Literature drops and other attempts at outreach
Up to this point, I had been running my usual solo campaign. There had been some coordination, though not much, with John Butler and Jim Swartwood, also running on the New Dignity Party ticket. The two open houses had failed to connect with anyone new. Most of the lawn signs were up but we were otherwise not connecting with the public. There was little or no newspaper publicity. There were yet no candidate debates.
I did receive an inquiry from the political action committee of the Minneapolis Professional Employees Association (MPEA) which represented city employees. They wanted to interview me for a possible endorsement and sent me a questionnaire. An interview was scheduled at the Waite Park Community Center on Monday, September 21st, at 9:30 a.m. Because of construction-related detours while driving to the center, I was about ten minutes late. The interviewers were already gone. I rescheduled two days later and did the interview. Although it seemed to go well, Rybak got the group’s endorsement. No surprise here.
Due to illness and a lingering anxiety about how my racial message would be received, I was no longer personally making the rounds of shops in commercial corridors talking with store owners. This race for mayor was even more unrealistic than my third-party Congressional campaign had been. There was a touch of embarrassment at even being a candidate facing such odds.
distributing literature from door to door
A remaining motive was to get New Dignity Party’s name and message before the public so that, hopefully, someone would contact me and we could start to build a party organization. Numbers of contacts mattered. Rather than spend time talking with people, I would distribute literature door to door. That way, I could reach large numbers of people more quickly and the costs would be minimal.
Harrison Neighborhood Association had agreed to let neighborhood residents use the copying machine in its office for 5 cents a copy - 4 cents if you supplied your own paper. Copymax charged 9 cents per copy. I wanted colored rather than white paper. This could be purchased at Copymax or, less expensively, at Xpedx. I bought four reams of paper in three different colors and also several boxes of rubber bands. Because 8.5” by 11” sheets of paper could not simply be dropped on door steps without being carried off by the wind, the sheets needed to be rolled and attached to door knobs with the rubber bands. Each leaflet delivered in person would save me at least 20 cents in mailing costs. This was obviously the way to go.
Another advantage of this type of campaigning, which excited me at the time, was that I might become physically fit from walking house to house. I worry about being overweight from eating too much and leading a sedentary life except for my short morning walk with the dog. Several hours each day of additional walking would help me shed pounds. Even a losing campaign, if it were active, could be a blessing in disguise.
I prepared two pieces of literature on a full-page sheet. The first was the “mission statement” with the header “Announcing a new political party: New Dignity Party”. I thought this was an idealistic statement that would appeal to many. The second was a letter to city residents that began with the statement: “Another city election is upon us. This one seems to have attracted less than rapt attention because the incumbent officeholders are mostly DFLers seeking reelection in what is basically a one-party town. Please note that a new political party - New Dignity Party - is making its debut this year. The new party is running three candidates: Bill McGaughey, for Mayor; John Butler, for Park Board at large; Jim Swartwood, for Board of Estimate and Taxation.”
The second leaflet made the basic pitch for our candidacy. Not only were we focusing on inspections abuse, excessive fines and fees, and other city issues but also on “problems of personal identity ... it is especially important that white Americans take another look at themselves and seek a more positive self-image. We need new and more honest discussions of race, gender, and other personal characteristics.” It pointed out that MTN was broadcasting such a discussion on Channel 16 and gave the dates and times when people could tune in. Finally it proposed that if someone wanted to help us spread the message, we would welcome a small donation - “say, $5 or $10 - to defray the cost of literature” which could be mailed to a certain Post Office box in Minneapolis.
I first thought of putting both messages on opposite sides of the same sheet but then decided to go with the second message, the letter to city residents. Not only would that reduce the cost per sheet from 9 cents to 5 cents but it would also give a less cluttered appearance to persons picking the leaflets off their door knobs. Maybe a certain percentage of people would give money. I could then put that money into producing more literature and perhaps hiring someone to help me distribute it. If the solicitation was effective, this might become the campaign’s money machine.
Actually, money was not the problem. It was the message and lack of volunteers.
