5 Politicians Who Got Elected Despite Being Dead
During the 2018 midterm elections, a man named Dennis Hof—a Nevada reality TV star, brothel owner, and author of the book titled The Art of the Pimp—ran for the Nevada state legislature and handily won a seat representing the 36th Assembly District. There's just one problem: Hof is dead. He passed away just three weeks before the election. (County officials will appoint a replacement.)
While Hof's situation is rare, it's not unprecedented. Here are a few recent examples of people who refused to let death stand in the way of electoral victory.
1. MISSOURI SENATOR MEL CARNAHAN
Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan famously won election to the Senate in Missouri in 2000—38 days after passing away in a plane crash that also claimed the lives of his son and a campaign advisor. Carnahan beat incumbent Senator John Ashcroft—who would soon move on to serve as U.S. Attorney General for President George W. Bush. Carnahan’s wife, Jean, filled his spot in the Senate until a 2002 special election.
2. TRACY CITY MAYOR CARL GEARY
In early 2010, voters in the small town of Tracy City, Tennessee, handed Carl Geary an overwhelming victory in the city’s mayoral race—ousting incumbent Barbara Brock by winning more than 70 percent of the vote. Geary was unable to accept, of course, because he’d died of a heart attack a month before the election.
To some voters, Geary's victory seemed to be a tribute of sorts; to others, it was a lesser-of-two-evils decision. In a Telegraph story on the vote, Geary’s wife Susan is quoted as saying, “The day he passed away, people were calling with condolences and saying, 'We're still voting for him.'”
“I knew he was deceased," said another voter. "I know that sounds stupid, but we wanted someone other than [Brock].” Strangely, Brock had been appointed mayor less than two years earlier, when the sitting mayor died of a heart attack.
3. WINFIELD MAYOR HARRY STONEBRAKER
Missouri voters were at it again in 2009 when the town of Winfield’s recently deceased incumbent mayor Harry Stonebraker won a fourth term with a staggering 90 percent of the vote. According to the NY Daily News, Stonebraker’s death from a heart attack only seemed to bolster the popularity he’d already garnered (one year earlier, he won praise when he helped citizens recover from a flood that had ravaged the town).
For his part, Stonebraker’s opponent, a town alderman named Bernie Panther, was completely unable to convince people that he was a better option than their dearly-departed hero—and received only 23 total votes.
4. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE PATSY MINK
Patsy Mink was a trailblazing politician who served the state of Hawaii for 12 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, in 1964 Mink became “the first woman of color elected to the national legislature and the first Asian-American congresswoman.” After a stint serving in the President Carter’s administration and as a member of the Honolulu city council, Mink returned to the U.S House of Representatives in 1990—serving until she died of pneumonia weeks before election day in 2002. A few weeks after receiving a state funeral, Mink was honored once again when the voters of Hawaii re-elected her to Congress—a seat that was re-assigned a few months later after a special election.
5. CALIFORNIA STATE SENATOR JENNY OROPEZA
During the 2010 midterms, California state senator Jenny Oropeza easily won re-election—despite having passed away two weeks earlier from complications caused by a blood clot. Although the illness left her largely absent from the campaign trail, the incumbent still managed to claim victory by a 58 percent to 36 percent margin.
A version of this story ran in 2010.
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If the Twitter photos of lines snaking around city blocks are any indication, people are showing up to vote in today's midterm elections in droves. And while the high voter turnout is a great example of democracy in action, it spells bad news for voter wait times. So, what do you do if you’re stuck at the back of the line when your polling place closes? You stay right where you are.
If you didn't take advantage of your state's voting time-off laws to cast your ballot during the workday (if your state has them, that is), there's a good chance you'll be caught in an after-work crush. But don't despair! As long as you are in line at closing time, you have a legal right to vote—so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, if someone does attempt to force you to leave, you are encouraged to call a voter protection hotline (such as 1-866-OUR-VOTE) or submit a complaint to the Department of Justice (1-800-253-3931).
These hotlines are also available to help you if you witness acts of voter intimidation or discrimination. As they say: If you see something, say something!
Stranger Things star David Harbour took to Instagram on Monday in order to encourage voters to participate in today's midterm elections. Harbour opted not to post the classic “I Voted” sticker picture, and instead turned to the Jaws movie series to get his message across.
In Jaws, the mayor chooses not to close Amity’s beaches, disregarding evidence that there is a dangerous shark hunting in the waters, which of course leads to disastrous results. As the post states, the mayor’s tenure in the sequel is why voters need to turn up to polls this Election Day. We're sure the point wasn't lost on Harbour's 3.1 million Instagram followers.