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Cultivating media coverage in the period before the Primary
In previous campaigns, I had been only a candidate in a primary who did not advance to the general election. Therefore, my period of campaigning consisted of the time between the filing date and the primary election. This year, because I had no opponent in the IP primary for Congress in the 5th district, I could count on a campaign twice as long. There would also be the period between the primary and general election.
I had filed with the Secretary of State as a Congressional candidate on July 10th. The primary election would be held on Tuesday, September 9th. The general election would take place on Tuesday, November 4th. That was, of course, also the date of the presidential election. The nation’s eyes would be on Obama and McCain. The 5th district race for Congress in Minnesota was comparatively invisible.
I knew that the campaign would heat up in the last month or so before the general election. (Diane Goldman had told me that serious campaigning starts after Labor Day.) The challenge was to put the earlier period of time to good use. My theory, again, was that elections are won by the number of contacts with voters. Media coverage is the key. To do the spade work for this, I had to undertake either or both of two tasks. First, I could cultivate relationships with the media or, at least, inform them of my candidacy. Second, I could seek to raise money so that I could purchase advertising in the media. Free or paid media was the basis of campaigning.
Prospective media contacts
With respect to contacting the media, I first went to the public library at Ridgedale and photocopied pages from Bacon’s Newspaper Directory - 2008, Bacon’s Radio Directory - 2008, and Bacon’s TV/Cable Directory - 2008. Bacon’s is a nationwide directory of media contacts. I was interested only in the Twin Cities ones. I either photocopied the relevant pages or wrote down contact information on a yellow pad. There were streets addresses, email addresses, and telephone and fax numbers for the media organization as well as for key individuals. The directory even indicated which mode of contact was preferred. For television and radio stations, there were listings of various programs. Some might have political guests.
I had first to determine which communities were in the 5th Congressional district. The city of Minneapolis was the big one, of course. However, the district also included Fridley, Spring Lake Park, Columbia Heights, Hilltop, Crystal, New Hope, Golden Valley, St. Louis Park, Richfield, and Fort Snelling as well as certain precincts in Hopkins and St. Anthony. Most of the district is in Hennepin County, but a portion is in Anoka and Ramsey Counties. It’s surprising that Fridley and Spring Lake Park, which are east of the Mississippi, are included in the 5th Congressional district, but Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park, just above Minneapolis, are not. That’s how the boundaries were drawn to try to equalize census populations. Minneapolis had over sixty percent of voters in the 5th district.
With respect to media in the district, we have one large daily newspaper: the Star Tribune. Another large daily, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, also has readers in the 5th district, though a smaller number. Then there are community newspapers in Minneapolis, representing neighborhoods or regional areas. The big ones are Southwest Journal (and the Downtowner), NorthNews (and Northeaster), and Ed Felien’s Southside Pride. Also there is a free-circulation newspaper for the entire Twin Cities called City Pages.
The Twin Cities also has newspapers representing racial or ethnic groups: Insight News and Spokesman-Recorder for African Americans; La Prensa de Minnesota and Latino Midwest News for Hispanics; the Hmong Times and Asian Pages for Asians, and many others. There are labor newspapers, religious newspapers, one for women, one for gays and lesbians, and, of course, newspapers on college campuses such as the Minnesota Daily. The Sun newspapers cover many of the suburbs. The trick, however, is to get coverage in the Star Tribune, even the online version.
With respect to commercial television, the Twin Cities has four large stations: WCCO-TV Channel 4 (CBS), KSTP-TV Channel 5 (ABC), KMSP-TV Channel 9 (Fox News), and KARE-TV Channel 11 (NBC). A non-commercial station is Twin Cities Public Television (TPT), Channel 2. The commercial stations all have local-news programs. Public television does not; however, it has a public-affairs show on Friday evening called “Almanac” that is watched by many people. The local television stations have community-affairs programs on weekends and at other times when political candidates might be guests.
