1976 was an interesting year in Washington politics. It was the year in which bar owner Red Kelly founded the OWL Party - "Out With Logic, On With Lunacy" - "as a mirthful alternative to an otherwise-humorless collection of candidates for political office." He held a convention in a jazz club in Tumwater that nominated candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor, insurance commissioner, land commissioner and attorney general, promising to "call in all the state's negotiable assets and convert them to cash just to see what all that money looks like," and because "unemployment isn't working."1
My personal favorite at the time, "Fast" Lucy Griswold, ran for secretary of state. Among other things, her voter's pamphlet statement2 said:
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.3 It is my intention, therefore, when elected to take a correspondence course in typing and shorthand hereby 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.4
"Fast" Lucy received 41,807 votes,5 fewer than some of the other OWL candidates such as Ruthie "Boom Boom" McInnis, who received 45,573 votes in her run for state auditor.6
The Legislature responded in 1977 by passing a law that made it more difficult for minor parties to place candidates on the ballot. Ten years after the heyday of the OWL party, the law was declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Munro v. Socialist Worker's Party.7
Justice White's opinion for the Court states, in part:
The State of Washington requires that a minor-party candidate for partisan office receive at least 1% of all votes cast for that office in the State's primary election before the candidate's name will be placed on the general election ballot. The question for decision is whether this statutory requirement, as applied to candidates for statewide offices, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declared the provision unconstitutional. 765 F.2d 1417 (1985). We reverse.
So much for a "mirthful alternative." After all, we would not want to make light of the elective process, would we?
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