One year ago, on December 3, I gave a speech at the DFL Endorsing Convention in New Prague hoping to land the endorsement for Senate District 25. Senator Tom Neuville had announced his resignation from the seat several weeks prior, paving the way for a Special Election to be held January 3. It was a night that I will not soon forget.
A few weeks prior to the endorsement, Ray Coudret, Earl Weinmann, Mark Thornton and I met to discuss the possibility of a Senate run. It seemed like the perfect opportunity: a short election with the incumbent out of the race? Time was also our biggest challenge. Would I have time to get my name out there? Could we raise enough money? Would people go to the polls for a special election? Could we do this over a 30 day period while most people were gearing up for the holiday season? I threw my hat in the ring. Our first goal was to win the endorsement.
Tuesday night, December 3, New Prague: Ray, Earl, and I arrived at the convention. There were about 70 delegates in attendance. I had been given a list of delegates the week before and I made a courtesy call to each asking for their support. There were three other very qualified candidates seeking endorsement. They had an obvious head start. The other candidates had already printed signs and had already raised money. Dozens of non-delegates were on hand to cheer them on. My brother had helped me design a logo, “Dahle for Senate” and we had splashed it on a half sheet of paper atop a letter asking for support. I pulled Earl and Ray aside and quietly suggested they hand out my “campaign literature.”
If I was going to win the endorsement, I was going to have to give a hell of a speech. Earl, my “press secretary” helped me write that speech. I used all 7 minutes to talk about education, health care, jobs, our environment, and quality of life. I talked about a common sense, bipartisan approach to government. I talked about staying in touch with constituents, listening to their concerns, and representing their values and beliefs in St. Paul. It was a heartfelt speech. The delegates responded and I took the lead on the first ballot.
The Question and Answer session followed. With Ray and Earl’s encouragement, I convinced a few more delegates that I could win in January. Eventually, I was endorsed on the sixth ballot.
Later on, the three of us walked across the street to Miller’s Bar. Our mood was of quiet excitement. We were exhausted and more than once we asked ourselves, “What do we do now?”
But things fell into place. December was a whirlwind. Ray became my campaign manager, Earl wrote the press releases, and volunteers like Hoover, Dan, Libby and a host of supporters from all over the district and the State helped launch a winning campaign and an upset victory on January 3.
I have learned much in my first session as a Minnesota Senator. As I look back, I am reminded of the importance of staying in touch, listening to concerns, reaching across the aisle, and representing this district with a common sense approach to governing. My constituents would expect as much, especially the 70 delegates who took a chance on me one year ago.