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Chapter Sixteen

The Candidate Debates

This had been a strange campaign. Normally, political candidates for such offices as Congress are debating each other, marching in parades, and otherwise personally contending for votes at events. But I did not even meet my two rivals until our first scheduled debate, which was October 11th. This was a full three months after I had filed for office. Less than a month remained before the general election.

I knew Keith Ellison, of course. I knew him from the days when, as an attorney and candidate for state representative, he was castigating landlords. I had been to events during the 2006 election campaign where I was an active supporter of Tammy Lee but had once complimented him on giving a forthright answer to my question about attacking Iran. (He was against this, and so was I.) And I had crashed Ellison’s forum on immigration in September. I had never, however, met or even seen the Republican candidate, Barb Davis White, although I had looked at her website. She had delivered the invocation at the Ron Paul rally before I took my seat inside the Target Center. Otherwise, our paths had not crossed.

This situation was contrasted with what was happening in the 3rd and 6th districts. Here the candidates for Congress had been to numerous events together. In the 3rd district, there had been three or four debates. There were frequent parades and, perhaps, other events that would bring the candidates together. The difference was that media experts and others had decided that there was an open race in the 3rd district, the incumbent Congressman having retired, but that Keith Ellison was a sure winner in the 5th. The election itself was considered anti-climactic. Only with great effort would the political community pay any attention to what was happening in my race.

Diverse candidates meet in a Minneapolis high school

A few idealists, such as the Minnesota League of Women Voters, believed that the tradition of having fair and open elections was worth upholding. Another was a civics teacher at Minneapolis’ Patrick Henry High School named Brionna Harder. During every election campaign for the last several cycles she had invited all the candidates in several difference races to make a presentation in front of her class. This year’s event for the U.S. House and Senate candidates would be on Thursday, September 18th at 3 p.m. in room 132. I was invited.

I knew where Patrick Henry High School was located because my stepdaughter, Celia, had graduated from that school in 2002. I drove up Penn Avenue - which was then blocked at Lowry by a construction project - and made a detour and reached the school. Several candidates were talking among themselves in front of the room. A photographer with the St. Paul Pioneer Press was also there. The candidates did not, however, include Barb Davis White or Keith Ellison, or, so far as I recall, any other candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The candidates for U.S. Senate of the Constitution Party, James Niemacki, and of the Libertarian Party, Charles Aldrich, were there; and so was Priscilla Lord Faris, recently defeated by Al Franken in the DFL primary for U.S. Senate. Lord Faris, daughter of former U.S. judge Miles Lord, was a major player in the primary. She had received almost 75,000 votes. Toward the end of the year, I would often see the other two men’s names appear on the television screen when ballots involved in the recount between Norm Coleman and Al Franken were displayed.

There were around twenty students in the room. The event was structured that each of the candidates could make opening statements and then be asked to answer questions from the students. It would not be a debate. Many of the students’ questions had to do with the experience of being a candidate - how you raise money, get press coverage, etc. - rather than with “issues”. We each shared our perspectives. Of greatest interest to me was Priscilla Lord Faris’s surprise that Al Franken had not reached out to her after the primary. There had not been so much as a phone call. I thought that was stupid on the part of the Franken campaign and called my friend, Harvey Hyatt, an ardent Franken supporter, to let him know.

Brionna Harder, the class teacher, talked with me briefly. She said she subscribed to the Minneapolis e-democracy forum and was interested in my postings. She herself was not an active participant on the forum but did have some opinions.

This was a rare encounter with other candidates. The next event would be an evening reception for candidates sponsored by the Minneapolis League of Women Voters on Thursday, October 2nd, starting at 6 p.m. No speeches were required; it would be a social gathering. I would gladly have attended; however, I remembered that I was to be up in Sturgeon Lake, 100 miles north of the Twin Cities, by 8 p.m. on the same evening so that I could participate in a “Sufi” singing event at the 2008 Minnesota Men’s Conference. I did this every year. Robert Bly, the poet, who was the chief organizer or teacher at the Men’s Conference, also hosted our singing group’s weekly sessions at his home in Minneapolis. I felt morally obligated to attend. So I missed the candidate event. We have to make choices in life.

The debate at KSTP-TV

Now for the big one: The Minnesota League of Women Voters and KSTP-TV, Channel 5, were jointly sponsoring a debate between the 5th District Congressional candidates at the KSTP studios on University Avenue. The debate, moderated by Tom Hauser, would start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 11th. For a format, KSTP would air an introductory piece about the candidates, the candidates would then answer questions posed by Hauser, then they would ask each other questions, and finally they would each make closing statements. The opportunity to ask questions of my two opponents especially interested me. However, the questions were each limited to two minutes and needed to be concise. I had some wicked questions to ask.

