The Impact of the Lasting Wellstone Legacy

By KBJR News 1

October 26, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2012 at 10:37 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Known as a political bulldog, US Senator Paul Wellstone stood for what he believed in, even if meant being in the minority.

It's that determination fueling Wellstone Action, a training center now in its ninth year for progressives.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is a product of a Camp Wellstone leadership bootcamp. Ritchie says if it weren't for the aggressive training, he would never have run for office.

"In that time, it was enough to have a full picture, it was enough also to practice being embarrassed by your first stump speech and, uh, be frightened a little bit by descriptions of fundraising," Secretary of State Ritchie said.

Peggy Flanagan had a hand in helping create leaders like Ritchie through Wellstone Action.

"Paul Wellstone taught us that electoral college, movement building has three parts, campaigns and elections, it's grassroots organizing and it's public policy," Flanagan said. "If the three of those aren't working together and they are sort of functioning independently or silo-ed, you're not going to move anything forward."

The Wellstone Legacy doesn't just work to shape future politicians and communities. It also tackles a number of issues, including the fight against domestic violence.

While not in the political spotlight as much as her husband, Sheila Wellstone fought hard to end domestic violence.

"She traveled all over the state visiting organizations, said Linda Riddle, the executive director of the Duluth Abuse Intervention Program. "When Paul received a ray raise, they didn't keep that money. They divided and donated to domestic violence prevention programs across Minnesota."

They worked together to bring attention to everything from trafficking to sexual assault. She had an integral part in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act

"It contains provisions that have made enormous changes in how law enforcement do their jobs, prosecutors finding shelters," Riddle said.

"We have people who are disconnected from the issue and really empowering, primarily women, to tell their story and hold elected officials accountable to ensure they hear these stories and when they're making decisions they know they're impacting the lives of women and children," said

Wellstone Action has partnered with more than 350 organizations to help carry on the legacy.

Kevin Jacobsen
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