Amidst a polarizing election season, a neighborhood in Oakland, California, is putting on a much friendlier race.
Here on 55th Street, the candidates for mayor are more focused on napping, cuddling and playing than they are partisan bickering.
Soon the honor of becoming mayor of this street will go to the most deserving cat or dog. Mary Owen, a 57-year-old project manager whose 11-year-old Shiba Inu, Mimi, is running, called the contest a much-needed reprieve from the animosity shown in the nation's capital.
"Well, Mimi is running for mayor of 55th Street. Her campaign slogan is "She'll bark when it matters.” You know, honestly, I think everyone just needs a little levity from this anxiety-filled election season. And so this has just been a pure joy for our neighborhood, just to be out here and be talking with the constituents, having everybody tell us how they enjoy just seeing the dogs and the cats running this. It's been a lot of fun."
The 55th Street mayoral race started with one incumbent cat named Wally running unopposed, but a few cats and dogs pounced at the opportunity to make it competitive.
Kirstyn Russell, a 49-year-old photography teacher, has a 10-year-old Tabby who jumped in the race with the campaign slogan “Change Meow.”
"Well, we heard that there was a cat called Wally, who was representing himself to be the Mayor of 55th Street. And we decided that our cat Betty seemed mayoral and that maybe we needed a change on 55th Street, and we thought we'd just jump on in."
Russell's eight-year-old daughter Maeve will cast her ballot for Betty.
"She's really good and she wants to crush the patriarchy, and so that's why I'm going to vote for her. And she's awesome."
Owen said it's a chance to share the importance of civic engagement and participation with kids.
“We are having an election, it's a ranked election. And we're making ballots with all of the pets' faces on it. And our graphic artist neighbor Kelly is making a ballot box. Mostly we're teaching the kids about democracy and about fairness, equity, you know, justice. And we're going to have all the kids make a choice, put it in the ballot box, have a little talk about democracy and our country, and of course candy because it's Halloween night."
Rachel Kadner, a 43-year-old school librarian, put 6-year-old pit bull mix Macy on the ballot with the slogan "Keep Oakland Ruff."
“The amount of pet puns that come out are just incredible, just a way to really enjoy our neighborhood and enjoy our neighbors."