Updated July 1, 2019
The Democratic field for the 2020 presidential election is already crowded, with 25 declared candidates, and several more waiting in the wings.
Most are running on similar platforms, promising a reversal of Donald Trump’s climate change–denying policies, better wages for the middle class, expanded healthcare benefits, and electoral reform that would beat back the influence of dark money. But several also have a four-legged secret weapon—a dog.
Trump is the first US president in more than 100 years not to have a dog in the White House, and Democratic candidates who do have one are flaunting their dog ownership, a crowd-pleasing way to put more distance between themselves and the president.
Tapping into America’s deep and growing love of dogs is a politically savvy move. About 68% of all American homes have a pet, the American Pet Products Association reported last year, up from 56% three decades ago, and 62% of all homes have a dog. Dog culture is everywhere, from Twitter account Breitbark News (Home of the #AltBite) that pens dog-based parodies of political events to the televised Philadelphia’s National Dog Show, which drew some 20 million viewers in November.
No wonder they’re becoming running mates. Here’s the pups to watch, roughly in order of when their owners were considered serious contenders:
Elizabeth Warren and Bailey
The Massachusetts Senator’s golden retriever hit the campaign trail with her last month, when Warren introduced the “two guys” her life, Bailey and her husband Bruce:
Warren named Bailey after the main character George Bailey in the film It’s a Wonderful Life, she said when she got the new puppy as a surprise gift from her husband last summer. “We named him after George Bailey, the community banker in It’s a Wonderful Life — a guy who was decent, determined & saw the best in people,” Warren wrote. “I always thought the role of GB was written for a Golden Retriever, but Jimmy Stewart did a nice job with it.”
Pete Buttigieg and Buddy
The South Bend, Indiana mayor introduced Americans to “Buddy,” his new shelter dog, on Dec. 19, 2018, on Twitter:
Buttigieg and his husband Chasten Glezman already have another rescue dog, Truman, who is dubbed the “First Dog of South Bend.” Truman stars in a Facebook video about the city’s dog parks, and Buttigieg’s emphasis on investment in parks:
Kirsten Gillibrand and Maple
The New York senator announced her family had the new Labradoodle puppy in July of 2017 on Twitter.
While Maple is mentioned in Gillibrand’s Twitter bio, she hasn’t been featured on the campaign trail. Yet.
Joe Biden and Major
The former vice president officially entered the race April 25 with a direct attack on Trump, accusing the president of destroying American democracy. He’s already got the dog for it (and the name recognition—Biden is voters’ favorite candidate in most polls).
Biden adopted Major, a German Shepherd, from the Delaware Humane Association in November after fostering the puppy for months. Major was part of a litter that was exposed to toxic chemicals before they were brought to the shelter, but is in fine health now Delaware Online reports. Biden wanted a new puppy to be a companion to his elderly dog, Champ, another German Shepherd.
The human association distributed the “official adoption photo” of Biden and an incredulous-looking Major in November:
Beto O’Rourke and Artemis
The former Texas Congressman and avowed dog-lover joined the race on the morning of March 14, promising to “build a movement that includes all of us.” Expect to see a lot of Artemis, his black dog who was featured during his 2018 battle with incumbent Senator Ted Cruz:
O’Rourke mentioned Artemis several times in his letter to supporters after he lost to Cruz; earlier he shared a Facebook broadcast of him and his family picking up runaway dogs from the side of the road in Texas. O’Rourke also has a second black dog named Rosie (and a cat named Silver), who he cheered on social media on National Pet Day:
O’Rourke spent at least as much time in the 2018 campaign cuddling dogs as he did babies.
John Hickenlooper and Skye
The former Colorado governor‘s rescue dog, an “Akita-bulldog-chow chow mix,” was a regular presence in his office.
Hickenlooper launched a political action committee in December and officially joined the race on March 4, 2019, with a pledge to bring people together.
