A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 22, 2011
“I wouldn’t vote for you if you were St. Peter!"/"If I were, you wouldn’t be in my district!”

An old political joke (cited in print from at least 1940), has a political heckler saying, “I wouldn’t vote for you if you were St. Peter himself.” The politician swiftly answers with, “If I were St. Peter, you couldn’t vote for me. You wouldn’t be in my district.”

The political candidate of the joke can’t be running for president because everyone in every district can vote for president. Anyone in a state can vote for a U.S. senator or a governor. District lines are most important for a Congressional candidate, or a candidate for the state legislature.

An article from 1962 (see below) suggests that the original candidate in question was Massachusetts’ James Michael Curley (1874-1958). Curley was Massachusetts’ governor (1935-1937) and Boston’s mayor several times, but the “not in my district” line doesn’t apply so well to the whole state or to a whole city. He was a Congressman from 1913-1914, but this is too early for the saying; he was a Congressman again from 1943-1947, but the joke had already been cited in print.

Other politicians’ names have been applied to the joke (see citations below), but there is no evidence that any one politician originated it.


6 October 1940, Santa Fe (NM) New Mexican, “Smiles,” pg. 12, col. 1:
Voter: “I wouldn’t vote for you if you were St. Peter himself.”
Candidate: “If I were St. Peter, you couldn’t vote for me. You wouldn’t be in my district.”

Google Books
Farm Journal
Volume 67
1943
Pg. 94:
Wrong Precinct — Citizen — “I wouldn’t vote for you if you were St. Peter himself!” Candidate — “My friend, if I were St. Peter, you couldn’t vote for me — you wouldn’t be in my district.”

Google Books
The New Anecdota Americana
New York, NY: Grayson Pub. Corp.
1944
Pg. 65:
VOTER: “Why, I wouldn’t vote for you if you were St. Peter himself.”
Candidate: “If I were St. Peter, you couldn’t vote for me. You wouldn’t be in my district.”

10 September 1950, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Roundup Texas Views,” pt. V, pg. 2:
Speaking of politics, the MABANK BANNER tells of a voter who told a candidate he wouldn’t vote for him even if he were St. Peter.

“If I were St. Peter,” replied the vote seeker, “you couldn’t vote for me—you wouldn’t be in my district.”

22 November 1950, Oregonian (Portland, OR), “In and Out of the Lyons Den” by Leonard Lyons, pg. 16, col. 7:
Senator-elect Mike Monroney of Oklahoma tells this story of his defeated opponent, Rev. Bill Alexander, who would have a plant heckle him: “I wouldn’t vote for you if you were St. Peter,” and the Reverend Alexander would reply: “You could not vote for me, if I were St. Peter. You’d be out of my district.”

4 November 1960, Dallas (TX) Morning News,"Theater-of-the-Air" by Fairfax Nisbet, sec. 3, pg. 7:
Richard Harkness, NBC correspondent for WFAA-820, tells one that he heard from Sen. Kenneth B. Keating, Republican of New York. It seems that one Congressional candidate wound up a campaign speech with the announcement that he would answer questions from the floor.

“After hearing that speech,” came in a loud voice from the rear of the hall, “I wouldn’t vote for you of you were Saint Peter himself!”

“My friend,” replied the candidate, “if I were Saint Peter, you couldn’t vote for me. You wouldn’t be in my district.”

11 March 1962, Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Laughs that won elections,” This Week magazine, pg. 20, col. 2:
During a speech in Boston some years back, a heckler interrupted the late Mayor James Curley. “I wouldnt vote for you if you were St. Peter,” he shouted.

Curley looked the man up and down for a moment, and replied, “Sir, if I were St. Peter you wouldn’t be in my district.”

Google Books
Humor, the Politician’s Tool:
Favorite stories of Congressmen and other officials

By F. Hodge O’Neal and Annie Laurie O’Neal
New York, NY: Vantage Press
1964
Pg. 107:
He had been irked by the intemperate langauge of the lady’s closing remark, and he finally gave vent to his own feelings. After some hesitation, the Congressman closed his letter this way: “I note your statement that even if I were St. Peter, you wouldn’t vote for me. Allow me to point out, Madam, that if I were St. Peter, you couldn’t vote for me. You wouldn’t be in my district.”
[George Meader, United States Congressman, Michigan, 2nd District]

Google Books
Romney:
A Political Biography

By Dan Angel
New York, NY: Exposition Press
1967
Pg. 190:
“I wouldn’t vote for you if you were St. Peter himself!” the citizen shouts. “That’s all right,” says the politician. “If I were St. Peter, you wouldn’t even be in my district!” The joke is a crowd pleaser, and Romney tells it well; but most jokes have got to be tested before he will try them before a crowd, and even if he plans a new one the old and familiar stories have a way of slipping out anyhow.

Google Books
The Notes:
Ronald Reagan’s Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom

By Ronald Reagan
Edited by Douglas Brinkley
New York, NY: HarperCollins
2011
Pg. 235:
Young man—Pol: “I wouldn’t vote for you if you were St. Peter.”
Pol: “If I were St. Peter you wouldn’t vote for me—you wouldn’t be in my district.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Sunday, May 22, 2011 • Permalink