Certain personal friends - Nancy Mac Gibbon, Bob Anderson, and Ted Odell - had given money as well as my fellow campaigners, Jim Swartwood and John Butler. I was worried that the financial reporting would force my hand on expenditures since any excess of expenditures over receipts were covered by a donation from me. I had already reported my having donated $452 to the campaign. Then John Butler’s check for $90 came in. Could I now report a reduced donation from me and have Butler’s contribution cover part of the previous expenditure? I was not sure. It was better to spend the additional money on additional literature than revise previously reported figures.
At the Harrison Neighborhood Office, I made 500 copies of the letter to city residents. Then I sat at my desk rolling the sheets of paper and putting a rubber band around each sheet. These scrolled sheets were accumulated in a box - actually two boxes - and the boxes were placed on seats in my car. I had a small canvas brief case to carry with me during the delivery to homes. I would put a certain quantity of scrolls sheets in the brief case as I made my rounds. There were typically enough sheets to cover a city block on both sides of the street, going up one side and then back on the other. When I was done leafletting that block, I would arrive back near the car. I would then refill the brief case with literature from a box on the seat, drive up to the next corner, and begin the process again.
where I went
My notes show that I first hit the Kenwood neighborhood, not far from my own neighborhood but “on the other side of the tracks”. Starting on October 7th, I dropped literature in an area ranging from Dupont to Fremont Avenues South between Mount Curve and Lincoln Avenues. I hurried to complete my rounds - i.e. using up the supply of scrolled sheets from both boxes in the car - because the first mayoral debate would take place later that afternoon. This neighborhood was hilly. I had to walk up and down many flights of steps. Few people were home. I saw much evidence of houses being sold. I also saw quite a few “no soliciting signs”. I skipped those houses unless I had walked up a steep flight of stairs and felt entitled to solicit.
Since the ice was broken, I now delivered literature nearly every day through the end of the campaign. The next area to be covered was along Pillsbury Avenue between 40th and 44th streets (not far from the Martin Luther King park where the landlord group meets), with a side excursion into a new development off Wentworth Avenue. On the following day, I went up and down Aldrich Avenue between 48th and 51st Streets South.
I then made a conscious decision to cover neighborhoods near the Washburn public library when our Open House would take place on October 15th. (This event was mentioned in the letter.) Hopefully announcement of that event in the letter would draw people from adjoining neighborhoods. So, on October 12th, I hit the area east of Lyndale Avenue (where the library was located) around 51st Street. On October 13th, it was time then to cover some of the streets west of Lyndale Avenue near the library.
Alas, no one showed up at our Open House at Washburn library except for John Butler. I kept checking the Post Office box for donations and letters. None were received. Obviously, my strategy was not working. Maybe people do not respond kindly to solicitous literature placed on door knobs with rubber bands. Maybe they did not like my particular message. Maybe they were not paying attention to the election at all. Who knows what the problem was?
I delivered my first round of 500 sheets in daily deliveries of approximately 150 sheets, and then did another round of 500 sheets with the same message. There was no response. Therefore, I decided to switch over to the other message - distributing sheets with the header, “Announcing a New Political Party.” This at least communicated the philosophy of New Dignity Party with respect to identity politics. Maybe the problem had been that people needed a more lengthy presentation of our views.
In addition to the 1,000 pieces of literature with the first message, I distributed 1,500 sheets with the second message, again in scrolls attached to door knobs. My plan was to scatter the literature in different neighborhoods around the city so that I would know from the election results how our message struck various types of people.
Using mostly the new literature, I covered certain blocks on Taylor and Polk avenues in northeast Minneapolis after reposting our two signs in the community garden at Lowry and Central. Other neighborhoods visited were: parts of east Phillips neighborhood in ward 6, an area just north of Roosevelt high school in wards 9 and 12, Bryn Mawr, more streets in Kenwood, some blocks in ward 13 in the extreme southwest corner of Minneapolis, both sides of Aldrich avenue between 36th and 42nd streets south, and (the day before the election) a few blocks in Harrison.
