Bill McGaughey’s Record as a Political Candidate

     Bill McGaughey has been a candidate in three elections between 2001 and 2004:

(1) for mayor of Minneapolis in a nonpartisan primary held September 11, 2001;

(2) for U.S. Senate in the Independence Party’s primary held on September 10, 2002; and

(3) for President of the United States in Louisiana’s Democratic Presidential primary held on March 9, 2004.

He lost all three contests, but here are the results:

Office sought: Mayor of Minneapolis
Type of election: nonpartisan primary narrowing the field to two candidates in the general election.
Date of election: September 11, 2001

Results: Finished 12th among 22 candidates, gaining a paltry 143 votes city wide.

Comment: This was a disappointing result any way you slice it. McGaughey was known in Minneapolis political circles as a landlord activist, belonging to a pariah group called “Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee”. In the mayoral race, he substituted for the group’s leader, Charlie Disney, who dropped out of the contest after suffering a heart attack. McGaughey campaigned actively for about a week; his new wife and step-daughter arrived from China at Newark airport during this time, and there were family obligations to satisfy.

McGaughey participated in two “debates” - one which allowed candidates to make two-minute statements (not covered by the press) and one in which he joined five other candidates to discuss the future of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program in an audience of NRP supporters. This was one of his better performances although he opposed the NRP saying the city could no longer afford it. (Six years later, this program was substantially cut.) However, the Star Tribune article on this debate did not mention that McGaughey and another candidate had participated. McGaughey also joined another “minor” candidate in singing patriotic songs on the news program on the eve of the election; they may have sung off key.

The salient fact of this election was the date. It was held on September 11, 2001, the same day that terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. When the election results came in, McGaughey did not really care. It was a numbing experience all around.

Office sought: United States Senator
Type of election: primary of Minnesota’s Independence Party narrowing the field down to a single candidate from three
Date of election: September 10, 2002

Results:

 

candidate
number of votes
percent of total
Jim Moore
13,525
49.44%
Bill McGaughey
8,482
31.00%
Ronald E. Wills
5,351
19.56%

 

Comments: The results were dramatically better than in the mayoral race both in the number of votes gained and the percentage of total vote. Helping McGaughey was the fact that the two other candidates, including the party-endorsed candidate, were relatively unknown to the public. His impressive vote total can be attributed to the fact that the Independence Party’s gubernatorial candidate was former U.S. Congressman, Tim Penny, who was one of Governor Ventura’s principal advisors (and later a member of President Bush’s committee to reform Social Security). So the primary voters were really turning out to support Penny and incidentally voting for a Senate candidate.

For his campaign platform, McGaughey chose two planks - a shorter workweek by 2010 and dignity for white males - which were totally outside the political mainstream and might have hurt a “serious” candidate. He meant to challenge the other two parties on their core issues. It may be that these potentially controversial planks did not hurt McGaughey in the primary since Independence Party people tend to be political mavericks. However, one of these planks offended the Star Tribune, the state’s largest newspaper, to the point that they would not give McGaughey’s campaign any coverage.

The relatively good results also reflected the fact that McGaughey had spent five weeks traveling around Minnesota to local newspaper offices. He had a clear position paper and photographs. Also, in the last week, McGaughey participated in a radio interview on Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities along with Ronald E. Wills. He also had the privilege of participating in a debate with the incumbent U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone and two others two months before the Senator died in a plane crash in northern Minnesota. McGaughey had known Wellstone for the better part of twenty years.

Office sought: President of the United States
Type of election: primary of Louisiana’s Democratic Party narrowing the field down to a single candidate from seven
Date of election: March 9, 2004

Results:

candidate
number of votes
percent of total
     
John Kerry
112,639
69.7%
John Edwards
26,074
16.1%
Howard Dean
7,948
4.9%
Wesley Clark
7,091
4.4%
Bill McGaughey
3,161
2.0%
Dennis Kucinich
2,411
1.5%
Lyndon LaRouche
2,329
1.4%

 

Comments: McGaughey lost ground from his previous race, both in votes gained and percentage of the vote, even though he campaigned just as hard. This time, however, he was up against the “A team” - a group of candidates known to the public from numerous televised debates.

By the time the Louisiana primary took place, John Kerry had sewn up the nomination. That meant that neither of the state’s two largest newspapers, the Times-Picayune in New Orleans nor The Advocate in Baton Rouge, mentioned McGaughey in their scaled-back campaign stories. Whatever press he managed to attract came in stories at least a week before the primary. The most significant, perhaps, was a story in the Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, the state’s fourth largest city, that obviously helped. However, McGaughey’s campaign was also reported in a number of small-town newpapers including those in the northeast part of the state where he received some of his highest vote percentages.

In all, he spent five weeks traveling the state. Besides newspapers, he visited three radio stations and had several radio interviews, both in studio and on the phone. McGaughey also participated in a television interview, but learned that the show would air after the primary. He placed one-inch classified ads in the state’s largest newspapers, but, judging from the fact that he did not do well in those cities, they may not have helped. Also, he blew a chance for a lengthy story in the Times-Picayune by failing to have internet access during the campaign. A reporter who did a story on Bush’s sole Republican opponent sent McGaughey a message the day after he left Minnesota.

McGaughey had also filed papers to be a candidate in South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary only to learn during a trip to Columbia that the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terence McAuliffe, had his name stricken from the ballot. If he had done reasonably well in an earlier primary, that might have increased his chances of coverage in the Louisiana primary.

Even so, the presidential race in Louisiana’s Democratic primary was a positive experience for McGaughey, both in terms of the process and the results. While he had not done as well as he had hoped, McGaughey had managed to beat two other candidates much better known than he. Back in Minnesota, the journal, Law & Politics, asked McGaughey to contribute a short piece on what he had learned from the campaign.

Conclusion: For a candidate like Bill McGaughey, a positive, issues-oriented campaign is the only way to go. Full steam ahead.

 


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