Senate campaigns continue, with support from Macalester volunteers

By Matt Day

Almost two months after the beginning of the delegate selection process for the Minnesota senate race, the race shows no signs of stopping before the state DFL nominating convention.The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party’s pool of candidates vying for the party’s nomination was cut down to two following the withdrawal of St. Paul lawyer Mike Cerisi from the race March 10.

The remaining candidates, former comedian and radio host Al Franken and St. Thomas Professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, both have cultivated strong followings at Macalester.

The first candidate to announce his candidacy, Franken got his foot in the door at Macalester even before he was officially running with the help of Will Howell ’08.

Howell met Franken in 2005 at a fundraiser for Chris Coleman’s ultimately successful campaign for Mayor of St. Paul. Howell said he expressed interest in working for Franken’s radio show, and two years later that contact materialized into Howell being named Franken’s Student Outreach Director.

Howell has helped spread the word about the campaign’s need for interns at Macalester and statewide.

“From the top down we made an effort to recruit Mac students for the campaign,” Howell said. “We have Mac students and grads all over this campaign.”

The results of that recruitment are impressive. Of the about 40 high school and college interns working for the Franken campaign, aproxamently15 are Macalester students.

Maria Princen ’10, who was recruited to the campaign by Howell in spring 2007, said she didn’t have a favorite in the race before signing on with the campaign. Princen said that changed shortly after she began working.

“I love the atmosphere of that campaign,” she said. “It’s more inspiring than anything else.”

Princen, who works on Franken’s finance team, said she’s surprised by how much the campaign uses its interns.

“We’re actually trusted to be a part of confidential information on the campaign,” she said.

Despite the number of Macalester students involved with Franken’s campaign, it was Nelson-Pallmeyer who won the precinct caucus held in Kagin, taking 28 delegates. Franken earned 15, and Ciresi 3.

“I’ve heard all the candidates speak in person,” Zach Lazar ’10 said. “[Nelson-Pallmeyer] has a better perception of what the issues are that really matter.”

Lazar, a co-chair of MacDems and delegate for Nelson-Pallmeyer, said the campaign is hopeful for victory despite the disparity in name recognition between Nelson-Pallmeyer and the more widely known Franken.

“Jack got [into the race] later than the rest,” Lazar said.

“It’s much more of a grassroots campaign.”

“He’s a good professor,” said Daniel Balogh ’10, who took a Nelson-Pallmeyer-taught class at St. Thomas. “He’s very engaged in the course materials.”

Balogh is also a delegate for Nelson-Pallmeyer to the district and state conventions. Balogh said he supports Nelson-Pallmeyer because of his application of the material he teaches to the real world.

“I honestly believe he means the things he’s saying,” he said. “I’m supporting JNP because he represents the progressive view and the progressive agenda.”

Pending an early concession by either Franken or Nelson-Pallmeyer, the race will continue until the June 6-8 state DFL nominating convention. The victor and the Mac supporters in his campaign will face off in the general election with incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.