When polls close in Pawnee, Indiana, tonight (along with the fourth season of Parks and Recreation), Leslie Knope will either be the town's newest city council member or another well-meaning civil servant stymied by an overprivileged rich kid. Win or lose, though, she'll have company. Leslie may be the first TV character to wear a scented waffle necklace, but she's not the first to run for office. Here are fifteen TV characters who got up to the podium before citizen Knope. Some won, some lost, and one dropped out in the middle of a debate to endorse her opponent. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens for Leslie this evening.
Sam Seaborn, The West Wing
Ran for: Congress in California's 47th district (Orange County)
Chances: Not great. Orange County is about as conservative as California gets, and even with the president on his side, Sam never had a prayer.
Opponent: Seven-term Republican Chuck Webb, who once challenged a Congressman to a fist fight on the House floor.
Defining quote:"If I'm going to lose, I'd like to lose doing something."
Josiah Bartlet, The West Wing
Ran for: Reelection to the presidency of the United States
Chances: Excellent. With both Josh Lyman and Sam Seaborn on his side, how could they not be?
Opponent: Dim-witted Florida Governor Robert Ritchie
Defining quote: "We're for freedom of speech everywhere. We're for freedom to worship everywhere. We're for freedom to learn... for everybody."
Matt Santos, The West Wing
Ran for: President of the United States
Chances: Not great. After rising from obscurity to Democrat nominee, he faced a popular senator in the general election.
Opponent: Senator Arnold Vinick of California, a pro-choice Republican in the mold of Barry Goldwater.
Defining quote: "I got in this to improve a broken school system; to fix entitlements, 'cause they're going bankrupt; to expand health coverage, 'cause it'll save money if fewer people show up in emergency rooms."
Tommy Carcetti, The Wire
Ran for: Mayor of Baltimore
Chances: As a white guy in Baltimore running against a black incumbent mayor, Carcetti's chances weren't great.
Opponent: In the Democrat primary, Carcetti faced Mayor Clarence Royce, an unscrupulous grandstander. In the general, he went up against a guy who didn't matter.
Defining quote: "I believe that we will be judged by what we provide to the weakest and most vulnerable. That is the test. That is my test."
Claire Dunphy, Modern Family
Ran for: Town Council
Chances: Bad. Her organization was poor, her strategy ineffective, and her staff easily distracted.
Opponent: Duane Bailey, a six-term councilman, ice-cream-cake lover, and part-time Puggle breeder.
Defining quote: "Kids these days get trophies just for showing up. What's that gonna lead to? A bunch of 30-year-olds living at home."
Ran for: Boston City Council
Chances: Horrible. Woody was only on the ballot so Frasier could conduct a hypothesis about the stupidity of voters.
Opponent: Kevin Fogarty, a platitude-spouting blowhard.
Defining quote: "I will make change."
David Aceveda, The Shield
Ran for: Los Angeles City Council
Chances: So-so. As a local grocery store owner and power broker told Aceveda, it would be hard to convince the citizens of crime-ridden Farmington to elect him.
Opponent: City official Karen Mitchell, who once worked for the outgoing councilman.
Defining quote: “In this building, I’m in charge.”
Gaius Baltar, Battlestar Galactica
Ran for: President of the Twelve Colonies
Chances: Poor at the outset, but after the discovery of a new habitable planet, which he said should be colonized, Baltar’s campaign picked up support.
Opponent: Incumbent Laura Roslin
Result: Lost, but after Roslin admitted fraud he took office.
Defining quote:"No more Mr. Nice Gauis"
Laura Roslin, Battlestar Galactica
Ran for: President of the Twelve Colonies
Chances: Despite Baltar's attempt to paint her as an irrational, dogmatic leader, Roslin was ahead in the polls until Baltar came out in favor of settling New Caprica.
Opponent: Gaius Baltar
Result: Won, but only after cheating
Defining quote: "Today is a new beginning for all of us. We share a unique destiny, but our future is ours to shape and our past cannot be forgotten."
Sue Sylvester, Glee
Ran for: Ohio's fourth district in the U.S. House of Representatives
Chances: They start off slim, but her vengeful campaign against the arts puts her ahead in the polls.
Opponent: Kurt’s dad Burt Hummel, who enters the race as a write-in candidate appealing to blue-collar types who value the arts.
Defining quote: "Parents, if you'd like your teenager to join the glee club or play a doorman in a boring four-hour play about what it's like to be a middle-aged gay New Yorker, feel free to pay for it yourself. But until Ohio's kids can compete again, it won't be on the taxpayer dime."
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons
Ran for: Sanitation Commissioner
Chances: Excellent, but only after promising round-the-clock garbage service and house cleaning performed by sanitation workers.
Opponent: Incumbent Commissioner Ray Patterson
Defining quote: "Can't someone else do it?"
Peter Florrick, The Good Wife
Ran for: Cook County State's Attorney
Chances: Not great. He launched his candidacy as a known philanderer who was removed from his last term for corruption.
Opponent: Incumbent Glenn Childs, who dropped out before the election, and attorney Wendy Scott-Carr.
Defining quote: "The one thing I hate more than a backroom deal is a failed backroom deal.”
David Palmer, 24
Ran for: Reelection as President of the United States
Chances: Despite the country's problems with terrorism during his first term, Palmer had a good shot of winning reelection.
Opponent: Senator John Keeler, a ruthless politician who wasn't above blackmailing a sitting president .
Result: Dropped out
Defining quote: "Take a good look. Do I seem scared? Am I breaking into a nervous sweat? Am I babbling? At a loss for words? Is my voice shaking?"
Aunt Bee, The Andy Griffith Show
Ran for: Mayberry City Council
Chances: She could have had Bill Clinton’s political savvy, but with a vagina she was doomed from start.
Opponent: Mustachioed mother's boy Howard Sprague.
Result: Dropped out mid-debate and endorsed her opponent.
Defining quote: "I don't know anything about politics."
Rocko, Rocko's Modern Life
Ran for: Dogcatcher
Chances: An overly earnest campaign and lack of shoulders left him with no chance.
Opponent: Ed Bighead, Rocko's neighbor and an unrepentant negative campaigner.
Defining quote: "The American public isn't swayed by flashy ad campaigns. They only care about the issues."