I haven’t used this website in a long while. Please visit my senate campaign website for updates as I campaign to become the next senator to represent Minnesota Senate District 11.
One of my primary campaign volunteers posted this on Facebook today, “Michelle Lee, I hope you will run again soon. We need a woman like you to lead us.”
Here is my response to Susan and to those who support me.
Thank you Susan. I am honored to have your continuing support and will never be able to thank you enough for your hard work during our primary campaign. Reflecting on my run for congress I am amazed at the many good people who stepped in and banded together to lift me up with a kind word and who gave of their time and their hard-earned $$ to keep me and our message front and center. I do not kid myself–I know in my heart it was you and the hard work of other dedicated people who delivered a second place in a crowded race when others gave us little chance to win or make a positive impact. We did make an impact. We directed the conversations and amplified the issues that impact each and every person in the 8th Congressional District–job creation and broadband expansion, affordable education, affordable healthcare, the better treatment of our children, elderly and veterans. We fought for the environment, equality for all and to get the dark money out of politics. We provided alternative solutions based on our party’s platform and we did it all in the spirit of civility. In the limited time we had to build support in the massive 8th District I am proud of what we did… and will never forget the people we met or the stories they shared. That is why I am optimistic that change is possible. My reflections have strengthened my resolve to insure our representation in Washington, St. Paul and in every elected position across our state reflect a broader range of our citizenry. I stand ready to represent my family, friends and neighbors again in any position that will allow our voices to be heard in determining the future direction of our country. There is much at stake–and none of us can afford to sit it out. We need to vote, we need to run and we need to lead.
I’m pretty proud of my grown up kids. (I’m a mom, they will always be kids to me.) I know their generation will face many more challenges than we did. We were pretty blessed. My husband, Gary and I both worked and earned enough money to buy a home, raise a family and set aside a nest egg for retirement.
But I worry about many in today’s workforce. They are the ones burdened with heavy student debt and stagnant wages. Some are working two jobs just to pay the rent and other basic human needs. Making matters worse our nation’s inability to provide affordable healthcare for all has placed them in the a position where they are just one medical crisis away from financial disaster.
I can’t help but draw similarities between the generation of my kids and those of my grandparents who struggled during the Great Depression. Both believed an honest day’s work deserved fair compensation, every worker deserved a safe work environment and the promise of providing their children with more opportunities and a chance at better lives.
These beliefs were behind the creation of America’s Union Movement which gave us a 40 hour week, the weekend and an end to child labor in this country. Yet in recent years union membership has fallen in favor of the right-to-work movement. There are now right-to-work laws in 28 states.
This is how the AFL-CIO explains Right-to-Work:
“Right to work” is the name for a policy designed to take away rights from working people. Backers of right to work laws claim that these laws protect workers against being forced to join a union. The reality is that federal law already makes it illegal to force someone to join a union.
The real purpose of right to work laws is to tilt the balance toward big corporations and further rig the system at the expense of working families. These laws make it harder for working people to form unions and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
Right-to-work states tend to lean Republican. I am thankful that Minnesota is not among them and that my kids are proud union members. Fred is a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189. He and his co-workers recently ratified their first union contract. My daughter-in-law Anna is a member of the Minnesota Nurses Association.
There is power in numbers. Numbers are built through organizing. Look no further than the teachers strikes of 2018 and the gains being made on behalf of workers we trust to educate our next generation of workers.
Today’s headlines indicate the 2018 Farm Bill could head to the House floor mid May. Any bill that moves forward must address the the dramatic changes underway in farm country.
According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Association “nearly 100 million acres of farmland is set to change hands over the next five years. To keep our agricultural economy strong, the next farm bill needs to facilitate the transfer of skills, knowledge, and land between current and future generations of family farmers.”
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity act (H.R. 4216) and the Next Generation in Agriculture Act (S 2762H) seek to address the looming shortage of farmers and ranchers.
Legislation must also address the farm to table movement. Consumers must have more opportunities to buy locally grown food. But that will only happen by supporting our region’s farmers. To learn more about the farm bill and its impact on consumers and producers follow this link.
“Judd Apatow is not available to accept your phone call, ” and so it goes for a first time candidate dialing for dollars to represent her district in the US Congress.
