My first foray into politics took place in the Fall of 1986. To say I was disinterested in anything political is the equivalent of saying the Elephant Man merely had a little puffiness around his eye. Nonetheless, I felt it was my civic duty ….OK, it was a requirement I was to fulfill for my High School government class….to perform volunteer duties for a local candidate running for office. We had several candidates visit our classroom who were running for State Senate as well as the Minnesota House. Since my Dad and his entire family were such passionate Democrats the battle lines, in my mind, were clearly drawn. Although I had no idea what differentiated a Democrat from a Republican, I had decided on a local DFLer to assist in his campaign.
What’s more, that candidate was also somewhat of a sentimental pick since he was an alum of my High School, St Paul Harding.
That candidate was running as an incumbent legislator in his district.
That candidate was none other than Randy Kelly.
There were approximately five of us from local St Paul high schools whose first task one Fall evening was to go door-to-door registering people to vote. Needless to say, I was scared to death at the prospects of talking to strangers. But there was something which inspired me to climb out of my comfort zone and knock on those doors. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what that was. I can tell you that I went forward with a determination which I had never felt before. I realize now I must have been inspired by Randy Kelly himself. There was an incident where we were attempting to enter a secure apartment building to knock on doors. There couldn’t have been more than 20 units in this particular building. However, we were denied access by the building manager on the grounds of “No Solicitors”. This infuriated Mr. Kelly, as he justifiably felt people were being denied the opportunity to register to vote. I learned that evening that if you push Randy Kelly into a corner, he will come out fighting. He was determined to get in to that apartment building, even if it meant going so far as to obtaining a court injunction. For all he knew, the entire building would have voted for his opponent. No matter. It was the principle of exercising one’s right to vote.
There’s an old saying: “You live by the sword, you die by the sword.”
St Paul mayor Randy Kelly’s 2004 endorsement of President George W. Bush was a source of contention between Kelly, DFLers and apparently 70% of St Paul voters. In Kelly’s bid for mayoral re-election, he was soundly defeated by Chris Coleman.
As I learned one evening in 1986, Randy Kelly will take a stand for what he believes is right. In his concession speech last evening, Kelly again stated he stands by his decision to endorse President Bush and accepts the consequences of that decision.
Even in defeat, Randy Kelly has demonstrated one incontrovertible truth: Stand by your convictions. In victory and defeat, your convictions are things you can truly call your own.