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The Foot Powder That Ran for Mayor (and Won!)

Dan Lewis runs the wildly popular daily newsletter Now I Know (“Learn Something New Every Day, By Email”). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Picoaza is a relatively small village near Ecuador’s Pacific coast. It's the site of an archaeological treasure: a settlement dating back before the time of Christopher Columbus. It's also a rather poor area, where clean drinking water, sewer systems, and telephone service are inadequate at best.

It is also the only town in the known world to elect, as its mayor, a brand of foot powder.

During Picoaza's 1967 mayoral campaign, a foot powder company ran politically themed ads promoting their product, Pulvapies. Leading up to election day, their message, translated, was non-partisan and straightforward: “Vote for any candidate, but if you want well-being and hygiene, vote for Pulvapies.” They distributed leaflets that were more to the point: ”For Mayor: Honorable Pulvapies.”

The campaign worked — in one sense, at least. While we don't know if sales of Pulvapies increased, we do know that write-in ballots voting for the product did. Pulvapies received enough write-in votes to win the election. What happened afterward is unknown in the English-speaking world — as Snopes notes, no English-language media outlets followed up on how Picoaza resolved the obvious problem of having foot deodorant as the executive-in-chief.

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