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For stepping back on the field, I tip my cap to Tom Emmer

Emmer has taken enough abuse to last a lifetime and nobody would have faulted him for not running for Congress.

Emmer has been the 800 pound gorilla in the 6th congressional district since his name was first mentioned as a candidate.
MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday

In early December of 2011, during the State Central Committee meeting of the Republican Party, I commented to reporters about Tom Emmer and his 2010 campaign for governor. In the hallway of the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel, I blasted away at the 2010 Republican nominee for governor for his stumbles on the campaign trail and the mistakes made by his staff and supporters.

At the time, I thought it was the right thing to do. In the meeting room behind me, the Republican Party of Minnesota was spinning out of control and rather than offering constructive criticisms or choosing not to add to the troubles  by piling on, I exercised my 1st Amendment Right to free speech and hammered Emmer. I had every right to speak up, but just because you have the right, doesn’t mean you have to use it.

Even after losing a close race for governor in 2010, followed up by a loss to be the Republican National Committeeman from Minnesota in April, Emmer was volunteering that cold December day for the Republican Party of Minnesota. The man who was almost governor, was humbly helping delegates and alternates register for the meeting I had just left. With a smile on his face, Emmer was likely helping some of the same activists that didn’t vote for him to be the Republican National Committeeman from Minnesota. Emmer was potentially helping some of his past supporters, who had called the headquarters of the Republican Party of Minnesota in the summer of 2010 to complain about his campaign.

I didn’t stay very long that morning. After offering my smart-ass comments to the media, I left, thinking I had done the right thing by speaking up. I was the brave one for throwing a verbal hand-grenade into the meeting room and then leaving before it blew-up. Even after being asked by the media about my comments, Emmer stayed and volunteered for an organization that had been less than kind to him in the previous months. He stayed and helped, even after the former deputy chair made unflattering statements about him.

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Fast forward to May 29, 2013 and Congresswoman Michele Bachmman had just announced she would not be seeking re-election to Congress. I was receiving calls from the media asking about potential candidates. I hobbled around my house with my cane for a few minutes, looking at a map of the 6th Congressional District and thinking about which candidates would emerge. As fast as I could run the numbers, it became very clear to me that Tom Emmer would be the new 800 pound gorilla in the 6th Congressional District. I believed the race would shape up like the 3rd Congressional District did when Congressman Jim Ramstad announced his retirement. Everyone looked at running, but eventually, Representative Erik Paulsen became the Republican candidate and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008.

One by one, potential candidates that had expressed initial interest in running, took their names off the list as candidates in the 6th congressional district. On June 5, 2013, in downtown Delano and with a crowd of family and friends, Emmer announced his campaign for Congress.

As I predicted, Emmer has been the 800 pound gorilla in the 6th congressional district since his name was first mentioned as a candidate. His campaign has been well-organized and Emmer has been the type of candidate many hoped he would be in 2010. But life and politics don’t always intersect at the same time, and people need to understand that timing plays a critical role in the success of a candidate. It’s something that I’ve had to learn.

Politics has sometimes not been kind to Emmer and his family.  I frequently say “politics isn’t a tickle-contest.” But what  amazes me is the resilience of Emmer. He brushes off personal attacks and verbal-jabs better than most candidates I’ve seen. Emmer has taken enough abuse to last a lifetime and nobody would have faulted him for not running for Congress. But Emmer did the expected and brushed off the dirt and got back into the political arena. His campaign for Congress has raised the more money than of any of the other Republican candidates. I expect Emmer to continue building support and while there are always a few hurdles in politics, I believe he will be elected to Congress this November. Politically, the best days for Emmer are yet to come.

Rather than commenting about his mistakes in December 2011, I should have pointed to the man who was almost governor, who has working at the registration table and said “the problem wasn’t that we had Tom Emmer as our candidate, the problem is that we didn’t have more like him to help.”

But I didn’t. I referred to Emmer as the “Bill Buckner of politics.” I’ve regretted that comment for a long time. It was a political cheap-shot at someone who deserved better. Most people remember Bill Buckner, who was playing first base for the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series, for famously misplaying a routine ground ball, which cost Boston the game. But while researching this post, I learned more about Buckner.

I mistakenly thought Buckner left Boston a year later in disgrace, but he didn’t. He played 75 games for the Red Sox in 1987 and played another 22 in 1990. But the best was yet to come for Buckner and Boston, because in 2008, Buckner was asked to throw out the first pitch on opening day of the 2008 season.  The video below is amazing to watch. A man who was continually beaten by the public and media for his mistakes, walked onto the field at Fenway Park years later, to a standing-ovation.

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The Boston Globe reported that Red Sox first baseman, Kevin Youkilis, “made a point to shake Buckner’s hand.” Youkilis was quoted saying about Buckner, ”There’s not too many people that can do what he did today and face thousands of people that booed him, threatened his life. For a man to step out there on the field, it shows how much of a man he is. I tip my cap. I just wanted to shake his hand. Because that’s a true man in life.”

I tip my cap to Tom Emmer, for facing the critics and stepping back on the field. We can all learn from his example.

This post was written by Michael Brodkorb and originally published on politics.mn – an inside view of Minnesota politics. Follow politics.mn on Twitter: @politicsdotmn.

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