© Rake Publishing, Inc. | visit www.rakemag.com December 2005 Free the Jackson Five! Busted and Disgusted Randy Staten has redeemed himself. Will he try to return to politics?
People are talking about whether Rev. Randolph (Randy) Staten will run for his old seat representing North Minneapolis in the Minnesota House of Representatives. If he did, and won, he would become Minnesotas version of former Washington mayor and convicted felon Marion Berry: a political player who went through a very public crash-and-burn, followed by a triumphant return to prominence. African-Americans are a forgiving group (just ask Bill Clinton), but would black Minnesotans re-elect a man who so publicly betrayed his community? Staten was one of the first African-American recruits for the University of Minnesotas football team in the early 1960s. After a cameo appearance in the National Football League, he returned to the Twin Cities and dabbled in Republican Party politics. Then he found a home in the DFL and in 1980 became the states lone African-American legislator. Staten used his natural eloquence and visibility to push for programs to help his economically challenged district. Along the way, however, he made powerful enemies who were waiting to pounce on any misstep. Staten was soon tripping up all over the place. He faced criminal charges for writing eighty-two hundred dollars worth of bad checks to finance a drug habit. Then he was accused of filing late and incomplete campaign expense reports with the Minnesota Ethical Practices Board. After narrowly dodging expulsion, he became the first legislator in state history to be publicly censured. He eventually did jail time. By the late 1980s, Staten found himself, in a phrase, busted and disgusted. He refused to fade off into oblivion, however, and instead took to heart advice from Broadway lyricist Dorothy Fields: Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. And start all over again. Like other disgraced politicians before him, it was religionmore specifically, the black churchthat provided a road map to redemption for Staten. He eventually became an ordained Baptist minister. Since then, Rev. Staten has reconnected with many of the North Siders who once shunned him. He is now chairman of the Coalition of Black Churches and spokesman for the African American Leadership Summit. He led the successful fight to block David Jennings permanent appointment as superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools. (Incidentally, Jennings, a former Republican speaker of the House, was one of Statens chief tormentors during his 1980s fall from grace.) The major local dailies regularly look to Staten for quotes, and even his detractors concede that he is extremely articulate and knows how to play a political crowd. Booker Hodges believes that a run by the sixty-one-year-old Staten for his old House seat would be a huge mistake. Randys time has passed, said Hodges, who is a columnist for the Minneapolis Spokesman-Recorder and a member of the rising generation of North Minneapolis political leaders (he recently made an unsuccessful run for a seat on the Park Board). It would open up a lot of old wounds. Many of us have not forgotten the shame he brought on our community. We need to bring up some young peoplesome new blood. Hodges then went one step further. Randy and the Coalition have follow-up problems, particularly on economic issues confronting our community. Its easy to put up your hands, whoop and holler, and sing We Shall Overcome. What has he done to help the brother in the street? There is no question that Staten has pulled off a Lazarus-like resurrection. Both Don Samuels and Natalie Johnson Lee courted his support in their battle for the Fifth Ward City Council seat. Certainly, one could understand why a Staten candidacy might appeal to some North Siders, especially those struggling to move past criminal convictions and/or overcome their own personal demons. However, while the number of those folks may be greater in House District 58B than other parts of the Twin Cities, they are still not the norm in that part of town. And, more important, they historically do not turn out in great numbers to vote. Most of Statens past and future constituents are job-holding, tax-paying, drug-free, law-abiding citizens. Hodges is rightfor many of these folks, the old wounds run very deep. They might be empathetic to Statens midlife religious conversion and be impressed with his political savvy, but still find it difficult to completely forgive him, or to trust him with one of the few reliably African-American seats in the Minnesota Legislature. Getting the solid core of 58B to give him another chance is probably a political miracle that even the resilient and charismatic Rev. Staten would be hard-pressed to pull off. http://www.rakemag.com/stories/section_detail.aspx?itemID=13386&catID=152&SelectCatID=152 Posted by Shawn Lewis, Minnetonka -- ___________________________________________________ Play 100s of games for FREE! http://games.mail.com/ REMINDERS: 1. Be civil! Please read the NEW RULES at http://www.e-democracy.org/rules. If you think a member is in violation, contact the list manager at [EMAIL PROTECTED] before continuing it on the list. 2. Don't feed the troll! Ignore obvious flame-bait. 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