My Brief Impression of Mary Cameron

Note: Mary Cameron has agreed to me my campaign Chairman for my 2000 Senate Race. I couldn't be more honored. 
The following profile was originally written last

Mary Cameron's father was a refugee from the Deep South. A tenant farmer he moved north in the 1950's to Duluth, a town that had a small black population which never recovered after a notorious lynching in the 1920's. Growing up in Duluth was a very lonely experience. Mary told me she never had a single date during high school. That's a sorry situation for a bright, vivacious girl to endure. Later, after a move back to the South she felt doubly alienated by Black-Americans who accused her of acting and sounding white. She moved back to Duluth as a single parent of three children. I met one of her neighbors as I campaigned door to door in 1995 who told me what a wonderful caring neighbor Mary had been and how kind her sons had been, always shoveling her walk at no charge.

I introduced myself to Mary in 1995 because I had heard we might both be aiming at the district seat I had planned to run for. Even before meeting her I was prepared to give her a choice of running for the smaller district seat or the more difficult at-large seat. fortunately for me, Mary wanted to run for the at-large seat. That was fine with me because I had lost three previous at-large elections. I drove my campaign co-chairs nuts by spending the first month of the campaign season helping Mary paint her lawnsigns.

Mary had a reputation for being ferocious but she seemed bright, charming and vulnerable to me. We were the same age. She grew up in a white city and had gone to an almost all-white school. I had started school in Topeka, Kansas at a newly integrated school. Before moving to a lily white Minnesota town I had been in a sixth grade class with 15 white kids and 15 black kids and one Native American. Mary and I were both profoundly affected by the issue of civil rights as we grew up.

I've only recently learned that Mary was a terror as a kid. She ended up in foster care. I suspect her anger was fueled by the injustices of life. She has matured and now directs her anger with considerable thoughtfulness as an advocate. Her advocacy cost her reelection to the School Board this year.

Mary was particularly concerned that our minority students had been doing very poorly in the public schools. She viewed Edison as one possible answer to redress this failing. Unfortunately for Mary, her political party, the DFL, is locally controlled by unions particularly the public employee's union which vehemently opposes contacting out of services. Because Mary had supported and continued to support the Duluth Charter school managed by Edison she was denied the DFL endorsement. Three of the newly elected school board members lobbied behind the scenes to deprive Mary of the nomination.

In the end Mary narrowly lost the election coming in fourth. Her loss can not credibly be attributed to the charter school but came about because of her acceptance of a scholarship to study for one year in Syracuse, New York. Allies of the new board members maliciously attacked Mary for being an absentee school board member. Since three other pro-Edison school board members were reelected its safe to assume Mary too would have been reelected had she not accepted the Bush Fellowship.

Once again Duluth has an all vanilla (Caucasian) School Board. I regret the loss of Mary Cameron and hold my fellow board members responsible. Of course it was absolutely within their right to work for any candidates that shared their views. I don't blame them for wanting to control the school board. However, to the extent that they took part in a malicious campaign to discredit Mary they have helped deepen the recent divisions on the Board.