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Will Wardlow (R-38B) Live Up To His Analysis?

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 12/11/06 15:22

By Christopher Truscott

State Rep. Lynn Wardlow has a way of making people think he's not the brightest bulb on the legislative chandelier, but every so often the Eagan Republican comes up with something that makes me think he belongs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Reflecting on his narrow victory and the defeat of so many of his GOP colleagues, Wardlow told the local media: "I think people are ready for a change."

While Harvard prepares an office for the former Eagan High School teacher and coach, let's reflect briefly on Wardlow's sage analysis.

The Republicans saw their 68-66 majority in the State House wiped out and now find themselves in the minority by an 85-49 margin (yes, I know they dumped Mark Olson, but he counts as No. 49 since he'll still vote with them). The GOP Senate Caucus can now hold its meetings in a Capitol broom closet after falling from a 36-31 minority to a 44-23 minority.

Add to that the shellacking voters gave congressional Republicans and Wardlow's analysis holds up just fine: voters want change. Not just at the margins, but big time. They want Congress to provide answers on national/global issues like the Iraq War and the economy and they want the state Legislature to do something, anything, after four years of service to the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, etc.

What about Wardlow? He comes off as a reasonable guy, perhaps even a moderate, but he's not.

As a member of the Republican House majority since 2002, when he won the seat once held by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Wardlow has voted lock-step with GOP leadership on most issues. A few high points:

-- In 2006, Wardlow, who loves talking about his experience as a teacher, voted for a supplemental budget bill that included no new funding for education.

-- Wardlow, a rare Education Minnesota-endorsed Republican, also stood tall behind then-House Speaker Steve Sviggum earlier this year, voting to uphold the speaker's ruling to prevent consideration of proposals to fix the higher education funding formula.

-- In 2005, as the state government was limping toward a shutdown, Wardlow wasn't working to bring Republicans and Democrats together. Instead he was co-authoring a constitutional amendment to define marriage. When we needed leadership, he was pandering to the Michele Bachmann wing of the Republican Party.

-- Throughout his tenure, environmental groups have consistently ranked Wardlow toward the bottom of their legislative scorecards on protecting our drinking water, air and other natural resources. (On this issue, Wardlow is actually a maverick. His record on the environment is worse than many of his Republican colleagues!)

Wardlow is hardly sitting pretty after his 163-vote win over first-time candidate Mike Obermueller. His biggest strength isn't his political record, it's the fact that he taught so many children in his three decades of service to School District 196.

As Eagan grows, new residents are starting to cancel out those who know Wardlow as "my kid's old teacher/coach." These new District 38B voters expect answers on real issues and aren't interested in perpetuating Wardlow's taxpayer-funded retirement job in the Legislature. After all, he can pick up extra income as a greeter at Wal-Mart.

The next two years will be critical for Wardlow. Will he stand by his dwindling caucus and ultimately join ex-District 38A State Rep. Tim Wilkin in political retirement or will he stand up on the real issues that matter to Eagan voters?

Christopher Truscott can be reached at chris.truscott@gmail.com . He thinks if new District 38A State Rep. Sandy Masin is smart, she'll stand where Wilkin used to sit and flash Wardlow a thumbs up or thumbs down before each vote. If Wardlow's smart he'll listen to Masin.
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