The radio opportunities were comparatively slim. Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) had perhaps the largest audience for public-affairs programming. WCCO-AM, a CBS affiliate, also had news programs. KTSP-AM was the home of talk radio, mostly of the right-wing variety. There were also other talk-radio stations even more right wing such as “the Patriot”. Before he ran for U.S. Senate, Al Franken had been host of a national talk-radio program on “Air America”, a left-wing network of stations designed to counter those on the other end of the political spectrum. Before he was elected Governor in 1998, Jesse Ventura had a show on KFAN, devoted to sports talk. Sports and music, not political news, dominated local radio.
My first step in approaching Twin Cities media was to mail each a packet of materials about my candidacy which had been produced at Copy Max. I had a one-page cover letter, dated August 6th, introducing myself. Next, there was a two-sided pink sheet giving “My Philosophy of Government.” This was also on the campaign website. Behind that was a blue two-sided sheet. On one side was biographical information about me; and on the other, a copy of the front page of my website as it existed at that time. The idea was that reporters would know where to go to find more detailed information.
The envelope also contained the half-sheet flyer on bright, golden paper headlined “Does it make sense for non-DFL parties to run candidates for Congress in Minneapolis and adjoining suburbs?” Finally there was one of my business cards presenting me as a candidate for Congress in the 5th district with a flag background. About sixty different people in the media received this packet in the mail.
There was little response to the mailing except from a Minneapolis community newspaper seeking advertisements and an ethnic newspaper with bad contact information. I did make a half-hearted attempt to make followup telephone calls and reached the editor of the Latino Midwest News who asked for certain additional information. Whether an article resulted from that contact I do not know. I also published a letter to the editor in NorthNews concerning the shooting on Juneteenth. It criticized local crime-fighting efforts. This letter helpfully identified me as a candidate for Congress with the Independence Party. My letter to the editor in the Star Tribune, praising Paris Hilton, gave only my name.
What David Dillon is doing
I also kept an eye on what my Independence Party counterpart in the 3rd district, David Dillon, was doing. Among the IP House candidates, most interest focused on him. With Representative Jim Ramstad’s retirement, the 3rd district seat was open. Dillon was given equal billing with the Republican candidate, Erik Paulsen, and the Democrat, Ashwin Madia, with respect to news reporting. There were several debates between these three candidates, all covered in the Star Tribune.
When I attended an IP meetup for Dillon, he had already spent $50,000 on the campaign; another $50,000 was expected to be spent later. Dillon may have financed much of it himself. He had all the paraphernalia of a top-flight campaign. I had only my newly printed business cards and half-page flyer.
I was on Dillon’s email list. If his campaign was a model, the messages might give tips as to what I ought to be doing. I learned on July 22nd that Dillon was releasing his first television ad on Comedy Central. It was a parody of Bob Dylan’s" Subterranean Homesick Blues" video. This was too rich for me. A week earlier, Dillon had been a guest on Tom Hauser’s “At Issue” program on KSTP-TV. He was also scheduled to appear on the Dave Thompson radio show on KSTP-AM. I promptly sent emails to both gentlemen asking if I, too, could be on their show - never heard a thing in return.
The Dillon Meetup, attended by Dean Barkley and other party members, was on July 28th. I passed out three or four of my business cards. From his email messages, I learned that David Dillon had shared “a lighter moment” in a photo attached to his website taken at the Long Lake parade. He was in several debates and parades, none of which applied to me. He was on Radio Free Nation on September 20th. There was a campaign fundraiser on September 25th, and then an appearance on Esme Murphy’s show on WCCO-TV on October 5th. This is how a well-run campaign - not mine - would organize events. I never got around to asking Dillon if he would debate me on trade.
Help from landlords and other friends
Besides the established media, there are ones on the fringes. The Watchdog newspaper, published every other month by my landlord friend Jim Swartwood, was one such publication. I regularly contributed articles. Swartwood was kind enough to let me put an article in the latest issue disclosing that a Watchdog reporter - me - was running for Congress. I also got permission to tape my flyer on the outdoor news stand - technically an act of vandalism but it would not be punished in this case. The Watchdog, however, had a relatively small circulation. Also, the elite left-leaning opinion makers in Minneapolis considered it a right-wing rag.
