A vote for Shelby the dog is a vote for politics as unusual

I f you've heard nothing about Shelby the Border Collie before this sentence, know this: Her dedication to third-party politics is, well, dogged. In fact, the happy, furry canine and her black-and-white patches first made national (and international) headlines about this time last year, when she launched her first-ever political campaign. On November 6, 2011, Shelby stood up on her own four paws and was elected the leader of Occupy Denver. Exactly one year later, her sights are set on a bigger gig: President of the United States.

Well, sort of. When she snagged the spot as head honcho of the local occupation, her victory was both ironic and symbolic. The same is true this time around, says her (human) campaign manager, Chris Mandel. If corporations count as people, so does Shelby, he says — and in a system that hardly recognizes third-party candidates, Shelby counts just the same. "Her main message is that partisan politics don't work," he says. "It's all really a lie designed to separate the people from one another."


Occupy Denver

And while Mandel and a few others plan to write in Shelby's name on their ballots, the real message is less literal. "We're not serious about running Shelby as much as we are about bringing out alternative voices," Mandel says. In a system split between red and blue, Shelby, like the swing state in which she lives, is purple. "To vote for Shelby is just to vote for alternative candidates and open political dialogue."

Shelby began her candidacy late in the race: In July, she was officially endorsed at an Occupy Denver assembly of around 25 people, but that endorsement was hard-fought. When she began her career in politics last year, a handful of people left the movement because they saw the decision as a political mockery. But Mandel maintains that Shelby's appointment as leader was one of the best decisions Occupy Denver has made to date.

"I think she's done really well in office. Some people criticize her for not spending enough time in Denver," Mandel says, noting that Shelby actually resides in Boulder. "But she's done a lot of networking outside of the city, and she's a true activist." During a visit to Occupy Boulder, Shelby incurred a ticket — for her owner — when she was protesting off-leash.

There is one slight constitutional issue, as well. Shelby, who is four and a half years old, isn't old enough to run — even in dog years.

Amazingly, Shelby isn't the first Colorado canine to seek the White House: In 1984, Denver's Pirate the Dog ran for the same spot. But the state's electoral totals came up Republican that year. Could Colorado's more current swing-state status afford Shelby more votes?

Probably not. Mandel admits she really only has the one position: Reconsider the current electoral process. On her website, shelbylovesamerica.org, she echoes that message. "On anything as specific as abortion or immigration, her opinion is 'Bark bark bark bark bark,'" Mandel says. "She's a vague symbolic figure, but she promises to let everybody, even big corporations, pet her."

Scene and herd: Last week in this space, we made a few suggestions for what could be built on the site of the vacant former University of Colorado Health Sciences Center now that Walmart has delighted neighbors by backing out of a proposed development there.

We got a few more suggestions at westword.com, and while one person gave a heartfelt one — "renovate the old picturesque buildings, put in a year-round produce market, make it green and LEEDS-certified" — others matched our tongue-in-cheekiness. Planned parenthood, a laser tag arena and a "giant ball pit" were all proposed, as was the notion that the site would quickly fill in with marijuana dispensaries.

Better yet, row after row of indoor grow houses.

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