LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Voters heading to the polls for Tuesday’s primary elections will face many candidate choices: among them, whether to vote for "Pooh Bear," "Fruitman," "Cookie," Chambo," "Magoo," "Jaybird" and "Moochie," to name a few of the nicknames that will appear on ballots.
In the Republican primary for Lee County sheriff alone, voters will choose between a "Rooster," a "Bug" and a Donald "Ducky" among less colorfully named candidates.
Nicknames in U.S. politics goes back to the nation’s founding, with many meant to signify respect: George "The Father of Our Country" Washington, Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson. Other monikers have been deployed by detractors, including modern classics like Richard "Tricky Dick" Nixon and Bill "Slick Willie" Clinton.
But candidates placing their nicknames on ballots to help them stand out has a unique history in the Commonwealth.
Many will remember the case of Robert Mead C.P.A. of Louisville that played out in the late 1980s. That’s not just his professional pedigree, it’s his legal name. Mead legally changed his name to include C.P.A. ahead of the 1987 Democratic primary for state treasurer after being told state law prohibited the use of professional titles on the ballot. His end run worked: Robert Mead C.P.A. made it onto the ballot and he won his primary and later state office.
Current state law covering the issue, adopted in 1992, seeks to limit the use of nicknames solely for the use of swaying voters. First, it gives discretion to the secretary of state and county clerk on general appropriateness. Then, a nickname that refers to "a title, rank, degree, job description, or spurious phrase" can be subjected to further scrutiny to ensure it is "the candidate’s bona fide nicknames." That process includes getting sworn affidavits from the candidate and five county residents attesting, under oath, that the nickname is actual and widely used.
You can read the full state statute below: