Those Places Thursday
Coon Rapids, MN
By Don Taylor
In the 1980s, I lived in Coon Rapids. Quickly, I became very involved with the city government. I was appointed to City’s Economic Development Commission. It fit very well with my previous education. I intended to be a political science major, and being involved with the local government would provide experience for me. I believe that political science is the practical application of psychology, sociology, and economics.
Becoming involved in politics was very difficult for a federal employee. There is a law, The Hatch Act, which prohibits civil service employees in the executive branch from engaging in partisan political activity. As a new government employee, I needed to be very careful to ensure the City Council was not a partisan position. It was not. I needed to not attempt to gain any type of party endorsement. With those stipulations, I filed to run for City Council for my ward (Ward II). I believed that announcing my running early would reduce the likelihood of a primary election and its associated expenses.
I announced in June that I intended to file when filing opened on July 22nd. When filing closed on August 4th, the only other person that filed was the seven-year incumbent, so that no primary election would be required.
Several people told me that keeping my beard would cost about five percentage points in the election, so I decided to shave it off. It was one of the very few times I’ve not had a beard. I did leave my mustache. I formed a campaign committee and put together some promotional materials. The current mayor, Dave McCauley, helped me with his silk-screen printing equipment, and we made yard signs for the campaign.
I door-nocked most of the Ward. At one place, a Great Dane decided to bite me. Luckily, he only gauged my wide belt with his teeth. The owner opened the door at another house to let a little dog out. The dog ran out and returned while I talked to the homeowner. The dog then stood over my foot and peed. I looked down and then back up and continued talking with the homeowner. He was impressed and said he’d vote for me because anyone who didn’t kick the dog while urinating on their shoe couldn’t be half bad.
On election day, I lost. It was a close election. I took my opponent’s precinct, and she took mine. The other two precincts were very close. Somewhere in the archives, I have the results (but I couldn’t find them). Anyway, my recollection is I took 46½% of the vote to my opponents’ 49%. Not too bad for a political newbie against a 7-year incumbent.
I later became the chairman of the economic development commission and decided never to run for political office again. I sometimes wonder how much my life would have changed if I had been elected.
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