I also had access to a cable-television show, again with the help of Jim Swartwood. We were cohosts of the Metro Property Rights Action Committee at the Martin Luther King park in south Minneapolis on the third Wednesday of each month. Attendance was sparse during the summer months, and one month the park building was closed. However, some cable-television viewers in Minneapolis would recognize me from MPRAC’s weekly show that had aired for two years.
left: audience gathering for Metro Property Rights Action Committee meeting --- center: Jim and Loretta set up camera for meeting--- right: LeRoy Smithrud's apartment building that was demolished by the city
In October, we had a show featuring political candidates. I was a guest as well as cohost. But another guest was a rabid Republican who opposed instant run-off voting, which I supported, and he aggressively attacked me. Politically, that show may have been a wash.
Another medium that was coming into its own was political blogs. They tended to be either left-wing or right-wing, which was not good for Independence Party candidates, positioned in the middle. I had a connection to a moderately right-wing blog in St. Paul called A-Democracy, run by Bob Johnson. He was kind enough to post on the blog that I was running for Congress in the 5th district. Unfortunately, St. Paul was in the 4th Congressional district, so this had limited value.
Someone commented on the A-Democracy blog that, as a third party candidate, I would not get any committee assignments even if I were elected, whereas Keith Ellison was well-connected to the likely power structure. I responded that it would be a miracle if I were elected and that miracle would give me prominence and power. The discussion ended here.
I might also have been covered by a left-wing blog. A friend, Harvey Hyatt, who was a big supporter of Al Franken, belonged to a club of left-leaning political activists. The group was called “Drinking Liberally”. It met each week on Thursday at the 321 Club bar in northeast Minneapolis, near Broadway and University Avenue. Hyatt secured me an invitation to be guest speaker in late July. It was my first “speaking” engagement of the campaign. I did my best. My audience had a tendency to drift off individually to start conversations with their friends. Nevertheless, a blogger was alleged to be among those in attendance.
The rest of the blogosphere was off limits to me. I had no way of reaching the person who decided what to post. The most prominent blog, MNPost, was staffed by former Star reporters who had taken career buyouts from the paper. They were part of a journalistic culture that was hostile to me. One blogger with anti-establishment tendencies, Terry Yzaguirre, did cover my activities in her blog, MPLS Mirror. She covered a protest at Minneapolis City Hall and, at the end of the campaign, my picket of the Star Tribune headquarters. I also ran into her at the Northside barbecues resulting from Dyna Sluyter’s e-democracy postings on crime.
Additionally, there was my own website, http://www/newindependenceparty.org. it had been in existence for several years. Traffic was then running around fifty visits, or one hundred fifty hits, per day. That was not quite enough traffic to propel me to victory.
The Independence Party also had a website at http://www.mnip.org. Not a party favorite, I was not listed among the Congressional candidates. As previously disclosed, I did attend an event in St. Louis Party on July 15, 2008, in which volunteers recorded their political views on videotape. Some of these were exhibited on the party website. Mine was at first, but then it was removed.
There was an unexpected contribution to my publicity campaign. A friend, Dave Larson, who was a computer expert, enrolled me in Twitter.com as soon as he saw that I had become a political candidate. I posted dozens of Twitter messages in the next two or three months. To be honest, I still don’t know how this works, but have the impression my Twitter messages were seen by many persons who were “following” me. Dave’s wife, Sarah, was an afternoon disk jockey on a smooth rock station, K-Love. When I was delivering my yard signs around town, I had my car radio tuned to her program.
Then, too, one of my tenants, Jeff Vilberg, made several campaign signs to stick on the sides of my car with a magnetic backing. The design was taken from my business cards. There were four on my car doors until I gave one away to Harvey Hyatt and was left with three. Wherever this beat-up car went, the Congressional campaign followed.
