Handsome newcomer, wily pro still campaigning 31 years later
- Blog Post by: Maya Rao
- October 15, 2013 - 2:08 PM
Can Dan Cohen once again find happiness in the Republican Party? Can his political career, which once had him in hot pursuit of the mayor’s office in Minneapolis, be resurrected?
Will Mark Andrew’s courtship of the Democrats grow into a full-fledged love affair?
While you've already seen a lot about their campaigns for mayor this fall, these questions, as it turns out, are 31 years old. They were the opening lines of a 1982 article in the Star Tribune about a hard-fought race for the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners.
It was the race that launched Andrew’s career in politics. Only 32 years old at the time, the former legislative aide was making an aggressive run for Commissioner Nancy Olkon’s seventh district seat. Competing against them in a primary was Cohen, a former City Council president who lost a bid for mayor against Charles Stenvig in 1969 and was trying to reenter politics.
The Star Tribune described Andrew as “the handsome young newcomer with the slightly rumpled appearance a la Robert Redford.” The paper said Cohen was “the wily old pro. Urbane with a quit wit and, some say, a dose of hubris.”
Andrew eventually finished first in the primary, while Cohen placed third and failed to advance to the general election. (Update: Cohen threw his support behind Andrew after losing, calling Olkon's campaign "scurrilous.")
The battle between Andrew and Olkon was bitter in the final months of the campaign. They yelled “foul,” “dirty pool,” and “smear tactics” at each other, and Olkon unsuccessfully sued Andrew for unfair campaign practices. He accused her of stealing his lawn signs and publically derided her as desperate and an “arid desert” of ideas.
Andrew won after a tense election night, when he chain-smoked cigarettes and sipped a gimlet at Blaisdell Place awaiting the results. He went on to serve 16 years as a commissioner until stepping down in 1999. Cohen, for his part, worked in public relations and advertising before retiring in 1991.
He and Cohen have stayed on good terms.
“This is not a blood sport,” Cohen said, referring to their current campaigns. “We get along.”
Andrew is no longer the newcomer in politics, having amassed the most elected experience of any of his 34 competitors in the mayoral race. Cohen, however, remains the wily old pro.
© 2015 Star Tribune