The story below
appeared in the morning edition of The Strib.
The paper version had the headline "Caucus a forum for foes of Hwy. 55 and light rail". The "e-headline" they use below is a bit jaded, me thinks.
Since when is dictating the focus of an entire political convention for 15 some odd hours coming up short?
|Anti-LRT candidate is heard
at caucus but comes up short
Dressed in a blue wool pinstriped suit and brown wingtip shoes with tassels, John Kolstad looked and acted every bit the politician Sunday at a Minneapolis DFL caucus site. He worked the rooms, promoted his agenda and pressed the flesh.
Kolstad campaigned mostly to be heard on the issue of the light-rail project and the reroute of Hwy. 55, which he opposes.
"I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain," he said.
Kolstad sought -- unsuccessfully -- the DFL endorsement for state Senate at the District 62 caucus at South High School. But his allies influenced later voting.
"This is what democracy is all about," he said. "People being allowed to speak and to be heard."
Kolstad represented the Environmental Progressive Caucus, a group that's been trying to preserve the historic character of the Hiawatha Corridor, where the light rail will run on its way to the Mall of America from downtown Minneapolis.
Kolstad, 57, was pitted against well-known candidates Julie Sabo and Lisa Vecoli, as well as lesser-knowns Pam Blixt and Tony Anderson Solgard. As the self-described "also-ran," Kolstad dropped out after two rounds of voting.
But after six ballots, no endorsement was won by either Sabo or Vecoli, the top vote-getters. The caucus decided to adjourn and leave the selection up to a districtwide DFL primary this fall. The winner will succeed retiring state Sen. Carol Flynn, a DFLer.
"Either way, we've won," said Ken Bradley, Kolstad's campaign organizer, "because the reroute will definitely be a big part of this campaign."
It was a little more than three weeks ago that Kolstad, a veteran local folk and blues musician, decided to run.
"Some people think I shouldn't be here," said Kolstad, who owns Mill City Music, a distribution company on East Lake Street. "But I'm a concerned citizen with great respect for the people in this community. And I represent a voice that has been long underrepresented."
As supporters held his lime-green campaign signs that stood out as bright specks in a sea of red (Vecoli) and purple (Sabo) signs, Kolstad paced the hall and discussed last-minute strategy before speaking.
During her turn on stage, Sabo was joined by more than 20 supporters, including Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar. Vecoli's entourage included Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. Kolstad stood alone when he spoke.
He had unwavering support, though. His backers cheered on cue, and he was even applauded by nonsupporters as he spoke about the reroute.
"Not only has our natural heritage been damaged," he said, "but police brutality has been visited upon peaceful protesters repeatedly while our elected public officials have looked the other way. I want to seek the necessary changes and stand up for public interest."
A supporter of more affordable housing, education reform and airport-noise reduction, Kolstad reiterated his opposition to light rail. Most of his opponents skirted the issue -- except for Vecoli, who supports light rail.
"It's the reason why I'm here," Kolstad said, adding later that he wished that Anderson Solgard would've spoken sooner about opposing the reroute and light rail. "We could've worked together."
Perhaps it was Kolstad's optimism that helped him win 10 percent of the more than 650 delegates who initially voted. He came in third, behind Vecoli (43 percent) and Sabo (36 percent). Sixty percent is needed to win the endorsement.
"A lot of people agree with John. He makes some sense," said Grace Bartels, a Vecoli supporter who remembered when Kolstad ran against U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo for the DFL endorsement in 1994. "He didn't offend or insult anyone. He's just a little too far to the left."
Not to be denied, Kolstad won 11 percent in a second ballot. He later told his supporters to back Julie Sabo, the daughter of his former rival. She promised that if elected she would push for a federal investigation of the light-rail reroute.
"Even if someone else wins," Kolstad said. "This issue will not go away."
Copyright 2000 Star Tribune.
Republished here with the permission of the Star Tribune.
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