Another opportunity for my campaign was the 15-minute interview given me by Jim Justesen, Dan’s cousin, at the studios of Northwest Community Cable in Brooklyn Park. The interview took place at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 24th. The event was well staged; and Jim Justesen, who is blind, was a good interviewer. His show would air on MTN on a Wednesday at 10:00 p.m.
What I remember about this interview was that it focused on my radical health-care scheme. I remember saying that doctors were not competent to prescribe medications. Justesen called me on that statement. I meant to explain that medical schools did not teach the characteristics of the specific drugs that doctors prescribe, many of which did not yet exist when they were students, and that combinations of drugs prescribed and the diversity of genetic natures in patients pose a complexity of required knowledge that no human being could competently handle. Instead, I might have left the impression that I thought doctors were stupid and was an arrogant candidate for saying such things.
I had other obligations during this time. Being a landlord, I was subject to a series of annual inspections from the Section 8 program. The man who handled my maintenance work, Alan Morrison, my former brother-in-law, was stretched thin among competing obligations. My mind was focused on the campaign. Two of my units failed the Section 8 repeat inspection, which meant that I would not get the assisted portion of the rent for that month. Then the Minneapolis Fire Department decided to inspect the apartment building and failed me on various counts. They did two re-inspections. Fortunately, I avoided the fines.
The County Attorney’s office called me just before the first debate to inform me that my Tax Court appeal of the assessment on my apartment would be thrown out of court because I had not provided rent-and-cost information to the city assessor as required by law. Since I had not known of the legal requirement, I had another month to provide the information. The assessor wanted every conceivable piece of information about the building, including access to the blueprints and copies of leases for all the tenants in the past four years. I could not provide this in time. The building was assessed for a hundred thousand dollars more than what had been estimated in a recent appraisal.
In Milford, Pennsylvania, where I owned a house, a neighbor wanted me to give the gas company permission to lay the pipeline under a driveway that ran across my property. I agreed so long as I did not assume any liability in case of accidents. After a series of telephone calls, an attorney drafted the proper documents. But the man had scheduled a cancer operation soon and needed me to sign the papers quickly giving the gas company permission to begin excavating. He wanted to convalesce in a warm, gas-heated house. Winter would come soon.
We picket Minneapolis City Hall
I also had obligations as co-leader of the landlord group, Metro Property Rights Action Committee. A member, LeRoy Smithrud, who had long been in trouble but had previously resisted our offers of help, now begged me to come down to the City Council chamber to attend a meeting on August 13th at which he feared the Council would vote to have his building demolished. It was a ten-unit apartment building located at 2400 Dupont Avenue in north Minneapolis.
Smithrud had several code violations, one of which was peeling paint near the roof. While climbing a ladder with paint brush and bucket in hand, he fell to the ground and severely injured his back. He was unable to complete the work orders in time. The city then rezoned the property to disallow apartment buildings. If Smithrud’s property had no outstanding work orders, it would have been grandfathered in. Unfortunately, it had lost its protection, and the Council did vote for demolition.
I spent most of Wednesday afternoon sitting in the Council chambers as a prospective witness. LeRoy Smithrud’s case came up late in the day. When it arrived, the chair ruled that only Smithrud could speak. Our intended testimony would not be heard.
The long wait had, however, allowed me to hear testimony concerning the case of Morris Klock, another Northside landlord. Klock, who managed a duplex owned by his aging parents, had failed to prevent intruders from dealing drugs in the building. There was also a gun incident. The police required that Klock submit a “management plan”. His plan called for strip-searching all visitors to the building. The appeals board was horrified. Maybe he wanted to peep at women!
Equally horrifying was Klock’s accusation that the man chairing the City Council meeting, Don Samuels, had physically assaulted him at a bakery on Broadway. He demanded that the police arrest Samuels who happened to chair the Council committee overseeing the police. They did not, of course.
Out in the hallway after the meeting, we supporters of Smithrud hatched a plan. Minneapolis City Hall was incorrigible. We would picket the joint. I announced that we would meet again in front of City Hall two days later, at noon on Friday, August 15. Another prospective witness denied an opportunity to speak, Mary Gaines, said she would bring a group of children to the event. Gaines, who ran a nonprofit that provided housing to released felons, had been the Independence Party candidate for state representative in 58B (my district) in 2006. Her group had wanted to house people in Smithrud’s apartment.