Keith Ellison, a black man steeped in the legacy of the Civil Rights movement, was also the only Moslem member of Congress. However, he also had strong support from the Jewish community. I would ask him this question: “In the 1950s, southern states such as Alabama had a democratic form of government but, in practice, gave white people a privileged place in society. Democracy requires equal treatment of citizens regardless of race or religion. Today, the Israeli constitution declares that the state of Israel is both a Jewish state and a democracy. Do you see any similarities between this arrangement and the segregationist system that existed in America fifty years ago? If so, what should we do about it?”

Barb Davis White, on the other hand, was an ordained minister. Her Christian faith had obviously followed her into politics. My question for her was: “Albert Schweitzer wrote that Jesus’ mission was to announce the arrival of God’s Kingdom. He was the Messiah who would appear when the Kingdom came. Schweitzer said that the ethics of Jesus were not a program for social or moral reform, but were meant solely to prepare his listeners for entering the Kingdom. Do you agree with this view? If so, why is the Christian church today so concerned with what Jesus called the ‘things belonging to Caesar’? Why so involved in politics?”

KSTP-TV also graciously extended the candidates an opportunity to make a two-minute statement which would be broadcast unedited in the station’s 6:30 p.m. local news on Friday, October 17th. We were given a choice either of delivering the statement live in the KSTP-TV studio at the time of the broadcast or else taping the statement beforehand for broadcast at that time. I chose the live presentation. This seemed to promise a more significant and interesting experience.

On Saturday morning, I put on my best suit, combed my hair, and went to the KSTP-TV studio, avoiding I-94 which was temporarily closed. I parked on a street on the west side of the building. Though I had plenty of time before the debate, I became increasingly anxious as I tried to open a series of locked doors. Finally, I found an entrance that was open around in back on the east side of the building.

Soon I spotted Larry Weiss, Ellison’s campaign manager. He showed me the studio where we would be debating. When I entered, I saw Barb Davis White and another man, who I assumed to be her campaign manager on the other side of the room. I introduced myself. Then I went over to Ellison and shook hands with him.

I was in a fairly good mood. So was Barb Davis White. She had a warm and effusive personality. She told me she was the daughter in law of W. Harry Davis (a civil rights leader after whom the school on Glenwood Avenue is named). We got to know each other a bit. Ellison and his aides, including Larry Weiss, were keeping to themselves across the room.

The questions from Hauser covered a variety of subjects such as the Iraq war and mandated fuel-efficiency standards for the automobile industry. Davis White’s views were predictably conservative: She favored a flat tax and a strong national defense. Ellison’s liberal views I already knew. I, of course, had my own set of issues that I wanted to present and occasionally was able to present them. Later, when I looked at the tape, it seemed that I was flapping my arms around wildly and rolling my head, but at the time my presentation seemed to me to be normal. Ellison, of course, was calm and collected.

Keith Ellison handled my question about Israel and the segregationist south quite well. In fact, he said it was a good question. Then he went into stating his support for a “two state solution” and the need for continuing negotiations. Davis White also seemed pleased that I was getting into theological questions because that had been the focus of her education. However, she did not agree that Christians should stay out of politics. Her curriculum had not included Schweitzer, she said.

Ellison had a thorny question for me, too. Why was it, he asked, that in my writings I felt compelled to defend myself against charges of being a “slumlord”? I told Ellison that people had called me that two weeks after I had first purchased my building. The political culture in Minneapolis was rotten. The city was trying to shift the blame for crime from itself to property owners. In my view, I handled the question well.

The financial bailout was a pressing topic. Ellison had voted for the bailout bill. He said that a representative of Minnesota’s private colleges had called him to say that students loans were in jeopardy unless the bill passed. Both Barb Davis White and I were opposed to the bailout, she along conservative lines that government money should not be given to business and I because the money did not seem to be easing the credit squeeze but instead was being misused.

I don’t remember all the questions and answers. I do recall that we were given a chance to ask each other two questions. My second question to Ellison packed a bigger punch. I told him that I had heard that the Democratic leaders in the House kept their members on a tight leash. The members even had to turn over some of their campaign contributions to the party. What will you do when Steny Hoyer comes calling, I asked? I could see Ellison’s staff laughing in the back of the room. Maybe this had already been an issue. Ellison, however, said that he was his own man. In many cases he agreed with positions taken by Hoyer and Pelosi; but, where he did not, he would do what he thought was best for his constituents.

