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Having never run for public office in my first sixty years, the dawn of the 21st century brought out in me a desire to become a political candidate for four different offices in the space of seven years.
First, I filed in the 2001 primary for mayor of Minneapolis after a friend dropped out of that race. Second, in 2002, I ran in Minnesota’s Independence Party primary for U.S. Senate against the party-endorsed candidate, Jim Moore. Two years later, in 2004, I filed in the Democratic presidential primary in two southern states, South Carolina and Louisiana. My name was stricken from the ballot in South Carolina, but I did spend five weeks campaigning in Louisiana. Finally, in 2008, I made it to the general election for the first time as the Independence Party’s candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s fifth district, comprising Minneapolis and several suburbs.
In all four races, I campaigned solo. The race in 2008 was the first in which I had a campaign manager other than myself; but his role was limited. In 2008, I raised a total of $175 in campaign contributions from other people. My previous high was $50 in 2002. In spite of this, I campaigned hard in all four contests; my goal was to beat expectations and therefore get noticed. The ideas that I brought forth would get noticed. I can’t say that was accomplished. What those efforts got me was to be called a “frequent candidate” in an article in the Star Tribune about the 5th district Congressional race appearing in October.
Still, the record speaks for itself. As a candidate for mayor of Minneapolis, I finished twelfth among twenty-two candidates with a total of 143 votes citywide. Two years later, I received 8,482 votes running for U.S. Senate in Minnesota’s Independence Party primary, or 31% of the total vote. This was good for a second-place finish in a three-man contest; the winner received less than 50% of the vote. In the 2004 Louisiana Democratic presidential primary, I finished fifth among seven candidates. My 3,161 votes equalled 1.96 percent of the total votes, rounded up to 2% in most tabulations.
Finally, in 2008, I received 6.92% of the total, or 22,318 votes, as the Independence Party candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s fifth district, running against a Democrat and a Republican. (In the primary for Congress in September 2008, I had received 828 votes or 1.79% of the total votes cast.)
Yes, I did not win any of the four elections, or even come close, but there was a silver lining in each campaign:
The 2001 primary election, with its dismal results for me on an even more dismal day for the nation (September 11th), did set the stage for the defeat of the incumbent mayor and incumbent City Council president in the November general election. Those were results I badly wanted.
The 2002 race for U.S. Senate showed that I could get an impressive number of votes and a healthy percentage of the total vote running against a party-endorsed candidate with a two-point platform that no respectable candidate would ever embrace: a four-day workweek and “dignity for white males”.
My campaign for President in Louisiana in 2004 failed in its main purpose - to be mentioned in CNN’s national reporting of Democratic primary results (since John Kerry had sewed up the nomination a week before) - but some newspaper commentators did observe that I had beaten two better-known candidates, Dennis Kucinich and Lyndon LaRouche, by a 2-to-1 margin.
Finally, the Congressional race in 2008 raised my vote total to above 20,000 and the percentage to nearly 7%. On election night, the hero of third-party candidacies, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, told me and several others how proud he was of the fact that several Independence Party candidates that evening (including me) had surpassed the 5% mark which qualifies political parties for major-party status. When he became involved, 3% to 4% of the vote was considered a good result.
So it was worth the effort. My vote total climbed from 143 votes in 2001 to 8,482 in 2002, then went down to 3,161 in 2004, and finally rose to a peak of 22,318 votes in 2008. Admittedly, the larger vote total came in the general election with an electorate swollen by numerous Obama voters. But still it was an accomplishment - at the age of 67, a way to cap my late-starting political career.
Another part was that I had published books about my previous campaigns. There was “The Independence Party and the Future of Third-Party Politics”, published in 2003, which covered my first two campaigns. Then, in 2004, came “On the Ballot in Louisiana”, a personal adventure story. This time, with my most impressive election result, there will be no book since I have run out of money for such purposes. That’s the reason for this narrative. The story of my latest campaign will be told on line rather than in print.
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