‘Granny D’ takes to the road to boost voter turnout

Drew Geraets

Forget the wheelchair.

At age 94, Doris “Granny D” Haddock is on a 36-state, 15,000-mile journey fighting to register more voters and eliminate corporate money in political campaigns.

Wearing a pink jacket and broad-rimmed hat, Haddock emerged on campus Wednesday from a multi-colored, sequined van. She walked with approximately 25 students from Williamson Plaza to the Stone Arch Bridge.

“This woman is so dedicated,” Regal Johnson, a political science junior, said. “It makes everything I’ve done less impressive.”

Approximately 30 more citizens and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak joined the group as they crossed the Mississippi River and headed to City Hall for a rally.

It is not the first time Haddock has laced up her L.A. Gear sneakers to bring attention to campaign finance reform and voter turnout.

In 2000, she completed a 3,200-mile walk from California to Washington, D.C.

“I recognized the fact that the poor man today has to sell his soul to run for office or be a multimillionaire,” Haddock said. “It was time for someone to wake up the sleeping giant that is America.”

Since then, the great-grandmother of 16 has not lost her step, traversing the country to promote the Fair and Clean Elections Act.

The legislation – adopted in Maine and Arizona – would give candidates the opportunity to publicly fund their campaigns if they agreed to collect small contributions and limit private funding, according to the League of Women Voters of Minnesota’s Web site.

“I want us to change into a voter-owned election,” said Haddock, who has met with politicians such Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “In order to do this, we must start at the public level.”

Her quest for change starts each morning with two hard-boiled eggs, a slice of toast and tea – a breakfast that she said gives her the necessary protein to continue her crusade.

“It renews your energy to use it,” Haddock said. “You see things and meet people head on.”

One of those people is Nick Palumbo, Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action’s public policy organizer.

He said Haddock lived through most of the 20th century and saw a need for change.

“I think she just has a burning passion for improving our democracy,” Palumbo said.

Haddock has already met with students in the Minnesota cities of Mankato, Morris and Northfield, he said.

“There’s been a resounding reception,” Palumbo said. “The mayors have walked in each event.”

“I think ‘Granny D’ is a tremendous inspiration to clean up the election system,” Rybak said.

Rybak said his opponents in the mayoral election outspent him 4-to-1, yet he was still able to get 65 percent of the vote.

The walk was also a great way to join together students and the community for a common cause, Jackie Hartwig, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group’s democracy program associate said.

“It’s always hard since MPIRG is a student group,” Hartwig said. “For this event, we were getting community organization, too. It’s really reached across the boundary.”

Haddock told the crowd its persistence and cooperation could make change.

“It’s wonderful to see the seasoned activists and the students joining together,” she said.

“It will be different if you get both the old and the new energy and experience together. That’s what we’re doing in Minnesota.”