I don’t know Mr. Apatow but his last name starts with an “A” and that means he was at the top of the list I received from the national fundraising consultant hired to help me find enough money to convince would be supporters that I can mount a “First Tier” campaign.
My name is Michelle Lee. I am a wife and a mom. I’ve been a nurses aid, a factory worker and a journalist. For more than 30 years, people in Minnesota’s Arrowhead region called me the T.V. news lady.
From the field and my chair at the anchor desk I brought them the news focusing on how the decisions made in Washington impacted our friends and neighbors in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District. My work was guided by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.
I did it without personal comment or opinion Monday through Friday on the 5, 6 and 10 o’clock local news.
A Democrat at birth, I cast ballots in every primary and general election since I was old enough to enter a voting booth, but not one viewer knew whether I was a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent. I have never been a political insider. I never worked on behalf of a political party nor did I openly supported or oppose a candidate during my career.
That was then. This is now. On the night Donald Trump was elected president I was on the anchor desk. A political analyst leaned in during a commercial break and whispered to me, “these numbers tell me Trump is going to win.”
I felt as if I had been punched in the gut.
55 days later I left my career behind. A few weeks later I was on a bus out of Duluth, Minnesota headed for Washington D.C. to participate in the Women’s March. It was my first act of political and social activism.
I went on to attend Wellstone Camp, the Vote, Run, Lead Camp and Take Action Minnesota focusing on their candidate tracks determined to one day serve my community.
When our Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan announced he was retiring following our party caucuses friends urged me to jump into the race.
“You have name awareness… people trust you,” they said.
Other friends who worked in politics tried to talk me out of it telling me there wasn’t enough time to mount a campaign. They also described how Washington was broken. They also warned money talked—that good candidates often had to walk away.
And that brings me back to dialing for dollars.
I’ve already picked the low hanging fruit. That’s how the experts describe family and friends who believe in me and who are willing to donate a few hard earned dollars to send me to Washington. Those are hard calls to make. I know the value of a dollar in their lives. Most have given to my campaign. Unfortunately, it is not yet enough for me to qualify for the all important “tier one” status, meaning enough money raised to cause big donors to pay attention to my campaign.
Rather than traveling my 27, 538 square mile district listening to the people I hope to represent, I’m told it is more important to sit in a room with an assistant and spend 30 plus hours a week calling a list of strangers.
Judd Apatow doesn’t know me. I doubt he’ll ever meet any of the candidates like me who are calling him. But that’s the world we live in. Because our politics are now filled with consultants and money bundlers.
As a result critical campaign time is focused on convincing people like him that I and other candidates like me are the only line of defense between mean spirited legislation designed to make the rich richer and build walls around the working poor.
Are you as troubled as I am about this money game?
The truth is, it will take good people to get involved in the process by volunteering for the candidate of their choice, holding house parties and yes, raising money to send them to Washington.
Even though Mr. Apatow is not available to take my call don’t be surprised if you get a “cold call” from me, Michelle Lee a former T.V. news lady from Minnesota asking for your ideas to steer our nation in the right direction and for a donation to send the first ever congresswoman to represent MN-8 in Washington.
My Campaign Facebook page
To donate to my campaign, here is the link to ActBlue
What was once a rare event, today I see eagles flying nearly every day above my Moose Lake, Minnesota home. When the sun does shine the sky is blue. We are doing better, but more work needs to be done.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought about the definitions of family and family values lately. Most of my childhood was spent in a traditional family unit. I had a mom, a dad and six brothers. But compared to the popular television program at the time; Leave it to Beaver, ours was anything but traditional.
Untreated alcoholism and its ugly symptoms were our distant cousin often visiting unannounced. The threat of poverty was a constant. I remember neighborhood kids taunting me saying their parents were going to call “Welfare” on mine. At six years old I didn’t know what welfare was, but I sure had heard a lot about the poor house.
Children of the depression, my parents greatest fear was the “poor house.” Mom could stretch a pound of hamburger, a box of noodles and a can of tomatoes to keep us fed and she made sure we went to Sunday school clean and pressed, our hair slicked back with sugar-water.
With the occasional helping hand from extended family, and our community along with well placed mentors we survived and thrived.
