to: political candidate
On the Campaign Trail for U.S. Senate
by Bill McGaughey
On primary night, Tuesday, September 10, 2002, I waited impatiently for the results of the U.S. Senate race in the Independence Party primary to be reported. There had been a virtual news black-out concerning this race. I thought it could go either way. Finally, around 10:20 p.m., a brief note flashed across the bottom of the television screen during the Channel Four news program: U.S. Senate Independence Party, Moore 50%, McGaughey 30%.
So, with less than half of the precincts reporting, I was finishing second to Jim Moore, the party-endorsed candidate. My heart sank. Still, 30% was a solid showing. I drove over to the Moore headquarters in south Minneapolis to congratulate the winner. The percentages were staying about the same as more precincts reported. A week later, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s web site reported the following result:
Jim Moore - 13,525 votes - 49.44% of total
William McGaughey - 8,482 votes - 31.00 % of total
Ronald E. Wills - 5,351 votes - 19.56 % of total
So ended a short but hard-fought campaign. I had driven more than 5,000 miles to all parts of Minnesota during the preceding month. I had visited newspaper offices in more than 100 cities and towns. In the end, I spent about $2,000 on the campaign in addition to the $400 filing fee. People seemed to be accepting the implausible twin planks of my campaign: support for a 32-hour workweek and dignity for white males. I thought, for a time, that I really could win this thing.
But then, in the last week, after a driver with failed brakes struck and wrecked my ‘92 Ford Escort at the intersection of Cleveland and Roselawn in Roseville, I began to have inklings that the result might be otherwise. Emails from the Independence Party disclosed that volunteers for Jim Moore would be dropping 25,000 pieces of literature in the 5th Congressional District during the week preceding the election. A phone bank would be working on Moore’s behalf election eve.
Moore’s wife, Shari, was responsible for a warm, fuzzy item that appeared in both the St. Paul and Minneapolis papers: she delivered the couple’s third child on September 1st. I had a paid ad and article in the Watchdog, a small free-circulation newspaper in Minneapolis, but, due to a production glitch, the newspaper came out a week late - on election day. And still the Star Tribune, the state’s largest newspaper, had failed to print a single word about my or Ronald Wills’ candidacy in its news reporting about the Senate primary. Under the circumstances, holding Moore to less than half of the vote was not bad.
At the time of the Independence Party state convention, July 13th, I had no plans to become a candidate. It was my first state convention with this party. I had attended its precinct caucuses in north Minneapolis consecutively since 1998 but not any conventions. The caucuses were poorly attended and the participants rather quarrelsome. I also had political interests outside of electoral politics. But then Jesse Ventura’s last-minute decision not to seek reelection as Governor, Tim Penny’s entrance into the race, and a quirky personal experience involving Christine Jax, the state’s commissioner of Children, Families, and Learning, then a rival candidate for Governor, revived my interest. When the Independence Party’s 5th District chair, Peter Tharaldson, offered me a ride to the St. Cloud convention in his van, I accepted. It happened that, in the early morning, he and his companions could not find my house. So, I drove to St. Cloud by myself.
Although none of those who had attended the Senate District 58 precinct caucus were at the convention, I did know several other persons. The principal candidates all had booths. I talked with Dean Alger and a few others. Jim Moore, the leading contender for the U.S. Senate nomination, had called me before the convention. He was an earnest, personable candidate. However, I do not like political conventions, especially the discussions of rules and procedures.
The message which came through during the more interesting part of the program was that the Independence Party was a “centrist” party that avoided the ideological extremes to which the Democrats and Republicans had fallen prey. I tried to pin down some of my lunch companions about what this meant. What were the extremes? What was the center position? There were varying interpretations. Independence Party candidates were just “in the middle”.
I listened to the candidates’ speeches. The most lively contest was over the endorsement for U.S. Senate. In a contest with Alan Fine, Moore won a substantial majority of votes from the 170 convention delegates. Moore told us how, as a small banker, he had the private-sector experience so sorely missed in government: he could introduce private-sector-like efficiencies to the federal bureaucracy. He believed that schools should be held accountable for results. He was in favor of fiscal responsibility and campaign finance reform. Disapprovingly, he referred to the recent accounting scandals which had shaken the corporate world. He expressed personal admiration for Gandhi and Martin Luther King. As a boy, he had cried when told that Hank Aaron had received death threats.
Listening to all this, I was vaguely troubled. Here was a candidate whom the Independence Party would soon be sending out to do battle with Paul Wellstone and Norm Coleman, each expected to have a $10 million campaign budget. (The U.S. Senate race in Minnesota actually wound up costing a total of $35 million.) With such a bland program, how would Moore get his message across through the glare of better-known candidates from the two major parties? Hadn’t I heard most of Moore’s talking points before? What made them different from what a Democrat or a Republican might say?
I could do better, I thought. This was no time for reasonable, nuanced positions. Independence Party candidates had to mount a frontal attack on both major parties. Polls showed that, while the gubernatorial candidate, Tim Penny, a former Congressman, was running neck-and-neck with the Democratic and Republican candidates for Governor, the party’s other candidates for state-wide or federal offices were at a severe disadvantage. They needed to distinguish themselves in some way. I thought I knew the type of campaign which had to be run - one with bold positions and raw energy, issuing a visceral appeal for change.
That was, in fact, what I had done less than a year earlier when I ran for Mayor of Minneapolis. Waging a purely negative campaign, I threw caution to the wind. I walked around the streets of downtown Minneapolis with a picket sign and passed out literature.
This literature told prospective voters in graphic detail some of the rotten things which the incumbent city administration had done. Its development agency had seized properties by eminent domain, paying the owners pennies on the dollar, and then torn the buildings down. Its inspections departments had condemned structurally sound buildings due to political pressures. And now there was a housing shortage. Throw the rascals out! - no subtlety here - was the message. When came the general election on November 5th, Minneapolis voters did vote for sweeping change. The incumbent mayor was defeated. The 13-member city council had seven new members.
While proud to have been part of the process which produced such sweeping change, I was not proud of the results of my own campaign. In a field of 22 mayoral candidates, I finished twelfth, attracting a meager 143 votes city wide. My ballot designation, “Affordable housing - preservation”, represented a position which enjoyed overwhelming public support. I had personal credibility on this issue. I had passed out 4,500 pieces of literature. And that was the result?
Admittedly, I am not the best campaigner in the world. I’m a 240-pound, middle-aged white guy who wears glasses and occasionally lets his shirt tails hang outside of his trousers. Maybe if I had spent less time pushing my literature on people and more time talking with them, the result might have been different.
Come to think of it, a political candidate who walks around city streets with a picket sign does not project the image of a winner; we think this type of person must be announcing the end of the world. The winning candidates all ride between television studios in chauffeur-driven limousines. In a more charitable spirit, I decided that the voters may not have been paying full attention to me as a candidate because they were distracted by other events. The 2001 Minneapolis primary might not have been conducted under normal conditions because the voting took place on September 11th. I, too, was glued to the television set that day watching the smoke billow out of the upper floors of the World Trade Center towers in New York City prior to their collapse.
At any rate, a decision had to be made in the three days between the Independence Party state convention and the filing deadline on Tuesday, July 16th. With time running out, I drove to the Secretary of State’s office in the Minnesota State Office Building in St. Paul. I filled out a short application form, wrote a check for $400, and officially became a candidate for U.S. Senate.
I filed for U.S. Senate in the Independence Party primary in Minnesota on July 16, 2002, the last day of filing, without the party’s endorsement. For a party struggling with ideological definition, I would give it something to chew on. I would come at both the Republican and Democratic parties with a frontal attack.
Anathema to the Republicans, the party of big business, was my call for government to regulate the economy on working people’s behalf, and specifically: “I believe that the federal government should reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours by 2010.” Anathema to the Democrats, party of the Civil Rights coalition, was an attack on political correctness. “I believe in the full citizenship, dignity, and equality of white males (and of everyone else, too)” was my politically incorrect statement of that position. These two statements appeared on either side of a large sign that I carried in public.
The goal of the campaign was clear: Win the primary and, if that happened, do the best I could to articulate my position in the debates and other fora with an eye to leaving an ideological legacy for the Independence party in future years. Could I beat Jim Moore, the Independence Party’s endorsed candidate? Yes, this was doable, considering that Moore’s mandate to be the party’s candidate for U.S. Senate rested on fewer than 150 convention votes, that he had (in my opinion) a lackluster set of issues, and that he, like me, had never held public office before.
campaigning on my own
The Independence Party hierarchy dashed my initial hopes of sending a letter to party members to explain my candidacy when it refused to rent the membership list. As a nonendorsed candidate, I was also denied permission to greet voters inside or near the party’s booth at county fairs and the State Fair. While the St. Paul Pioneer Press published a balanced article on the U.S. Senate race, the Twin Cities’ largest-circulation newspaper, the Star Tribune, failed to mention that Jim Moore faced opposition in the Independence Party primary for U.S. Senator when it ran a front-page article on this contest on July 23rd. I wrote a letter to the editor pointing out the omission. It was not published.
