|Address||622 Lowry Ave N |
Minneapolis, Minnesota , United States
|| February 06, 1937
May 30, 2020 02:19am
Caucasian - Army - Straight -
|Info||In 1994, ran for the Nutritional Rights Alliance party. |
"I'm kind of the hopeless candidate," Leslie Davis admits. Davis is more hopeless than most because he isn't even on the ballot this year (1998). Instead, the longtime environmental activist and emerging perennial candidate is staging a one-man write-in campaign under the self-styled Protect the Earth Party and the populist plea, "If I win, we all win."
Getting on the gubernatorial ballot in Minnesota isn't that complicated: all it takes is the aforementioned 2,000 signatures and meeting your filing deadlines. But Davis, the only member of his newly christened party, says that route wasn't open to him, because he hadn't recruited a lieutenant governor as his running mate by the time the deadline rolled around in July. He placed classified ads in the Star Tribune over the summer--which proclaimed, "This Race is Between Me and Norman Coleman"--but so far there have been no takers. (After the primary, Davis changed his mind about who his main opponent is: "Now it's me and Humphrey.") He says that he wanted to tap Barbara Davis, president of St. Louis Park barbecue sauce purveyors Ken Davis Products, so he could run a "Davis and Davis" slate, but she turned him down. Still, he remains undaunted: "I'm interviewing a number of people."
In 1993, Davis ran for mayor of Minneapolis, netting 100 votes to place 14th in an 18-way free-for-all primary. The next year, Davis scored 4,613 votes in his on-the-ballot bid for governor under the Nutritional Rights Alliance banner, outpolling only the Socialist Workers Party candidate in the six-way race. Davis notes that the party, which carried the same environmental themes, might have benefited from being listed as "NRA" on the ballots. Matching that total could be trickier this year, since voters will actually have to pencil him on their ballots.
At 61, the single father of four has the indefatigable energy of a young up-and-comer. Davis makes his home and office in a drafty, defunct bar near the corner of Lyndale and Lowry in North Minneapolis. He serves coffee in beer mugs to his visitors. The wooden bar sports his telephone and neat stacks of paper documenting his pro se legal fights against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. (One suit over an ash dump in Rosemount was recently dismissed; he's waiting to hear an appellate court decision related to the garbage burner on the edge of downtown Minneapolis.) He's the only one in the old gin mill, but there's plenty of room for company with 12 stools with flower-print seat covers parked at the bar.
The walls of the old public house are decorated with posters for never-ending battles and news clippings immortalizing past clashes: Yes! To Hemp: Food Fuel Fiber Medicine. Yes! To Hydrogen! Ban Leghold Traps! Did Your Food Have a Face? Go Vegetarian. One corner houses cardboard boxes thick with alphabetically filed manila folders labeled "Radioactive," "Ramsey County," Rivers," "Solar." The wall space between the men's and women's bathrooms is adorned with photocopied clippings of the "Little Alfie" fight near Ely, Minn., in which Davis and Co. succeeded in delaying the U.S. Forest Service's efforts to sell old-growth pines for logging, but ultimately failed to stop it.
It wasn't always thus. Once upon a time, eco-warrior Davis sold "coordinated career clothing" for women, and by his own reckoning moved mountains of polyester product. Davis gushes, "Oh, a lot of it! You bet. Millions of dollars of polyester. In 1979, I sold $6 million of that stuff. I don't know if I should be bragging about this." But the garment business fell by the wayside after Davis took a swim in the Mississippi River and came out with his skin burning. In the late '70s, he got involved in a fight with NSP over the utility's proposal to burn PCBs at one of their plants and never looked back. In 1983 he founded Earth Protector Inc., his incorporated alter ego.
Davis sounds a little hurt at the mention of the Green Party, which he perceives as stealing some of his eco-thunder. "I thought they should've gotten behind me," Davis says. Referring to this fall's Green gubernatorial hopeful, he figures that the party is running an "office manager" for governor, but adds, "Ken Pentel is a nice boy. He wears a helmet when he rides his bike." Davis recalls that one Green stalwart went so far as to label him a "soloist."
Was that a polite way of saying "gadfly"? Davis bristles. "I don't like that word, 'gadfly,'" he counters in his still-lingering Brooklyn accent. "I'm a dedicated, committed environmental activist."
The candidate's principal campaign proposal, "The Davis Water Plan," calls for a 2-cent-per-gallon water tax to be levied upon Minnesota corporations using underground well water. (Davis says the Department of Natural Resources currently charges $4.50 per million gallons of water.) He estimates that the plan, once it gets going, will generate $2 billion per year for the state, which could in turn be used to cut personal and corporate taxes. Other issues he's pushing include establishing industrial hemp, organic food, and renewable energy industries in Minnesota.
As for his below-the-radar, off-the-ballot stealth campaign, Davis isn't worried. Ever the optimist, he sees at least one ray of hope--in younger voters. He makes a habit of hitting student unions at local college campuses, where he presses "The Davis Manifesto" into the hands of unsuspecting kids. "I might be able to reach the college students, if I can turn them out," he figures. If not, Davis will barely break his stride: "Life is not over for me after November 3. I continue on."