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Passed-over presidents

Exhibit highlights nonwinning candidates

Contact: Dan Digmann


Anita Shagena attended the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta as a delegate to nominate Richard Gephardt as the Democratic presidential candidate.

The 1974 Central Michigan University graduate was decked out in Gephardt promotional pieces at the convention, but then spent the next few months pushing for Dukakis, the Democratic nominee, once he was selected. When the polls closed and George H.W. Bush was elected the 41st president of the United States, there was little public interest in anything connected to defeated candidate Gephardt or Dukakis.

Until now.

The current Clarke Historical Library exhibit — The Contenders: Presidential Candidates NOT Selected — celebrates the legacies of candidates who came close but fell short in winning their presidential elections. The exhibit will be on display through January 2017.

Featuring campaign buttons, campaign trail stories and narratives on each runner-up, the exhibit sheds light on the candidates who often are forgotten once the elections are over. The candidates are featured on a reader rail that wraps around Clarke Historical Library with the losing candidate featured on the top half and the winner of the election on the bottom.

When the exhibit theme was announced over the summer, Shagena contacted exhibit and project coordinator Janet Danek to share her vast collection of campaign buttons and bumper stickers.

“I started collecting at a very young age. It started with my family who was very passionate about politics, and then I became very passionate about politics,” said Shagena, who taught local, state and federal government at Algonac High School for 30 years. “It’s how I ended up majoring in political science at Central.”

In addition to her delegate credentials and passes, Shagena has loaned more than 50 campaign pieces from different candidates for the exhibit. The collection includes rare pieces such as first- or limited-run buttons.

Other special displays in the exhibit include Michigan candidates who lost the election, candidates who visited CMU, campaign buttons from past First Ladies and unusual candidates — such as a man who ran for office from inside a federal prison.

“When you have such a vast repository like the Clarke does, it’s easy to make connections between things,” Danek said. “Our archives are so full of photos, agreements, notes and books that it is easy to connect a presidential candidate or election year to Michigan or an event on campus.”

Also included in the exhibit is a collection of official documents and letters signed by United States presidents, which is on loan to the library from a private donor. These are in addition to the collection of certified signatures from all 44 U.S. presidents that John Kulhavi, ’65, recently donated to Clarke Historical Library.

Another showcase in the exhibit features campaign items related to this year’s presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. At the moment, neither are in the “winner” or “runner-up” column, but Danek said they are looking forward to making adjustments to the exhibit once the election takes place in November.

“We’re going to put a giant red ‘x’ across the losing candidate’s face and feature them in their rightful column. This exhibit is very interesting, but also relevant because it purposefully coincides with the 2016 presidential election,” said Danek.

The exhibit also features presidential candidates who were not selected as this year’s major party nominee. They include Bernie Sanders, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson.


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