On the next day, Thursday, I had to prepare the press release to go out to the newspapers and television stations. I made a sign with large vertical lettering: DFL Spelled across horizontally, this read “Don’t Forget Looting”. The implication was that the DFL (Democratic Farmer-Labor) Party in power in Minneapolis was looting private property in the city. It was voting to tear down structurally sound buildings to suit the whim of city bureaucrats and neighborhood groups. It was holding rental-property owners to a much higher standard of crime fighting than the city had for its own police. This group of city officials was greedy and out of control.
There is a statue of Hubert Humphrey, Mayor of Minneapolis in the 1940s, standing in front of Minneapolis City Hall on the south side. The idea behind our protest event was that we would make a complaint to Mayor Humphrey about how his fair city had been degraded under the monolithic control of his own party, the DFL. Minnesota politics was not what it once had been. We had persons in the City Council chambers disallowing witnesses, conducting kangaroo courts, smiling when accused of assault, and generally destroying property, not because this was right but because they could. It was a corrupt political culture.
My role, besides organizing and publicizing the event, was to make sure that the bull horn worked. It did not. Something was wrong with the batteries. I made several trips to Menards to get the right ones. Then I had to rush to the event. Under a time squeeze, I parked my car in the ramp near City Hall - the one where the first fifteen minutes is $3.00 and the fifteen minutes after that is $15.00 - and joined the small group of people assembled in front of City Hall. Terry Yzaguirre was interviewing some of them for her blog. Several police were watching us warily.
Darn, the bullhorn still didn’t work. I jumped up on the retaining wall to deliver a live speech to Hubert Humphrey’s statue. I was on a rant and a roll, quickly covering most of what I had to say. Then others joined in. Morris Klock was there; he said a few words. LeRoy Smithrud also spoke. But I think the stars of the show were Mary Gaines and the children who accompanied her.
We experimented with chants. A group of three children, ages 6 to 10, came up with: “Give us houses, not vacant lots - Give us houses, not vacant lots.” The adults heartily joined in. As I observed in my report to e-democracy forum on the following day, “this was the future of Minneapolis speaking.” They wanted to end the nonsense about tearing houses down for political reasons. Even kids could see the folly of this.
Our rally went on for an hour while sheriff’s deputies and police observed from a distance. No one came out from City Hall except for a young woman with a notepad. But we had staged our demonstration as promised. The demonstrators were evenly split between members of the landlord group and those associated with Mary Gaines. The light-rail train passed by every few minutes. No media were there except for Terry Yzaguirre and her blog. We thanked the police as we disassembled. They waved back.
It did cross my mind that I was getting off track as a candidate for Congress. This picketing event at City Hall had little to do with Washington issues; it was about a landlord, Smithrud, who had gotten himself into trouble and thought we could help. Picketing might not help him but perhaps it would deter future such deeds by city government.
I had listed the Independence Party as a cosponsor of the event in my press release because Peter Tharaldson had said he was interested in Smithrud’s case. He was also taking an interest in the campaign for state representative of LeRoy’s brother, Roger Smithrud. Tharaldson thought he could get a particular reporter to the picketing event if we had one. But I could not confirm this with him. So it was a peculiar kind of sponsorship. The press was uninterested in any event.
Time now to organize a campaign committee
The other avenue to reach the press is, as I said at the outset of this chapter, fundraising to support paid advertising. Who were potential donors? I had my landlord friends, of course, but I did not want to hit them up for money because the Congressional campaign was strictly my own project. Most members of our landlord organization were politically conservative, while I had some left-wing views, such as socialized medicine, that were being advanced in my campaign. I was taking advantage of the Watchdog and the group’s cable-television show as it was and did not wish to intrude further on the members’ generosity and indulgence.
