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Top 10 Best Political Persons in Minnesota 2009

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 12/30/09 01:21

by Dave Mindeman

Well, it soon will be time for the annual Top 10 Worst Political Persons in Minnesota, so we will preface it with today's Top 10 Best Political Persons of 2009.

#10. Norm Coleman. I realize this may seem a little strange but in spite of dragging the US Senate race out as far as he did, he could have dragged it out farther. He accepted the Minnesota Supreme Court decision and graciously conceded. In addition, Coleman did one other thing that had a positive effect. He kept quiet. He didn't criticize every thing Franken did as he took over his old Senate seat. He gave Franken a chance to establish himself...to get used to his new job without any outside critiques from his predecessor. Coleman has done plenty of things in the past that deserve criticism, but he did Minnesota a favor with his post-election trial actions.

#9. Tim Walz, First District Representative. Rep. Tim Walz could have cemented his Blue Dog credentials in a controversial legislative year...but he didn't. He took the Health Care issue head on and supported the House version as well as tackling the Town Hall forums head on and with a lot of class. He was an articulate spokesman for several middle ground issues and was a prime example of what a representative can do for his district. Walz continues to gain respect from Minnesotans regardless of ideology.

#8. Tom Hanson, Budget Commissioner. Although his boss is Governor Tim Pawlenty, Hanson has gained a pretty solid reputation as a straight shooter on budget matters. He will occassionally slant things into a pro-administration way, but he has been generally honest about what is needed to keep the state moving. He has taken his share of heat and criticism from the legislature, but seems to understand where they and he stand. Too bad his boss can't emulate that.

#7. Mark Ritchie, Sec. of State. Ritchie had no choice but to tackle the Franken-Coleman recount head on. It was a certainty that he would get criticism from the Republicans....and he did. But he stuck to the legal aspects of what the law required him to do. He made some wise choices on who would participate and tried to avoid the political back and forth that others tried to drag him into. Few Secetaries of State have found themselves in such a controversial situation.....only Katherine Harris of Florida had anything close to this. She handled it badly.... Ritchie handled it well.

#6. Arnie Carlson, Former Governor. As our budget problems continue to worsen, Carlson has often volunteered his opinions and experience. Sometimes to the consternation of the current Governor, but they have been a valuable addition to the debate. He could have stayed completely away from it and thus avoided criticism from his own party. But he obviously cares deeply about the future of Minnesota. I hope he continues to share his insights.

#5. Keith Ellison, 5th District Representative. When other Democrats cowered and looked for excuses, Keith Ellison has been front and center regarding a progressive agenda in Congress. It may be a little easier for him considering who he is representing, but he could have simply voted his district and not joined the greater debate. Ellison, however, relishes the debate and has been a powerful voice in keeping the change agenda moving....even if our President is a bit tentative himself.

#4. The 3 Judge Panel for the Franken-Coleman Election Trial. I doubt that this legal triumverate would want to be named in any political list, but the fact that they avoided politics is precisely why they did their jobs so well. Judges Denise Reilly, Elizabeth Hayden and Kurt Marben may have already been forgotten by name, but what they did was very important for Minnesota election law. They stuck to the narrow course of deciding the case on purely legal grounds. They gave legal validity to a very political situaion. That is difficult under any circumstances but with the US Senate breathing down their necks on every word, life can get very complicated.

#3. MN Supreme Court. They took their time. They did it right. The final ruling in the Franken-Coleman trial left little doubt about the legality of the case. It gave Coleman the chance to bow out graciously and it gave Al Franken the ability to claim a full and complete win. The decision was unanimous, legally sound, and unequivocal. Minnesota needed that. Politics was left out of the matter, even though most of the Supreme Court had been Republican Governor appointments. It was a fine moment for this court and a calming moment for the State of Minnesota.

#2. Al Franken, US Senator, Minnesota. Sensing a theme here? Al Franken is this high on the list for more than coming out on top in a close election. This is for the professional way he has handled his job. He has been heavily involved in the health care debate....and he has shown that he is not going to be intimidated as a freshman member. It is a breath of fresh air to see a Democrat with a little backbone these days. And even though the Republicans will bring up their "Angry Al" critique ad nauseum, his flashes of displeasure have always been appropriate to the moment. Minnesota needs that.....we all need that. Franken has exceeded everyone's expectations and I see a long and favorable future for our junior Senator.

#1. The Uptake. Now, we would not be getting nearly so clear a picture of the Franken-Coleman trial, or anything else on any newsworthy event in Minnesota, and beyond, if not for the growth of The Uptake. This low budget citizen journalism operation is a model for bringing transparency to politics. They still get resistance from Republicans suspicious of their motives, but it is a little hard to charge bias to a group that offers full and complete live coverage of an event. Everybody at The Uptake deserves our thanks, admiration, and monetary support. As they grow into more national recognition, we can be proud that they started here in Minnesota.

Get ready, tomorrow is the top 10 Worst.
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