WA-List » Owls on the Ballot. Who? OWLs!

Owls on the Ballot. Who? OWLs!

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Politics & Government

It was a joke suggested by Red Kelly late one evening in 1976.  He was discussing politics with his friends at the Tumwater Conservatory, an Olympia nightclub frequented by politicians and reporters, and owned by Kelly.  The consensus around the bar was that they could govern the state as well as the politicians currently in office.  Why not run?  All that was required to make it onto the state ballot was a small fee and 100 nominating signatures.

The preposterous notion may have been forgotten had Associated Press reporter John White not heard the conversation and written about it the next day. Media interviews followed. The joke was suddenly news. It quickly became a movement. Kelly and his friends called themselves the OWL Party. O.W.L. was an acronym for both “Out With Logic” and “On With Lunacy.” [Pictured above, left to right, are OWL candidates Jack Perciful, Red Kelly, and Don Olber. Photo courtesy Tacoma Public Library, RK A21-02]  They hosted an enthusiastic nominating convention at the Tumwater, and filed papers with the Secretary of State’s Office.  That was all it took to enter their comedic “statements” into the official state voter’s pamphlet. Those statements comprise the WA-List below.  Be prepared for some crazy reading.

The OWLs didn’t actively campaign in 1976, but that didn’t stop reporters from commenting on their progress. Their recurring phrases (“We don’t give a hoot!” and “Throw the rascals out!”) became party mottos.  They took “unequivocal stands” against the heartbreak of psoriasis and bed wetting. “Unemployment isn’t working,” Kelly said.  He urged others to “grasp the bull by the tail and face the situation squarely on this issue.”   Another candidate wanted to “heal the continental divide.”  The press couldn’t ignore enlightened commentary like that.


WHO WAS RED KELLY?  Born in Montana and raised in Seattle, Thomas “Red” Kelly was a gifted jazz musician who, in a career spanning three decades, performed with Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Elvis Presley, and Doc Severinsen among others.  (He is pictured here playing upright bass with bandleader Harry James and drummer Buddy Rich. Photo courtesy Tacoma Public Library, RK A9-13.) Kelly died in 2004.

When the votes were counted in November, each OWL candidate (except for Kelly himself) could claim a third place finish.  They out-polled all but one other minor party candidate.  That exception was Art Manning who won six — six! — more votes than Kelly to snatch a third place finish in a crowded eight candidate field for governor. The ease at which a jovial band of tavern-regulars pulled off their feat agitated lawmakers into changing some of the rules for filing for state office.  In the wake of the 1976 OWLs, minor parties found it more difficult to launch candidacies. They would thereafter need to establish support in all electoral jurisdictions (i.e., not just in one nightclub) and attain certain threshold vote totals in the primary election before they could get places on the general election ballot.

The complete 1976 general election voters’ pamphlet statements for all eight OWL candidates are given below.  We have also included their subsequent statewide vote totals.


OWL PARTY CANDIDATES FOR STATEWIDE OFFICE, 1976

RED KELLY for governor

The importance of this election to the citizens of our fair state cannot be underestimated. The issues are broad, high, wide and handsome is as handsome does. I have found, however, that the issues are not the issue for once an issue is made of the issues and the issues are responded to, they no longer are issues but become answers.

Because of the above mentioned dialectical problem I am responding to some of the more pressing non-issues facing this state.

1) It has become apparent that unemployment isn’t working but –

2) Inflation is. I feel we have done a good job of getting inflation off of dead center and back on the move again.

3) We must get the girls out of those sweaty saunas and back on the streets again. This is gradually being done and I can see the red light at the end of the tunnel on this program.

4) Because of the energy crisis and potential oil spill non-issues, we have been asked to think tanker. What I propose is the importation of Irish tinkers to fix leaking tankers.

In this way, instead of thinking tankers we can thank tinkers thereby solving two problems with the single stroke of a ball-peen hammer: a) we reduce oil spills, b) we help wind down war in Ireland. It is imperative that the other candidates grasp the bull by the tail and face the situation squarely on this issue.

It will always be my contention that the buck starts here, so remember, a vote for Red Kelly is like taking two giant steps backward so if you believe in my programs say “Mother-may-I” and throw the rascals out.

ELECTION RESULT: 12,400 votes, 0.8% (4th place)NOTE: In 1989, Red Kelly ran for mayor of Tacoma.  He won 10% of the vote.

JACK “THE RIPOFF” LEMON for lieutenant governor

My platform is a four cornered triangle which has as its cornerstone a piece of pink venetian marble which I picked up while spelunking in the catacombs under the Vatican. The second corner of my platform is a promise to institute a bond issue to build a covered syndrome, one that is centrally located between Tonasket and Tenino so that it can be used by all the residents of the state. Political opponents argue that a syndrome so ill conceived and dedicated can not long endure – but we are confident for we are on the side of history and folly.

Because I am running virtually unopposed I can further promise that within 24 hours after election, heads will roll at the state capitol. This will be accomplished by the renting of two Porta-Pottys, placing them on wheels and pushing them over the precipice behind the Governor’s Mansion.

