Every Goodbye Ain't Gone

Wellstone Remembered

I didn't support myself during that time. I had a girlfriend. I was living with her and she was working. When I was involved in it, she just let me keep going.

It was absolutely worth it. I'll never forget the experiences we had, the wonderful people we met, the sons of bitches we sometimes met. But after that first commercial came out--Fast-Paced Paul--things changed. It was like day and night. People's reactions to him and the bus, it happened overnight. All of a sudden there was this connection.

I can tell you this. There was a faction in the office that believed you needed to moderate a position here or there so you don't piss somebody off. He never listened to that advice. Sometimes he ignored good advice, but he never pulled his punches and he never changed.

I saw both sides of Paul. I got to see the side that gets angry and upset, not just the friendly side. I still loved him. Paul created this thing with people where they wanted to talk with him. They wanted to be recognized by him. It was something about his personality. You'd go out to the State Fair and he'd be standing there and there'd be a line of 50 people. None of them would be there to say, I want my taxes lowered. They'd all be there to say, Hey, Paul, remember me? And 90 percent of the time, he'd go, "Yeah, I do remember you. I met you in Podunk, Minnesota." There was a connection he made to the regular person. That was not something that you could get from a Walter Mondale. You wouldn't see a whole bunch of blue-collar workers lined up to talk to him. (Demko)

 

Bill Hillsman
POLITICAL AD/MEDIA CONSULTANT, CREATOR OF THE TV SPOTS THAT HELPED TO ELECT WELLSTONE IN 1990

When we did the Looking for Rudy commercial, there were only four of us along on the shoot--me and Paul and the camera guy and the sound guy. And it was kind of a scary situation--you go barging into somebody's campaign headquarters and it's bound to be tense trying to get in past the campaign workers and the young Republican bouncers. But by the time we were done, they were laughing and joking with him. I always swore we got at least one vote there. Maybe more. I'd bet a million dollars on it.

He was so good on his feet. There was a genuineness about him that the camera picked up and people picked up. It's powerful stuff when people these days can listen to a politician and believe him.

His legacy? He re-energized populism at a time when nobody really thought populism was a good or a viable thing. If Paul hadn't won in 1990, I don't think there would have been a Russ Feingold or a Jesse Ventura. He got people excited about the idea that if you work hard and you believe, then sometimes the impossible is possible. I know we couldn't have elected Jesse if Wellstone hadn't won in '90. Without his example, the "wasted vote" argument would have stuck. I'm not sure there would have been a Ross Perot or a Ralph Nader without Paul.

At Carleton he was always an agitator. He organized people in the food services there. He organized farmers on the power line thing. I remember him telling students that their duty in his class was to go out and organize. In his view it had nothing to do with what you were learning in the classroom; it had everything to do with what you were learning on the streets. I was from Chicago, I'd seen what happened in '68, and the things Paul was about all seemed futile to me at first.

When he decided to run for the Senate, he and Mike Casper came to my ad agency in Butler Square. He didn't like advertising, didn't understand it. He was all about shoe leather and organizing. I remember he spent most of his time looking down during the meeting. Finally he looks up and says, I understand you need advertising to run for the Senate. And he says, Well, you're the only guy I know in advertising. That's how I got hired. Later I put together a meeting of 25 or 30 of the best advertising people in town in Sam Kaplan's law office. Paul comes in and starts talking to this group of mostly apolitical people, and by the end he had them all. People were ready to run through brick walls for him.

We would fight with each other a lot. The first time he saw Fast-Paced Paul, it was the worst presentation of my career. It was him and [Pat] Forciea and maybe [John] Blackshaw, and we were showing it to him in a movieola, where only one person can look at a time. Paul looks at it and his face is like, This is a joke, right? Where's the real ad? They didn't want to run it.

He refused to get haircuts on principle. We used to try to get him to get haircuts before shoots, and he wouldn't do it. It went back to the '60s thing--you didn't cut your hair because somebody told you to. He was so proud that Sheila cut his hair. He thought it was great he wasn't spending $20 on a haircut. It was a point of pride. And he'd wear these muscle shirts all the time. He was proud of his wrestler's physique; he'd wear tight tees and short sleeves. He liked to show off his arms. It was a battle to get him to put on a sports coat.

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