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Chapter Three: Jumping into the Fray

 

I spent the first weeks of my campaign producing campaign materials. My main piece of literature was a two-sided, 8 1/2” by 11” flier printed on green paper. On one side, the headline read “In your face, Democrats”; on the other, “In your face, Republicans.” The flier contained an energetic statement of what I thought was wrong with the two parties, their values, and ideologies. A thousand copies were printed. I fired off a fax to major media in the Twin Cities defending Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Weaver’s decision to toughen requirements for the Minnesota driver’s license in response to the threat of international terrorism. Several groups had filed suit to stop that move. I felt it justified considering the terrorists’ abuse of immigration procedures and use of improperly obtained identification documents. To my knowledge, no one picked up on this press release. As previously stated, I also wrote a letter to members of the Independence Party in hopes of doing a direct mailing.

Even if that fell through, the letter and other writings gave me materials for a campaign web site. A friend who was a professional web site designer, Mark Stanley, agreed to host this site for a modest fee. I chose as its domain name http://www.billforsenate.org. How lucky I was that this name was still available - If Bill Clinton ever runs for the Senate, he would give his eye teeth to get his hands on such a name!

Since the guts of the campaign would be an outreach to Minnesota newspapers, I needed to work from a list. The best list I could find was a publication titled “Schmidt’s Minnesota Media Directory.” The latest edition could be purchased from the publisher for $175. Being on the cheap side, I instead laboriously copied names, addresses, telephone and fax numbers, email addresses, and contact persons into a spiral notebook from a copy of this directory found at the Minneapolis public library. I prepared one-page statements of my candidacy for dissemination in three media.

The first was an announcement of my candidacy. This I faxed to all newspapers on the list during the last week of July. It was a press release divided into several sections which gave personal background, campaign positions, competitive strategy, and so forth. Since my difficult last name might draw a blank, I disclosed to these editors the fact that in 1847 President Zachary Taylor had nominated a certain Edward McGaughey to be Minnesota’s first territorial governor. The reason that we haven’t heard of him is that his nomination was rejected by the U.S. Senate; I hinted at revenge should I be elected to that body. The fax machine in my bedroom was kept busy for several days.

I next composed a ten-page manifesto, or “position statement”, discussing the potentially controversial themes in my campaign plank relating to demographic politics and work hours. I mailed off about seventy copies to rival Senate candidates and to editorial writers at the large-circulation newspapers, making a point to include publications unlikely to agree with my views. There was no response from anyone except for Norm Coleman, whom I encountered by chance on the campaign trail. My third communication was an email to outstate newspaper editors expressing my opinion that I had a chance to win the primary and an interest in visiting their communities. Two or three editors wrote in response that they would be happy to put something in the newspaper if I came to their town in the course of the campaign.

It was time to face the voters. With more than four million residents and only six weeks left before the election, Minnesota had far too many people to approach individually. I had no campaign committee, no organizations that might invite me to speak. An issues-centered campaign such as mine, starved for media exposure, would have to get its message out in some unorthodox way.

I therefore ordered a $168 sign from Budget Signs in St. Paul. The message read on one side, in a black and red color scheme: “I believe that the Federal Government should reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours by 2010.” In smaller lettering at the bottom, it read: “William McGaughey, Independence Party candidate for U.S. Senate, 2002, www.billforsenate.org”. On the other side, with green lettering on a white background, it read: “I believe in the full citizenship, dignity and equality of white males (and of everyone else, too).” Below this text the same information about me and my web site appeared in white lettering against a blue background. The double-sided sign, two feet tall by four feet wide, was attached to a six-foot plastic pole. I originally thought of ordering a stand, similar to that used for Christmas trees, so that I could set the sign next to me while talking with voters. That idea proved to be impractical.

