I’ve met a lot of people over the past six months on the campaign trail. And in that time, I’ve noticed that most of the conversations I have start out the same.
I generally introduce myself as Jeff Anderson – a pretty solid Minnesota name – which is often followed by the question, “Where are you from?” I respond “Ely, but I live in Duluth.”
More often than not, that is followed with, “so do you know the Johnson’s or the Maki’s up there in Ely?” Or, sometimes they ask which KIND of Anderson I am. I always tell them that I am a Finnlander Anderson.
The final question is usually, “how far back?” and I respond, “the 1880’s”. My Great Grandfather helped settle present day Ely, and my parents still live in the house he and my great-grandmother built.
Often times we can trace back our lineage a few generations and find some form of connection. It really is a small world, and even smaller when you are a Finn named Anderson from the Iron Range.
People like to know your history when you are campaigning to represent them. They want to know if you have the same experiences they have. More times than not, it seems the issues fall to the side as they are really looking for a candidate they can relate to – one that has the same roots.
Roots are important here. In northern Minnesota we have seen so many families and friends come and go with the changing economics of the region. It is truly a badge of honor to say that you have enjoyed the good times and stayed strong through the tough times in making northern Minnesota your home.
I mention all of this because when I say “I want to represent us in Congress”, I mean it. These aren’t hypothetical families and values I’m talking about. This is about my Mom and Dad being able to retire with dignity by preserving Social Security and Medicare. This is about my two year-old niece being able to attend the best schools. This is about my sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles being able to find work so we can continue to live here together as a family.
I learned these values while sitting around the kitchen table hearing about how my grandfather negotiated contracts as president of the Steelworkers Local. I learned first hand the struggles so many families have dealt with when my father lost his job in the mines – and we were forced to rely on government assistance for a time to help keep us going while we got back on our feet.
These experiences were not lost on me. I am proud of having grown up where I did and of the roots that made me the man that I am today. And it is with this in mind that I am running for congress. We need someone with roots in this region to take our shared experiences and voice to Washington.
Simply put, what we need is one of us, for us.