July 30, 2012One day many years ago, the Rev. Wade Schemmel said there were two things he'd never do: serve as a UCC Conference minister and run for public office.
Written by Daniel Hazard
Written by Daniel Hazard
Schemmel - now in his 11th year as Conference minister of the UCC's Northern Plains Conference - is off and running for North Dakota state representative in District 32. He'll be on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election.
"We're trying to see if a guy with a ponytail can win an elected office," quipped Schemmel.
But seriously...he said he firmly believes it's a call.
"And if God calls, God empowers," said Schemmel. "I do believe in God's empowering presence. Everything I've done in ministry the past 40 years has prepared me for this."
Schemmel is running as part of a "team" with two fellow Democrats on a "Justice for All" theme. Joining him on the ballot are former U.S. Congress member Wanda Rose, running for state senate; and Jim Unkenholz, who is pursuing a congressional seat.
"The district has voted solidly Republican the last 12 years, but there are more Democrats than Republicans in the district," said Schemmel. "Our chances of winning are getting better. Initially, they were between zero and none."
Encouraged by friends and colleagues to run, Schemmel is motivated by the many voices in his district that, he says, have not been heard.
"We're talking about reaching out to the margins," he said. "We're talking about care for those who aren't cared for, about maintenance of parks, about property taxes that don't kill the poor people and empower the rich ones, which is what we have right now."
"Those issues are very near and dear to my heart," said Schemmel. "In some cases, it's personal. It's about people I knew and cared for."
Going to bat for teachers is also high on Schemmel's list, he said. "We have an almost $2 million surplus in this state; let's use it. We're also talking about the impact of oil and coal and the well-being of the state, particularly for future generations."
As for door-to-door campaigning, Schemmel sets the bar low. In addition to serving out his term as Conference minister (it concludes at the end of the year), Schemmel said he has physical limitations.
"I told them I don't have a lot of time to run," he said. "I can't go door to door. I don't walk that well. I'm going on 67. I'll have to rent a golf cart to go door to door."
If Schemmel wins in November, his retirement from Conference ministry will be well-timed.
"If we don't win, we'll have fun losing," he said. "We're hoping people join us on this adventure."