This sign was an excellent prop for parades. In all, during the campaign, I participated in six parades - in New Brighton, Sandstone, Little Falls, Vadnais Heights, Crookston, and Burnsville - carrying the sign as a candidate for U.S. Senate. I also worked as a volunteer for Tim Penny at a parade in Prior Lake. Participating in parades was my way of interacting with individual voters. I would have to say, in all honesty, that most spectators did not respond to my message one way or the other. They seemed more interested in scooping up candy thrown on the pavement or in cheering acquaintances who rode the floats. As a pedestrian with a sign, I was one of the few non-motorized participants.

The beginnings of the parades, at the staging area, were usually times of pleasant conversation with other participants. Few reacted negatively towards me. Occasionally a spectator would even call out encouraging words. More often we were marching past empty stretches of sidewalk. I do not know how much good these parades did my campaign. I’m sure many people thought I was nuts. The point was, I thought, to get the campaign and its themes before individual voters so that, hopefully, they would remember that someone was supporting those issues and perhaps talk about it with their friends. It was a good supplement to whatever media coverage I might attract.

In carrying a sign in these parades, I might have been facing the same image problem as in my campaigning a year earlier. It signaled that this might be a candidate too poor to afford lawn signs or media advertising. This person running for U.S. Senate without party endorsement and with only a sign must be a kook. My worst experience was at Farm Fest, near Redwood Falls. While the four party-endorsed candidates for U.S. Senate debated in the late morning of August 6th, I stood at the back of the tent holding up my sign. A few furtive glances were thrown my way but mostly people ignored me. It was only slightly better when I walked around the booths. Farmers are a conservative bunch, not much caring for radical ideas or theatrics like mine. It seemed that about the only persons who would shake hands with me at Farm Fest were Norm Coleman and the Elvis impersonator. (In fact, Jim Moore also shook hands. I did not personally run into Wellstone or McGaa on that occasion.)

Leaving Farm Fest, I discovered that a handmade sign attached to the side of my car door in the parking area had been removed. It was on the way home that the campaign came to life. Stopping at newspaper offices in Redwood Falls, Olivia, Willmar, and Litchfield, I met editors and reporters who actually seemed interested in my campaign; one took a photograph of me with the sign and several invited me to come back.

In time, I achieved a happy marriage between use of the sign and outreach to newspaper offices. The trick was converting what would seem a kooky event into a colorful spectacle for newspaper readers. For that to happen, I needed to be photographed carrying the sign. The photographs could then be offered to newspapers. I paid a neighbor ten dollars to take pictures of me walking up and down Nicollet Avenue with the sign. Another friend, who was a landlord, took some more pictures at the State Capitol. We wandered through its hallways and into the rotunda, up and down the stair case, in the halls in front of the Governor’s office, the Supreme Court chambers, and House of Representatives, on what was otherwise a quiet day, snapping pictures. This activity yielded quite a treasure trove.

I also took photographs during my travels around the state. Once I drove hundreds of miles just to get a certain photograph. It is the one which graces the front cover of this book, me standing with the sign promoting dignity for white males in front of the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. An obliging stranger took this for me in Bemidji. After developing rolls of film at Walgreen’s on Broadway in north Minneapolis, I would order reprints of my favorite shots for distribution to newspapers.

In all, I drove 5,557 miles around the state between August 4th and September 5th, visiting newspaper offices. A narrative of those experiences appears in Appendix A. Except for an hour-long interview with Mike Mulcahy and two other candidates on Minnesota Public Radio on September 6th, that was my campaign. If Jim Moore had a lock on the Minneapolis-area vote and the vote of party loyalists, I would take my campaign to greater Minnesota. There, in the small cities and towns, people might appreciate a visit from someone like me. The fact that I had visited them signaled that I cared about their community, was working hard on the campaign, and perhaps could win.

I did not worry about offending people with my controversial issues. People who agreed with them might be motivated to vote for me in the Independence Party primary. People who disagreed would likely be voting for someone else in any case. My strategy for winning was to replicate Jesse Ventura’s feat of turning out new voters. That would help the Independence Party more than if I courted current party members. At the same time, I understood that I needed to keep my distance from Tim Penny and other IP candidates who actually stood a chance of winning the election. Let them disavow me and my politics, if they must. I was building for the future.

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