When it comes to long and storied White House traditions, none are as fun — or as cuddly — as first pets. While there are certainly more pressing and important questions for Democratic voters to consider when choosing their nominee to be the nation's next commander-in-chief, you can't help but admit that our national mood would be much improved with a furry (or scaly, or feathery) friend in the Oval Office.
Luckily, at least 11 of the Democrats running for president would have America covered in the pet department. Here's your 2020 ballot of first pet contenders.
11. Gus O'Rourke
Owner: Former Texas congressman and confessional blogger Beto O'Rourke
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) May 24, 2019
There are no "bad" pets. There are, however, pets that are less than enthusiastic about their humans' goals. Take Artemis, Beto O'Rourke's dog who appeared in all her disapproving glory on the cover of Vanity Fair. "[In the cover photo,] Artemis seems relatively unimpressed with whatever's taking place; her dark expression suggests that she's seen indescribable horrors," worried The Cut. Despite Artemis possessing the Twitter handle @first_dog_usa, she clearly wants out.
Next in line for first pet is O'Rourke's turtle, Gus (O'Rourke also has another dog, Rosie, a snake, a gerbil, and a cat, Silver, who is automatically disqualified because everyone knows cats are Republicans). Gus was briefly missing — thought to have been eaten by Artemis — before being discovered hiding in a closet, neglecting his responsibilities on the campaign trail.
10. Mimi Delaney
Owner: Former Maryland congressman and Bruce Springsteen superfan John Delaney
John Delaney has lots of fun campaign swag, including the self-promotional dog collar pictured on Mimi, above. Unfortunately, aside from the occasional modeling gig, Mimi doesn't seem terribly involved in Delaney's campaign at this point.
9. Pepper Bennet
Owner: Colorado senator and election newbie Michael Bennet
— Heather Timmons (@HeathaT) May 6, 2019
Some of the best White House pets have come from parents promising their kids a dog if they win. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet delivered on that promise after his "brutal U.S. Senate campaign" in 2010, The Denver Post reports. Sadly, there seem to be no available pictures of Pepper beyond the family's Christmas card that year. Pepper poses the risk of being MIA at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
8. Champ Biden
Owner: Ice cream aficionado and former vice president Joe Biden
When Joe Biden first adopted Champ in 2008, he faced criticism for going to a breeder, HuffPost reports (but don't say you can't teach an old dog new tricks; the former VP recently adopted a new German shepherd, named Major, from the the Delaware Humane Association). Naturally, after all their years together, Champ and Biden share the sort of bond that would be the envy of many candidates and their running mates. Champ also isn't afraid to let Biden know that he can't go golfing while on the job. Like any good first pet, you can count on Champ to keep his human in line.
7. Tilly Inslee
Owner: Wannabe basketball player and Washington governor Jay Inslee
— Melissa Santos (@MelissaSantos1) April 20, 2017
Points to Gov. Jay Inslee for bringing a picture of his dog to a bill signing, points revoked for it not actually being his dog. Inslee never got a new pup after his last dog, Hailey, died a decade ago, Quartz reports. Instead, if Inslee were to be elected president, his "grand-dog" Tilly would have to fill in (unless that picture at the bill signing is of his other grand-dog, Pepper — it's unclear which is which). We stan a politically active dog, but the country also deserves more than just a part-time first pet.
6. Maple Gillibrand
Species: Stuffed animal
Owner: Pink-loving New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Meet Maple, the newest member of the Gillibrand family! pic.twitter.com/mCpVz8sGsb
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) July 17, 2017
Gillibrand considers Maple to be such an important member of her team that the dog even gets listed in the senator's bio alongside her (human) children. As sweet as Maple obviously is, she doesn't seem quite ready for public office yet. Once she gets over being camera-shy, though — watch out world.
5. Bear Ryan
Owner: The either very accessible or very desperate Ohio congressman Tim Ryan
My dog, Bear + a cup of = a perfect post-Christmas morning. pic.twitter.com/zUPtOZJeDb
— Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) December 26, 2017
Rep. Tim Ryan went to the shelter intending to get only one dog, and came home with two. Relatable. Bear, though, is a better candidate for the title of first pet in part due to his proven interest in politics. During an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Bear even tried to contribute to a question about diversity in the Democratic Party. Ryan didn't let his dog steal the spotlight ("Go in the house, go in the house, Bear") but I've got to agree with Bear: Dogs should get to vote, too.
4. Penny Swalwell
Owner: Dog-loving California congressman Eric Swalwell
I have been dismayed that many of the articles discussing candidates' dogs have not used an image of our Penny. Hopefully this photo will turn the tide...
