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Election race heats up between old and new APSU mascots

CLARKSVILLE – And you thought election season was over.

Unchallenged for years as the official mascot for Austin Peay State University, Governor Peay X's stranglehold on that role appears in serious jeopardy. A new candidate – known as 'The Gov' – has emerged to oppose the incumbent in a race to become the face of Austin Peay.

CLARKSVILLE – And you thought election season was over.

Unchallenged for years as the official mascot for Austin Peay State University, Governor Peay X's stranglehold on that role appears in serious jeopardy. A new candidate – known as 'The Gov' – has emerged to oppose the incumbent in a race to become the face of Austin Peay.

Austin Peay is rife with change at the moment. A new logo, refurbished football stadium and the addition of new President Dr. Alisa White have made the climate right for a challenger to a long-established figure. Though a newcomer to the mascot world, The Gov has picked an opportune moment to throw his hat into the ring to become Austin Peay's next mascot.

The Gov may be an upstart, but has the support of many key community figures – among them Thurman Campbell Director of Business Development Brandi Bryant, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President and manager of 5-Star Radio Group Katie Gamble, Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett, Clarksville-Montgomery County Director of Schools Dr. B.J. Worthington and Montgomery County Economic Development Council Executive Director Cal Wray.

As the challenger, The Gov sees change not as something to fear but to be accepted. Governor Peay, he says, has gotten complacent over the years with no opposition and has refused to evolve with the times.

"Governor Peay has a history of success, there can be no doubt," The Gov said. "But it's just that – history. For too long, he's sat to the side as Austin Peay has moved into a new era – a new logo, a new football stadium, a constantly expanding campus. Governor Peay is a relic from a bygone era. It's time for a representative more befitting the university's status as one of the most progressive, community-oriented schools in the nation.

"And I think I am the mascot for that job."

The challenger will face a stiff task – Governor Peay X ('X' herein as the Roman Numeral 10) has been a pillar of stability at Austin Peay. Since his arrival in 2002, Governor Peay has enjoyed 30 Ohio Valley Conference Championships and watched as Dave Loos and Gary McClure became the OVC's all-time winningest coaches in men's basketball and baseball, respectively.

Governor Peay has some major players in the Clarksville community in his corner as well, including local attorney/city councilman and former Govs Club President Joel Wallace, local attorney Kevin Kennedy, Don Jenkins of Jenkins & Wynne Ford-Lincoln-Honda, President and CEO of Hand Family Companies Charles Hand and Legends Bank Chairman/CEO Billy Atkins.

Governor Peay stands on his record – a record he says is unattainable by the would-be usurper of his status.

"Young pup," Governor Peay said of his challenger. "It's always easier said than done. My record is unimpeachable, my presence erudite and my challenger simply has no record to stand on, while I have proven myself time and again over a distinguished career. I've been the best representative of Austin Peay I can be over the last 12 years, and I see no reason to believe I won't continue to be the face of this institution for years to come."

The tide of the Austin Peay community have shifted in the years since Austin Peay last saw fit to introduce a different mascot to campus. The candidates’ community impact will be an imperative campaign point as Austin Peay ushers in a renewed focus on the greater Clarksville area. Both will be highly-visible in the run-up to the final day of voting.

Wednesday marks the official beginning of the election cycle, and both candidates will be out in Tailgate Plaza for Austin Peay's final home football game of 2014, against Tennessee Tech this Saturday, to greet fans and kick off their respective campaigns. After that, both candidates will be on hand for every home basketball game at the Dunn Center – 23 in all – and every on-campus Peay Patrol (held each Friday) leading up to the day the polls close, Feb. 26, 2015, which doubles as Austin Peay’s final men's basketball home contest for the 2014-15 season.

Wallace will serve as campaign manager for Governor Peay X, while Bryant will be the liaison for The Gov. Noah Goble will serve as the moderator for scheduled press events and debates.

Voting for The Campaign – 2015 is already underway. Constituents are invited to text THEGOV (for the challenger) or PEAY10 (for the incumbent) to 85923 to make their voice heard in the race.

"Everything that we do at Austin Peay is to include our community and to create a stage to celebrate our rich community," said Austin Peay Director of Athletics Derek van der Merwe. "Today, we launch a campaign to elect a new Governor. More importantly, we are starting a campaign to educate the youth of our community about civic duty, citizenship and the important role the our Austin Peay Governor has in the history of our community."