Of four candidates for the two at-large positions I came in fourth. I got 34 votes the two winners got 234 and 244 votes. There were about 300 delegates with votes.
And yet after my many political scrapes today’s convention was painless for me. It was like staying awake for an open heart surgery with a mirror on the ceiling but with powerful anti-pain medications to completely neutralize the pain. I was able to study the process academically.
There were several factors going against me which other people had sensed a week out.
1st: the forces arrayed against the outsiders on the Board were significant: I haven’t been to the DFL conventions since a little after Obama’s first win but I saw a couple dozen folks with whom I tangled in the past – past board members, union leaders, Democrats. Spread through-out the 40 Precincts or townships they would have had significant influence with the people in their precincts. If the 24 anti-Harry people I counted influenced half a dozen people each I was in rough waters. Furthermore, Rosie Loeffler-Kemp and Annie Harala recruited all the candidates that won. The DFL screening committee recommended everyone of them to the Convention beforehand. Even the candidate who didn’t show up to speak to the convention (usually a big No No) barely lost out of first place voting. I’ve never heard of her and I doubt many of the people voting for her had either.
2nd: It was a pretty gray-haired group. The Bernie Sanders supporters who were out-maneuvered in Hillary-centric Districts last year never got to be delegates plus; because so many of those who did become delegates were college students they had almost no interest in municipal elections if they were even still in town.
3rd: It was a spectacularly well attended off-year endorsement convention. Those 300 delegates brought all the loyal DFLers from years past out. In 1999 I went with Mary Cameron to another off year endorsement convention and only about 30 attended. It was been the Trump victory that energized the Martin Luther King, women and science marches. The old timers made for very Harry skeptical crowd.
4th: In my letter mailed to all delegates didn’t shy away from hinting around about some controversial stands I’ve taken like the refusal to let voters have a say on the Red Plan. By being critical of a project dear to many in the convention I was inviting antagonism. The Red Plan is supposed to be over by now……even if it still pulls $3.4 million a year out of the classroom for bond repayments and makes voters reluctant to pass vital operations levies. People don’t like having their scabs picked off.
5th: It was announced before voting that the Duluth DFL did not permit secret ballots. Delegates would have their votes thrown out if they did not write their names down on the back of the ballots they cast. That’s a heckuva way to enforce group think.
6th: My one secret weapon was utterly traduced – my thoughts and my voice. As Loren Martel, who stood in the back of the hall as I spoke told me – the sound system wasn’t kind to me. Fully half the people sitting in the back couldn’t hear me and many sitting in the front half of the acoustically challenged hall could only hear half of what I said. I had been made aware that I would be hard for people to hear me but this was especially true of men with resonant deep voices like mine. It caused so much feedback that it forced me to back off so that for most of the audience I was silent. Even so, because there were amplifiers nearby, I thought I was blasting out the audience. My only hope of getting people to vote for me was to wow them. I did waw them – in the manner of the teacher in a Charlie Brown specials….”waw Waw, waw Waw, waw Waw, waw Waw.” The only votes I got were from people who liked what I stood for in advance or who felt sorry for me.
This last was the great disappointment of the day. I’m so chagrined by it that I will probably film myself giving it and posting it to you-tube. As it is, I will post the verbiage below for my eight loyal readers to peruse. It took four and a half minutes to deliver but I kept having my microphone messed with by officials to improve the sound quality and the time they futzed around was deducted from my five minutes.
I joked with the new DFT President, Bernie Burnham, afterwords and told her I suddenly had some sympathy with Donald Trump and his alleged microphone tampering during one of his debates with Hillary. Here’s the speech sans my sonorous voice:
I’m Harry Welty.
I’m from Topeka, Kansas.
In 1958 when I was 7 years-old my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Kinser, sent my class out to the playground for a long, unexpected recess. From the heights of the jungle gym I watched a long line of students holding their chairs stacked with text books walking down the sidewalk from Buchanan Elementary School to my School, Loman Hill Elementary. The file began with first graders, followed by second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders and each group, in turn, was ushered into Loman Hill. These students were black. When the sorting was complete, I went back into my newly integrated classroom.
Four years earlier the Republican Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Earl Warren, had managed to win a unanimous ruling that overturned its 1896 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. Plessy v Ferguson made “separate but equal” schools the law of the land. Their new interpretation of the Constitution came from Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. I still remember the sign out on the highway where I took swimming lessons. It was paid for by the same people behind the Vast Right Win Conspiracy, then called the John Birch Society, the Billboard demanded: “Impeach Earl Warren.”
Today I serve on a School Board in Duluth, Minnesota. After a half-billion-dollar building program shoved down our throats without a vote of the people just after our legislature put a heavier burden of property taxation on poor households; the people of Duluth who wanted more “equity” managed to get one hell of a lot of it. Now richer, whiter, students attend schools with a smaller share of poor and minority children but despite this they receive an out-sized share of the compensatory education money that ought to be flowing into the schools with a higher burden of poverty.
Duluth, like schools across the nation, has achieved new levels of racial segregation and, like so many of those other schools, has seen a growing educational achievement gap between the races.
I am still a seven-year-old. The only difference is that I have sixty year’s worth of experience on my seven-year-old shoulders.
I am a stubborn seven-year-old. After Ronald Reagan brought Morning back to America by championing “States Rights” seven miles from the site where Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney were murdered; I have fought to keep Abraham Lincoln in the Republican Party. It has been a losing battle but I stuck with it through most of my adulthood.
To sit on the Duluth School Board today, eight years after the election of President Barack Obama, and after having witnessed the calamitous results of the 2016 presidential election that seven-year-old in me is as stubborn as ever. That seven-year-old is, however, no longer anything like the Republican Party he saw corrupted by power, prejudice, and fear. This new Republican party has ushered in a new Gilded Age to rival the earlier Era that gave America Plessy v. Ferguson. Ironically, the 2016 election rewarded the Republican Party with the votes of the very people they have turned their backs on.
Today a new Ferguson is on people’s tongues – its the Missouri town that my son and brother live next to. That Ferguson is something we in Duluth Minnesota, have a special obligation to root out having been the site of the murders of Clayton, Jackson and McGhie, the most infamous Northern lynching in American history. For thirty years after that madness black Americans gave Duluth a wide berth. Now they are coming back.
I am determined not to let any minorities suffer as they did before Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. It’s going to be a be a long hard project but it’s been one I’ve fought since I first ran for the School Board in 1989 almost thirty years ago. I’m seven years old and I’m not done fighting.
I would be honored to have the endorsement of the Duluth Democratic Farmer Labor Party for my fourth term as a member of the Duluth School Board.
The Primary election may be my first real test but there will have to be more than four candidates filing for it for a primary to take place. If no one else files we won’t know until November how the 3,000 to 6000 voters will compare to the 300 DFL activists. I like my chances.