Thursday, November 15, 2007

Five Events in Four Days

# 1: (Saturday, November 10) The last 5 days have been busy for the four of us seeking the Republican endorsement in the 1st District. On Saturday morning, we met with the Winona County Republican Party at 7:30 am sharp in Rollingstone. I arrived on time because I learned in a prior visit that the large orange sign which reads ‘Road Closed’ on Highway 33 to Altura is actually true. A bridge is out north of Highway 14 due to flood damage so a detour through Lewiston is necessary. Around twenty people attended the meeting which included candidate updates and new and old business for the County Party. At the end of the meeting, the BPOU Chair, Dick, who was sitting right next to me made some closing remarks just as everyone was getting ready to leave: ‘I have one last item. I would like to inform you who I am supporting for the candidate for the First District. Since most of you have asked me I thought that I would make this announcement in front of everyone. (Pause and suspense) I will be supporting the endorsed candidate.’ A good sense of humor goes a long way.

#2: Our next stop was La Crescent for a meeting with the Houston County Republican Party. We gave similar campaign updates as in Rollingstone with some variations and then took a few questions. The possibility of a candidate forum was also discussed with each campaign weighing in. Greg Davids and Steve Bissen discussed their campaigns in House District 31B. The view from the home was beautiful with the Mississippi river visible in the distance. Mark gave his speech first and then left early so he could tend his cattle back in Lake Crystal.

No events were scheduled on our campaign for Saturday afternoon so my family and I took a ride in our minivan with an intended destination of the Mall of America. I thought it would be educational and interesting to watch the Senate DFL debate so we stopped on our way to the MOA. I knew from reading IDHA that this meeting was happening and was open to the general public. When we arrived at the Prior Lake High School in Savage, there was parking right up front. We noticed someone’s SUV totally plastered with Al Franken signs. A supporter or competitor? When we walked in to the debate it had already begun. There were plenty of people in the front row filming the candidates and liveblogging the event. There were still plenty of seats available in the back of the hall. Lori and our three daughters sat in the back where there was more room to be rambunctious. My son and I sat up close in the fifth row. A young woman sitting next to me was taking notes for a high school or college project. It was interesting to observe the interplay between the candidates and listen to the questions. I glanced at a front page New York Times article earlier yesterday which included a graph displaying the relative importance of various issues to Democratic and Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. The online version doesn’t appear to have this same graph. It tells a story of different priorities, priorities that will occupy us in the months and years ahead. There was an interesting moment when Al Franken stated ‘I should let you know there is a Republican in the audience.’ This caught my son’s attention and he looked at me. Then Al said, ‘His name is Dr. B…ob Meaders, founder of Operation Helmet.’ My son really got a kick out of this. He thought I behaved as if I knew I was being singled out in the audience. One can still run for public office and remain anonymous though that’s not necessarily the intent.

Towards the end of the debate I noticed a fellow who looked like DJ Danielson of IDHA. If you get your photo on the internet and write about candidates, who knows what can happen - someone might just come up to you at an unexpected moment and say…. hello. I noticed that DJ had a Hubert Humphrey button on his sweater. I recall a story that retired radio announcer Harley Flathers told me about the Senator. Harley met Senator Humphrey once and felt compelled to let him know that he was a Republican. As Harley relates the story, the senator then told him in a slow and deliberate voice, ‘We accept converts.’ I get to hear many interesting stories meeting with donors and party activists. In any event, I suggested to DJ that he could interview me at some point if he wishes since he has taken an interest in the 1st District race and has written some detailed posts about it, at times both humorous and scathing. Harley is still a Republican and one of those ‘unitemized’ donors. I’m hopeful about DJ who has confessed some moderate political leanings. He’s halfway there. I’m just kidding here, but we do continue to look for converts.

After the meeting we made our way to the MOA and had dinner. Our two youngest ones got to ride the Merry Go Round and the two oldest rode the ‘The Mighty Axe’. Even at $3 a gallon it was a worthwhile trip.

On Sunday morning, we went to Church and Sunday School and then went to the Veteran’s Day service written about briefly in one of the preceding posts.

#3: Meet and Greet in St. James: This event was organized by the Watonwan County Republican Party. Klarice and others sponsored this event which occurred in the Legion Hall in downtown St. James. It was a beautiful day for flying once above the clouds surrounding RST. This leg of the journey was courtesy of John and his Bonanza. We left Rochester at 2:15 pm and made it to St. James shortly after 3 pm. I was forewarned by text message to ‘be prepared for media.’ Ryan Gustafson of KEYC Channel 12 in Mankato filmed statements from each of the candidates prior to our talks. After Mark was first to give his speech the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions. No one came forward right away with questions, so one of the other candidates asked him if he got all his cattle in from the preceding day. Each candidate was asked if they would abide by the endorsement. All candidates stated they would. Thanks go to Virgil for picking John and I up at the airport.

#4: Senate District 22 BPOU meeting in Windom (Monday, November 12): We each gave our campaign speeches in the back room of Jade’s Steakhouse. For some reason the music was pretty loud in the adjacent tavern. ‘Simple Man’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the tunes. It seemed quite appropriate at the time. Among the attendees at this event was the future mayor of Jackson. Tanner is a couple years shy of a driver’s license so he had a family member provide the transportation. This day was the longest. A full tank of gas was used to drive 432 miles from Rochester, to Le Seuer, Bloomington, Windom and back home. Twenty-six miles to the gallon was pretty good mileage.

#5: Mower County Republican Party Candidate Forum (Tuesday, November 13): This event was moderated by Jeff Anderson and attended by several dozen local Republicans. We answered written questions from the audience. Reuben, Klarence, Lew, Lavonne and others did an excellent job organizing this event. A number of these events are planned in December and January leading up to February 5, the caucus date.