With Two Votes, Wis. Woman Lands On City Council

Carolyn Hamre of Portage, Wis., won her city council seat with only two write-in votes — one from her and one from her husband. Robert Siegel talks to Hamre about her unexpected win.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It takes two to talk, to tango, and now to win a seat on the City Council of Portage, Wisconsin, population around 10,000. When Carolyn Hamre noticed that no one was running in her district and the incumbent was not seeking re-election, she decided to write down her own name, on a whim. And later, she told her husband and he wrote down her name too. What's the worst that could happen?

Well, joining us now is Madam Councilperson Carolyn Hamre, representing the 7th District of Portage, Wisconsin. Welcome to the program.

CAROLYN HAMRE: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: And first, congratulations.

HAMRE: Thank you.

SIEGEL: And I assume you are accepting the position and taking your seat?

HAMRE: I am accepting.

SIEGEL: Tell us how you learned...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: ...that you'd won with all of two votes?

HAMRE: I read it in the paper the next day.

SIEGEL: And your reaction?

HAMRE: I was quite surprised. I don't think I really expected that to happen.

SIEGEL: But I gather you are not the first member of the city council to win the seat with two votes.

HAMRE: I am not. I believe somebody else has won with one vote.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: How does this happen in the town with 10,000 people, that only two people vote for the winning candidate?

HAMRE: I am not sure how it happens, but it seems to be the way a lot of people have gotten into the position in Portage.

SIEGEL: Well, take me back to the moment when you were casting your vote and you decide to write in your own name. What were you thinking?

HAMRE: You know what, at the time, I really wasn't thinking much. But I'm guessing, subconsciously, I must've wanted to do the job, and I just wrote my name down. And I didn't think of anyone else to write down, so I wrote myself.

SIEGEL: And actually, there were several other candidates who did that but they didn't have spouses to join them and create a full movement. So you are the winner with two, but there were several candidates with only one vote in the district.

HAMRE: Yes, there were 11 people. They received one vote, and so I won by a landslide, by giving two.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Well, on the council, I mean, I assume there must be someone there who polled in the dozens or maybe a couple of hundreds votes.

HAMRE: Oh, yes, in the other districts, there were, you know, contested battles. And they were all campaigning and trying to get a lot more votes.

SIEGEL: Well, what's the scoop in the seventh? What's going on that no one...

HAMRE: I'm not sure. I think because the person who had the seat before, I believe, had had it for several terms. And I guess everybody just assumed that he would just keep doing it, no one else really thought of it.

SIEGEL: I'm surprised that none of the other people have moved into the seventh to take advantage of this. Just, you know, with a couple of adult children, they can have a lock on the seat for years.

HAMRE: Yes, they could.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Well, how long is your term, by the way?

HAMRE: Two years.

SIEGEL: You know, the members of Congress, they're constantly running for election. The re-election campaign starts soon as you're in office.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: So you may have to reach out beyond your husband if you want to have a leg up here in two years.

HAMRE: I think I can wait a while before I start thinking about re-election.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: OK. Are you thinking about a yard sign or a button or something like that to...

HAMRE: Yeah, I just might. If I decide I want to do it again, I might actually go out and seek some votes, just in case somebody else has a husband that writes their name in with them. And, you know, they might have, like you said, a grown child that can vote, and I would be out.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Well, listen...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: ...we think your story is terrific. And good luck on the City Council of Portage, Wisconsin.

HAMRE: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: That's Carolyn Hamre who won a seat on the Portage City Council with just two write-in votes: hers and her husband's.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT TAKES TWO")

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