I won't give up until Penny gets the attention she deserves, so please stand by for more pup pics. pic.twitter.com/pP7R9s8V1E
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) May 11, 2019
Well we certainly won't neglect Penny. Rep. Eric Swalwell is his pal's number one champion, and it's refreshing to see that kind of support among politicians (and pupticians). Penny is obviously ready for the big time, having been described as an "adept photo bomber" by the New York Post. Even if this doesn't end up being her year, you can rest assured you'll see this pup around.
3. Skye Hickenlooper
Owner: Design-savvy former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper
— John Hickenlooper (@Hickenlooper) May 3, 2016
Previous experience in politics is a must for any first pet, and Skye not only meets the requirement, but she's got a record of keeping Colorado's politicians focused on the task at hand. Skye comes from a service background, having been one of 9,000 dogs trained by prison inmates in one the state's signature prison reform programs. We need Skye's dedication to the public in the White House, too. Good girl!
2. Buddy Buttigieg
Species: Possible alien?
Owner: Multilingual Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana
RATE MY SNELFIE
— truman and buddy buttigieg (@firstdogsSB) February 22, 2019
Mayor Pete's dogs have the most-followed Twitter account of any of the 2020 first pet candidates. As Buttigieg can likely attest, that sort of early popularity in a massive field is nothing but a good thing. Of the two choices for first dog, though, Buddy is undoubtedly best positioned to be first pet. Not only does he make great Twitter polls, channel entire moods, and have a burgeoning career as a movie star, he doesn't ever let his one eye slow him down. Buddy's sibling, Truman, is also a very good boy, and it could be argued that the two really ought to co-first pet together, as they are doing in South Bend.
1. Bailey Warren
Owner: Relatable, beer-drinking Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
If America has a problem, my mom has a plan pic.twitter.com/fNuuW0126A
— Bailey Warren (@FirstDogBailey) April 28, 2019
When it comes to four-legged candidates for the White House, Bailey is undoubtedly top dog. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's lovable pooch already has the Twitter handle ready to go (@FirstDogBailey) and is practicing the lines for his oath ("I solemnly swear ... to chase every squirrel ... to lick every hand ... to love all my friends ... to bark when CEOs pay lower taxes than their secretaries"). Bailey is also leading in dog polls, thanks to his "Bailey for first dog" bandanas and "consumer watchdog" collars.
A quick report card on (presumed) pet-less Democrats:
Cory Booker, New Jersey senator: Booker is currently pet-less, but has vowed to get a dog if he is elected to office. Despite not having a pet just yet, though, he's long been a K9 ally, having famously rescued a dog named Cha Cha from sub-freezing conditions while mayor of Newark. A+
Julián Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Castro doesn't appear to be a pet owner either, although HuffPost wrote in 2013 that as then-mayor of San Antonio, he was "perhaps the No. 1 city official when it comes to pets and animal rights." If that's not reciprocating with man's best friend, I don't know what is. A+
Kamala Harris, California senator: Kamala Harris loves dogs, she just doesn't have one of her own. Still, she's a great advocate for pets, having co-sponsored animal welfare legislation in the Senate. A+
Bill de Blasio, New York City mayor: Despite having a bit of a spotty track record when it comes to small animals, de Blasio got a thumbs up from the ASPCA for allocating, in 2016, $10 million to support animal shelters in Queens and the Bronx. Just don't let your pooch poop on his sidewalks. B
Andrew Yang, former tech exec: Yang has hinted at owning a dog, but hasn't played up the hypothetical pupper on the campaign trail (pro tip: always tweet about your dog). That being said, he does seem to love dogs — this was was his April Fool's Day prank:
New policy #6 - the Canine Dividend. GDP continues to go up and up, while the number of dogs per household has remained stagnant. Nothing would do more to improve the mental health of every American than providing them with 1,000 dogs per month https://t.co/Ozh1uxklUW
— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYang) April 1, 2019
Please don't play with our hearts like this, Yang. B-
Marianne Williamson, author and lecturer: Williamson doesn't appear to have a pet or talk much about animals, but her self-help quotes are frequently used to console pet owners experiencing grief after the loss of their furry friends. C+
Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator: Sanders is a confirmed pet bachelor, although he looks adorable in this photoshopped picture of him with a cat. Hint hint, Bernie? C
Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota congresswoman: Klobuchar doesn't have a pet, but she does make a very cute, very adoptable kitten. D
Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii congresswoman: Gabbard likewise doesn't appear to have pets of any kind, nor does she have much of a record talking about cats and dogs. That being said, Gabbard grew up in a cult-like group that follows the teachings of guru Chris Butler, who "has condemned homosexuality, once arguing that it led to 'an increasing number of American women [keeping] dogs for sexual purposes,'" Vox reports. Uh, okay. F