Every Goodbye Ain't Gone

Wellstone Remembered

There was stuff happening that never got reported, children going hungry that never got reported. And these guys wouldn't cross the picket line because they had gone out together. When Perpich sent in the National Guard, it basically broke the strike. That's when my politics changed. That's when I knew that the justice system that I thought was there was not there. And Paul was a voice for justice. Those two things connected with me: Paul's voice and what happened to me in Austin.

After the strike ended in '86, it was just three years later that Paul decided to run for United States Senate. When he announced at the Sabathani Center in south Minneapolis I was there with Karen Clark, who was a state rep. There was another state rep there, but you looked around and there was not even a handful of regular DFLers. The rest were Carleton College kids.

It never crossed my mind that we were going to lose. Never. Because Paul believed we were going to win. Paul believed in people. He believed in the fundamental goodness of people. Obviously he won with grassroots and some luck, with the screwups of Boschwitz, with the good-Jew-versus-bad-Jew thing at the end. But Paul never let you believe we were gonna lose. There was no question that we were gonna win this race. There was no question that he was saying the right things and doing the right things.

I drove him day in, day out. From one end of the state to another. We had a Mercury Sable. It was a rental car. His back just couldn't take the bus. We were out every day right up until the last two weeks of the campaign. He started doing a lot more flying around the state then. That's another thing that I get to take credit for is the bus driver. I hired him. Paul Scott. We were looking for somebody to volunteer to drive the bus, and this was shortly after the Greyhound strike and they had fired all these workers. So I called the union hall and got his name and asked if he would come and do it, and he said, Absolutely.

There were a lot of times before he showed up that I spent hours underneath that bus. Broke down, broke down, broke down. While I was in the campaign we put two engines in it. One time we broke down between Rochester and Minneapolis and ended up getting an engine from a place down there and putting it in down there. That lasted about a month, or less, before that engine blew up. Luckily they went through the whole thing after the election, I think. Fixed it up somewhat. It was too hard for Paul to ride in that all the time. It was such a hard ride. If there'd be a short hop, Duluth to Cloquet, he would ride the bus. Paul Wellstone would get in it, have a campaign stop in Duluth, and then he'd just stay on it and ride over to Cloquet in it. But if we were going long distances, he'd ride with me.

The campaign was the greatest time of my life. Paul was--I'll be honest, Paul had a horrible temper. Don't get lost [laughs]. Don't get lost. You take a wrong turn? Big mistake. It was imperative that you studied that map and that you knew exactly where you were going. When he was one place, you better be on the phone getting exact directions to get to the next place, because he'd have a temper if you made a wrong turn. In fact I've never heard anybody yell like that. But that was part of his passion, too. When you're passionate, you can have a temper. That's what happens when you're passionate about anything. So he was a tough son of a bitch too. I'm not kidding you. He was a tough son of a bitch.

When you're way the hell up in northern Minnesota, you take one wrong turn and you could be five miles down the road before you realize it, before you see another sign. Sometimes that would put you 10 minutes or 15 minutes late getting someplace and it was key to be at places on time because you didn't want to piss off any of the union members up there who had come to see you. That was your base.

I remember in Hibbing, a schoolteacher we stayed with. His name was Gabe Brisbois. I remember going to see him, and Paul and me talking about it: "This is the guy. This is the guy you gotta see. This is the guy that's gotta give you your pat on the back up in the Iron Range." And I don't know this guy. I'm thinking, Jeez, we're going to some Mafia-type guy's place. He's going to kiss you on the cheek and everything's going to be great. Just the nicest guy in the world. Turns out he's a schoolteacher up there. We ended up, we stayed at his house a couple of times overnight. It was important that Gabe got on our side and started calling the right people and saying, "Look, this is our guy. This is the guy we have to get behind." That solidified the Iron Range.

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