Facing disadvantages as a nonendorsed candidate, I decided to take my campaign directly to the public. Parades are a good way to do that. They allow the candidate to present himself or herself to spectators who are willing, even asking, to be approached with a political message.
I took part in seven parades. The first, on August 3rd, was to assist Tim Penny’s gubernatorial campaign by passing out stickers to children in Prior Lake. In six subsequent parades, I marched down the street carrying my sign. They were: the “Stockyard Days” parade in New Brighton on August 8th; the “Quarry Days” parade in Sandstone on August 10th; the “Lindbergh Returns” parade in Little Falls on August 11th; the “Heritage Day” parade in Vadnais Heights and “Oxcart Days” parade in Crookston, both on Saturday, August 17th; and the “Fire Muster” parade in Burnsville on Sunday, September 8th. Being Marjorie Main’s second cousin, I also attended “Ma and Pa Kettle Days” festivities in Kettle River on August 10th, the same day as the Sandstone parade, expecting to be greeted as a minor celebrity. Instead, I found that few, if anyone, cared.
on the road in outstate Minnesota
Actually, my first public appearance as a candidate was on Tuesday, August 6th, at Farm Fest near Redwood Falls where the four endorsed candidates for U.S. Senate participated in a debate. I stood in the back row brandishing my sign. Attempting to mingle with the crowd following the debate, I found people quite wary of me and my message. Jim Moore was friendly enough, but the farmers must have thought I was crazy. Besides Moore, about the only persons who would shake hands with me at this event were Norm Coleman and the Elvis impersonator.
Driving back to the Twin Cities after Farm Fest, I discovered a more promising way to campaign. I first stopped at the office of the Redwood Falls Gazette (circulation 3,939). The political reporter, Troy Krause, was away covering Farm Fest, but editor Daryl Thul took my photograph. He said they would be in touch. My next stop was the office of the Olivia Times-Journal (circulation 1,413) whose editor, Mindy, was busy putting the paper to press. I left literature with the receptionist. In Willmar, Linda Vanderwerf, the political reporter for the West Central Tribune (17,500) , who was on deadline, asked me to let her know the next time I returned to the area. I caught the editor of the Litchfield Independent Review (3,900), Brent Schacherer, just as he was closing the office at 5 p.m. He, too, expressed interest in my campaign.
Busy with producing position papers, taking campaign photos and answering candidate questionnaires, I did not return to the newspaper circuit until Wednesday, August 14th. Driving south from the Twin Cities, I arrived in Northfield. There was a new editor at the Northfield News (circulation 5,034). The receptionist told me that he was at a staff meeting and had not yet appointed a reporter to cover the Senate race. My next stop was Cannon Falls. Here Dick Dalton, editor of the Cannon Falls Beacon (4,350), took me into his office for a brief conversation which, after touching upon the shorter-workweek proposal, ended with the disclosure that the Beacon covered mainly campaigns for local office.
I next worked my way down Route 61 along the Mississippi River, hoping to keep my promise to Tom van der Linden, editor of the Houston County News (2,200) in La Crescent, that I would stop by that afternoon. The Red Wing Republican-Eagle (8,000) was my first stop along that route. A young reporter, Mike Fielding, took me into a conference room for a brief interview. He requested that I send him a mug-shot photo by email. Down river, at the office of the Lake City Graphic (3,200), Rick Ousky, the editor, gave me fifteen minutes of his time. He was an intense, intelligent, bearded man, interested in the idea of demanding better leadership. He seemed intrigued by my campaign and promised to write a column about it.
Racing south, I arrived in La Crescent around 5:15 p.m. where, fortunately, Van der Linden was still in the office. He asked a few questions, took a photo or two, and then went back to work. Finally, heading north, I took a chance at finding a reporter at work at the area’s largest-circulation newspaper, the Winona Daily News (12,259), after 6 p.m. A general-assignment reporter and columnist who had gone to college with Tim Penny, Jerome Christenson, interrupted his work to talk with me. We discussed the political situation. He asked questions about my campaign for Senate and a staff photographer took my picture. I was elated as I drove back to the Twin Cities.
visiting the free-circulation weeklies
Despite the adrenaline rush, it was not until the late morning that I again hit the campaign trail. I thought that I should first visit the free-circulation weeklies in the Twin Cities. At City Pages (circulation 112,282) , the editorial administrator told me that the reporter assigned to the Independence Party race, Paul Demko, was out of the office. This information came as a shock to me since, three weeks earlier, I had published a sarcastic letter to the editor of City Pages in response to Demko’s report on a panel discussion sponsored by a local men’s group. City Pages thought highly enough of this as an example of a certain genre to showcase it as “letter of the week”. Among other jabs at him, I suggested that “Demko had reached the limit of his small-capacity closed mind” when he stormed out of the meeting in the middle of the second speaker’s presentation. But now, unless Demko is truly a gracious person, I would pay for having so wantonly attacked one whose employer “buys ink by the barrel.”
My next stop was Pulse of the Twin Cities (23,000) on Chicago Avenue. Ed Felien, publisher and chief editor, ushered me into his office for a half-hour conversation. Ed is a left-leaning intellectual with varied life experiences. Besides managing a substantial business, he has served on the Minneapolis City Council. He was then a candidate for Hennepin County Commissioner. Ed probed deeply into my issues, especially the plank supporting “dignity for white males.” Although he thought it was a courageous position, he was also concerned that this statement would bring out white-supremacist sentiments.
Ed Felien challenged me to show specifically how white males were injured by the current system. He gave me a copy of a book by Anthony L. Sutton, an African American, about the psychological consequences of slavery which he had helped to publish. Ed invited me to discuss these things further with him at lunch but then realized that he had another luncheon appointment. Though cut short, this was political dialogue at its best.
A bit behind schedule, I headed north on 35E towards Duluth. My first stop was a the ECM Post-Review (2,425) in North Branch, where a receptionist told me that the editor was out covering the PGA Tournament at Hazeltine. Then I drove over to Cambridge to visit offices of the Isanti County News (11,000) and the Cambridge Star (16,032). No one was available to visit with me at either place, so I dropped off literature. The same was true of the Princeton Union-Eagle (3,400); its editor, Luther Dorr, was also at the PGA Tournament. At the Mille Lacs County Times (3,100) in Milaca around the 5 p.m. closing time, two women told me that they were not interested in politics but I might leave literature for the editor, Gary Larsen. It was too late to find anything at the Kanabec County Times (3,020) office except for a locked door.
This had not been a productive afternoon though I did run into Tom Dooley, an old acquaintance and columnist for the New Unionist newspaper, at the Kulkin rest area on highway 35E south of Cloquet. He told me that, for a modest sum of money, the Minnesota Newspaper Association would send out press releases to all newspapers and television stations in the state. I own a log cabin on forty acres of woodland on the south shore of Lake Superior near Port Wing, Wisconsin. That is where I spent the night of August 15th.
Early the next morning, around 8 a.m., I parked my car on a street in downtown Duluth across from a gourmet coffee shop which served up a delicious brew. I stood with my sign for twenty minutes at the corner of 1st and Superior streets, in what I thought was the center of downtown, before deciding that the sparse pedestrian and street traffic at this hour of the day did not justify the effort. Scott Thistle, the reporter assigned to the Senate race at the News-Tribune (51,071), had not yet arrived at work when I visited his office. Another reporter, Craig Lincoln, helpfully placed my literature in Thistle’s in-basket.
I next drove out to the office of Labor World (15,000) on London Road, hoping that my shorter-workweek plank might interest its reporters. The receptionist, Debbie, told me that this newspaper, a house organ of the Duluth AFL-CIO, covered only its endorsed candidates. Paul Wellstone would receive the paper’s support. Back in the downtown area, a receptionist at the Duluth Budgeteer News (44,484) said that all editors and reporters were busy putting out the paper. Come back in the early part of the week, she said.
Next, it was on to the Iron Range. At my first stop, the Proctor Journal (2,000), a woman named Diane said that no one had time to talk with me because it was the day of the town’s annual festival. According to a directory, there were two newspapers in Cloquet, the Cloquet Pine Knot (3,500) and the Cloquet Journal (4,300). When I located the office of the first, a sign posted on the door revealed that it had merged with the second. The combined newspaper, the Pine Journal, was located at the former office of the Cloquet Journal. Its editor, Mike Sylvester, took some time to talk with me and requested that I send a mug shot by email.