The hour went by quickly. Larry Weiss complimented me on my performance after the event. We were all photographed with Tom Hauser. Barb Davis White and I exchanged friendly words. She and Ellison did the same. So the big event was over. it would not air on Channel 5, however, but on KSTP-TV’s subsidiary channel, Channel 45, at 8 p.m. that evening.

That caused a problem for me. I could not find a listing for the 5th district debate in the programming schedule for Channel 45 in the newspaper. Another program was listed in that time slot. So instead of staying home to watch the 8 p.m. broadcast, I attended the debate between U.S. Senate candidates, Dean Barkley, Norm Coleman, and Al Franken, at the Breck School in Golden Valley. When I returned home from that debate after 9 p.m., I turned on my television set and, by chance, saw the 3rd district Congressional candidates debating on channel 12. I later learned that this is where to find channel 45 on the cable service. Our debate had been broadcast at 8 p.m. after all, but on channel 12.

KSTP-TV has a commercial partner that sells compact disks of its past programs for a stiff price. I ordered one of the debate. Due to technical problems, I received a CD with mismatched video and sound. They charged me half price. When I later ordered another product, I received a complimentary copy of the debate CD along with the other, this time without defects.

Other candidate forums

The following week brought three new opportunities for media exposure.

First, KARE-TV, channel 11, had offered all candidates an opportunity to place a one-minute recorded message on its website. My problem was that I did not own a high-quality video recorder. I called the contact person at KARE-TV, Julie Anderson, to explain my situation. She arranged for me to come to the station on Boone Avenue in Golden Valley to record my message in their studio on Tuesday morning, October 14th. The camera man, Jim Douglas, was a Scotsman by ancestry who carried on a conversation with me about my own Scottish-sounding name. He was also extraordinarily patient. We recorded the message three times until it fit snugly into the one-minute slot. This was another great opportunity.

Next, at 3:45 p.m. on the following day, Wednesday, October 15th, we had a second candidate debate at the studios of North Metro TV in Blaine. It seemed to me that this station’s cable viewers might not live in our district. However, the news producer, Ben Hayle, assured us that we would have some coverage and the station would shop the tape around to other cable stations in the area. This station was a good half hour away from my home. Barb Davis White and her press/campaign manager, Don Allen, were already in the studio when I arrived. Keith Ellison was not. It took him another half hour to arrive. When we were all assembled, Hayle gave us a tour of the newly built studio.

Again, the three of us answered questions. The topics were: “economy/taxes, war in Iraq/ war on terror, healthcare, energy independence, public education, immigration.” I was able to discuss my radical ideas on health care and immigration without stirring a reaction. When it came my turn to sum up my position, I had an inspiration. “Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs” were what I stood for. I knew that such a repetitious remark would sound silly as a closing statement but I wanted to leave a memorable impression. After all, being an underdog candidate, people would probably not vote for me unless my performance stood out in some way. It was a gamble.

The third and final media opportunity for the week was the two-minute statement to be delivered live on KSTP-TV during its 6:30 p.m. news broadcast on October 17th. Nervousness overcame me. My first inclination was to belt out my proposals relating to trade, energy policy, health care, and immigration within the two-minute period. But the “jobs, jobs, jobs” recitation also appealed to me.

I had some drama in mind. Once the camera started rolling, I would look upward, pause for a moment, and then look down straight at the camera with my “jobs, jobs, jobs” litany. Worries about time tripped me up as I sat for half an hour collecting my thoughts during the live news show. The first part was awkwardly delivered and there wasn’t time to finish.

Saturday was down time. However, the coming Sunday would be busy; and so would Monday, both in the evening and during the day. Saturday afternoon would be a candidate appearance at a senior community in New Hope. In the evening, there was a “Tribute to Israel” event at the Living Word Church in Brooklyn Park. The Minnesota Senior Federation had invited candidates to meet its members at the group’s annual convention in Brooklyn Center on Monday during the day. Finally, we would have another candidate debate on Monday evening - the only one so far with a live audience - at the Jordan New Life community church in north Minneapolis.

