Dawn Stensland Isn’t Running for Congress

As her husband, I'm confident she would have won. But the timing isn't right ... and the politcal process is too ugly

An angry electorate is shaking things up across the country. Fed up with an ever growing government that cannot control its own spending, voters are ignoring the endorsements of political leaders, pundits and parties and choosing candidates who promise to change business as usual in Washington.

I can think of no better candidate in this political climate than my wife Dawn Stensland Mendte.

She believes in public service in its truest form, not as a guise to serve one’s self. She cares deeply about education, children, women and family issues and wears her beliefs on her sleeve for all to see. Those who have had the pleasure to hear Dawn speak know she is captivating in her passion and compassion. And most importantly, in this political climate, she is strident in her belief in a smaller government, a balanced budget and spending controls. These beliefs are not part of a political strategy, but part of her very being.

Dawn Stensland Mendte is the perfect candidate in 2010. That is why it is a shame she is not running. [SIGNUP]

Dawn has promised interviews to others about her decision and she will speak for herself in other forums. But she has allowed me to break the news here knowing that I am her biggest fan and supporter. So do not expect even an ounce of objectivity. But I can give you a unique perspective on what has been going on the last few months as Dawn was confronted with both the best and worst of the political process. It is something I will write about in depth another time, but for now this is about Dawn and her decision.

My wife was serious about running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 7th District, which is made up by most of Delaware County and a portion of Montgomery and Chester Counties.

Dawn would have won. Of that, we are confident.

I know that from veteran political advisors who came to our home and ran through the numbers. I know that from office holders from both parties who were privately urging Dawn to run. I know that from the excitement we saw from a few thousand people who were willing to give money and volunteer time to Dawn’s candidacy. But more than anything else, I know that from the meetings we had with the party machine operators in Delaware County who were genuinely scared that Dawn was going to shake up the status quo and tried hard to talk her out of running.

Dawn decided early on that if she ran it would be as an independent. Through our meetings, she got to see behind the scenes of party politics and it was too ugly. There is nothing ugly about Dawn. In all of the meetings we had, no one talked about the problems of the district or the nation; it was all about money and control.

Maybe Dawn was naïve, maybe we both were, but we got to see the men behind the curtain; the men with their hands on the levers and buttons of the political machines. The candidate’s positions on the issues are just part of a strategy to win, not based on a core belief. The only core belief is winning.

Dawn did not want to be controlled by anyone. She didn’t want to owe any party. Those running for Congress will promise that they are “their own person” and “independent” and the vast majority then vote the way the party tells them to vote. That’s how the parties retain power and how the Representatives stay in office.

Dawn wanted no part of that. She wanted only to owe the people she would represent.

So she has quietly been talking with independent political advisors, putting together a campaign team and an impressive coalition of volunteers to get signatures.

And then life got in the way. My job in New York is going very well, and although I love the Philadelphia area and especially Delaware County, where I was born and raised, we could not imagine a life that revolved around an Amtrak marriage, where we got on separate trains in the morning and headed in opposite directions.

We would never each other. Even worse, we would never see our kids.

And so we have told our realtor (a free plug for Danny Logan, my nephew) to stop looking in Delaware County and start looking in Bucks County.

I know Dawn still believes in public service and wants to get involved in the local schools and community, wherever we end up. She wants to fight for a wonderful quality of life for our family and for our new neighbors.

And who knows, maybe one day, Dawn will be a member of Congress. But I can guarantee that it won’t be until our sons, Michael and David, are much older.

As I mentioned, with Dawn it is all about her core beliefs. Family and children comes first. It’s not a potential campaign slogan; she lives it.

I am so sorry, Delaware County. You needed the charisma, passion and excitement Dawn would have brought to the race to break the machine hold on Delaware County. Your loss is Buck’s County’s gain, my children’s gain and mine.