That left members of the Independence Party. Here it was appropriate to seek donations. The problem is that I did not have a campaign organization yet. Party members needed confidence in the fact that my campaign had some structure and breadth of support. More than a month had gone by since the filing in July and still the campaign consisted mainly of myself. Though I was used to such, I needed to make an effort this time to organize a real campaign. That meant bringing in other people. It meant committees, assignment of functions, fundraising, and other things.
I turned to Red Nelson. We first became acquainted at a fundraiser for Tammy Lee in a Golden Valley bowling alley when she ran for Congress in 2006. Red was running for state legislature at the time. While visiting the Bob Dylan exhibit at the Weisman galley on the campus of the University of Minnesota in the following year, I saw a stool that had been donated to the exhibit by a “Red Nelson” from the Ten O’Clock Scholar. Was it the same person?
Yes, it was, Red confirmed. He had once owned the Ten O’Clock Scholar in Dinkytown where Dylan used to perform while he was a student at the University and was developing his music persona before moving to New York City. So Red had played a part in Bob Dylan’s early career. Like many of my generation, I idolized Dylan as a charismatic presence in musical history and our own life experience.
Anyhow, Red Nelson had put my name in nomination at the Senate endorsing convention and we had later gone out for some beers. I asked Nelson if he would be my campaign manager. He agreed with the understanding that it would not involve too much work. He also agreed to host a meeting to organize my campaign organization. The meeting would be held at his home in Columbia Heights on 37th Ave. N.E., Thursday, August 21, 2008, starting at 7 p.m.
It was a plan. I mailed a letter that announced the meeting to more than 100 Independence Party members. The letter was dated August 18th. People should have a day or two to look at it and decide whether to attend the meeting.
When I arrived at Red’s home around 7:00, no one else was there. I waited out on his front porch, behind the apple trees, in case others arrived for the committee meeting and could not find the right place. However, nobody else came. It was just Red and me. We sat in his downstairs living room, sipping coffee. I’d had this type of experience before.
Red, who works in real estate now, had some business needing to be done. We suggested that we drive together in his Prius to someone’s home a half mile away to deliver some papers. Red told me that he had bought this Prius while serving on the Metropolitan Council. He had wanted to demonstrate electric cars so that the Council would be encouraged to purchase similar vehicles in the future. And the Met Council did.
These were the first “green” buses owned by the transit agency. Now having the experience of maintaining such vehicles, the Council was in a position to buy more when the time was right. Red was proud of that fact. He had helped to move the transit agency, my old place of employment, to a cleaner and more modern type of vehicle.
There was more. We drove around a commercial development called Silver Lake Village just off Silver Lake Road. It was about a mile from Red’s house. This upscale development reminded me of something that I had seen in Herndon, Virginia, where my stepdaughter lives. Red told me that he had spearheaded the Met Council’s redevelopment project while serving as chair of the Environmental Committee. It was on the site of the old Apache Plaza. The Met council had brought in planners and developers and made it all happen.
Unfortunately, some of the buildings fell prey to the slumping real estate market. Not everything in the plan was carried out. In the main, however, the area had been transformed from a commercial backwater to a clean and thriving place. Red also showed me a new beach being created by the city of Columbia Heights on Silver Lake. He had fought some developers who wanted this land for expensive private housing. Now it would better serve community needs.
My evening with Red Nelson, which had not gone according to plan, was nonetheless inspirational. I had gotten to know him better. I had seen more of the positive legacy of the Ventura administration. I was proud to be representing the Independence Party as a Congressional candidate at this time.
My mailing on August 18th, disappointing as it was in many respects, did eventually generate two checks. Tim Nelson of Golden Valley sent me a campaign contribution of $150. I had met Tim at IP conventions; he was interested in applying technology to education and transportation. A check of $25 later arrived from a man in St. Anthony whom I did not know.
Tim Nelson’s check especially opened the door to new opportunities for the campaign. Even though I had already spent more from my own funds on mailings and other expenses, this contribution encouraged and even obligated me to purchase some lawn signs. I purchased a hundred signs and managed to place every single one in lawns.
