A reply to my column by one of the persons referred
to in it.
What Makes Laura Run
Harry Welty and I don't know each other very well. I've enjoyed his columns in the past, and admire his independent voice and willingness to defy political convention... that's why I was so surprised to read his response to my interest in running for county commissioner (May 27 issue).
First and foremost, contrary to what you may have gleaned from reading Harry's column, I am quite certainly and very much my own person. Long before I ever met my husband politics and government were an important part of my life. My dad has been an elected official for twelve years. I majored in history in college with thoughts of law school afterwards. I worked for Senator Paul Wellstone as an expression of my deep commitment to social justice and wanting to make a better place through public service. And in fact, these are the very values that brought Donny and I together. .
And yet there is a discussion in our community on whether or not it is appropriate for me to run for office on my own accord. Do they expect me to defer to my husband's career? Do they expect me to take on the role of political wife- seen, but not heard? That sort of mindset should have been left in the 1950's. I understand that there will be some in the community, like Harry, who will want to discount my candidacy before the race has even shaped up. My candidacy is about defying those conventions and running as a strong, motivated and independent woman- not as somebody's wife.
'm running for county commissioner because the board is in dire need of more progressive leadership amidst its ranks. Citizens of Duluth are among the most passionate and civically involved people in our country - Duluthians expect accountability and openness from our elected officials. Yet the County Board remains one of the least accessible governmental entities in our region. This has got to change, and I want to be part of that change.
Often, when a woman runs for office and makes note of the lack of others doing the same, some accuse that said woman of commandeering the right to office simply because of her gender. I haven't any such interest, and I think at least in part, my commitment to run against another woman gives credence to the suggestion that .I look forward to running on the merits of my person and my platform versus those of the incumbent.
What does Harry Welty's initial response to my candidacy suggest about our preconceived notions as a city and as a greater culture? Is there room in our community for our daughters? Do our daughters and young women in our neighborhoods have a right to a place on a board of commissioners if she chooses to commit to the seat and exhibits enthusiasm and interest in public discourse? Harry Welty's column smacked of cynicism and hinted at a deep disinterest in change and innovation- both hallmarks of the big old boy's network and the most legitimate criticisms of that approach to governing.
I hope the discussion surrounding the race against Joanne Fay for County Commissioner can focus on our significant differences in philosophy and approach. I believe the people of Duluth want a commissioner who will bring progressive leadership to the board, who share the values of openness, accountability, and cooperative government. That's why My good friend Steve O'Neil and I are running against Joanne Fay - to give the voters of Duluth a choice
in this fall's election.
I am excited about the upcoming campaign and meeting the voters of Duluth. I am excited about my platform and the issues that I'm passionate about. But a reminder to Harry, the ballot in September will read Laura Ness - not "Donny's wife" - and I hope it is on those terms that people will judge my candidacy.
"progressive" beats the hell out of Laura Ness after her reply to my
column. From the June 17th Reader.