Eric Swalwell and Penny
The California Congressman, who joined the race on April 9, is the enthusiastic owner of Penny:
Swalwell and his wife Brittany “think Penny is a black lab—she looks and acts like one,” his spokesperson explains. “They were sent a Craigslist ad posted for her by a constituent. Within minutes of seeing her puppy picture, they were in the car to meet her, and within hours of seeing the ad, they had a new companion.”
Tim Ryan and Bear and Buckeye
The Ohio Congressman, who joined the race April 4, didn’t mean to get two dogs. But a few months after he and his wife Andrea’s wedding, they brought their two older kids, Mason and Bella, to a shelter in Struthers, Ohio “to pick out ONE puppy,” a spokesman emails Quartz. “Needless to say, they brought home TWO.”
Bear and Buckeye are littermates, Ryan’s office says. Their mother was a Lab, and their father may be a Husky or German Shepherd.
Michael Bennet and Pepper
The Colorado senator, who entered the race May 2, adopted Pepper from a Colorado prison program that saves dogs from shelters, then trains and cares for them, his press office says. The senator had promised his three daughters (Caroline, Halina, and Anne) they could get a dog after the 2010 election; the family isn’t sure what Pepper’s parentage is.
Joe Sestak and Belle
The retired Navy admiral and former Congressman entered the race on June 23 with a pledge to reverse Trump’s withdrawal from international agreements and upsetting of foreign policy norms. The Sestak family’s cockapoo Belle was a present to Joe’s daughter Alex on her third birthday, Alex explains in a short video the campaign sent to Quartz:
Candidates who don’t have dogs (yet)
Cory Booker’s dog promise
New Jersey senator Cory Booker does not have a dog, he said in response to a question from an 11-year-old boy on a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But he plans to get one to live with him in the White House if he is elected, he added to cheers from the crowd.
As mayor of Newark, Booker famously rescued a freezing dog left outdoors in the winter.
Jay Inslee’s granddogs
Jay Inslee, the Washington state governor who joined the race March 1, no longer has a dog after his last, Hailey, passed away a decade ago, his office told Quartz. But, Inslee’s spokesman noted, he has “grand dogs” (owned by his sons) named Pepper and Tilly. Inslee once named an Irish setter spaniel mix the “Washingtonian of the day,” for standing guard over a trapped fellow canine and alerting humans to the situation.
Harris, Bloomberg, Klobuchar, etc.
Kamala Harris, the California senator, is an enthusiastic tweeter of doggy things, and the supporter of animal protection bills, but has not introduced the public to any dogs of her own. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders did not have a dog during the last presidential race, and doesn’t seem to have gotten one since. Neither Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Senator, nor Julian Castro, the former Housing Secretary, nor Tulsi Gabbard, the Hawaii Congresswoman, nor Seth Moulton, the Massachusetts Congressman, have mentioned owning dogs during the early days of the race. Howard Schultz mentions his family’s love of dogs in his bio, but hasn’t during his exploratory presidential bid, while Mike Bloomberg doesn’t really seem to care for them at all.
Candidates who are trotting out their dogs are following in a long tradition. Herbert Hoover was the first presidential candidate to use his dog for political purposes, to combat a stiff, severe public image, writes Jennifer Boswell Pickens, a historian and author of Pets at the White House. He released a photo of him holding his German Shepard “King Tut” begging for votes during the 1928 election, which he later won.
Candidates who have dropped out
These potential candidates with prominent four-legged friends have officially dropped out of the race. Their former running mates are still good dogs, though.
Sherrod Brown and Franklin
The Ohio Senator made Franklin, a rescue dog, a key part of his successful 2018 campaign, naming him Manager of Morale, putting his face on mugs, and featuring him in ads.
When Brown won, Franklin accompanied him on stage for his victory speech. Brown did a tour of primary states early in 2019, as part of a “Dignity of work” tour, but said on March 7 that he wouldn’t run for president, because he could be more effective in the Senate. When speculation swirled that he could be a good vice president for Biden that day, Brown said he wasn’t interested.