What's in a name? Captain Jack Sparrow snags 23 percent of vote


Some famous names were on Hennepin County ballots this year, but the familiarity of their names didn't help them win the election.

Hennepin County's County Commissioner District 4 race gained some national attention on Election Day because a namesake to a well-known drunken pirate appeared on the ballot.

Captain Jack Sparrow – a name made famous by Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean films – was a candidate in the county election.

And news of this spread across social media and was picked up by various national news organizations:

But the added attention didn't help the nonpartisan Sparrow beat out incumbent Peter McLaughlin. Sparrow got 22.77 percent of the vote, while McLaughlin got 76.42 percent, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Sparrow and McLaughlin held a candidate forum prior to the election:

Sparrow is his legal name, according to The Associated Press, which wrote about him when he ran for mayor of Minneapolis in 2013. He's a self-proclaimed "occupirate," which means he dresses like a pirate, Mashable says. The publication notes he changed his name as part of his involvement with the Occupy movement.

According to local blogger Naomi Kritzer, Sparrow has been involved in political movements in Minnesota for around 40 years, including the Occupy Minnesota campaign, and founded an advocacy group in the late 1980s.

Another notable name was also on the ballot. A candidate for Supreme Court judge shares the same name as one of the most famous men to sign the Declaration of Independence.

John Hancock lost to incumbent Wilhelmina (Mimi) Wright, 42.96 percent to 56.80 percent, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Famous names on ballots

Although Sparrow and Hancock's familiar names didn't lead to success in the election, famous people have had a tendency to win in Minnesota.

Sen. Al Franken, known for his "Saturday Night Live" gig, was the projected winner Tuesday just minutes after the polls closed. His first time being elected didn't move as quickly, however. After months of recounts, Franken was declared the winner by just 312 votes.

And who could forget arguably Minnesota's most famous governor – wrestler Jesse Ventura. He first entered politics as mayor of Brooklyn Park before being elected governor, narrowly beating out both Democratic and Republican candidates. He served from 1999 to 2003.

Typically well-known names that get votes in elections are for write-in candidates. Here's a look at some of them:

In the 2013 mayoral election in Boston, Massachusetts, former Minnesota Twin David Ortiz finished third. The first baseman, who wasn't on the ballot, finished with the highest total of write-in votes during the election, which had two candidates on the ballot, CBS Sports reported.

The city of Boston was replacing one of the longest serving mayors in U.S. history, Thomas Menino, who wasn't seeking reelection. Menino died last week and Ortiz attended his funeral, ESPN says.

In many presidential elections famous names are written in on ballots. The Texas Tribune reported Mickey Mouse got 11 votes in Travis County, Texas, during the 2012 presidential election. The newspaper notes Willie Nelson, Clark Kent and Socrates also received votes.

Wikipedia lists several instances where a famous character, animal or person received a significant number of votes as a write-in candidate. Among them: A rhinoceros at a zoo in Brazil got 100,000 votes in a 1959 municipal council election – more than any other candidate; A foot powder in Ecuador received the most votes in a 1967 election; and in Talkeetna, Alaska, Stubbs the Cat beat two human candidates for mayor in 1997 – and has been re-elected ever since.

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