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.
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
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
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.
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.