Heading west, I stopped in Floodwood, a small town at the junction of highways 2 and 73, where I had a delightful conversation with two women, Sue Czarneski and Eleanor Vorderbruggen, who put out The Forum (930). While the publisher was a Wellstone supporter, they themselves were for neither Wellstone or Coleman. They were pleased that a statewide candidate such as myself would visit their community.
I arrived at the offices of The Daily Tribune (8,036) in Hibbing shortly after noon. All the reporters were at lunch. The receptionist told me to come back after 1 p.m. This gave me an opportunity to do some local sightseeing. Bob Dylan grew up here but I knew not where to look for historic sites. Filling up with gas at the Holiday station, I mentioned to the cashier that I had seen a sign advertising the Greyhound Bus Museum. Another customer at the counter remarked sourly that this was the “biggest white elephant in town” and he could not understand how anyone would for go such a project. That settled it - I had to visit the campy museum. It was Greyhound, after all, which had first brought me to Minnesota in January 1965.
The cashier told me that a half mile farther up the same road was a viewing area for the large open-pit iron mines that had once operated on the outskirts of Hibbing. This was a truly unusual sight. Also, the Greyhound Museum was worth the $3.00 admission price though I could not stay for the 22-minute film on Greyhound’s history or listen to recorded bus-drivers’ stories. Boarding one of the early-vintage buses had to suffice. The high point for me was when the ticket seller, to whom I had given a comb inscribed with the name of my campaign web site (www.billforsenate.org), ran out into the parking lot after my quick visit to ask me for another comb for his friend.
Back at the offices of the Daily Tribune in Hibbing, I learned that the political reporters were not expected to return to work before 2 p.m. I could not wait. Six or seven miles farther north was the office of the Chisholm Tribune-Press (2,100). A semi-retired woman named Veeda, who had edited this newspaper for fifty years, told stories of how Eleanor Roosevelt had visited Chisholm on Adlai Stevenson’s behalf during the 1956 Presidential campaign. Orville Freeman, John F. Kennedy, and other politicians of that era were also fresh in her memory. The only negative moment came when I suggested that Jesse Ventura was also a colorful political character. Veeda had no use for Ventura since he had cut the budget for education, among other things.
Another twelve miles up the road, I also visited the office of the Mesabi Daily News (12,258) in Virginia which was hard to find, even using a map. The political reporter was out, so I left literature. I did the same at the locked offices of the Gilbert Herald (1,019). At Eveleth, I knew I was in trouble when I discovered that a cable-television office was located at the reported address of the Eveleth Scene (2,695). The receptionist said that she did not even think there was a newspaper in town. I did visit the United Steelworkers of America District 11 office just down the street to leave literature about my candidacy for Bob Bratlich, the assistant director. Union officials from the Iron Range had been active supporters of shorter-workweek proposals twenty-five years ago. The receptionist promised to deliver this material to Bratlich when he returned to work on Monday.
The final segment of this day’s campaigning took me to the forested areas north of the Range. At offices of the Cook News-Herald (2,800), the editor asked me where Glenwood Avenue was located. It turned out that, thirty years earlier, he had been a businessman in Minneapolis. He regaled me with stories about those times passing along information, for instance, that Hubert Humphrey had helped to move blacks out of a certain part of town to make room for new construction benefiting his business cronies. Not far from my home was a bridge under which, it was rumored, the sainted Senator used to pick up money left in a paper bag. If not Hubert Humphrey, which politician could we believe in, this man wondered? Anyhow, he would print a short article about my candidacy.
At The Timberjay (3,200) in Tower, the political reporters were gone for the day but a man at the counter took my literature. I raced on to Ely, arriving shortly after 5 p.m., only to learn that both newspaper offices had closed at 4 p.m. The town was crawling with weekend tourists. For the next five hours, I drove back to the Twin Cities passing through Isabella, Silver Bay, Duluth, and other scenic communities before night fell. My odometer recorded 835 miles for the two-day trip.
time now for southern Minnesota
I was tied up all day on Monday, August 19th, with personal business related to obtaining permits for a condemned house in Minneapolis which I was renovating. On Tuesday, the campaign itinerary reverted to southern Minnesota. My first stop was in the press room at the state capitol where Don Davis, a reporter and columnist for Forum Communications, has an office. (He moderated the U.S. Senate debate at Moorhead State College on October 22nd, Paul Wellstone’s last.) Davis conducted a thorough interview. One of his purposes may have been to discover whether my candidacy was a front for anti-Semitic or white-supremacist politics. Did I think, for instance, that the fact that Coleman and Wellstone were both Jewish indicated that “Jews were taking over” Minnesota politics? I did not buy that theory but did admit that religious identity entered into the politics of political correctness.
The office of the Faribault Daily News (7,411) was the day’s first stop outside the Twin Cities. The regular political reporter, Pauline Schreiber, was on vacation all week, but the public-safety reporter gave the receptionist his card, asking me to call him later in the day. At the Owatonna People’s Press (7,149) the political reporter, Katie Campbell, was likewise unavailable. I then headed east to Rochester to visit the Post-Bulletin (42,391) office. The political reporter, Lenora Chu, was on deadline and could not meet with me for more than a few minutes. She did arrange to have my picture taken and asked me to contact her the following week. (By coincidence, Angela Greiling Keane, a reporter from the Post-Bulletin’s Washington bureau was handling the story on the U.S. Senate race. She conducted a telephone interview with me next morning.)
The second interview of the day took place at the Austin Daily Herald (7,470). Reporter Lee Bonorden, whose daughter lives in Minneapolis, spent twenty minutes with me and scanned my photo into the computer. Finally, I passed through Blooming Prairie but the office of its newspaper, the Blooming Prairie Times (1,173), was closed for the day. Arriving back home in Minneapolis, I found that I had traveled 280 miles.
Wednesday morning, August 21st, I thought it was time to visit the Minneapolis newspapers again. Paul Demko was not in at City Pages. The political team leader at the Star Tribune, Dennis McGrath, came down to the lobby to talk with me for about five minutes. It was raining hard that day.
Heading south on Highway 35, I again stopped at the Faribault Daily News and again found no reporters available to talk with me. At the Owatonna People’s Press, a young reporter, Katie Campbell, did an interview. Next it was over to Waseca, Tim Penny’s home town. The political reporter for the Waseca County News, Marshal Cawley, spoke with me for several minutes and arranged for my picture to be taken. The small town of Janesville, where close friends of mine (Harvey and Julie) were married six years ago, was my next stop. The editor of the Janesville Argus, Sandy Connolly, said that she would use whatever Marshal Cawley wrote for the Waseca paper. We discussed Father Brown, the Catholic priest in Janesville who had officiated at my friends’ wedding. He had recently retired to a lakeside home outside of town.
The last two stops of the day were at the remaining large dailies in south central Minnesota. The largest one (except for Rochester) was The Free Press (25,244) in Mankato. I was referred to Joe Spear, the news editor, who took my campaign literature to pass along to the political reporter when he returned to the office. At The Journal (9,945) in New Ulm, a political reporter and editorial writer, Ron Larsen, interviewed me in a conference room. He was a Dane among Germans, we joked. I left photos of myself carrying the sign.
After leaving the newspaper office, I could not resist visiting the giant statue of Hermann, leader of the Germanic tribes who defeated Roman legions in 9 A.D., in a park on the edge of town. Then it was back to the Twin Cities by way of St. Peter. Its newspaper office was closed for the day. The day’s travel had covered 255 miles.
Now it was time for me to visit some of the outlying areas of Minnesota along its southern and western borders. With a brief stop in Faribault - again no luck in meeting the reporter - I went to Albert Lea, situated on Interstate Highway 90. I spoke briefly with Dylan Belden, editor of the Albert Lea Tribune (7,379), who remembered receiving my literature in the mail. The next city to the west was Blue Earth. Kyle MacArthur, editor of the Faribault County Register (1,200) , came out to visit for a few minutes. Ten years earlier, he had lived at 37th and Morgan Ave. N. in Minneapolis, several miles north of where I currently live. When I gave him the photo of me in front of the Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji, MacArthur suggested that I see the Green Giant statue on the outskirts of Blue Earth. That is where I went next. A teenage boy working in a gift shop took my photograph there.