Also, the mailing brought two offers of lawn-sign locations, one on Tim’s property on Douglas Avenue in Golden Valley and one in front of Bruce Anderson’s home in Crystal. Bruce also happened to be David Dillon’s campaign manager. He lived, however, in my district.
Red Nelson and the campaign video
Although this happened after the primary, I will also mention another media project. Paul Harmon, who until recently had lived across Olson Highway not far from my house, frequently produced video for programs shown on MTN (Minneapolis Television Network), the public-access channel in the city. He had also convened the Independence Party’s precinct caucus for district 58B in March. Harmon was chair of the precinct; I was vice chair. Harmon agreed to produce a video that I could use in my Congressional campaign. I now prodded him to begin the project.
I discussed the prospective video with Red Nelson. He said we needed to develop a compelling story line. Try not to dwell on the negative - all the problems facing society at this time. Find some positive elements. For that, he suggested the Independence Party’ role in improving the area’s transit system. We could shoot scenes at a bus facility on Central Avenue. Or else we we could show the redevelopment of Silver Lake Village or the new beach. Use those scenes as a backdrop for the candidate interview.
I also emailed Dean Barkley’s campaign manager, Diane Goldman, to propose that he and I do the interview together. This would give Barkley extra exposure in Minneapolis. Barkley’s appearance with me would create additional interest in the video. The answer, however, was that Barkley was not interested.
Red Nelson and I went to a Caribou Coffee shop in Silver Lake Village to discuss the various options. We were sitting at an inside table. Inevitably, I began running through some of my campaign proposals that I wanted to include in the interview. They included trade, “socialized medicine”, immigration policy, and the like. Nelson started arguing with me about details of my plan. I tried to answer his arguments. Then suddenly Red Nelson said he wanted to go outside. I followed.
Once outside, Nelson berated me for the conversation we had had in the coffee shop. He said my loud voice was booming throughout the shop. It was embarrassing. Some of the other customers had gotten up from their chairs and left. If I was to succeed as a political candidate, I would have to realize that dogmatic arguments turn people off. Don’t try to pretend that you have all the answers. Listen to people. Say: “Maybe this will work” instead of “this is the answer”. I hadn’t realized the impression I had made in the coffee house. I allowed that maybe Red had a point. His complaint sounded like what my wife had been telling me for years.
Red Nelson would be the interviewer; Paul Harmon, the producer and camera man. We would do the interview on Thursday, October 2nd. Harmon had postponed the event for a day since he was busy with a maintenance project where he lived and worked in St. Paul. I picked up Harmon and his equipment and drove over to Red Nelson’s house in Columbia Heights for the shooting. After first considering an interview outside Caribou Coffee Shop, we moved the event to Nelson’s back yard. We moved a picnic table to a spot near the lake. Red sat on one side of the table, and I on the other.
It was an hour-long interview interrupted once by a man who was answering an ad to buy Red Nelson’s old hybrid car - the one that had inspired the investment in “green buses” at Metro Transit. The interview itself focused on my various issues - trade, immigration, etc. I was slightly less dogmatic than I might have been had Red and I not had our conversation about this personal problem. The light shifted during the interview period. I was looking straight into the sun. Although the rustic setting added visual appeal, we might have done just as well shooting the interview inside Red’s house.
I gave Paul Harmon $100 from my rent money when he hinted that this shooting had involved some work; and Red gave him $20, a contribution to my campaign. In return, Paul said he would give us both copies of the interview tape. He would have to get to work soon on editing the tape if we were to have it shown before the election. He would request a time slot later in the evening. That had always worked best.
In retrospect, I don’t think the tape aired in time for the election. Harmon said something to that effect on election night. We should have started the project earlier. It was not begun until after the primary. Campaigns need to build in extra time for disappointments, delays, and mistakes.
The primary election
At length, slogging along in my campaign with modest progress, experiencing some of the turbulent events connected with the Republican National Convention in St. Paul and the first of several Northside barbecues, I came to the day of the primary, September 9th. My voting place was at Heritage Commons which provides housing for seniors rather than at W. Harry Davis Academy, the school that fronts Glenwood Avenue, which had been my polling place in previous elections. The latter part of the day was taken up in assisting Brian Moore’s petitioning effort.
