This Is One Candidate Who's Not Afraid to Admit He's a Dog

updated 07/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

At the moment, there are 140 hopefuls duly registered with the Federal Election Commission as candidates for President of the United States. Of these, only one—Punch Burger of Chapel Hill, N.C.—truly has a leg up on the 1988 race. Bristling with animal magnetism, Burger avoids rhetoric, makes no campaign promises and doesn't seek a cent from fund raisers. "Besides, he's no Gary Hart," says his campaign manager, Laura Van Sant. "He was neutered at six months."

Many candidates turn out to be dogs, but Burger is probably the first to be born that way. The 8-year-old is half German shepherd and half keeshond, and his campaign is intended as an arf-hearted protest against the usual quality of office seekers. Burger's leash, as it were, went into the ring after his owner, Van Sant, a 20-year-old journalism and political science major at the University of North Carolina, discovered how easy it was to register with the FEC. She submitted a declaration of candidacy and an organizational statement, and her dog was licensed to run. Later the FEC was surprised, though not scandalized, to discover the candidate's species. "We don't ask questions about candidates unless they raise or spend more than $5,000," says FEC spokesman Fred Eiland, who adds that according to his records, Burger hasn't raised enough money to buy a package of Kibbles 'n Bits.

Still, he is a candidate who can't be ignored. He may be the only candidate with an identifiable platform—"fewer import restrictions on beef," says Van Sant. On top of that, Burger may pick up some crucial endorsements. "Officially the Humane Society can't support Punch in his bid for the Presidency," says Kathy Bauch, the organization's Washington, D.C. spokeswoman. "But unofficially, a lot of fingers are being crossed."

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