How Hugo the dog is changing the mayor’s race in Oakville

TORONTO – The race for the mayor’s chair in Oakville has got a little hairy.

Signs saying “Vote for Hugo.  Vote for the underdog” in support of a golden retriever named Hugo are dotting some neighbourhood lawns and storefront windows around town.

Hugo’s platform includes: the revitalization of downtown Oakville, more green space and four more leash-free parks by 2016.

“He’s shaking paws and licking babies,” Blayne Rockliffe, Hugo’s campaign manager and owner, said.

“People were petting him and some people were saying, ‘this dog he’s great.  He should run for office!’  I said, ‘he is actually.  He’s running for mayor in the next election.”

Although he was kidding around at the time, the idea has turned into an election campaign with its own Facebook and Twitter account.

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“Even though he’s quoted as the underdog, I think he’s a strong favourite,” said Bruce Lombard, an Oakville resident.

“He’s authentic.  He wears his emotions on his fur,” joked Matt Gilgan, who has one of Hugo’s signs on his lawn.  “We thought it was kind of funny and somewhat reflects our frustrations with the options available.”

While Hugo doesn’t actually qualify to be on the ballot, some believe the dog’s impact on local politics is nothing to bark at.

“People love Hugo,” said Rockliffe.  “He’s been great and brought back the dialogue.  The dialogue missing from our community.”

Oakville resident Gordon Taylor admits, Hugo re-ignited his interest in the municipal election.

“We’ve been in Oakville for 24 years and it was, blah blah blah taxes, blah, blah, blah…and you lost focus or interest,” said Taylor. “I saw the sign for Hugo and it got me engaged a bit.”

There are 5 candidates running for mayor in Oakville.  Gordon Brennan was the only one who offered his thoughts on the four-legged competition and the attention Hugo’s is getting from the public and focusing on the election.

“It will certainly get them to thinking about voting, even if it’s satirical,” said Brennan. “’Oh, a dog is in the race?  Maybe, I should take a look at the candidates rather than thinking, you’re all the same.’”

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