LAST CALL: Percy cocks a leg to the White House

Florida politics has been much in the news lately thanks to such national figures as Janet Reno, Jeb Bush, and Katherine Harris running for office. But none has gotten the kind of affection lavished on the state's newest political candidate, Percy the dog.

Florida politics has been much in the news lately thanks to such national figures as Janet Reno, Jeb Bush, and Katherine Harris running for office. But none has gotten the kind of affection lavished on the state's newest political candidate, Percy the dog.

Percy's owner/campaign manager, Wayne Genthner, wants to enter his border collie mix into the race for Congress in the 22nd District as a protest against the political establishment.

Most amazing is the media attention given to Percy. The BBC, CNN, USA Today, The Washington Post, the Miami Herald, and The Guardian are just some of the outlets to have run stories. Genthner claims Percy's website got almost 100 hits from Singapore in one day.

Was all this notoriety a fluke? Was it a slow news day? Not at all, says Genthner. He owes it all to the circus.

"The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus used to winter here in Sarasota, and John Ringling himself lived and died here. he said.

"People here are used to the bizarre."

In fact, Genthner's attention-grabbing tactics come straight from the P.T. Barnum playbook. He littered political parade routes with flyers and dispersed volunteers throughout the city wearing sandwich boards.

He even made one for Percy. And, of course, he relied on good ol' animal magnetism. "I bring the candidate, and he sells himself."

The local press leapt on the story, and the national media wasn't far behind. A short on-air interview on CNN took it to the next level, and now Good Morning America, The Daily Show, and even Court TV are allegedly seeking interviews.

Ever the promoter, Genthner has more news pegs stored up his sleeve once the attention inevitably dies down. The deadline is approaching for Percy to officially register as a candidate, and his chief opponent, Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris, is the only one who can give the "yea or "nay on Percy's candidacy. "She's also the supervisor of elections, and I don't know what she'll do, said Genthner.

Rest assured that if she stands in Percy's way, you'll hear about it - even if you live in Singapore.

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