I hit the offices of the Sentinel (7,700) in Fairmont shortly before 1 p.m., in hopes of finding a reporter. The receptionist told me that the news staff would be back from lunch around 2 p.m. I could not wait. The next town west on Highway 90 was Sherburn. David Parker of the West Martin Weekly News (2,000) interviewed me and promised to do an article. Then I visited the office of the Jackson County Pilot (2,400) in Jackson, the next town over. The editor, Ryan McGaughey, was not in the office.
I could not refrain from pointing out that this editor and I had the same last name, although he pronounced it ma-GAAH-he and I pronounced it ma-goy. I also informed the receptionist - of possible interest to Ryan - that President Zachary Taylor in 1847 had appointed a certain Edward McGaughey to be Minnesota’s first territorial governor. However, the U.S. Senate did not confirm the nomination. President Taylor’s third choice, Alexander Ramsey, eventually took the assignment.
in southwest Minnesota
The big newspaper in southwest Minnesota is the Worthington Daily Globe (12,300). In its offices, I spoke with Bob, the news editor, who took literature and photos. He promised to do an article on the primary. I next visited the Nobles County Review (1,300) in Adrian, west of Worthington. A receptionist took literature and photos, promising to pass them along to the editor. Near the South Dakota border was the city of Luverne. I happened to catch Laurie, a political reporter for the Rock County Star-Herald (3,000), as she was hurrying out the door. She asked me about advertising in that newspaper. I hoped to visit the Pipestone newspaper as the last stop in the day. However, road construction on U.S. Highway 75 sent me on a detour about ten miles to the east which prevented me from being in Pipestone by closing time. I did visit offices of the Edgerton Enterprise (1,957) and spoke with its editor, Mel DeBoer. DeBoer, I noticed, is also the name of the town’s Chevrolet dealer.
It was in the late afternoon of August 22nd and I found myself 300 miles away from home. I decided to spend the night camping at the Split Rock Creek state park on highway 23 south of Pipestone. The young park attendant said that she was the niece of DFL state representative Ted Winter of Fulda. She was interested in my campaign and agreed with some of my ideas about political correctness. There was also a nice elderly couple, Pete and Alice Krosschell of Edgerton, who supervised the camp grounds from their camper trailer parked across from my space at camp site #4. So, instead of driving back to the Twin Cities that night, I spent a leisurely late afternoon swimming in a lake across from two wind generators and hiking through prairie grasslands. I agreed with the Krosschells that it was a shame that state officials had decided to close this park after Labor Day.
Early in the morning of Friday, August 23rd, I drove south to Jaspers. The office of Jasper Journal (950) was closed but I left literature in the mail slot. I was fortunate to find Mark Fode, editor of the Pipestone County Star (3,800), in the office willing to do an interview. He was interested in my thoughts on political correctness. The office of the Lake Benton Valley Journal (875), just up the road, was closed on Fridays. Lake Benton is a center of wind-power generation.
Another twenty miles north is Ivanhoe whose newspaper is the Ivanhoe Times (1,065). For a relatively small town, it was surprising to find a crowd of people in the newspaper office when I arrived. I had to wait for ten minutes or so while a farm wife badgered the editor about an error that she wanted corrected in the paper. Then she wanted clarification of the sports schedule. I was ready to leave when the woman ran out of questions. The editor, Brent Beck, then interviewed me and took a photograph. Next it was on to Marshall.
At offices of the Marshall Independent (8,650), the editor, Larry Magrath, interviewed me and took my picture. A friend in Minneapolis later told me that he had seen a story about my campaign in the Marshall newspaper. A young woman named Jessica edited the Tri-County News (1,800) in Cottonwood, twelve miles north on Highway 23. She interviewed me and took a picture. I asked her if other politicians running for statewide office had visited Cottonwood. Paul Wellstone was the only one.
Granite Falls was the next city on Highway 23 north. I bought gas at a Cenex station in town, noticing that a Yellow Medicine County deputy sheriff was hanging around the checkout counter. When I arrived at the newspaper office of the Advocate-Tribune (3,180), the same deputy sheriff was there ordering business cards. He spotted me with a badge identifying myself as a candidate for U.S. Senate and amiably remarked that, “with all these politicians” around, he had better leave. The editor, Linda Larsen, was still at lunch. The receptionist said she would be back in twenty minutes. Meanwhile, I stood on a nearby street corner exhibiting my sign. It was a slow afternoon.
Linda Larsen remembered the campaign literature that I had sent by mail. She seemed intrigued or amused by the white-male aspect of my candidacy. She also happened to be a former employee of the Minneapolis Community Development Agency (MCDA). I told her that members of the Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee considered this to be “the evil empire”. We had an enjoyable visit. Editor Larsen reminisced about her days as a bureaucrat in Minneapolis dealing with the likes of Walt Dziedzik, Barbara Carlson, and Tony Scallon. She also informed me that riots had taken place in north Minneapolis the preceding evening. She recalled how Greg Wersal, the attorney, had come to Granite Falls with a cow-shaped sign to promote his campaign to let judges campaign for office. When I remarked that I was glad there were at least two crazy sign-bearing candidates, she smiled. It was comforting to find a hometown presence there.
I had hoped to reach Crookston by the end of the day. Ted Stone, editor of the Crookston Daily Times (3,193), had promised to interview me if I came to town; he would run the interview on the front page. Leaving Granite Falls, I realized that it would be impossible to meet this goal. Montevideo was next on the route. Pat Schmidt, editor of the Montevideo American News (4,700), conducted a short interview in his office and took a photograph. He said his newspaper would have an article on the Senate race right before the primary. Instead of driving toward the larger town of Morris, I now made a decision to visit Madison in part because it was the boyhood home of Robert Bly, the poet. I have been part of a singing group with him in Minneapolis for the past ten years.
Dawson was due west of Montevideo. Dave Hickey, editor of the Dawson Sentinel (2,000), talked with me briefly and took two photographs. Madison, the next town, was a disappointment. The editor of the Western Guard (2,342) would not come out of his office to see me; he left word with the receptionist that his newspaper covered only party-endorsed candidates. I did visit the Lac Qui Parle history museum in Madison to see Robert Bly’s “study”. It had been dedicated on the weekend in July 1999 that my brother died. We had been planning to attend the dedication event.
Finally, I reached Ortonville, on the western edge of the state, by 4:30 p.m. The editor of the Ortonville Independent (3,233) was out of town but a newspaper employee took literature and photos. Then it was back to the Twin Cities by way of Appleton and Benson. Their newspaper offices were both closed. The two-day trip had covered 707 miles.
(The above narrative was written for publication in the Watchdog newspaper’s pre-primary issue. Only the first several paragraphs were published. Two weeks yet remained in my campaign. The narrative continues.)
The weekend had come. This time could not be used for travel since the newspaper offices would not be open. I had one more week to contact the weekly newspapers in time to make their deadlines. Then I would try to hit the remaining dailies. The weekend of August 24th and 25th was spent writing the first part of this narrative so that it might be published in the Watchdog before the primary. With a circulation of up to 10,000 readers in Minneapolis, its readers represented quite a few votes in the Twin Cities. Hopefully, some would read my column.
I had business pertaining to renovation of the condemned house at 1715 Glenwood Avenue on Monday morning. Then, in the early afternoon, I headed west on Highway 12 toward Willmar. The first stop was in Howard Lake. Lynda Jensen, editor of the Howard Lake-Waverly Journal (1,400), took literature. (Was this Hubert Humphrey’s hometown newspaper?) She referred me to an affiliated newspaper in Dassel, not on my list. The editor there was putting out the last issue before the primary and could not include anything about my campaign.
At Dassel, I made a quick decision to leave the route to Willmar and instead head south to Hutchinson on Highway 7. I’m glad I did. The editor of the Hutchinson Leader 6,000), Doug Hanneman, and Jane Otto, a political reporter, both interviewed me in a conference room. They would run a story in their well-regarded newspaper. They also suggested that I call the Litchfield Independent Review (3,900), an affiliated newspaper twenty miles north and to the west. Its editor, Brent Schacherer, was the man whom I had briefly met while heading home on Highway 12 from Farm Fest several weeks earlier.
This time, Schacherer and I had plenty of time to talk. Both in Hutchinson and Litchfield I felt I was connecting with the editors in issues-centered discussions. I bought a copy of the Independent Review in a Litchfield grocery store. When I arrived home that evening after 155 miles of driving, my campaign had renewed energy.
back up north
The following morning, Tuesday, August 27th, it was time to head north on a two-day trip. The receptionist at Duluth Budgeteer News (44,484) had told me to come back between Monday and Wednesday, before the paper was put to bed. First, however, I took a telephone call from Tim Kjos of the Becker County Record (14,500) and Detroit Lakes Tribune (5,500), who wanted to do a telephone interview. This was a lucky break. Editor Kjos had taken an interest in my campaign materials which were mailed to him. I emailed Ted Stone of the Crookston Daily Times (3,193) to say that I would be in Crookston Wednesday afternoon.
