Off Beat

Democracy in America: One Man, No Vote

Failure has restored Rudolph Stoltman's faith in democracy.

Stoltman was one of 20 candidates hoping to fill disgraced Minneapolis City Council member Joe Biernat's seat in last week's Third Ward primary election. He finished dead last. In fact, Stoltman, a 48-year-old carpet installer and Northeast native, failed to garner a single vote from among the 2,061 cast.

"I didn't even vote for myself," he laughs. "I urged my family and friends not to vote for me. I told them, 'Don't vote for me. If you're gonna vote, go out there and vote for who you think is best. There are competent people out there who can do this job very good.'"

Stoltman distributed no literature and knocked on no doors. He did, however, participate in one debate. "I was scared to death," he confesses.

The motivation for Stoltman's successful campaign to convince voters not to support him was twofold: an interest in learning about the political process and disgust at the Biernat bribery scandal. "If that guy can make $65,000 a year and just throw his job away on a lousy toilet, maybe the people would be dumb enough to elect me," Stoltman reasons. "Well, I found out that they're smarter, and I appreciate that. People can realize now that the voters of the Third Ward aren't stupid."

Stoltman was not completely alone in wasting his $20 election filing fee. Three other candidates--Fred Askew, Shawneise Sudduth, and the ubiquitous Leslie Davis--failed to top 10 votes. Stoltman's own ballot was cast for Republican Valdis Rozentals, who finished third behind DFLers Olin Moore and Donald Samuels. The political novice is mum on which of the two surviving candidates will receive the support of the Stoltman campaign in the February 3 runoff. "I think I can find a list of [my supporters] somewhere," he laughs.

Based on the success of his failed campaign, can we expect to find Stoltman's name alongside perennial challenger Dick Franson's on the next state ballot? "Oh, hell, no."

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