Summer is here, but, thankfully for us, bizarre state politics take no vacations. Here is the latest installment in our monthly portrait of the weird, wonderful, or just upsetting cacophony of opinions and bad decisions that makes up America.
Utah: The capitol is for porn
One of the most conservative states in the country is currently grumbling about what to do with the very tall stack of new issues of Hustler that were delivered to the capitol — courtesy of the magazine's founder, Larry Flynt — after Utah declared porn a public health crisis earlier this year.
Most state legislators said they threw the magazine away immediately. At least one politician sent the publisher a copy of Mormon magazine Ensign in return, and the only openly gay legislator in the state joked on Twitter that the gift was "wasted" on him. The sponsor of the public health crisis resolution told the Salt Lake Tribune, "We get mailed a lot of stuff as legislators. I never fathomed how much unsolicited ‘Utah truckers’ magazines and everything else we get sent because we're members of the Legislature … But this is probably a first."
Maybe for Utah. Federal legislators have been getting copies of Hustler since 1983. Flynt left a note with the first delivery, noting that he was "as committed to my pornography as the pope is to his celibacy, so the quality of Hustler will never be compromised."
Texas: A sign from God, a bumper sticker from Jesus
It's a regular day in America, so of course there are two rural parts of the country squabbling over the use of religious imagery in local government business. Hondo, a town of 9,000, is getting grief for the much Instagrammed sign at the edge of town. It is at least 20 years old, and reads, “Welcome: This is God’s Country. Please don’t drive through it like Hell. Hondo, Texas.” As you might imagine, the Freedom From Religion Foundation was not pleased. The group's copresident wrote to Hondo's mayor, noting, "Some people may want to flee ‘God’s Country’ faster than hell. Hondo officials could actually be encouraging drivers to speed with such signs."
The letter does not make clear why anyone bothered to muster the energy to be outraged by this sign.
For now, the argument over the sign is stuck in a stalemate. The mayor told the San Antonio Express-News, "There’s no way in hell we’re going to take those signs down."
Meanwhile, the Freedom From Religion Foundation scored a victory way out in West Texas. Brewster County has agreed to take the cross decals off of the rearview windows of all its police cars.
And now, for a brief intermission, here is some news about animals
— The peregrine falcons living at the top of the Nebraska state capitol just had a new baby chick who was named via online poll. People in Nebraska don't understand the true nature of online voting as well as the people in the U.K., who sought to name a government boat Boaty McBoatface; Dinan, the surname of the late Game and Parks Commission staffer who started the falcon program, eventually won. The suggestion Solo, an homage to Han Solo, did not.
— In more animal-naming news, Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago just named a camel Alexander Camelton.
— Earlier this week, a small alligator strolled up to the front of Jacksonville City Hall in North Carolina. The Jacksonville Daily News reports that a wildlife enforcement officer caught the reptile while "armed only with a black rope and plenty of space." The report did not mention why the alligator was heading to City Hall. It may have wanted to register to vote, or was very confused about what qualifications were necessary for a job in wildlife enforcement.
— In the city of White Settlement, Texas (no, we didn't make that up), the city council fired longtime library volunteer Browser the cat. The city isn't too happy about this turn of events, and the council is being asked to reconsider the issue in July. The mayor, who supports Browser, says that the council's decision was discriminatory; per the Fort Worth Star Telegram, he said, “The council just went out and did this on their own because they don’t like cats.”
Alaska: Dans Sullivan
For a brief moment, it seemed like Alaska might end up with two senators with the same exact name. Former Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan said he planned to run against Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary. This state of affairs probably didn't please Senator Dan Sullivan, who already had to deal with having his name doppelgänger on the ballot in 2014. "You can never have enough Dan Sullivans in the Senate," not-yet-a-senator Sullivan told Politico. The state isn't about to become the first in history to have identically named senators, though — at least not this year. Sullivan II dropped out of the race.
He can always wait until 2020 and just run against Sullivan himself, maximizing the opportunity to make voters think they are witnessing some low-budget Face/Off remake when they head to the voting booth.
Vermont: Rule No. 1: Don't say anything on the internet. Yes, even you, fringe candidate.
Bernie Sanders's home is a mecca for unorthodox candidates. There's the guy who wears jorts to debates, the woman who looks like she's getting ready for the next royal wedding, and the guy whose wife told the Washington Post, "I hope people have a little more sense than to think that Fred could do anything down in Washington." And then there is H. Brooke Paige, a birther who regularly wears a bow tie and top hat. He often runs for multiple offices at a time, and never wins any of them. He is running for governor and attorney general as a Democrat this year. In other years, he has run as a Republican.
Now, the state party has told Paige to stay away from all Democratic events after a Facebook post in which he called a local party official "the latest flatlander to commandeer control of the Vermont Democratic Party." That post inspired Paige to make many awful comments about said party official's weight — the comments that ended up infuriating state Democrats enough to refund his contributions. Flatlander, for those unfamiliar, is an insult wielded by locals upset at city folks invading the Green Mountains, and the party said that the fringe candidate was being a bully. Paige, for what it's worth, is not a native, having come to the state from Philadelphia years ago.
The Burlington Free Press reports that Paige "argued he cannot be considered a bully because he has no power in the Democratic Party." In other words, if you act like a fringe candidate, you're going to get treated like one too.
Oregon: Ballot roulette
The Independent Party held its first primary in Oregon this month, and celebrated the occasion by making the results super suspenseful in one race — while also ensuring that the party's chances of success this year will be completely randomized. The two candidates running for the party's nomination in state House District 30 both got 41 votes.
Thanks to the tie, the opponents were forced to compete in a surprise duel. The weapons of choice? A pair of dice.
The candidate who rolled a six was declared the victor, and will appear on the ballot as a Republican and Independent. The loser will still be on the ballot as a Democrat, so the game of chance didn't change much. However, it was still exciting for election officials. Per Northwest News Network, "this was the first time in at least 25 years that a state-level race had to be decided by lot."