Since my own campaign was not working, I did a “twofer” with other several candidates. I offered to distribute some of Papa John Kolstad’s literature even though he was nominally an opponent of mine. Dave Bicking, in Ward 9, was another possible beneficiary of cooperative lit drops. Despite email messages to both candidates, we never worked out a definite plan.
Then I talked with Mike Tupper, a candidate for City Council in Ward 6, whom I knew both from the Independence Party gathering and discussions about an appearance on MPRAC’s cable-television show. I had seen Tupper’s lawn signs everywhere. Tupper said he would take and place four of my signs in his ward. I thought the least I could do to reciprocate would be to drop some of his literature. After all, the hard part was walking around to homes in the neighborhoods. I could as easily leave two pieces of literature on the doorstep as one.
Tupper said that he had covered Whittier neighborhood fairly well but was weak in Phillips, especially east Phillips. So I agreed to do my lit dropping in that part of the city. It was a neighborhood near Franklin Avenue just south of I-94 where lots of Hispanic and Somali people lived. Many were not legal voters. I had to walk up and down staircases quite often. The streets were also less regular than in some other parts of the city. But I was getting plenty of physical exercise and enjoying this “tour” of a different neighborhood. It took place on two successive days.
I also spoke with Kris Broberg in Ward 13 about taking his literature. He thought I might help out in the ninth precinct of that ward. I drove over to Broberg’s house in the Linden Hills area of Minneapolis to pick up his literature in a box on the porch. I could not find the box but I did run into a Park Board candidate, David Wahlstedt, who said that Broberg was at a nearby coffee shop. Broberg gave me some literature from the back of his van. I drove down to the southwest corner of the city, making sure I stayed east of Xerxes and did not go into Edina.
This was a good area for dropping literature because the houses were close together, there were few hills, and a higher percentage of people in this part of the city voted. Some of the few non-DFL City Council members had come from Ward 13; Broberg was hoping to become one of them. I passed out my literature in a relatively short time and asked Broberg for a second batch to be distributed on the following day. It was Halloween season. I ran into a few people putting up holiday decorations outside.
The same was true of Ward 10. I approached one of the candidates, Kim Vlaisavljevich, about taking her literature. She readily agreed. “Kim V.” had come to our MPRAC candidate debate and had great personal appeal, being an Iron Ranger and all that. I covered both sides of Aldrich Avenue South between 42th and 36th streets using a map that Kim had provided.
This activity was noteworthy both because I freed a rabbit from a chain link fence and because I was dropping literature at the same time that neighborhood children were “trick or treating” for Halloween. I told one woman that she would have to deal “both with Halloween goblins and political pamphleteers” that night. I also occasionally helped myself to candy left for the holiday revelers. It was just the thing to boost my sugar level and keep me going full force to the next block.
In short, I had distributed a total of 2,500 pieces of literature by the end of the campaign. Still no letters came to our Post Office box. No one had contacted me by email from the web site. So I thought that skimping on personal contact for the sake of volume might be a misguided strategy.
My plan for the last week of the campaign was to pass out the half-page flyers - the one with the “dignified” individuals shown in the margins - to people waiting at bus stops in downtown Minneapolis in the late afternoon. I had done some of that in 2001 and knew that I could reach many voters quickly this way. The only problem was that many of the people who worked downtown took buses to the suburbs. They would not be voting in the Minneapolis city election. I thought I would get a map of routes from the bus company (my old employers) and hang out along bus stops for the routes going to south Minneapolis.
In the harried final days of the campaign, I could manage only one day of downtown leafletting - Monday, November 2nd, the day before the election. Because so many people said they were not eligible to vote in the Minneapolis election, I learned to approach people first with the question of whether they lived in the city. This approach seemed to work. Most people were friendly even if I was panhandled a few times. I ran into the girl friend of a man who belongs to a singing group with me. I also ran into a woman who said she was distantly related to John Butler. It’s a small world. I must have handed out 150 pieces of literature on Nicollet Mall that evening. This activity effectively brought my campaigning for mayor to an end.
to next chapter