The crowd of reporters outside the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office was large — one of the biggest media stakeouts ever to observe candidates’ last chance to get on the election ballot, according to filing-day veterans.
All of us were waiting to find out if Jesse Ventura had heard from God. The former governor, you’ll recall, had said Monday night on “Larry King Live” that the only way he would get into the U.S. Senate race is if he received direct word from God.
He didn’t expect to get any phone call, and no one else really expected he would, either. Surely in these troubled times, God is very, very busy.
Independence Party kept filing officials busy
So the big action at the Secretary of State’s office on this final day for filing was among Independence Party candidates who jumped into the race that Ventura ducked. By the end of the day, there were seven IP candidates — including a top tier of three — entered in the party’s September primary in an effort to unseat Republican incumbent Norm Coleman.
The IP’s endorsed candidate, Steven Williams, a sweet corn farmer from near Austin, was the first to pay his $400 to file.
Then came former IP chairman Jack Uldrich, who said there are “nine and 10 trillion reasons to run.”
“Nine trillion dollars in debt,” said Uldrich. “A $10 trillion transfer of wealth abroad because of our addiction to oil. Norm Coleman and Al Franken aren’t talking about those things.”
“That’s Aldrich—’A-L-D?’ ” asked the woman receiving the files on behalf of the secretary of state.
“No,” said Uldrich. “Uldrich, with a ‘U’ “
Except when Ventura runs, name recognition always is a problem for the IP folks.
Barkley, Uldrich squaring off in IP primary
Next came Dean Barkley, who is seeking to return to the U.S. Senate seat he briefly held in 2002. (That’s when Ventura appointed Barkley to fill the last two months of Paul Wellstone’s term following the senator’s death in a plane crash shortly before the November election. Coleman beat former Vice President Walter Mondale in the emotional, closely fought race.)
Uldrich and Barkley are friends. Their big differences seem to center around campaign strategies.
Given the limited resources of the party, Uldrich is going to rely on a sophisticated Internet campaign. Barkley’s approach will be more traditional.
Barkley has been involved in IP races before. He knows how hard it will be to get attention and raise money. As the state official was going through all the documents candidates receive, Barkley laughed.
“Do any of these show you how to raise $2 million?” he asked.
“Sorry,” said the state guy.
Barkley, however, is a confidant of Ventura and hopes to receive visible support from his longtime buddy.
Don’t merely laugh off the IPers, by the way. They may not have money. They may not have big names. But their political issues are real. They have far more respect — perhaps too much respect — for the voters than most candidates of the two major parties.
The IPers weren’t alone in drawing attention Tuesday. One DFLer also captured the attention of the media horde.
Priscilla Lord Faris strolled in to file for the DFL Senate seat to challenge Al Franken, the party’s endorsed candidate. Then, she was led into another room to meet the press. She was accompanied by her “campaign team,” which consists mostly of family members, including her dad, retired federal Judge Miles Lord.
“You tell me when to start,” said Lord Faris as she looked out at the reporters. “I’ve never done this before.”
How will you go about the business of taking on the well-financed Franken in the DFL primary?
“Planning meeting tomorrow,” she said.
She has nothing personal against Franken, she said.
“I like Al,” she said, “but we have to beat Norm Coleman.”
There seldom was a dull moment as reporters waited to see who would show up and who else God might be talking to as the clock approached the 5 p.m. deadline.
Democracy attracts people of all shapes, styles and issues.
At one point today, for example, Nancy Lanzergun, who has a cable program in the suburbs, marched into the Secretary of State’s office with a cameraman. She claimed she wanted to file to run for judge. But what she wanted was a constitutional fight. Good drama.
“You need a (law) license to file,” she was told by a patient man at the counter.
“I need a license to drive, and that’s a privilege,” she said. “Are you telling me it’s a privilege, not a right, to run for office in Minnesota?”
“No,” said the state guy. “I’m telling you you need a license to file.”
“If I don’t have a license are you telling me my name will not appear on the ballot?” she said, her best “gotcha” voice aimed at the camera.
“That’s right,” said the state man.
“I want to sue,” she said.
On and on she went. About suing. About rights. About America.
The state man handled her with decorum, only once sneaking a peek at his watch to see how long before the end of a filing day that will not soon be forgotten. It was, after all, the day that God apparently did not talk to Jesse.