First, the meeting with seniors - me being one of them, of course. This invitation came to me by way of Nancy in the Independence Party office. I was to contact a Jean Parnell who was organizing the event. Parnell said this event, called the “senior forum”, was between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 19th. She thought that the Independence Party people would be speaking around 3 p.m. So that’s when I arrived. There were about sixty seniors in the party room at a the Chardon Court Apartments on Winnetka Avenue in New Hope. Dean Barkley was there along with Diane Goldman, his campaign manager. We did not speak, however.

I went around the tables introducing myself as a good candidate should. Then Dean Barkley spoke for ten minutes or so. I thought I would be next but instead the elderly organizer decided to schedule next a pair of candidates who were running for state legislature in that area. They had a lively discussion. Then someone had to talk about the importance of the school-board races. It was getting to be 4:30 p.m. In a firm voice, I told Ms. Parnell that I had other engagements that day and would have to leave soon. She got the message. I spoke next, maybe longer than Parnell would have liked, and thought I did well. Sitting in a chair near the door was another candidate waiting her turn. She smiled kindly. I later recognized her to be Franni Franken, Al’s wife.

The engagement to which I had referred was a candidate’s invitation to attend “A Tribute to Israel” at the Living Word church in Brooklyn Park. Mac Hammond was the pastor. This minister was famous in the Twin Cities for being the target of an I.R.S. investigation that concerned mixing politics and religion. Hammond’s church had given strong support to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann when she ran for Congress two years ago. It was a conservative megachurch. I did not exactly agree with the politics of this church, but the event intrigued me. Maybe I would run into Michele Bachmann.

Since the night’s ceremony would honor Israel, I could invite one Jewish guest to share the VIP experience. I invited my old friend, Harvey Hyatt, who was a religious and political skeptic. He was at first noncommittal. I then invited David Kopf, a retired history professor at the University of Minnesota, who readily accepted. Now Hyatt said he wanted to go. There was a problem: I had two potential guests, but was allowed only one. I called the church office to report the problem. No problem, I was told, I could have two guests. Later, when I telephoned Professor Kopf to make arrangement for transportation, he told me that his ex-wife had come to town; and, since he hadn’t heard from me, they had made plans for that evening. I was back down to one guest, as it should be, except that Living Word church had two guest reservations for me.

Harv Hyatt and I were not used to the “red carpet treatment”. We were led back to a room where the honored guests could wait. Former U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz was among the few people I recognized. Presumably, most were Jewish. While munching on hors d’oeuvres and sipping wine, we talked with a man who had headed a Jewish organization in Las Vegas and had recently moved to St. Paul.

At length, we walked out into the sanctuary where places were reserved for us and the other VIP guests. I sat two rows behind Senator Boschwitz. There was an empty place reserved for the professor which state senator Warren Limmer, whom I knew, eventually occupied. Barb Davis White was also there; she was part Jewish. To my right in the row ahead was state senator Erik Paulsen, the Republican candidate for Congress in the 3rd district. I thought he had once been a guest at the landlord meeting. I introduced myself. He remembered the meeting. I also saw the black gospel singer, Tom Tipton, who seemed rather distant although I had known him in the mid l990s.

The theme that night was friendship between the Christian and Jewish communities. It became a possibility after Christian missionaries stopped trying to convert Jews. Mac Hammond was a regional leader of an organization promoting a close Jewish-Christian relationship that had been founded by the Texas evangelical, Rev. John Hagee. John McCain had recently disavowed Hagee’s support because of some controversial remarks he had made. However, Hagee’s son, Matthew, also a preacher, was on hand to speak to the gathering.

There was a presentation concerning some of the charitable works done in Israel by Christian groups. A man representing Christians United for Israel explained the ideological basis of renewed Christian-Jewish friendship, citing roles developed in the Holocaust. Pastor Mac Hammond asked some of the political candidates, including me, to stand up and be recognized. Most were Republicans. I was the only Independence Party candidate. I do not recall seeing any Democrats. After the service, the VIP guests again went to a room where food was served. This was Sunday evening.

On Monday, I had an invitation to attend the Minnesota Senior Federation’s state convention at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center. When I asked what was the best time to arrive, I was told noon. At noon, however, all the convention guests were eating lunch in a large hall. It would obviously be inappropriate for me to tap seniors on the shoulder and tell them about my candidacy for Congress. I did ask to speak with Lee Graczyk, the group’s director of public policy, who had invited me to the event. He suggested that I hang around until the mid afternoon when convention goers would have a break in the program. I told Graczyk I had other things to do that day, and instead left a few pieces of literature with the receptionist in case anyone was interested. To be honest, I was not feeling kindly toward the Senior Federation since they had refused to sponsor a debate between the 5th District Congressional candidates as they had done for those in the 3rd District.

