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Gore stumps for Sayles Belton
By Elizabeth Stawicki, Minnesota Public Radio
September 3, 2001

Al Gore was in Minneapolis Monday, raising money for Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. Reporters were not allowed inside the hall, where the fundraiser was being held.
In his first political appearance since his presidential defeat, former Vice President Al Gore spoke in Minneapolis Monday at a fundraiser for Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. He refused to speak directly about the past election and its aftermath. But he did make a few comments about the transition from vice president to private citizen.

AL GORE SPOKE ONLY BRIEFLY to about 100 hard-core Democrats at the Minneapolis Hilton. He made no overt comments about last year's election, only subtle references. "People say, 'how ya doing?' My attitude is: you win some, you lose some and then there's that little known third category," he joked.

Gore called Sayles Belton "a national leader." But he intertwined those accolades with an indirect swipe at the Bush administration. He said Minneapolis is "headed in the right direction," referencing back to last year's campaign. "There was talk from people who said, 'Well, the country's heading in the right direction; things are going well.' What are they saying now? Think about that when you think about this city moving in the right direction. Elections have consequences. Every vote counts. Good leadership makes a real difference," Gore said.

Sayles Belton is locked in a tight race for a third term with the primary election a little more than a week away. Carlton College political science professor Steven Schier says Gore's willingness to make his return to the political scene here shows how highly Gore thinks of Sayles Belton.

"At the time of the 2000 Democratic Convention, it was widely rumored that Sharon Sayles Belton was a likely cabinet appointee for a Gore presidency. So it's clear that Al Gore has had a high opinion of Sharon Sayles Belton for some time," he said.

But Gore's visit may have backfired a bit for the Minneapolis mayor. Gore's aides refused to tell reporters about what access they'd have to the former vice president until he began speaking. The room where Gore and Sayles Belton spoke was closed to the press. Afterwards, Gore and Belton handlers allowed only two photographers from a local paper and a wire service to take pictures of Gore shaking hands with local Democrats. That left television reporters and others on the outside. When Gore and Sayles Belton emerged, a mass of cameras and reporters ran towards them in a stampede.

Just before Gore escaped into an elevator, he said he wasn't making any political speeches yet; he was in Minneapolis to support his friend, the mayor. Afterwards, she was left to answer prickly questions about why Gore aides wanted such tight control on the press, not questions about the substance of her campaign.

"I don't have any idea about what you're even raising," she said. "What I know is that we had a rally for Sharon Sayles Belton for Mayor and we had a wonderful rally that was very well attended and everybody left and they were highly enthusiastic."

On Sunday, former Gore rival and presidential candidate Bill Bradley was in the Twin Cities on behalf of R.T. Rybak, who's also a DFL candidate for Minneapolis mayor. DFL City Councilmember Lisa McDonald and Independent Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein are the other two major candidates.