Wellstone stumps for Leighton

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 24, 2000

The "usual suspects" were there: Len Miller, Donna Olson, Bud Jarvis, Charlene Blowers, Dwight Ault, Donaldson Lawhead and others.

Monday, July 24, 2000

The "usual suspects" were there: Len Miller, Donna Olson, Bud Jarvis, Charlene Blowers, Dwight Ault, Donaldson Lawhead and others.

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How many DFLers does it take to hold a campaign kickoff for state Rep. Rob Leighton?

Answer: As many as can fit into the Leighton family’s back yard Saturday night. Especially when the special guest is U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone.

It was fence-to-fence people with Wellstone in the middle at the home of Rob and Shawn Leighton and their twin sons.

On the balmy summer’s evening, Leighton admitted to the crowd, "The public doesn’t seem to be that engaged in this election year yet. We hope to change that."

Leighton introduced Al Hein, who is running against state Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) in District 31B, comprising the eastern half of Mower County.

Hein said Leighton enjoys a "good reputation" among farmers in District 31B and he also said citizens have to start getting active on behalf of their candidates. "People must start thinking and doing something," he urged the DFL faithful.

Among the guests were Len Miller, Fourth District Mower County commissioner, and Jeanne Poppe, Austin City Council member from the Second Ward.

State Sen. Pat Piper was unable to attend because of another commitment.

Clearly it was the senior U.S. senator from Minnesota who the crowd came to hear – and Wellstone didn’t disappoint.

Early Saturday, he listened to farmers in Hollandale on agriculture issues and came away from the session clearly concerned, because of the repeated tales of farm financial problems they shared as well as the latest flooding problems.

But, Wellstone soon warmed to the occasion and quickly became the fire-brand speaker he is known to be, starting with a discussion of family values.

"I remember Rob’s dad, Bob Leighton," Wellstone told the crowd, "and a night several years ago, when Pete Winkles brought me to speak to a crowd at the union hall here in Austin."

"Rob’s father spoke to the crowd, telling them not to be divided or bitter, because, he said, ‘I love this town and I think it is necessary and important that people come together,’" Wellstone said. "That’s the kind of man Bob Leighton was and that’s the kind of man Rob is."

Leighton, who is serving his third two-year term in the Minnesota House, thanked Wellstone for coming to the event and other guests for their support of his re-election bid.

In recalling near six years in the House seat, Leighton said his last two years in the House have been the most difficult.

He blamed House Speaker Steve Sviggum (R-Kenyon) for "not having the same family values we share" and said Democrats have to gain control of the House.

He said, "I need to work hard in this election, because the DFL Party needs five seats to gain control of the House."

Leighton said labor, senior citizen, agriculture and education issues remain priorities to him and that the "fight begins tonight."

"We will focus on issues that impact Democrats and all people in Minnesota," he said.

Charlene Blowers, associate chair of the Mower County DFL Party, asked the campaign kickoff attendees to support Leighton’s campaign with their contributions.

"We need to re-elect Rob," she reminded the crowd.

After Wellstone left the backyard DFL bash, Leighton was asked whether the District 27B campaign can be one about the issues instead of the candidates.

Leighton responded, "People should look at my six-year record. I intend to campaign on the issues and be straightforward."

Jeff Anderson, an Austin Public Schools teacher and coach, has received the Republican Party’s endorsement to oppose Leighton in the District 27B race.