Monday evening, October 20th, a candidate debate was scheduled to be held at Jordan New Life Community Church located at the corner of 26th street and Newton Avenue North in Minneapolis. There would be debates between the three candidates for Congress, the three candidates for state representative in district 58B, and nine candidates for the Minneapolis school board. The school-board debate came first, then ours, and finally the debate between the legislative candidates. A free community meal would be served at 5:30. Then, starting a 6:00 p.m., the school-board candidates would start debating. We would come on around 7:00 p.m. and debate for forty-five minutes. After that, the legislative candidates would also have forty-five minutes. The event would be over by 8:30.

I thought this was a good opportunity. In over three months, there had not been an article about the 5th district Congressional race in the Star Tribune. I made a point of letting the reporter most likely to cover our race, Steve Brandt, know about the event. Prospectively, it was the only public debate between this group of candidates. Several different times I answered his email questions: Will the debate include only the Congressional candidates? How much time are they giving you? Do you still live in north Minneapolis. And now reporter Brandt was here, with a note pad in his hands. Finally, I thought, we would get some news coverage in the Star Tribune.

Keith Ellison, however, was not there. When it came time for us to mount the podium, Ellison’s teenage son, Isaiah, took his place at the table alongside Barb Davis White and me. We were told that the Congressman had to go back to Washington to do something related to the financial bailout. But it was OK. The three of us debated for forty-five minutes. I presented my unorthodox proposals about health care, trade, the shorter workweek, immigration, etc., without mincing words. Only once did I think I might have been pushing it. When asked what in my campaign might appeal to black women, I laughed loudly and said: “I have no idea. Why don’t you ask her?”, pointing to Barb Davis White. But she didn’t seem to mind. We were all on good terms by this time.

The candidates for state representative included my Independence Party colleague, Roger Smithrud, who was white and middle aged; a young black man representing the Republicans, Yoman Brunson; and the DFL candidate, Bobby Jo Champion, also black and relatively young. Brunson and I served together on the board of the Harrison Neighborhood Association. He and Smithrud had also participated in a candidate discussion sponsored by my own group, Metro Property Rights Action Committee, on Wednesday evening, October 15th. I had also invited Barb Davis White to come to the landlord meeting and participate in the discussion but she and Don Allen went to another event instead.

In short, the spirit at the Jordan New Life Community Church among the candidates and others was upbeat. Of particular note, City Council member, Don Samuels, came over to shake my hand, saying he was impressed with my presentation. I was not a one-dimensional person as he had previously thought. On city issues, we were enemies. Maybe this signaled a new relationship. Possibly it had to do with the fact that the city election was next year. Whatever the case, we were filled with good cheer tonight.

When will an article on the 5th district race appear in the Star Tribune?

I was waiting for Brandt’s article to come out in the paper, sure that there would be something soon. The lack of such an article had been a topic of discussion between Barb Davis White and me, or, rather, between me and Don Allen. I had often grumbled about this. If the 3rd district race for Congress could have five articles in the paper, why couldn’t we have one? In my mind, I was plotting to picket the Star Tribune offices if they ignored our race. I was wondering if Barb Davis White would join me on the picket line.

On the weekend of the KSTP-TV debate, I had written a one-page statement criticizing the “gatekeeping journalism” practiced by the Star Tribune with respect to political campaigns. I emailed a copy to Don Allen. He had been beating the same drum. Allen represented an organization called “Independent Business News Network” that expressed the concerns of black business owners and others. It tapped into a communication network that involved hundreds of news organizations around the state.

Don Allen put out my statement on this network that the Star Tribune was ignoring both the Republican and Independence Party candidates for Congress. He told me that while we had received no coverage, Ellison had been mentioned some fifty times in Star Tribune articles. He, Allen, had even paid Steve Brandt $300 to write about Barb Davis White. Brandt took the money but produced no article. Now he wanted the money back.

During the time when I was waiting for Steve Brandt’s article to appear, I was spending much of my time making the rounds of businesses in Minneapolis, Richfield, and other places. The only other campaign-related event was on Thursday, October 23rd. WCCO-AM radio, one of the state’s largest stations, would do a telephone interview with the Congressional candidates that afternoon. Mine was scheduled for 2:23 p.m. The interview lasted only a minute or two. Then it was over. But in that short time I had probably reached more people than in an entire month of “pounding the pavement”. I wasn’t sure.

