In 2009, I competed for and lost the DFL endorsement for Minneapolis City Council in Ward 10. During the convention, I was asked a very simple question: “Will you suspend your campaign if someone other than you gets endorsed by the delegates today?” My answer was a simple: “yes.”
The average age of DFL delegates to that convention was 62; the average age of the citizens of Ward 10 at the time was 32. As a result, I was concerned that the DFL delegate pool was not representative of the ward. However, despite the fact that many of my supporters encouraged me to run and my conviction that a more representative delegate pool would have made a different decision, I dropped out of the race. There were many good arguments to run. However, the most compelling argument was simple: I had committed not to challenge an endorsed DFL candidate. So, I kept my word and ended my campaign.
In doing so, I fulfilled the strong wishes of Council Member Meg Tuthill and her supporters. As many of them expressed in the days after the convention — both in writing and in phone calls to me — they expected me to keep my word. Although we disagreed on many issues, on this issue we did agree.
We are now four years removed from that convention, and Council Member Meg Tuthill and her supporters are ironically in the same position that we were in. Council Member Tuthill said directly that she would suspend her campaign if someone else were endorsed. In fact, that’s exactly what happened as Lisa Bender was endorsed last Saturday. Many of us are excited to support Lisa Bender to ensure that she is elected as our new Council Member in 2014.
I’ve read that Council Member Tuthill is unsure what she is going to do. She said that she wasn’t clear what “suspend” meant. Of course, everyone in the room — including Council Member Tuthill — knew that she was promising not to run against an endorsed candidate. But I’m sure many of her supporters are pushing her to ignore her own promise and run anyway. Although it is a difficult reality to face, it is time now for Council Member Tuthill to do the right thing. I hope and expect that she will do what I did: keep your word. I hope and expect that her supporters are saying the same thing to her that they said to me: “keep your word.” Although I know they are disappointed that their chosen candidate was not endorsed, I also know that the simple fact of public honesty outweighs all other factors.
We have too many examples of public officials lying in their public service. As a parent of two young children, I know that one of the most difficult things to explain to kids is why leaders lie. Kids simply don’t understand how a person — particularly a person with public responsibilities — could promise one thing and do another. It strikes at the core of their most basic notions of fairness and honesty.
So, Council Member Tuthill, it is time to do the right thing: withdraw from the race. While your supporters will be disappointed, you will have done a much more important thing: you will have kept your word.