#35. Campaigning for Don Samuels.

Hello ________! This is Molly and I am volunteering for the Don Samuels campaign for the mayor of Minneapolis. How are you today?
Hello ________! This is Molly and I am volunteering for the Don Samuels campaign for the mayor of Minneapolis. How are you today?

I know voting is important and stuff, but I’ve never been a huge politics person. I don’t like debating. I’m the biggest bleeding heart liberal when it comes to many social issues, but I am not sure how I feel about some of the fiscal stuff. Healthcare? Ugh. Guns? Yuck. Foreign policy, whaaaa? I can see the pros and cons in nearly every argument, so most of the time when folks start talking politics, I want to curl up into the fetal position and disappear.

I’ve never, ever actively campaigned for any candidate. In fact, I’ve never even put a political sign in my yard (granted, I just bought a house last year, so I haven’t had many opportunities). However, when I found out Don Samuels was running for Minneapolis Mayor in this election, I could not have been more pumped.

Don is a good friend of my uncle Brian, and over the past decade he’s become a friend of my entire family– from the most left-leaning members to the most conservative, everyone loves Don.

Don grew up in Jamaica (one of ten kids!), got a scholarship to attend college. In 1970, he headed to the US with $83 in his pocket and earned a degree from Pratt Institute. He spent 25 years working in the private sector. Fun fact: Did you know Don was a friggin’ toy designer? He created toys for Sesame Street! The guy has some serious talent; here’s one of his drawings, displayed at his campaign HQs:

Drawing by Don Samuels, circa 1990. How rad is that?! 
Drawing by Don Samuels, circa 1990. How rad is that?!

As you can see, the guy is driven, smart and has a serious knack for drawing robotic animals. But here’s what gets me about him: Have you ever spent much time in north Minneapolis? Eight years ago, I spent three months living with my uncle Brian around 14th & Emerson Avenue North. I loved the house and adored many of his neighbors, but not once during that time did I go running in the neighborhood. One time, I was followed home from Cub Foods by a car full of creepy guys. Every night I drove home from my waitressing job, I’d call ahead to make sure Brian or one of my housemates was waiting for me. There were sirens and gun shots on the regular. The only business within walking distance was a liquor store.  There are certainly redeeming things about the north side, but I will tell you my parents were thrilled when I moved to a “safer” part of the city. To be honest, I was too.
Over a decade ago, Don and his wife Sondra (along with their two young daughters) moved to north Minneapolis’ Jordan neighborhood. They firmly believed that to make meaningful changes in a community, you must go to the source of the problems. The week they moved in, six people were murdered in Jordan. That didn’t make them regret the decision, it made them determined to stay. Since then, the Samuels organized neighbors to get drug dealers off of their corner, and confronted absentee landlords whose buildings served as havens for crime and violence.

Don was elected to the Minneapolis City Council in February 2003. He’s chaired the Public Safety Committee for the majority of his time there.  In partnership with Mayor Rybak, Don’s leadership has helped reduce violent crime in the city by double digits for seven years straight. That is a big damn deal.

Don is kind, funny (another fun fact: we once went to Avenue Q together! Google it.) and thoughtful. But Don has serious balls, which is why he will make an amazing mayor. Proof: Read this opinion piece he wrote for the Star Tribune. As a person who is constantly trying to do scary things, I can say without a doubt I would not have the guts to do what he did. Would you?

I care about living in a safe city and Don’s 6-Families initiative impressed me. Though public safety is a huge concern, the guy offers up a lot of great ideas on transportation, education (spoiler alert: he wants to see more vocational training in high school… I think that is a win.) and the environment. He’s an artist and a musician, so we can count on him to continue making Minneaoplis cool (c’mon, you brag about our amazing music and arts scene to all your hipster out-of-state friends… I know I do!) You can read all about that here.

By the way, current Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak opted to not endorse a candidate in this election… but his 80-some-year-old mother endorsed Don (wink-wink-nudge-nudge). 

How great is this guy?!
How great is this guy?!

Anyhow, Don’s mayoral campaign got me off the ground, out of the fetal position. Last week, I got into my car and drove down to his campaign offices on West Broadway. For two hours, I called 60 perfect strangers, asking if they’d decided who they were voting for on Tuesday. When the first person answered, I immediately broke into hives and could barely annunciate. A few people hung up on me. Many accused me of being an A-hole (in Minnesota Nice words, of course) for even asking who they were voting for. But there were enough amazing and kind responses– even from people who weren’t sure they were voting for Don– that kept me dialing.

Cold calling perfect strangers was more scary than jumping out of a plane. You feel incredibly vulnerable. Through the rash and racing heartbeat and word flub-a-dub-dubbing, I kept going because I believe in Don.

For more info on Don, visit Samuelsformayor.com .

To figure out just where in the heck you’re casting your vote in Mpls, go here.

See ya at the polls on Tuesday, November 5!

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