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Talkeetna's feline mayor? Myth-busting another Internet hoax.

Craig Medred
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An Alaska cat has taken the global media for a ride thanks to a little help from an Anchorage television station and The Associated Press.

"As the story goes, 15 years ago several of the town residents didn't like the candidates who were running for mayor of Talkeetna, so as a joke, they encouraged enough people to elect Stubbs the cat as a write-in candidate, and he actually won," KTUU-TV reported on Friday. The Associated Press soon picked up that story and ran with it.

Over the weekend, the story exploded all over the web. Headline writers couldn't resist, given the chance to have fun with the pun:

"They're not kitten around: Alaska town says its cat mayor is purr-fect for tourism" headlined The Washington Post.

"Alaska Town: Feline Mayor Is the Cat's Pajamas" said ABC News.

"Feline mayor catapults to fame" reported Australia's News.com.au, which saved the 'pun-ishment' for the subhead: "AN ALASKAN town has a purr-fectly unique mayor -- a cat named Stubbs whose fame draws tourists."

As of this writing, the Stubbs-as-mayor story has even made it onto Talkeetna's Wikipedia page, as the lone paragraph listed under "Government."

All those news outlets and dozens more ran with a story based on that claim of "as the story goes." The story, however, had a couple problems. The first is that Talkeetna doesn't really have a mayor, per se. Talkeetna is run by a community council which operates under the jurisdiction of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Talkeetna residents do vote for a borough mayor. And there was an election for Mat-Su Borough mayor 15 years ago in 1997. But a cat didn't win.

Darcie Salmon bested Barb Lacher 4,218 to 3,498 in a run-off election in which no write-in votes were cast.

There were 30 write-in votes casts in the general election preceding that vote, but if Stubbs got a write-in, it didn't come from Talkeetna. Borough records show not a single write-in was cast there. Not one.

The story about Stubbs, the cat mayor?

Dare anyone say, purr-fectly contrived to cat-ch the media?

Contact Craig Medred at craig@alaskadispatch.com