The newest hire on the governor’s communications staff has political chops that reach back to the state’s earliest days.
McLean Donnelly, a communications assistant, is the great, great, great, great grandson of Ignatius Donnelly, Minnesota’s second lieutenant governor. He’s also the son of Stan Donnelly, big-time businessman and fervent unicameralist, who has spent much free time extolling the virtues of a one-house Legislature.
That could be what earned him his other political distinction: Stan Donnelly was, for a brief time, chief of staff to Minnesota’s shortest-serving U.S. Senator _ political maverick and former car wash operator Dean Barkley.
Political passions ran hot in the Donnelly family.
Ignatius cut a distinct figure in Minnesota politics, advocating for the Freedman’s Bureau and women’s suffrage when those were not popular causes. A die-hard populist, he ran for governor on a platform that would abolish national banks, create a graduated income tax, abandon the gold standard and push for an eight-hour workday.
Ignatius also wrote popular and somewhat eccentric books on such topics as the lost civlization of Atlantis and the real authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.
At 23 and fresh out of college, McLean has memories of being hauled around on his dad’s unicameral quest, but said he does not yet know whether he will follow in the storied footsteps of his forerunners.
“I just started swimming,” he said as performed the lowliest of political tasks _ passing out press releases in the dungeon of the Capitol Press Corps. “I might get beached before I even get started.”
But McLean also might see a hint of his future in his predecessor’s path. Tom Erickson, who held the job before Donnelly, just stepped up to communications director for what promises to be a bare-knuckled brawl _ the reelection campaign for U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.