The Buzz

Has SC election gone to the dogs? Canine candidate running joke campaign in Columbia

A sign for Axel the dog’s campaign for mayor of Columbia’s Shandon neighborhood.
A sign for Axel the dog’s campaign for mayor of Columbia’s Shandon neighborhood. Courtesy of Jim Hodges

With just days left until Tuesday’s midterm election, 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 last-minute 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.

Governor Henry McMaster is a dog person. He relaxes at home with His English Bulldog, Mac.

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.