Politicians are known to kiss babies. But Lisa Bender, the DFL-endorsed candidate running to represent Uptown-area Ward 10 on the Minneapolis City Council, has gone further: Just a month before election day, she had one.
This Sunday, Lisa and her husband, Ryan, welcomed their second baby daughter, Isabel Rose, at the Minnesota Birth Center. Think backwards here: All summer long, including those 90-degree days, Bender was knocking on doors while seven, eight, nine months pregnant.
"A lot of people were a little surprised to have a pregnant woman knocking on their door asking for their vote," Bender says, laughing.
[jump] But Bender was undaunted. She had already been through an intense pregnancy: In the summer of 2010, eleven weeks pregnant with the couple's first child, Bender went to her doctor with a question about a lump in her right breast. The diagnosis came back malignant: Bender had breast cancer.
Bender started enduring chemo at the same time she went to ultrasound appointments; she lost her hair while her stomach grew.
In March 2011, Bender gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Alice. This winter, the Benders decided to try for a second baby, but doctors warned them that due to Lisa's medical history, baby number two might take awhile. Not long after that decision, Lisa -- the 35-year-old founder of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, and resident of Lowry Hill East since 2009 -- declared her candidacy in Ward 10.
One month into her campaign, Bender realized she was pregnant. "It was a very nice surprise," she says. The news didn't change her thoughts about the race. There were four candidates seeking the DFL endorsement, Bender remembers, and the road to the election seemed like a long one.
"My husband and I talked about it and we figured, well, we don't know what's going to happen," Bender says. "We might end up with no baby and no election, or we might have a really great exciting fall, so let's keep moving forward."
In April, Bender snagged the DFL endorsement over her competitors, including incumbent Meg Tuthill, who remains in the race. After that, her campaign kicked into high gear. Knowing that her due date was one month before the election, Bender planned an aggressive summer and early fall to get out ahead, and started knocking on doors six days per week, carrying two bottles of water with her as she walked around the neighborhood.
Early on, Bender says, a lot of the people who answered the door asked how she was going to be able to campaign -- never mind hold office -- with a young baby.
"I mostly took that as people wanting to get to know me, and tried to stay positive. But of course I wanted to talked about the issues that made me run for office," Bender says. "It did get a little frustrating. Obviously if a man was door knocking and his wife was pregnant no one would know, so he wouldn't have to answer those questions. On the other hand, it was an opportunity to educate people on, women do this kind of thing all the time, and elected officials and mothers do all kinds of amazing things while being mothers."
As the summer went on, that response changed. People got to know Bender, and to follow her pregnancy. There was also something else: "The more pregnant I got," Bender says, "people saw how hard I was working, and their questions about, 'How are you going to be able to handle this?' went away."
It was busy, and stressful at times. But the Benders had already been through a stressful pregnancy. "We had already gone through surgery and chemo while I was pregnant, and taking care of a newborn while going through cancer treatment," Bender says. "Compared to having cancer, it's really nothing we can't handle. The things that we're doing now, they're all good things."
When she was born, baby Isabel weighed in at 9 pounds, 14 ounces. Now, Bender's taking a few days off to recover.
After that, she'll go back to working the phones until November 5, this time with Isabel by her side.
Update: Check out Isabel Rose Bender: