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Tracy, you know, I've been watching you going on three years now, and I think you are the most talented, hardworking, sensitive, attractive, brilliant students, no. Human beings I have ever met. And, I know that sometimes people like you have to pay a price for their greatness. And that price is loneliness. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, just seems to me like you might need a friend.
~ Dave seducing Tracy.

David "Dave" Novotny is a former high school mathematics teacher and a minor antagonist in the 1999 Alexander Payne film Election. A former colleague and friend of Jim McAllister, Novotny had landed himself in hot water and was subsequently fired from his teaching position at a Nebraska high school following the discovery of his affair with student Tracy Flick. Following this, his wife filed for divorce and he returned to Milwaukee to live with his parents, losing contact with McAllister as a result.

He was portrayed by Mark Harelik, who also portrayed Dr. Eric Gablehauser on The Big Bang Theory.



Novotny began teaching at Carver High School in Omaha, Nebraska the year after social subjects teacher Jim McAllister and the two quickly became friends; in his voiceover, McAllister mentions that Novotny had only become a teacher because "[he] never wanted to leave high school in the first place". At some point in his life, he met Linda, whom he later married. The McAllister and Novotny families became very close, with Novotny offering McAllister and his wife the chance of becoming godparents to his recently-born son Darryl. Novotny and McAllister would often play music in the latter's basement, with Novotny acting as the guitarist and McAllister the bassist.

The affair

Dave, I'm just saying this as your friend. What you're doing is really, really wrong and you've gotta stop. The line you've crossed is... it's immoral and it's illegal."
"Jim, come on. I don't need a lecture on ethics!"
"I'm not talking about ethics. I'm talking about morals."
"...What's the difference?
~ McAllister tries and fails to convince Novotny to change his ways (from Election)

During Tracy Flick's sophomore year of high school she was one of the students in Novotny's geometry class; in her narration, she states that while her relationship with him was strictly at a professional level during that time, it only became more "serious" as she went into her junior year. Novotny had supervised the school yearbook, so he took his editors out for dinner one night after successfully meeting a deadline, a small, yet close-knit group which had included the constantly overachieving Tracy; once all of the other editors had left Tracy was the only other person sitting at the table aside from Novotny. Novotny then commented that she seemed to be a "loner" without many friends, to which Tracy responded that she is just too busy; Novotny then proceeded to compliment her, mentioning that she is "attractive" amongst the slew of other compliments, before stating that the price she has to pay for her greatness is loneliness and mentioning to her that she could use a "friend".

A sexual affair had soon developed between Novotny and Tracy, and Novotny revealed to a bewildered McAllister that the two had sexual intercourse inside his own home. He then went on to describe how Tracy had practically become his muse, providing more inspiration for him to write his 'novel' than his own wife. McAlllister was obviously shocked, so he mentioned that this behavior is immoral and illegal. However, Novotny smugly chose to brush this off as nothing more than an "ethics lecture" from his friend, being under the illusion that himself and Tracy are "in love". Although McAllister had pointed out that Novotny had never written a novel before Novotny stated that he has it in him and that Tracy wanted him to write it.

The discovery

I know what Tracy told her mother, what her mother told me. I need to hear this from you, because I have a legal responsibility here. Let me ask you this. Did you cross the line with this girl?"
"I di... W-we... We're in love!
~ Hendricks asks Novotny to explain himself (from Election)

Although initially secret, the affair was eventually discovered when Tracy's mother had found Novotny's love letter in her daughter’s bedroom, adorned with photographs of beach resorts. Tracy's mother proceeded to turn the letter into the school administration, and Novotny was called in to discuss the matter with the school's principal Walt Hendricks, with McAllister by his side for emotional support. Shuddering and in tears, all Novotny can do is proclaim that himself and Tracy are in love to the baffled and incredulous principal. Novotny was subsequently fired from his teaching position at the high school. On the other hand, however, Tracy's reputation among the student body remained unscathed as the event was kept under wraps by school officials when her mother threatened to sue. Dave is lucky that he did not go to jail and Tracy's mother is not pressing criminal charges on statutory rape.  

Once the news had reached Novotny’s wife Linda, she furiously lashed out at him before kicking him out of the house and filing for divorce sometime afterward. Now unemployed and he is lucky there was no criminal charges filed on Tracy's mother, Novotny had instead returned to live with his parents in Milwaukee and McAllister had lost contact with him as a result. There he took up employment at a convenience store, receiving the dead-end job of stamping price tags on groceries.


Novotny's firing had a rather profound impact on McAllister and caused him to detest Tracy, believing her to be responsible for seducing him — in reality, the opposite occurred. It was among several factors that caused McAllister to conspire against Tracy when she ran for class president, a decision that would ultimately lead to his own firing when his scheme was discovered. Mostly, McAllister did not want history repeat itself if Tracy tried to seduce him like she did with Dave. 

Personality and traits

Dave was one of those guys who taught, because he never wanted to leave high school in the first place.
~ McAllister, regarding Novotny (from Election)

Although he has worked as a high school mathematics teacher, Novotny is relatively dimwitted and clueless to the point of having the mental capacity of an average student; McAllister himself pointed this out when introducing him in his narration, stating that the only reason he became a teacher in the first place was because "[he] never wanted to leave high school". Although very close to and on friendly terms with Jim McAllister and his wife, Novotny had shown a decidedly more perverse side to his character after meeting the young student Tracy Flick, with whom he struck up an affair in spite of being married and her being underage. This inevitably had backfired on him fairly quickly, but Novotny remained under the illusion that himself and Tracy were meant for one another even following the discovery of their affair.