Wig Man Won't Sweep 'The' Issue Under the Rug

Daniel R. Vovak is suing the state election board to include
Daniel R. Vovak is suing the state election board to include "the" in his nickname, which appears as "Wig Man" on the ballot. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 31, 2006

When you're a 34-year-old Republican candidate for Maryland's U.S. Senate seat who has hired a psychic as your campaign manager, put a curse on your chief rival and declared that Pluto will always be a planet -- it doesn't seem all that strange to argue a case in Anne Arundel Circuit Court while wearing a powdered white wig.

And what a case it is, suing the State Board of Elections because your nickname appears as "Wig Man" instead of " The Wig Man" on the ballot.

Such is the life of Daniel R. Vovak, a ghostwriter whose quest for public office landed him in the Annapolis courthouse yesterday in a bid to restore the missing definite article to his nickname. He said he wears the wig because of the Republican Party's Whig roots and it saves him the trouble of advertising: It gets him free press, and people remember him.

Vovak's day in court lasted a humorless half-hour. It was difficult to decide what was stranger: The case or the apparent inability of its participants to see it for the farce it was.

Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Davis, who represented the Board of Elections, quoted section and paragraph numbers from the Maryland legal code in support of his motion to dismiss the case. He contended that Vovak had missed the deadline to protest the board's decision and that it would be impossible to change the ballot with only two weeks before the Sept. 12 primary.

Vovak rose to argue against the motion. He occasionally removed the wig, revealing a thatch of brown hair. For a moment, in his dark tan suit, he looked like a typical plaintiff. Then he put the wig back on.

"This would seem like an unusual case," Vovak said, before launching into his argument.

He had followed the law, he said. It had been "completely disruptive" to his campaign, because all his campaign literature describes him as "The Wig Man." He pointed out -- with some evident sympathy from the judge -- that the board could simply have added the three-letter word months ago.

"I don't think that the plaintiff has responded to the state's argument," Davis said in his rebuttal. "I would beg to differ with Mr. Vovak's legal analysis."

And so it went back and forth, until Vovak closed by asking: "Who owns the title 'the'? It's absurd!"

Judge Ronald A. Silkworth, who never cracked a smile, quietly dismissed the court, saying he would make a decision later. He gave no indication of when.

"Boy, no sense of humor in him, huh?" Vovak said of Silkworth.

People streamed past as Vovak stood outside the courthouse on Church Circle, giving him the gimlet eye and smirking. He continued arguing, pointing out that several famous politicians use "the" in their nicknames.

What about Jesse "The Body" Ventura, the former wrestler and Minnesota governor? California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor famous as "the Terminator"? And how would we have fought the Cold War without Ronald Reagan -- known to his fans as "the Gipper"? Of course, Reagan's famous nickname never appeared on the ballot, with or without the "the."

If his campaign manager is a psychic, someone asked, does Vovak know how Silkworth will rule on the motion?

"I don't know," he said. "I can't go to the psychics all the time. They're crazy."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company