There aren’t a lot of political candidates who tout their support from a goat and a horse.

But state Sen. Tom Saviello isn’t one to follow the crowd.

“I’ve got to have some fun” with the campaign, said the Wilton Republican who has represented rural District 17 since 2010.

Saviello, who faces Democrat Joanne Dunlap in the Nov. 8 election, said when he’s in Augusta working on legislation, he’s “pretty serious.”

But, he said, on the campaign trail he would “go crazy” if he just went along with the way most everyone else approaches running for office.

“I can’t get into the rhetoric out there,” Saviello said.


So he has a unique alternative.

In one advertisement, the bow-tied politician stands on the deck of a white pontoon boat on Clearwater Pond. Beside him, looking pretty dapper herself, is Gertie the Goat.

The ad is headlined “The Goat on the Boat says Vote” for Saviello.

In another ad from an earlier campaign, Saviello posed with a harness-racing horse named Westy.

“The horse, of course, says Vote Saviello for Senate,” it says.

Dunlap said the ads are “a little odd” but a lot better than much of what’s out there, including “the garbage we’re seeing on television” from contenders in more visible contests.


She said she has “sheep and chickens and ducks” that she hasn’t chosen to use for campaign purposes, though she confessed her Great Pyrenees dog “would make a beautiful ad.”

On the whole, though, she would rather use any advertising to tell voters about her positions on the issues.

Saviello said he’s willing to talk about his votes and plans, but for his campaign, he’s looking for something out of the ordinary.

Saviello teamed up with Gertie through the goat’s owner, Lee Ireland, the town’s animal control officer.

Ireland found a young Gertie tied to a tree in the woods, apparently left there as bait. Its leg was badly mangled from trying to escape, but not so bad that it couldn’t heal.

When Ireland couldn’t find the goat’s owner, he took it in himself, nursing it back to health. It grew so close to Ireland’s dog that it took on a lot of canine instincts along the way.


The horse in Saviello’s ad didn’t have such a hard time.

He said he grew close to the horse, Westy, after getting to know some local harness-race horse owners who were willing to let a politician take a crack at guiding the horses. Twice, he said, he actually got to race one.

He posed with the horse, wearing a blanket he’d sponsored, because he thought it would catch the attention of people who wouldn’t usually bother looking at a political ad.

Saviello said he learned that he only has eight seconds to “capture the imagination” of someone glancing at his ads or mailers. If he fails, he said, the material just winds up in the fireplace, unread.

So he hopes the unusual ads make people give them a second look — or listen.

Despite the difficulty of featuring a dog in a radio ad, Saviello has managed to air some that featured his dog, Henry.

Saviello even has a campaign song, done to the tune of Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” since it rhymes with the candidate’s name. It’s sung by Birdie Katz, the wife of Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta.

“People hate it because it reverberates in your head and it doesn’t get out of your head,” Saviello said.

Saviello represents Franklin County and four towns in Kennebec County. If he wins next month, he’ll be heading into his final term as senator, because of term limits.

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