apiece, Bentley alone raised $2,200 for the organization and was declared the winner.
This year’s campaign slogans include “Don’t worry, I goat you covered,” from Billy the Goat, who’s sponsored by the Divide Fire Protection Agency. Billy pledges to “promote and educate the citizens of Teller County on the benefits and rewards of rescuing.”
Unlike humans, some candidates promise not to dig up too much poop on the competition.
“There’s so much that isn’t good in the world, and we see people have fun with this," Elmont said.
Among this year’s candidates are a blind dog and her companion therapy dog, who seek to raise awareness about special-needs pets as well as children. There's also Scarlett, a red fox from Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, who claims to be "fair and balanced," wanting to remind everyone that "every animal is a unique individual that deserves a life to enjoy!"
The animal mayor appears in parades and at other public functions, if desired, but doesn’t have formal obligations and duties.
“They get a lot of love and recognition for who they are,” Elmont said. “They take lots of naps and get lots of treats.”
Previous mayors have included a three-legged dog, a three-legged cat and a wolf who died in office and was succeeded by the vice mayor, Peanut, a dog who worked as a greeter at Banana Belt Liquors three times a week.