The last of the Northside picnics, the community gatherings inspired by Dyna Sluyter, was on Friday, October 24th. This one was in my own neighborhood, Harrison, at the corner of Glenwood and Penn. Many of the same people were there. I talked with Sluyter about politics, she being a staunch DFLer. Bob Miller, head of the city’s NRP program, had recently announced he would run for Mayor. He and I were in agreement on President Bush’s dismal record. Don Samuels, still friendly to me, had brought a group of young children who would perform a dance. I also talked with Alan Arthur, head of Aeon (formerly Central Housing Community Trust) which had renovated Ripley Gardens across the street. Arthur, one of the most politically attuned persons in the city, said he had not heard that I was running for Congress in the 5th district. If he hadn’t heard, then no one had. The Star Tribune newspaper had failed to report on the race.

It wasn’t just the Star Tribune, though. None of the local newspapers covered the Congressional race in Minneapolis. With time running out, I visited the offices of both Downtown Journal/ Southwest Journal on Hennepin Avenue and NorthNews on Central Avenue. The editors were either out or unavailable at those times. I was given their business cards. When I called back, no one took my call. Ed Felien of Southside Pride had already indicated that no article would be forthcoming unless I proved that illegal immigrants cost society more than what they paid in taxes. City Pages, too, showed little interest in this race. In the end, to my knowledge, no articles of any kind appeared in newspapers - except for Steve Brandt’s one in the Star Tribune. More on that later.

A belated presidential endorsing convention

On Saturday, October 25th, I went to another Independence Party convention. This one was truly bizarre. With the election coming up in about a week, we were meeting for the purpose of deciding whether we wanted to endorse a Presidential candidate. I could see that the event was newsworthy. The independent vote - though not necessarily the IP vote - might well decide the presidential election. Otherwise, it made little sense. The Obama and McCain campaigns were racing down the stretch at a high rate of speed and we were trying to be relevant. But I was too curious not to attend. Everyone was interested in the presidential race.

The convention was held at the Eastview High School in Apple Valley starting shortly after noon. The various presidential campaigns had representatives who would make presentations to the delegates. From the floor, I asked why Barack Obama’s campaign was not represented. Diane Goldman objected to the question. Dan Justesen, the chair, explained that the Obama campaign had failed to respond to the questionnaire. The idea apparently was to see how the various Presidential campaigns conformed or did not conform to planks in the Independence Party platform. Presumably, we were to favor the candidate most closely aligned with our views. It was, in my opinion, a mistake.

I was interested to hear the presentations. The McCain campaign was represented by its regional director. I knew that Tim Penny, who had served in the House with McCain, favored the Arizona Senator for President. Penny was present. Maybe the convention was about endorsing him? Later, however, the convention disqualified McCain because he accepted PAC money, which we in our platform forbade. It was another mistake. Why raise the McCain campaign’s hopes when he would be disqualified? An even greater blunder was that party leaders seemed, again, to be pushing the “no endorsement” option. Party members were again being asked to come to endorsing convention only to be railroaded into not endorsing any one. It was just like the endorsing convention for U.S. Senate. I again criticized the move. This time, however, the delegates did vote not to endorse a candidate.

I thought some of the campaign representatives looked angry when they left the hall. I stood around afterwards talking with some of those people. I was impressed with the fact that a man who had once been a Secret Service agent at the White House was now a spokesman for Ralph Nader’s candidacy. He had witnessed government corruption first hand and wanted to take part in the democratic process. I also talked with people supporting Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party candidate for President. Here, again, however, the conversation was unfortunate.

The Green Party spokesman was a bearded gay man whose big issue was gay marriage. I said I had problems with that because I thought marriage was primarily a religious institution and the courts should not interfere with religious policies or practices. I agreed that gays and lesbians should have the same legal standing as straight people, arguing that “civil unions” should take care of that. But this man was talking about “civil (not religious) marriages” for gay people, he said.

In the end, we were arguing about words. Presumably I was an anti-gay bigot if I did not agree to use the word “marriage” interchangeably for gay/lesbian relationships and conventional types of families and make other people do the same. This was a hot button for me. It was the standard liberal/left agenda of trying to control your speech and your thought. As a political candidate, however, I was not doing myself a favor by engaging in such discussions, even if the tone was not rancorous in this case.

The next day, Sunday, October 26th, featured the candidate debate before a Latino group at a church in south Minneapolis. I had not originally been invited but was allowed to be on the program. Since this event has been described elsewhere, I will not repeat the narrative except to say that it was a positive experience.

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