Rudy Perpich Revisited

Yesterday I read a little over a hundred pages of Betty Wilson’s book “Rudy.” It carried him from his birth to his first electoral defeat running for reelection as governor in 1978. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the man. In his last years he did something I highly approved of at the time; he set up the Center for victims of torture. It was an odd thing for a state governor to do.

Rudy was odd and to those who met him one on one charismatic. My first impression of him stuck with me till the day he died. I was at what was then Mankato State College at an anti-Vietnam war rally. I heard John Kerry give his well rehearsed but eloquent protest against the war. I also hear Perpich. I was embarassed for the man and the state of Minnesota. I guess he was famous for his inarticulation. At a big DFL gathering someone told the crowd that the governor was a better dancer than speaker whereupon Rudy began dancing a polka with a startled waitress.

Whatever he lacked in speaking ability he made up for in ideas. He drove people nuts thinking about things to make the state better. Many never came to pass but others did. His quirks and the resurgence of the GOP defeated him in 1978 the year of the “Minnesota Massacre.” Claudia and I were both at the GOP state convention that year and it was thrilling. That was the high watermark for me as a Republican. From then on I fought a reargaurd action to stay in the Party. Apparently that’s how Rudy often was as a Democrat. The odd man out challenging them constantly. I could have liked Rudy Perpich.

One other thing happened in the last month before Perpich was defeated the first time. Its what the triumphant Al Quie said gave him the sense that he was going to win. It was the scandal at the Upper Great Lakes Regional Commission.