Dean Barkley had invited his supporters by email to attend a “victory party”, if it was that, at the VFW Post 425 located at 100 Shady Oak Road in Hopkins, starting at 7:00 p.m. The polls closed at 8:00 p.m. I arrived shortly after that time. Despite being a candidate, few acknowledged my presence.
Roger Smithrud, LeRoy’s brother, was looking at a laptop-computer screen. Some preliminary returns were in. He said I had around 600 votes. My heart sank. I thought I would do better than that. Maybe this whole campaign idea was a mistake.
The main interest at this gathering was who would win the primary for U.S. Senate. There were seven candidates. Steve Williams had been endorsed by the party convention. The two top vote getters, though, were Dean Barkley and Jack Uldrich. Later in the evening, Uldrich conceded. Barkley had a comfortable lead. He would be the party’s new Senate candidate.
Back at home, I logged on to the Secretary of State’s website. My vote total had climbed to above 800. But it was still a disappointing result. I had received less than 2% of the total primary vote. Keith Ellison was getting around 73% of the vote; and his DFL challenger, Gregg Iverson, around 13% - more than the 11% that went to the Republican candidate, Barb Davis White. The DFL juggernaut was about to crush my and her campaign.
I then looked at the votes received by other Independence Party candidates for Congress. Their totals were also disappointing. The results a week later were as follows:
Congressional district Independence Party candidate IP candidate number of votes IP candidate percent of total 1st Gregory Mikkelsen 1,005 2.27% 2nd none 3rd David Dillon 674 1.88% 4th none 5th Bill McGaughey 828 1.79% 6th Bob Anderson 821 2.04% 7th none 8th none
Note: In the 3rd district, candidate David Dillon received 674 votes, or 1.88% of the total. Another IP candidate, Steev Ramsdell, received 252 votes, or 0.70% of the total. The two Independence Party candidates together had 926 votes, which equalled 2.58% of the total.
In the 6th district, IP candidate Bob Anderson was not endorsed by the party. The Independence Party instead cross-endorsed the DFL candidate Elwyn Tinklenberg.
The results of the Independence Party primary for U.S. Senate were as follows: Dean Barkley, 6,633 votes (58.51% of IP total votes); Jack Uldrich, 1,408 votes (12.42% of IP total); Steve Williams, 803 votes (7.08% of IP total); Kurt Anderson, 762 votes (6.72% of IP total); Doug Williams, 641 votes (5.66% of IP total); Darryl Stanton, 628 votes (5.54% of the IP total); and Bill Dahn, 460 votes (4.06% of IP total).
Of course, the total votes cast in primaries for U.S. Senate were much larger. Norm Coleman, the Republican incumbent, had received 128,951 votes statewide. Al Franken, the DFL nominee, had 162,485 votes. A DFL challenger to Franken, Priscilla Lord Faris, had 74,175 votes.
This put things in perspective. Although I had done poorly, so had the rest of the party with the possible exception of Dean Barkley. What caught my eye was that I, virtually written off by the party, had actually received more votes in the primary than David Dillon although the total votes cast for IP candidates in the 3rd district were more. The strongest IP Congressional candidate was in the 1st district - not surprising since it was once represented by Tim Penny. The candidate in the 6th district received approximately the same number of votes as I had.
Those results were deceiving. In the general election, Dillon did come out on top among the IP Congressional contenders. The 6th district candidate, Bob Anderson, had the second largest number of votes - enough to throw the election to Michele Bachmann. I did better than what I had done in the primary. The 1st district candidate now received fewer votes than mine. However, Senatorial candidate, Dean Barkley, was again in a league by himself when it came to Independence Party candidates attracting votes.
left: young "Red" Nelson as music impresario --- center: Dean Barkley introduced on night of his primary victory --- right: Dean Barkley, Paul Harmon, and others talk on primary night
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