Then I hit the road, stopping first at the offices of the Anoka County Shopper (5,026) in Coon Rapids where I spoke with Larry Jones, a reporter. He told me that the political reporting for ECM-owned newspapers, of which this was one, was done by Tim Budig, a reporter stationed in the basement of the State Capitol. However, stories on the primary election were probably already written.
I then continued my journey north on Highway 10 to Big Lake where I talked with Naomi, the receptionist at the West Sherburne Tribune (13,283). She referred me to the political reporter, Nancy Kopf, at the Becker paper. This was the Sherburne County Citizen (10,862), just down the road. Naomi also took my campaign literature and photos to give to Gary Meyer, the editor. At Becker, I talked with Estelle, the receptionist, who said that Nancy Kopf, who lives in Big Lake, was not in the office. I called Kopf’s home and left a message. I left literature and photos with the Becker newspaper.
Since Duluth was my destination, I left Highway 10 at that point and instead took State Highway 25 north and then headed east on Highway 3 to Princeton, hitting the Princeton Union-Eagle (3,400). Luther Dorr, the editor, told me that this was also an ECM-owned publication whose political reporting was done by Tim Budig. My next stop was the Isanti County News (11,000), another ECM-owned newspaper, in Cambridge. I drove across town to the Cambridge Star (16,032) in an industrial area hoping to talk with Tesha, the political reporter, whom I had missed on my previous trip. She asked me to fax the Star a short press release once I returned home. That was my best result so far all day. The newspaper had a big circulation.
As much as I would have liked to visit other newspapers along the way, I had to be in Duluth by the end of the afternoon. I went north through Braham and then joined interstate highway 35, arriving in Duluth about 90 minutes later. At my prime objective, the Duluth Budgeteer News, I had a 15-minute discussion with the news editor, Pat Faherty, who had been unavailable on my previous visit. He told me that primary election coverage was focused on the local races. The federal and statewide offices would be covered before the general election. Duluth politics is “weird” with some nonendorsed major-party candidates switching over to the Independence Party. Faherty liked my approach of raising basic political issues and promised to talk more with me if I survived the primary.
I also visited the office of the Duluth News-Tribune again, hoping to meet reporter Scott Thistle, but he gone for the week. I did not have the address of the Reader Weekly newspaper, just a P.O. box number. A newspaper rack on a street corner contained an issue of the Duluth Ripsaw, an alternative weekly. Though it was after 5:00 p.m., I located its offices on the 12th floor of a downtown office building. Luckily, the editor, Brad Nelson, was still in the office. I spoke with him briefly before he left for the day. Nelson liked my ideas about the shorter workweek but not about political correctness.
It was the end of another busy day. The most economical place of lodging was was my log cabin on the south shore of Lake Superior near Port Wing, Wisconsin. Bathing opportunities again consisted of a quick dip in the lake. This time, a storm was brewing on the lake. Waters were cold, and the waves turbulent. After an abbreviated swim, I spent the night in the cabin. Mice scurrying about near the sofa kept me awake parts of the night.
I departed the Wisconsin cabin just before 7:00 a.m. and drove forty miles back to Duluth in a light rain. My destination, however, was the Iron Range, and the two daily newspapers missed on the previous visit. The Mesabi Daily News (12,258) in Virginia was again hard to locate. Again, editor Bill Hanna was unavailable. At the Daily Tribune in Hibbing, on the other hand, I did speak briefly with Aaron Brown, the editor. He said that his newspaper took most of its political reporting from the Associated Press. Jim Moore and some other political candidates had been in Hibbing.
I was worried about the car. With the damp weather, the battery seemed dead. The starter would not kick over when I had stopped to fill up at a gas station. Sure enough, I faced the same problem in the parking lot of the Daily Tribune. Corroded materials were covering the two battery terminals. I cleaned this off and the car promptly started. It could have been worse. My car, a 1992 Ford Escort, had had two major transmission repairs within the past year. Was it not foolhardy to be crossing sparsely populated regions of northern Minnesota in this automobile? I had no choice. There was an election campaign to conduct.
My next stop, after heading south and west on U.S. highway 169, was Grand Rapids, where I had been once before on a Saturday. This time, I visited the offices of the Grand Rapids Herald (20,500). A young political reporter named Beth Bily, who said she was busy putting out the newspaper, came to the front desk to talk with me for a few minutes. She took my three pieces of literature and a photo of me promoting a 32-hour week. There was no time to visit Coleraine. I was due in Crookston, clear across the state, later in the afternoon.
My westward travels on U.S. highway 2 took me first to Deer River where Bonnie at the Western Itasca Review (1,800) took my campaign literature and photos, promising to put something in Thursday’s newspaper. At Cass Lake, near the Indian reservation, I spoke with Pat Miller, editor of the Cass Lake Times (1.400), and with Bethany Norgard, his assistant. I gave my standard pitch and they took campaign materials. Miller advised me to talk with Brad Swenson, a reporter at The Pioneer in Bemidji, who he said was quite savvy about political matters.
Bemidji, home of the photogenic statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, was a mere fifteen miles or so farther west on highway 2. A receptionist at the Bemidji paper told me, however, that Brad Swenson and his colleagues did not start work until after 4 p.m. Could I come back later in the day? If the office was closed, they said, just go to the back door and press the buzzer. I was not sure at that point if I would return.
I still had about one hundred miles to go before reaching Crookston. It would be my second visit to the town but first visit to the Crookston newspaper office. Thirty miles down the road after leaving Bemidji, I reached Bagley. Debbie Ronning at the Farmers Independent newspaper (2,600) promised to deliver my campaign literature to the editor. We were now leaving the wooded areas of north central Minnesota and heading into the grasslands of the Great Plains, this side of the Dakotas. Continuing on U.S. highway 2, I passed Fosston and Erskine, home of DFL gubernatorial candidate Roger Moe, before pulling into Crookston around 3 p.m.
At the Crookston Daily Times (3,193), editor Ted Stone did not have time to talk. The computer had crashed and he was having to deal with this problem himself. Instead, Stone assigned a new reporter to interview me, Lori Lizakowski. She was originally from Minneapolis. Lizakowski conducted a thorough interview, covering both issues and my personal life. Out the door, I remembered that I had forgotten to tell the reporter that I had participated in the Crookston “Ox Cart” parade ten days earlier. I returned briefly to convey that information. Today’s chief mission had been accomplished.
There was still time in the day to visit other newspaper offices in the area. I headed back east on highway 2 until highway 32, where I turned left and drove north to Red Lake Falls. Jody Kenfield, publisher of the Gazette (1,600) in Red Lake Falls, took my literature. She said she gave each candidate an initial free announcement before requiring that further candidate publicity be purchased through advertising. There was highway construction north of the city which required a long detour to Thief River Falls. I arrived in that city shortly before 5 p.m. The editor of the Thief River Falls Times (4,700), Dave Hill, took a few minutes from his busy schedule to talk with me at the counter. That “white male stuff” had caught his attention when my literature arrived in the mail. After leaving the newspaper office, I bought some day-old bread at the bakery-surplus store across the street.
I now had to make a major decision. Should I return to Bemidji to talk with its highly regarded political reporter, Brad Swenson, or should I try to cover cities in the extreme northern part of the state along the Canadian border. As a minor candidate, it would give me an edge to visit smaller cities and towns in that area which the other candidates might have bypassed. Perhaps I could camp overnight in a state park such as the one near Grygla and then make a grand sweep of the northern tier of cities, returning to the Twin Cities that night. The plan made sense to me. I then thought it might be possible to return to Bemidji to catch Swenson in his office in the early evening. Afterwards, I could go north and west through the Red Lake Indian Reservation to the campgrounds above Thief River Falls before they closed. It would mean lots of extra driving but time was running out for the campaign.
I drove all the way back to Bemidji. It started to rain just west of town. When I reached offices of the Pioneer, the rain was coming down in buckets. Water was pouring through the drain spouts and across the sidewalk near the back door. I was thoroughly soaked. Once inside, I readily found Brad Swenson and an associate. Swenson told me that The Pioneer had already scheduled a column about my campaign written by Don Davis. The Bemidji newspaper did not plan further coverage. When I tried to give him the photo of me standing in front of the Paul Bunyan statue with my “dignity for white males” sign, Swenson said that he did not think that would go over well on the Indian reservation.
revisiting Twin Cities media
Afterwards, I decided to drive back to the Twin Cities that evening instead of visiting the northern cities. My clothes were damp. I was tired and a bit discouraged. I went south on highway 71 and then on highway 371 to Brainerd, and finally joined highway 10 near Little Falls to drive the rest of the way home. This two-day trip had covered 979 miles.
