Off Beat

A Crowded Field

Nana Amoako's familiarity with Minnesota politics dates back to when he was just four years old. In 1957, then-Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey visited Amoako's native Ghana in celebration of the nation's independence from British colonial rule. From that point on, Amoako says, he always kept an eye on Minnesota politics, admiring Humphrey and later Walter Mondale.

Amoako is now attempting to add his own name to the roster of esteemed Minnesota politicians. Last week the 49-year-old attorney announced that he is running for governor as an independent. Amoako says he shunned the party of Humphrey and Mondale because he doesn't want to be hogtied to party ideology. "When you run as a Democrat or you run as a Republican, you don't really have the opportunity to think for yourself," the candidate says from his modest law office in northeast Minneapolis. "There is a party platform you have to adhere to."

Amoako has a law degree from Georgetown University and an MBA from the University of Akron, speaks several languages, and wears round-lens glasses in honor of heroes Mahatma Gandhi and John Lennon. At one time, he made a living as a busker on trains in France and Germany. Amoako describes his political philosophy as pro-choice and pro-gay rights, and says he's particularly concerned about the state of public education, which he has witnessed firsthand as a volunteer at his seven-year-old daughter's school.

He has zero political experience. He says he jumped straight to the governor's race because that's where he detects a lack of competence, particularly in the DFL and Republican standard bearers. "Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Moe have been there a long time," says Amoako. "What have they done? Nothing. I can't do anything worse than what they have done or what they will do."

The fledgling campaign made its first stop last weekend at Taste of Minnesota. Amoako is looking forward to campaigning later this summer at the state fair, an event he calls the highlight of his year. The candidate refuses to concede that his run for office is a bit of a long shot. "Money, I don't have at all," he laughs. "But a good wine needs no bush. A good wine will sell itself." --By Paul Demko

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