Family plays an important role in political races

by Nichol Nelson

Making lawn signs, distributing campaign literature and offering moral support are all jobs that fall to family members when their loved ones run for political office.
In the hectic time during election season, family members often find themselves drawn into campaign life.
“Wild” was how University professor Donald Kahn described the summer of 1972, when his wife Phyllis ran for the State House of Representatives for the first time.
“Everybody in the family got dragged in,” he said. “Our house was a pandemonium of activity.”
Phyllis Kahn, who is running for re-election in District 59B, started her political career with a grass-roots campaign that included knocking on doors and posting lawn signs. Donald Kahn said that first summer was a “very panicky thing.”
This year’s election is quieter, but stressful events do happen, Donald Kahn said. Last year, his wife received a death threat because of her political office.
“A man threatened her life because he was upset at the thought of non-smoking bars,” he said.
Donald Kahn said the caller turned out to be an elderly man well into his 80s with a listed phone number. The man was found by police.
University graduate Toni McCloney is another family member caught up in political activity. McCloney, the mother of gubernatorial candidate Fancy Ray McCloney, doubles as his running mate.
The mother-son political combination is the first such team to run for governor and lieutenant governor in the United States. The election has put her in the limelight, McCloney said.
More than 20 years of experience in Twin Cities politics gave McCloney political knowledge. She held administrative positions in the Democratic Party, but never an elective office. McCloney said her son chose her as his running mate because of her political expertise.
A cable-access talk show host and former lip-sync artist, Fancy Ray McCloney is flamboyant, but he is serious about speaking for people of color. His mother said she believes in his ideas despite occasional differences.
“We have disagreements; even husbands and wives have disagreements,” McCloney said.
McCloney said her child-rearing skills make her a good candidate.
“Fancy Ray and all of his brothers are helping society,” McCloney said. “I’m proud to have instilled that in them.”
Theresa Jurisch’s father, Frank Germann, is also a minor party candidate for governor. Jurisch said her family has a sense of humor about the campaign stress, recalling numerous times when her father referred to his home as “the governor’s mansion.”
A computer science major at the University, Jurisch said that students helped her father collect the 2,000 signatures necessary to run for governor. She credited University students with a willingness to back minor party candidates.
While Jurisch is supportive of her father’s endeavor, she said his campaign duties can infringe on her life.
“When he has to go out and do something [political], I need to find another baby sitter for my two-year-old son,” she good-naturedly complained.