Actually, it was a good thing that I spent Thursday, August 29th, in the Twin Cities. It gave me an opportunity to visit the press room in the basement of the State Capitol. First on the list was the office of the Associated Press. Ashley Grant, the journalist in charge, agreed to meet me during the noon hour. Having perused my campaign web site, she asked questions for about ten minutes. She refused photographs since they couldn’t be scanned. She asked me to be sure to be available on primary night in case someone wanted to interview me.
I checked nearby offices. Tim Budig of ECM publications was in his office next door to Don Davis’. Davis, however, was not in. By some stroke of good luck, Budig was then finishing up his analysis of the primary races. He would still be able to include something about me. I gave him several pieces of literature and even my red campaign comb. Down the corridor were offices of Star Tribune reporters, all out to lunch, and of reporters for WCCO-TV. I spoke with WCCO’s Capitol reporter Pat Kessler and another man in their office. Both reporters seemed interested in receiving my literature, having never seen it before because I had concentrated on the print media. I mentioned the Senate debate that evening at Augsburg College. Kessler knew about it. There would be a strong African American presence.
The debate, described elsewhere in the book, came to my attention when I read that morning’s Star Tribune. I first faxed press releases to Twin Cities media protesting my exclusion from the debates. When the debate sponsors included me, I then faxed a retraction - off to a good start, wouldn’t you say? The Senate debate, which began at 8 p.m., included Paul Wellstone, Jim Moore, Ed McGaa, and me. Because I had made a snap decision to return to the Twin Cities the night before, I was able to participate in this, my only Senate debate.
On Friday, August 30, I was again tied up with campaign and personal business in the Twin Cities. Contractors were replacing the roof on my property at 1715 Glenwood Avenue. They needed to be paid. Roofing supplies needed to be purchased. Also, the Star Tribune advertising department was balking at my latest attempt to place a paid advertisement in this newspaper either on election day or the day before. The deadline for advertising in the September 6th Voter Guide had already passed. Evidently, the legal department thought the ad was too negative. I made a proposal for eliminating the negativity. That was not enough. The legal department, speaking through the advertising department, was insisting that the reference to “dignity for white males” be struck. I refused to accept the changed wording and the ad was pulled.
Also that day, I placed telephone calls to several newspaper editors whose offices I had already visited. The editor of the Mesabi Daily News in Virginia, Bill Hanna, said he would try to include something about my campaign. Troy Krause, political reporter for the Redwood Falls Gazette, said that he would email me some questions and then write a story. On the other hand, the editors in Sandstone and Olivia were not planning any coverage of the primary race. I had a pleasant conversation with Gary Larsen, editor of the Mille Lacs County Times in Milaca, who remembered my literature. His newspaper was another owned by ECM Publications. I made also appointments for visits to reporters at the Faribault Daily News and the (Fairmont) Sentinel in the following week. A woman at the Proctor Journal asked me to call back Saturday morning to talk with Jake Benson, the editor. When I did, he asked me questions about the campaign and presumably wrote something.
Saturday, August 31, was a family day. My wife was away in China. My step-daughter, Celia, finishing a summer program at St. Olaf College, wanted me to attend a ceremony welcoming freshmen to the college. I drove down to Northfield for the festivities. Celia and I had lunch and then went to separate events put on for the freshmen and for their parents. Together, we attended together a welcoming ceremony in the gymnasium which included much music. Afterwards, Celia remained at the college and I drove home. This was also the last weekend of the State Fair.
After attending religious services on Sunday morning, I drove over to the State Fair grounds in St. Paul. This would be one of the few occasions where I would be able to take the campaign directly to the voters with my sign. A good location for this activity was at the north entrance to the Fairgrounds across from the parking area.
As fairgoers lined up to buy their entrance tickets, I stood in the middle of the walkway displaying my sign to pedestrians crossing the street from the parking area or lining up at the ticket window. It was too good to be true. After 20 minutes, a security guard, citing trespassing rules, asked me to leave the premises. I then stood near Snelling Avenue for more than an hour catching the smaller volume of pedestrian traffic crossing the street here. This was a good opportunity to create a personal connection with individual voters which would reinforce exposure from the media.
a car collision
I left the Fairgrounds in the mid afternoon and visited the nearby home of the Property Rights group’s cable-television producer, Bryan Olson, in Roseville. Then I drove west on Roselawn Avenue. Crossing the intersection of Roselawn and Cleveland with the green light, my car was struck by another car from the right side. I saw nothing before the accident.
Suddenly, my 1992 blue Ford escort sat helplessly in the middle of the intersection as I, stunned by the blow, was trying to make sense of the situation. My first thought, sitting in the seat of the wrecked car, was that I would have to suspend the campaign. The driver of the other car, a gray 1986 Olds Ciera, said that his brakes had failed. Several persons helped push my car to the side of the road until the police could arrive and tow the car away.
My car was towed to an impound lot south of I-94 in St. Paul. The Roseville police would not allow me to retrieve my large campaign sign from the car. After taking a report, they drove me to the bus staging area on the south end of the State Fairgrounds. A Metro Transit employee pointed out the bus stop to take people to downtown Minneapolis.
While I was waiting at the stop, I spotted my state representative, Greg Gray, then DFL candidate for state auditor, and his wife. Gray’s race had attracted much media attention because he was the first African American nominated by a major party to that office. Liberals were hoping that his candidacy would produce a large black voter turnout. I told him what had happened. He expressed his sympathies.
Then I met another political candidate at the bus stop, Gray’s polar opposite from a racial standpoint. This man’s large campaign button read: “Leininger for U.S. Senate”. In the campaign for Mayor of Minneapolis last year, there had been a candidate of the “White Man’s Working Party” named Larry Leininger. I asked the button-wearer if he was that candidate. He was. Leininger and his girl friend boarded the same bus as mine. We had an opportunity to talk for several minutes while standing in the aisle during the bus ride. Leininger was a janitor at the University of Minnesota. He and a small number of other people were making a statement on behalf of white working men. His was not an active campaign.
The violence of the car crash followed by the appearance of these two totally different political candidates created a surrealistic feeling. Suddenly my Senate campaign was thrown for a loop. I was stuck at home without transportation. My campaign sign was locked inside the car impounded in St. Paul. It turned out that my problems were even worse than expected. I did not have comprehensive insurance on the car, only liability, and therefore could not count upon my own insurance company to get the car fixed. The other car was without insurance. Its driver ignored my subsequent telephone calls and eventually disappeared. Most importantly, however, no one was injured in the crash.
The first consequence of the crash was that I could not return to the State Fairgrounds on the following day to resume campaigning. Since most offices were closed for the Labor Day holiday, I could do little until Tuesday morning to report the accident or find a replacement car. On Monday, sitting at home, I did find one activity to advance the campaign. I emailed a message to several dozen radio stations around the state proposing that political correctness was like a state religion. So was the so-called “work ethic”. While our society enforces those values, civil libertarians instead attack the harmless customs of Christianity. I was hoping that radio-station managers and talk-show hosts would see some controversy in this and perhaps give me some air time. They did not.
the campaign resumes with a rented car
Tuesday morning, September 3, I rented a new Ford Escort from Enterprise Rent-a-Car in downtown Minneapolis costing $20 a day. This would be the last week of the campaign. It was probably too late to approach the weekly newspapers. My best shot was to visit the remaining dailies in the state.
Studying the map, I realized that I could visit three of them if I drove in a circle from Minneapolis to Brainerd, St. Cloud, and Willmar. By telephone, the Brainerd Daily Dispatch’s political reporter, Mike O’Rourke, promised an interview if I could meet him in the late morning. I raced up to Brainerd in my new car along highways 10 and 371, arriving shortly before noon at the office of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (13,964). O’Rourke was available for a short interview. A photographer took pictures.
Now it was time to head back along the same highways to St. Cloud. My first stop was in Little Falls, at the office of the Morrison County Record (18,500). Reporter Joyce Moran asked a few questions, took a photograph, and said she would put an announcement in the newspaper. This was a lucky break because this large weekly newspaper was evidently still gathering news about the primary. Perhaps some Little Falls residents would remember me from the “Lindbergh Returns” parade two weeks earlier. The town manager had given me a lift back to my car.
