Pig drives election frenzy

SHOREHAM — Town Meeting Day is just around the corner, and candidates for local school and municipal offices are jockeying for position as the election approaches.
But in Shoreham, the race garnering the most headlines involves a field of seven people who are each hoping to get just enough votes to finish second. That’s because the “winner” of this race gets the dubious honor of smooching a baby — only we aren’t talking about the human variety that politicians want to be seen holding.
No, the winner of this election has to kiss a piglet, in public, with a lot of cameras clicking.
It’s all in good fun and part of a new Platt Memorial Library fund-raiser aptly dubbed “Pig Kissin’” — seven local luminaries have agreed to compete for the “privilege” of planting a wet one on the snout of a porker named Runty.
Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham, has seen his share of elections, but none quite like this one.
“There hasn’t been a lot of trash talking on this,” Stevens chuckled. “It would be awful if this was a tie.”
Platt Memorial Library Trustee Kathleen Hescock floated the Pig Kissin’ fund-raising idea to her colleagues several weeks ago. A similar event in Waterbury proved successful, and the Hescocks have access to plenty of potential kissing partners at their place. Hescock’s daughter, Tirzah, raises pigs that recently introduced a new litter into the world. The prize of the bunch, Runty, will be around eight weeks old when the winning candidate puckers up on Feb. 19.
Hescock’s colleagues were quick to embrace the “Pig Kissin’” idea. After all, this is a group that organized a “risqué” calendar to help raise money for a renovation and expansion project for the Platt. Proceeds from “Pig Kissin’” will be devoted to the library’s operating budget in order to reduce pressure on the local property tax.
Once they approved the election, library trustees set out to recruit candidates. They came up with an impressive ballot: Stevens; First National Bank of Orwell President Mark Young; local firefighter Jim Ortuno; Shoreham Elementary School principal Heather Best; Shoreham Inn owners Molly and Dominic Francis; and Cora Waag of the Halfway House Restaurant.
The ballot boxes, made by Shoreham’s own Dick Phillips, feature slots for each candidate. Norton’s Gallery assisted in the construction of pink pig election signs that are popping up on people’s lawns.
It’s an election in which candidates are treading softly and are certainly not promising to cut pork. This particular election is turning campaigning on its head. Residents are being asked to vote early and often in a race that can definitely be bought. That’s because each vote costs $1. Voters slip their cash into special ballot boxes at the library, the National Bank of Orwell’s Shoreham branch, the Shoreham Inn, the Halfway House and the elementary school.
It’s also an election in which one might not want to vote for one’s favorite candidate, given the porcine payoff.
In fact, Stevens appears to be doing a lot more campaigning for the competition than himself.
“There are a lot of people in the Statehouse who remember Mark Young and they might want to know he’s taking part in this,” Stevens said of the longtime former Addison-Rutland-1 House representative.
Young is certainly being a good sport. A promotional flyer for the election features pictures of all the candidates. Young is appropriately kissing a piggy bank.
Principal Best is perhaps fortunate that her young constituents have the least disposable income with which to stuff the ballot box at school.
“When I heard who was running, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be kissing the pig,” she laughed.
Still, she holds a good lead on her home turf.
And Hescock noted a strong lobby for this election — an anonymous donor has put up a $2,000 matching pledge, thus undermining the democratic principle of “one person, one vote.”
The big kiss will occur at the Shoreham gazebo on Feb. 19 between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., with free food to follow. Organizers are setting up a Facebook page for people to monitor progress of the election.
“People can stuff the ballot boxes until 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 19,” Hescock said.
Asked if she had a favorite candidate among the bunch, Hescock was very diplomatic.
“I’m pulling for them all — I want (the ballot boxes) as full as possible,” she said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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