On January 9, 1999 Senator Paul Wellstone announced in St. Paul, Minnesota that he would not be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2000. "I have become persuaded, over time, that I could not energetically represent the people of Minnesota in the United States Senate while simultaneously running a grueling, 7-days-a-week, 6-cities-in-a-day kind of campaign for the White House," Wellstone said. He cited back troubles dating from his wrestling days in college and "the blistering pace of national travel, meetings, speaking and organizing that a presidential campaign requires for almost two years--including getting in and out of countless planes, cars, maybe even a green bus somewhere along the way." "For me, Minnesota must continue to come first," Wellstone said.
January 9, 1999
I have always had a deep conviction about the importance of public service to our country, and the goal of helping to improve the lives of its people. Woodrow Wilson said it: "There is no idea so uplifting as the idea of service to humanity. There is no cause half so sacred as the cause of a people." For the past eight years, my only cause has been to serve the people of Minnesota.
And I have been proud of the kind of public service that I've offered to Minnesotans: public service that puts a premium on time spent with ordinary people in cafes, schools, and labor halls, as opposed to time spent at fancy fundraisers with wealthy special interests. I've learned more from Minnesotans than I can ever repay--they have made me the kind of leader that I am.
For the last year, through my travels and the work of my Presidential Exploratory Committee, I have examined how best to continue to serve both my state and my country. Today I've come to tell you what I've concluded.
I'm going to talk about this decision the only way I know how; honestly, and straight from the heart. That's why I formed a Presidential Exploratory Committee when I did, because that was the time when I started exploring seriously the possibility of running for President in my own mind. Then and now, I owed the people of Minnesota and the nation complete candor about my intentions.
For months, I have traveled the country, talking with thousands of people. They told me that they want better for the education, health, and safety of all America's children. They told me that no American should have to agonize over whether or not he or she will be able to afford decent health care. They told me that government pays too little attention to the kitchen table issues of working families--a living wage, affordable housing, their children's future, and having enough to live the American dream. They told me they support our common interest in social institutions like neighborhood public schools, Medicare, and Social Security, and they want leaders who will fight back against those who would attack those institutions. They told me that they want an America where our social values live up to our personal values. They told me that they want more from our leaders.
And now the question is how best to continue to serve those ends: through a Presidential candidacy, or through some other course? Assessing my situation, my fundamental commitments to those whom I represent, and the times, I have concluded that I can best fight for the causes in which I believe by rededicating myself to my job in the Senate, and by continuing to do what I can to help reinvigorate and re-energize a grassroots civic movement for social change and social justice in our country.
I have always been a Senator who has given 1000 percent to my work. As I've traveled across the country to explore the prospects for a formal Presidential bid--a process which I have loved and from which I have drawn ideas, inspiration and hope from those whom I've met--I have become persuaded, over time, that I could not energetically represent the people of Minnesota in the United States Senate while simultaneously running a grueling, 7-days-a-week, 6-cities-in-a-day kind of campaign for the White House. And that is especially true given the kind of activist, people-centered, grassroots-oriented service I intend to continue to provide as a Senator. For me, Minnesota must continue to come first.
The nature of the physically grueling modern campaign has also frankly played a role in shaping my decision. Since my wrestling days in college, I have had a long history of painful but manageable back troubles, aggravated most recently by a ruptured disk in my lower back. And as many of you know, a year ago I had successful spinal surgery at the Mayo Clinic. Over the holidays I had an annual review of my progress, in which the physicians gave me a clean bill of health, and a very good prognosis.
But it is also clear to me that I could not maintain the blistering pace of national travel, meetings, speaking and organizing that a presidential campaign requires for almost two years--including getting in and out of countless planes, cars, maybe even a green bus somewhere along the way. While I am absolutely confident that my back problems will not pose an obstacle to my energetically representing Minnesotans in the Senate, as I have been doing for years, the extraordinary rigors of a presidential campaign pose a starkly different and much more grueling physical challenge.
I had, frankly, thought I could manage that challenge. I no longer believe that. And that belief simply underscored my conclusion that I could not play both roles--those of an activist Minnesota Senator and presidential candidate--as well, as energetically, as faithfully, as I would want. I love the people of my state too much, and owe them too much, to fail in any way to live up to the commitment that I made to them when I took the oath of office as a Senator.
Today, even in the face of the current upside-down politics of Washington, I set off with renewed energy to be the best Senator I can be on behalf of the people of Minnesota and the state. There is no cause more sacred to me than that. There is no greater debt I owe than to Minnesotans for allowing me to serve in the Senate. At the risk of being accused of a certain brand of Minnesota exceptionalism, I've always found a great hope, strength, good humor and common sense in Minnesotans, and drawn upon that unique blend of hope, strength, humor and idealism to inform my work on their behalf. I look forward to continuing to do that in the Senate.
At the same time, I am fiercely determined to continue to speak out on issues of national importance, including by offering a progressive perspective in key Congressional races and in the Presidential campaign leading up to 2000, insisting that the real issues of people's lives be again placed front and center on the table of American politics, just as they are squarely on the kitchen tables of most Americans. We must somehow reconnect our politics to our people in this way, and I believe we can.
To my supporters here and across the country who will be disappointed with my decision, I can only promise that I'll continue to fight, with the same passion and energy, for the causes in which we believe from my post in the U.S. Senate. I am deeply grateful for your support. I must admit honestly that, because I so much wanted to be able to do this race, in the way I had originally envisioned, a part of me is very saddened that I could not go forward.
The shape and future direction of our politics will largely be determined by who controls Congress, and who is in the White House, after 2000. I intend to be a full, vigorous, and active participant in those debates. But I also intend to do more than the usual political organizing on behalf of my party, my colleagues, and the progressive ideals for which we historically have stood.
I intend to continue to highlight the work and elevate the examples of grassroots leaders throughout the nation who can and should be heard on these issues, just as I have tried to do during this exploratory period. I will do that by helping to support their political organizing efforts across the country; by working on behalf of local, state and federal candidates; by highlighting the work of those nationwide whose decentralist, locally-based ideas are transforming their neighborhoods, communities, and states; and by any other means I can find.
I look forward to combining this important national work with my Senate
work on behalf of all Minnesotans. I intend to continue to be a fierce
and vocal advocate for the causes in which I believe most deeply, including
first and foremost my state, its people, and its bright future.