At the next stop, the office of the St. Cloud Times (30,000) was in an unfamiliar part of town. Many streets were blocked from construction. Even though the political reporter, Dave Aeikins, came out to the lobby to talk with me briefly, his message was discouraging. He said the St. Cloud paper would be interested in covering my campaign only if I survived the primary. This visit may have had some use, however, since the Times’ editorial page was reporting candidates’ travels to the St. Cloud area.
Rambling westward from St. Cloud, I passed through the community of St. Joseph. It took awhile to locate the office of the St. Joseph Newsleader (3,300). The editor said he was too busy to see me when the receptionist announced my visit. He relented somewhat when I glanced into his small office. We had a short, though witty conversation. His having received my “white male” literature may have colored his expectations of me.
The remaining leg of the trip, from St. Joseph to Willmar, took me along winding roads through hilly terrain. I arrived at the office of the West Central Tribune (17,500) late in the afternoon. The reporter whom I had met during the previous visit to that office, Linda Vanderwerf, was busy on assignment. She arranged for another reporter, Michelle Kubitz, to interview me. In a conference room, Kubitz conducted a lengthy interview. What would make farm people think that a candidate from Minneapolis could represent them in the Senate? I wasn’t sure how my opposition to NAFTA would play in this context so I think I might have stressed the economic interdependence of all parts of the state. There was give-and-take between me and this reporter on several issues. It was a good interview.
The day ended with a long drive along U.S. highway 12 between Willmar and Minneapolis, passing places familiar from previous trips. I had to fill up at the William H. McCoy gasoline station in Delano and ask about the owner’s (to me) interesting name. Gee, the station clerk just worked there. He had no idea. This one-day trip covered 378 miles.
Back at home, I was surprised to find an email message in my computer from Aaron Brown, editor of the Hibbing Tribune. Several U.S. Senate candidates had recently visited his office. He wanted to do a story on the campaign experience including experiences of a struggling candidate like me. I worked into the late evening to produce a statement to be emailed in return. Get coverage however you can - another lucky break.
Wednesday, September 4th, was a busy day. This time, I would hit the remaining dailies in southern Minnesota. My first visit was predetermined. I met Pauline Schreiber of the Faribault Daily News (7,411) at 10:30 a.m., as scheduled. This was my third visit to the Faribault newspaper so I knew the streets well. Pauline Schreiber was an experienced, thoughtful reporter who asked several good questions. A colleague took a photograph. Finally this base had been touched.
Le Center was thirty miles to the west. I gave Diane, receptionist at the Le Center Leader (1,750), copies of my literature for the editor. Next door to the newspaper office was a cafe. I stopped there for a bowl of soup. This was the archetypical small-town cafe. The woman who managed the place and her son were both big fans of Jesse Ventura. They asked me if there was a way to persuade the Governor to eat in their restaurant. (Gov. Arne Carlson had once visited Le Center.) I suggested that they write him - What the heck! Over on highway 169, I stopped in St. Peter at the office of the St. Peter Herald (2,158). The editor was, like me, a red-headed man who liked politics. He liked the fact that I was raising fundamental political questions in my campaign for the U.S. Senate. I was feeling a bit more optimistic as I left his office.
An important objective on this trip was to visit the large daily newspaper in Mankato, the Free Press (25,244). I spoke with Mark Fishnik, a political reporter, in the lobby outside the newsroom. He gave him my standard pitch and some literature. Fishnik said that his newspaper would not include much pre-primary coverage. Most could come before the general election. However, he might include something about my campaign in his “Friday notebook”. While waiting for Fishnik, I also read a dispatch from the Twin Cities in the Free Press stating that the Greens were distancing themselves from their Senate candidate Ed McGaa because of Star Tribune disclosures of the failed scheme to ship ash to South Dakota.
The rest of the day was spent in a mad rush to try to visit as many weekly newspaper offices as I could in southwest Minnesota before the 5 p.m. closing time. I first stopped at the office of the Lake Crystal Tribune (1,774), spoke with editor Don Marben, and left literature. The next stop was in Madelia where editor Mark Anderson and Pat Art of the Madelia Times-Messenger (1,231) took literature and a campaign comb. Then it was on to keep an afternoon appointment with Bill Callahan of the Sentinel (7,700) in Fairmont. He asked several questions as we stood at the front counter. I left literature and photos. Then it was on to the St. James Plain Dealer (2,785). Mark Hagen, a reporter, took literature there.
My final stop of the day was at the offices of the Windom Citizen on 10th street. I left literature for the editor and took his card in case I returned. I wanted to hit the Observer/ Advocate (1,869) office in Mountain Lake on the way home, but it was closed. My travels that day had covered 375 miles.
last day of the campaign
The final day on the campaign trail was Thursday, September 5th. This time I would hit the cities and towns along interstate highway I-94 heading northwest toward Fargo/ Moorhead. One large daily, the Daily Journal in Fergus Falls, remained to be visited. I started out on I-94 exiting the freeway at any town which had a newspaper on my list. The first such place was Albany, Minnesota. I spoke with Adam in the office of the Stearns-Morrison Enterprise (2,200) and left literature and photographs. The next stop on this highway was at Melrose. Herman Lensing, editor of the Melrose Beacon (2,039) talked with me for several minutes and took literature.
Next on my list was Sauk Centre and its newspaper, the Sauk Centre Herald (3,000). Here, in the hometown of novelist Sinclair Lewis, the editor took me into his office for a short interview. There were photographs of some of the other Senate candidates on the wall. This was evidently a paper which took an interest in politics. The editor, Dave Simpkins, was a smart person who asked good questions and had several interesting things to say. Before leaving the office for another appointment, he took my photo and promised to publish something before the primary ( a mere five days off).
Continuing my journey up I-94, I exited the highway to join highway 27 on the way to Osakis and Alexandria. I spoke with Greta Petrich, editor of the Osakis Review (1,550), at the newspaper office. She was new in that position but had a keen interest in political affairs. I gave her my literature and photographs. I then continued on highway 27 to Alexandria, a larger-sized city. A reporter named Hollen at the Echo Press (11,000) said that it was too late to include news about the primary.
This newspaper has a policy of not running political materials too close to an election. There would be a special issue of the paper two weeks before the general election. I gave him samples of my campaign literature in case I was still in the race then.
At Alexandria, I left I-94 to travel south on highway 29 to Glenwood. Since I lived on Glenwood Avenue in Minneapolis, this city had a special attraction for me. Besides, its newspaper, the Pope County Tribune (4,000), had a good-sized circulation. Unfortunately it was lunch time when I arrived at the office. Mike Scott, a sports reporter, said that the editor and publisher, John Stone, would be back after lunch. I walked to a nearby cafe to have lunch myself. At a nearby table, several men were having a lively conversation. Editor Stone still had not returned to the office when I finished lunch. Scott told me that, because the newspaper came out on Monday, they might still have a chance to put something in if I could reach Stone by telephone.
Now it was time to drive the final segment to Fergus Falls. I headed west on highway 55 (which we call Olson highway in Minneapolis) through some picturesque countryside and a series of small towns without their own newspapers. I was passing through one such town, Kensington, when I spotted a sign which explained why the name rang a bell. This was the site of the famous “Kensington Runestone”, a stone with runic inscriptions “discovered” by a farmer in the late 19th century. If authentic, this stone and its inscriptions proved that the Vikings had been in Minnesota several centuries before Columbus’ voyage to America, certainly before the “Minnesota Vikings” pro football team came here. When my brother David visited Minnesota in the 1970s, he had proposed making a special trip to see this artifact. It might be worth my while to suspend campaign activities for an hour or so to take in an exhibit related to world history.
The sign directed me north on highway 1 and then to several other county roads. The “Kensington runestone” site was in an elevated, wind-swept park maintained by Douglas County. I could see an area surrounded by variously colored flags on flag poles. It had no significance other than being a memorial to the runestone discovery. A nearby stone indicated the actual site of the discovery. Where was the runestone now? A woman in the parking lot thought that it was in a small museum on highway 27 near Osakis. I later learned that the Kensington runestone was in the Douglas County Historical Society museum in Alexandria. In any event, it was not here.
The subject came up at my next stop, the office of the Grant County Herald (2,150) in Elbow Lake, farther up highway 55. The editor, Chris Ray, had become a Kensington Runestone buff because of local interest in the subject. He had dealt with filmmakers who made documentaries of possible Viking visits to Minnesota. He showed me a photograph of another stone which had been found in Elbow Lake with inexplicable circular markings. Had the Vikings also produced these? The Kensington Runestone had told of a battle several days distant from the site of the stone’s discovery. This was about the same distance as Elbow Lake. Returning to the business at hand, Ray also said that he was in favor of third-party politics. We were ready for something new.