I’ve spent a lifetime studying what makes a family. Most families are not the Cleavers. The definition of family reaches beyond that traditional family unit, genetics or living under the same roof.
The Republican Party would like us to believe otherwise. Inspired by Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly for decades it has proclaimed itself the keeper of family and family values; values we have allowed them to define and use to divide families, communities and our country. This is also the party that fights to reverse critical social policy and our healthcare reform in favor of rewarding the wealthy one percent.
After years of interviewing friends and neighbors and reporting on the issues that impact our community I can report the concept of family has evolved far beyond some mythical image embraced by those who would hold us captive in poverty and the fear that is left unfettered promoting a long list of isms. (sexism, Racism, Age-ism, Colonialism and more.)
Today’s family is extended, non-traditional, same sexed, heterosexual, singular, plural; all the above and much more. Defining family is more difficult that catching lightning in a bottle.
I’ve been blessed by the wonderful families that have come into my life. Among them, a mom working part-time, going to college full-time and raising four healthy and happy children. Another mom working toward sobriety and the return of her children. A family headed up by a grandmother and community leader willing to call out injustice as she sees it, while standing firm in her resolve to create a better life for her kids.
I also want to tell you about another young couple I know and love. Until recently they would not have been allowed to marry. But Minnesotans understood the ‘heart wants what the heart wants’— and voted to approve same-sex marriage. That young couple is now happily married, owns a home and is creating a life together under the full protection of law. I am proud to say Minnesota’s DFL party led the fight to establish laws and programs to ensure these amazing families have the opportunity to survive and thrive.
The members of my party have a strong work ethic, we respect every human. We stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves. We are generous, honest and hold an open mind. We strive to live life well and do what we can to ensure others have the opportunity to live well. We are spiritual, fair and honest. That is the definition of family values in support of the evolving family.
With the 2018 midterm elections we have a unique opportunity to create the future we want for our children and grandchildren. To give hope to the generations that will inherit our legacy.
Our first step must be reclaiming the title as the party of family values; DFL, the Party of Family Values 2.0
If there is any doubt about the importance of unions just ask my 92-year-old mother. Her husband was a proud member of the 49’ers and knew there was value and power in numbers. He gladly paid his dues knowing his union fought for workers rights and on the job safety. It also made sure its retirees could live with dignity thanks to pensions and healthcare.
My step-father has been gone for ten years, but my mother continues to reap the benefits of his union membership. While the pension is small the health benefits pack a powerful punch in paying for needed care not covered by medicare.
I spoke with my mom today and we agreed that life would be a lot difference for her, had it not been for the 49’ers. She lives comfortably in her own home and receives the care she requires to remain independent.
Today I am thankful for unions and the efforts they have made to protect working men and women and their families in America.
This week’s presidential tweet aimed at Senator Gillibrand makes me yearn for “Once upon a time” when Donald Trump was a television celebrity and wasn’t our Tweeter-in-Chief.
Frankly I find his latest effort of presidential shame tweeting involving powerful women sad.
Once upon a time in towns and cities across America little girls were told to be nice, don’t fight, or get angry. They were told heaven forbid don’t make waves–or question a male authority figure– because honey it’s a man’s world.
Back in the not too distant past girls were taught early on that boys grow up to rule the world. Girls grow up to help make their future husband a success.
Women have made inroads since I first read story books to my child that began with the phrase, Once Upon a Time. We have become CEO’s, ranking officers in the military and successes in dozens of other professions once thought to be man’s work.
We are slowly seeing women move up the ranks to fill seats in local, county and national government. We are also joining forces and building coalitions to raise and resolve serious issues impacting our families, friends and neighbors.
Many of us have married men who believe we are their equal. They are men who also believe their wives and daughters have every right to take a seat at the table of power. Yet every day I am reminded there are still men in power who draw and redraw the line that women must not cross.
Scrolling through Twitter since Donald Trump won the presidency— it’s hard to miss his attacks against the news media, our sports figures and our women lawmakers. If fear mongering were a talent, the President would win bigly on America’s got talent. We must stop being played.
Given birth to, set the table and fed a nation. We have fought in wars; domestic and
We hold down jobs, bring home the bacon (cook it) and raised families.
We have sacrificed our health and well-being so that others may thrive.
We have learned from our experiences and we, the women survive.