If you care enough to send the very least, vote for a Lemon and throw the rascals out.

ELECTION RESULT: 39,252 votes, 2.69% (3rd place).

“BUNCO” BOB KELLY for attorney general

Winston Churchill once said that war was too important to be left in the hands of generals. The same is true of law. Its administration is too important to be left in the hands of attorneys. They can complicate the simplest of issues thereby confusing everyone including themselves. In Sweden very few attorneys are elected to Parliment. Do you want your child to grow up in Sweden?

Folks, let’s take the fun out of crime. What I propose is aversion therapy after the first conviction. Let’s get them before they find out how much fun crime can be. I can guarantee that after two or three weeks on ‘Bunco’ Bob’s aversion therapy farm they won’t steal again without splitting the take.

Remember a vote for ‘Bunco’ Bob is like taking a trip.

ELECTION RESULT: 33,746 votes, 2.33% (3rd place).

JACK T. PERCIFUL for treasurer

Because I am descended from a long line of carpet baggers, my credentials for this office are impeccable. Few know that I am called in financial circles “penny-pinching and penurious Perciful.” Actually my father and mother wanted to name me “Clean-as-a-hound’s tooth Perciful” but that name had already been appropriated.

I. as the spearhead of the Owl movement’s fiscal programs, stand two square for the following:
1) To increase revenues without increasing taxes we can take advantage of our renewable resources by packaging and selling transparent fog and dehydrated water. 2) Because municipal and school bonds are non-taxable their rates are lower. We should borrow more at these lower rates and lend the proceeds at market rates retaining the difference to pay the salary increases of our elected officials who are sorely in need of additional funds. 3) We should buy everything on credit cards for as every woman knows, this makes the budget easier to balance. 4) From time-to-time we should call in all the states negotiable assets and convert them to cash just to see what all that money looks like. 5) no jive.

ELECTION RESULT: 41,285 votes, 2.95% (3rd place).

“FAST” LUCIE GRISWOLD for secretary of state

It has come to my attention while campaigning across the width and breadth of Tumwater that no Secretary of State has been able to take shorthand or do typing. It is my intention, therefore, when elected to take a correspondence course in typing and shorthand thereby giving this state something it has never had or wanted. Furthermore, I am taking unequivocal stands against the following:

(1) The heartbreak of psoriasis:  (2) Bed wetting:  (3) The big ‘O’: (4) Post nasal drip.

I wish only that my opponents would do likewise. Because of my expertise in the culinary arts, I have devised two new recipes. One is for welfare rolls, the other for unemployment rolls and using a new special yeast. You can’t raise the dough no matter how much you knead it.

Remember, a vote for ‘Fast’ Lucie is a vote for the other side so throw the rascals out.

ELECTION RESULT: 41,807 votes, 2.91% (3rd place).

ARCHIE “WHIPLASH” BRESLIN for insurance commissioner

Candidate did not submit photograph and statement for publication.

ELECTION RESULT:  31,803 votes, 2.25% (3rd place).

RUTHIE “BOOM BOOM” McINNIS for auditor

Candidate did not submit photograph and statement for publication.

ELECTION RESULT: 45,573 votes, 3.35% (3rd place). McGinnis won the highest percentage of votes of any minor party candidate on the statewide ballot in 1976.

DON “EARTHQUAKE” OBER for commissioner of public lands

What could be more important than one job? Two jobs. What could be more important than two jobs? Four jobs. What could be more important than four jobs? Eight jobs. What could be more important than eight jobs? Sixteen jobs. What could be more important than sixteen jobs? When we cut down our trees we create jobs and all know and recognize the most economical and efficient method of removing trees is what was once caustically and erroneously called the ‘slash’ cut method, is now called the ‘clear’ cut method and next year will be termed the ‘clean’ cut method of logging. Aside from being economical, this method gives us those aesthetically pleasing open spaces we so sorely need. Of course those trees with always grow back. Witness, for example, the cedars of Lebanon. As the bible so eloquently states “If your tree offends you pluck it out and make it into a number two peeler.” This policy also sets the stage for another great literary classic which will be entitled “A Tree Grew in Washington.”

The last major earthquake cracked the dome and all earthquakes aren’t Ober so if you want to shake up the capitol throw the rascals out.

ELECTION RESULT: 45,815 votes, 3.28% (3rd place). Ober won the most number of votes by any minor party candidate on the statewide ballot in 1976.


PHOTOS:  Both photos are shown here courtesy Tacoma Public Library, RK A21-02 and RK A9-13.

SOURCES: Elections & Voting, Washington Secretary of State, http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/results_search.aspx; “OWL Party Prompts Election Law Change“, a Secretary of State Legacy Project article; “Red Kelly, 76, Bassist and Mock Politician”, an Associated Press obituary in the New York Times, June 12, 2004; “Remembering Red”: The Red Kelly Collection @ the Tacoma Public Library:”http://www.redkelly.org/

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