The office of the Daily Journal (9,500) in Fergus Falls was near the exit from I-94. Luckily, I did not have to search this rather large town to find it. Although people in the office were quite busy, a reporter named Jim Sturgeon - “same as the fish” - had time to talk with me. Here I had one of the more intense discussion of issues, especially the shorter-workweek issue. Although it was an idea which personally intrigued to him, there were possible drawbacks. In defense, I went through the entire argument about how shorter work time might reduce economic waste. After so much driving that day, I might not have been on top of my game.
There was one remaining town on I-94 with a newspaper between here and Moorhead, Barnesville. A woman in the office of the Barnesville Record-Review (1,800) said that the editor, Eugene Prim, was away. I left literature for him. They published on Mondays, so it might still be possible to put something in the newspaper if I reached Prim by telephone.
My final stop of the day and of the campaign was at the offices of the Forum (51,381) in Fargo, North Dakota. The Forum was the dominant newspaper in Moorhead, Minnesota’s largest city along its western border. It was close to closing time when I arrived in Fargo. A reporter named Dave Jurgens met me in the 2nd floor lobby of the Forum building. He told me that Don Davis handled all the Minnesota political reporting for Forum Communications newspapers. I mentioned the thorough interview which Davis had already given me. Jurgens agreed that Davis was thorough. So it had not been necessary, after all, for me to have driven the final forty miles to Fargo.
The drive back to Minneapolis along interstate highway I-94 took about five hours. Thursday’s campaign travels had covered 549 miles. Altogether, I had traveled more than 5,500 miles around the state during the last month, both in my own Escort and in the rental car. There would be no more opportunities during the campaign for me to visit newspaper offices. Still, the most important single event was scheduled to take place tomorrow, Friday, September 6th, which was also the day that the Primary Voter Guide appeared in the Star Tribune. That was the interview on Minnesota Public Radio.
What could a candidate usefully do in the remaining three days before Tuesday’s primary election? For me, the time was anticlimactic. I knew that my principal opponent, Jim Moore, would have people working the phone banks for him and distributing literature to doors in Minneapolis and perhaps other communities. I was by myself. On Sunday, September 8th, a hot sunny day, I carried my sign (retrieved from the impound lot a day earlier) in the Burnsville “Fire Muster” parade. During the interminable waiting period at the start of the parade, I enjoyed the companionship of a judicial candidate’s husband and a photographer from Burnsville’s Heritage Photography studio. The parade itself seemed sparsely attended.
The finale of my campaign was to spend a few hours on Monday, September 9th, walking up and down Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Then it was over. There was nothing left to do except wait for the results.
Aggregate returns from the 2002 Independence Party primary for U.S. Senate show that, I, Bill McGaughey, received 8,482 votes, or 31.00% of the total votes cast. Jim Moore, the primary winner, received 13,525 votes, 49.44% of the total. Ronald E. Wills received 5,351 votes, or 19.56% of the total. The turnout for the 2002 Minnesota primary election was a comparatively light 18.6% of eligible voters.
Before reviewing the election returns by county, I might have predicted the following results: First, I would do better in the out state area than in the metro area because the metro newspapers, especially the Star Tribune, had given more extensive coverage to Jim Moore’s campaign than to mine and because I was spending the bulk of my time traveling around the state. Second, I would do better in St. Paul than in Minneapolis because the St. Paul Pioneer Press had mentioned me in its story of the Independence Party Senate primary and had run my paid ad. Third, I would do worse in areas of more intense Independence Party activity because the party was working hard to elect Moore. This last impact was hard to determine. I could only guess from email messages what the party organization was doing.
How did it turn out? The most striking result was that, in absolute terms, I received a larger number of votes in Olmsted County than in either Hennepin or Ramsey Counties. There were 1,208 people voted for me in Olmsted County (which includes the city of Rochester), compared with 1,129 people who voted for me in Hennepin County. In 1999, Olmsted County had a population of 121,452 persons. Hennepin County (which includes Minneapolis) had a population of 1,089,024 persons. My vote total in Olmsted County was exceeding that in a county nine times as populous.
Why did I do so well in Rochester? The answer was obviously Tim Penny. Tim Penny, the Independence Party’s candidate for governor in 2002, was a former Congressman who had represented the First Congressional District for six terms. A Democrat in a largely Republican district, Penny was personally popular. All across southeastern Minnesota, encompassing the First District, Independence Party candidates were doing well. People there were most likely voting in the Independence Party primary because they wanted to vote for Tim Penny.
With respect to the contest with Moore, the bottom line is that I received 31.00% of the statewide vote compared with his 49.44% share of the vote. I can judge the effectiveness of my campaign by identifying counties where I received substantially more or substantially less than 31% of the vote, the statewide average.
Regarding the idea that I would do better out state than in the metro area, the evidence does not support that theory. I received 30.489% of the Independence Party primary vote for Senate in Hennepin County, and 30.568% of the vote in Ramsey County. Those figures were only slightly below the statewide average of 31%.
Percentage-wise, my top five counties in terms of percentage of the Independence Party vote were: Itasca (36.33%), Ottertail (34.07%), Mower (34.00%), Stearns (33.89%), and Anoka (33.11%) counties. The bottom five counties were: Blue Earth (25.77%), Waseca (26.14%), Freeborn (27.77%), Wabasha (29.09%), and Dakota (29.21%) counties. There is no apparent pattern in these results.
Upon rereading this narrative, I realized that it has underplayed the role of Senator Paul Wellstone, the person whose office was being contested. I participated in a debate including Senator Wellstone during the campaign but, more importantly, I knew him personally before the campaign began.
Paul Wellstone was the DFL’s unsuccessful candidate for Minnesota state auditor in 1982. At that time, I was working for the Metropolitan Transit Commission, the public bus agency in the Twin Cities. Its offices were on the seventh floor of the American Center Building (now the Ramsey County Government Center East Building) near the river in downtown St Paul. After his election loss, Wellstone worked on the eighth floor of that building coordinating an energy program. I became acquainted with him and we had lunch together in downtown St. Paul several times. The MTC offices then moved to Minneapolis.
Ten years later, in 1992, I became involved with Local 879 of the United Automobile Workers which represented Ford workers in St. Paul as it began to challenger closer trade relations with Mexico on human-rights grounds. I went down to Mexico City to observe a union election at the Cuautitlan Ford plant where a worker had been murdered. Now Senator Wellstone was a close friend of the union president, Tom Laney. I carried with me a letter from the Senator asking for a written report on what I observed during my Mexican visit.
Against our wishes, President Bill Clinton negotiated a free-trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. I became further estranged from the Democratic party and its officeholders when the DFL city government in Minneapolis aggressively came after me as the new owner of an apartment building in that city where criminal activities had allegedly occurred. That led me to affiliate with a group of Minneapolis landlords who were suing the city for inspections violations. The high point of our militancy came in 1998 when when we shut down a meeting of the Minneapolis City Council as it met to revoke a landlord’s rental license.
Once aligned with the Democrats, I gradually became associated with the Reform Party, later the Independence Party, as it elected a governor, Jesse Ventura. He was elected shortly after we closed down the Minneapolis City Council. I was then riding a wave of militancy that included both the rampaging Minneapolis landlords and an insurgent third party.
The story of my 2002 campaign for U.S. Senate appears above. It notes that I was in a debate with Senator Wellstone and two other candidates during my primary campaign. Relations between us had cooled somewhat as a result of my challenging his tenure as U.S. Senator during the primary. But there was no overt hostility or unpleasantness.
In any event, I lost the primary election to Jim Moore while the campaign for U.S. Senate progressed to the general election. Then, suddenly, on October 25, 2002, Paul Wellstone, his wife, and several other people died in a plane crash near Eveleth, Minnesota. The Senator was there to attend the funeral of a steelworker whose son had served in the Minnesota House of Representatives. This event, of course, came as a shock to all Minnesotans. Although the National Transportation Safety board blamed the plane crash on pilot error, there has been speculation that the flight was sabotaged by Wellstone’s political enemies.
Shortly after the crash, a huge rally was held in the Twin Cities to mourn Wellstone’s loss. I attended this event. The upshot was that former Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale stepped in as the DFL candidate for Senate. However, he narrowly lost the election to the Republican candidate, Norm Coleman. This Senate seat, once Paul’s, is now held by Democrat Al Franken.
Note: This is part of a book-length manuscript (420 pages) titled "The Independence Party and the Future of Third-Party Politics: Adventures and Opinions of a Former IP Senate Candidate" by William McGaughey which was published by Thistlerose Publications in 2003. It can be found at http://www.newindependenceparty.org/IndependencePartyBook.html.
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