We’ve been told
We are not smart enough. We are not strong enough. We are too young. We are too old.
Wait your turn.
We have been beaten. We have been sexually harassed and abused.
We’ve been told be good. Don’t tell.
We do not
Value the measure of a person simply by the balance of their investment portfolio or the
power they hold.
Nor do we pre-judge a person by age, the color of their skin, religious beliefs or sexual
We know every human has worth.
Work to ensure our government is reflective of all the people it serves.
We must step up and become those people in every level of government.
It is time
Women take a seat at the table.
When I was eight months pregnant I developed a pulmonary embolism and was rushed to the hospital. At the time, I seriously thought that chest pain, severe shortness of breath and swollen extremities were standard operating procedure, right along with baby showers, weight gain and a glowing complexion.
A mad dash to the emergency room in Duluth and two weeks in the hospital convinced me otherwise.
I will always be grateful to the doctors and nurses who saved my life during a very frightening time in our lives.
In my 9th month, I gave birth to a robust baby boy.
Before we left the hospital the doctor told my husband— that in no uncertain terms—-we should never be pregnant again.
Faced with a potential life or death situation… the issue of birth control moved front and center in our lives. Luckily future pregnancy prevention was available and I am here today to celebrate joyous and life affirming events including our son’s wedding this summer to a wonderful woman…. with the hope that one day I will live long enough to be a grandma.
My story is mine and has a happy ending. But over the years I have listened to the heart-rending stories of other women who have been faced with more difficult decisions involving birth control and pregnancy termination.
Their stories have strengthened my belief that our government and politicians should stand down and defer to the decisions made between a woman and her doctor.
Coming of age in the 1970’s–I cannot imagine a time when family planning options are not available. Yet, it seems there are those who are willing to chip away at a woman’s right to own and control our bodies. In honor of the women who fought to make choice a reality I will fight to maintain the right for other women to access affordable birth control and access to reproductive healthcare.
What is our responsibility for the well-being of others? Is it possible for us to live in harmony with those who don’t share our religious or social beliefs? At a certain age the call to answer universal questions becomes harder to ignore or place in the hands of those we believe are a bit smarter or more powerful.
Among the more pressing involves the legacy we leave our children and defining the care and respect we must focus on our elders, people with disabilities and those who have been beaten down simply because of the color of their skin or country of origin. In a perfect world— a hard day’s work is enough to finance a family’s basic needs with more than a few dollars left over to educate our kids, take an occasional vacation and set aside for a rainy day. But in the real world the rain never seems to stop.
Many Northlanders live pay check to pay check and shop for bargains at big box stores or the local dollar store. When the check doesn’t stretch ’til the end of the month… a visit to the food shelf is the only thing preventing a child from going to bed hungry. While many of us work hard to make ends meet with an ever shrinking dollar—- foreign interests and powerful corporations reap the rewards provided by hard workers in the Northland. The power of the “one percenters” continues to grown as they grow richer. Sadly while we focus on work—the strength of our unions is also being chipped away along with the power of our voices. Redistricting, voter suppression and apathy have tipped the balance of our representation in Washington in support of a Republican Party it’s founders would not recognize today. Choosing to exercise our vote for either party seems an exercise in disillusionment.
In our hearts we know building a wall is not the answer—nor is demonizing others. We question whether proposed tax cuts will really help the average Northland Family and why the majority in Washington seems relentless in its effort to weaken our current health care system (the backbone of rural health care.)
Our foot soldiers in the battle for justice and the war on poverty grow weary, beaten down by those who argue— giving a hand up or creating an even playing field—gives rise to socialism. Struggling to redefine itself— the Democratic Party must also take responsibility for the situation in which we find ourselves today. Inspired as a kid by President John F. Kennedy I’ve always thought of myself as a Democrat.
I’m not ready to give up that thought. But I know the party of my youth can no longer conduct business as usual. It too must redefine itself as the party of new ideas; one willing to boldly fight the opposition on its terms—quarterbacked by new leadership with convictions mirroring its members. It must be done quickly.
Faced with the probability of multi-million dollar mid-term campaigns, lack of money in the high stakes game of politics must not be a barrier for qualified leaders of the future. Nor should our gender, sexual orientation, race or religious belief.