One teacher’s race to become representative for rural Minnesota

Social studies teacher Mr. Keith Jones recounts his 1998 campaign for state representative.


James Libbey

In 1998, Jones felt he could best represent Minnesota House District 9B. He has kept memorabilia as a reminder of this time.

James Libbey, News Editor

In the midst of the 1998 election season, a new candidate took to the campaign trail to compete for the seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Now, a BSM senior high social studies teacher, Mr. Keith Jones ran against an incumbent for a seat in the Minnesota State House of Representatives for House District 9B in 1998. During this campaign, Jones sought to bring new ideas and youth to the House.

With a passion for government and politics, Jones was ready to bring change to the House despite the daunting odds he faced running against an incumbent. “I thought I could defeat the candidate and could better represent the area [as] someone new, younger, [and with] fresh ideas,” Jones said.

Campaigning before the digital age created problems for Jones. In order to campaign, Jones had to travel throughout his district from door to door to add a personal touch. Jones also set up billboards and ads for additional publicity and utilized the four regional newspapers to gain attention. District 9B was large, covering four counties, and was sparsely populated, so it took time and effort to visit the small towns in his district. “I was going to all of these little towns for parades and county fairs… I wasn’t able to enter some of the… more rural [areas],” Jones said.

Another difficulty Jones faced in his campaign was balancing it with his teaching job at Moorhead High School. His schedule involved teaching during the day, campaigning in the evening, and spending weekends attending festivals and parades. One aspect of campaigning that made the campaign feel worthwhile for Jones was meeting the people in his district. “It was more work than I ever imagined, and it was worth it,” Jones said.

While campaigning, he visited his opponent’s hometown trying to swing some of the vote in his favor. While going door-to-door, as if the town was against him, he was bitten by a small dog. This forced him to end his campaigning for the day to get a tetanus shot. “I thought the irony [was] that happened in my opponent’s hometown,” Jones said.

When the results came in, Jones had 42% of the vote, leaving the incumbent in office for another term. Initially, he was devastated about losing after committing so much time to campaigning. However, looking back, Jones enjoyed his experience campaigning. “I tried it, I didn’t succeed, but…I was happy I gave it a shot,” Jones said.

After his campaign, Jones decided to step out of politics, as he felt that the result would be the same if he ran again. Instead, he spent his time continuing his career in teaching and went to graduate school. Today, he continues civil service by teaching classes about government and politics to students. “Teaching government and politics and trying to get people excited, informed, and involved is my goal for carrying on my passion for politics,” Jones said.

Jones also has advice for those who are considering running for public office. “Do the research, see if you have the passion, fit, and time, and go for it,” Jones said.