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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Minnesota House Races: Will Credentials Matter?

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 10/29/08 17:23

by Dave Mindeman

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, speaker the Minnesota House, would like nothing better than to get over that magic 90 member figure to provide "veto" insurance. Making that number would change the course of direction in Minnesota for the next 2 years.

It will be very, very hard. It requires holding onto all the seats the Democrats won with very narrow margins in 2006 and gaining 5 more seats in areas that have strong GOP traditions.

But aside from the difficulties, I have been struck by the inability of the Republican House caucus to recruit top quality candidates. If I can use a baseball analogy....it's like all the experienced players got traded off and now, they have promoted the farm team, -- whether they are ready for the big leagues or not.

Maybe you have seen this report (with video) in the Minnesota Independent about a public forum for District 56B. Rep. Marsha Swails' opponent Lee Bohlsen had an embarrassing time trying to answer some basic policy questions. It really is painful to watch and you have to empathize with her plight. The Republican party has clearly put her in a position she is not ready for.

In District 37, my home district, there are two new Republican candidates. In 37A, Democrat Shelley Madore is the incumbent who won a very narrow victory in 2006. This year her opponent is a young 24 year old named Tara Mack. Mack works for the Republican House caucus...a convenient place to recruit. But judging by the few public appearances she has made, she is a long, long way from someone with policy expertise. When answering questions at an education forum, she would drone on with the same talking points over and over. Nothing specific. Nothing new. No substance. Her website has absolutely no policy discussion. Three issues with bullet points; that's it.

MPR's website had an article that discussed the battle for the House and they featured Mack and Madore. The article talked about Mack meeting a voter out on the doorknocking circuit:

"One reason I'm voting for you, and I think it's you, is that you're not opposed to guns," Swanson said. "That's correct, I'm not opposed to guns," Mack replied. "I'm endorsed by the NRA."

Pretty ringing (?) endorsement (emphasis mine) from that voter. And, in the response, yet another vague answer from Mack -- what does "I'm not opposed to guns" mean? Guns under any condition? Guns for everybody? Well, Mack said the magic words ..."I'm endorsed by the NRA". That is what the GOP is counting on once again...those single issue voters. Guns, God, and Good ol' tax cuts.

The district is being flooded with mailers from outside Republican friendly interest groups. They make simplistic comparisons between the Democrat and Republican -- mostly about taxes. I have little doubt that these fliers are found in many close districts throughout the state. The message is the same, the printer is just instructed to "insert Republican candidate photo here".

In 37B, the candidate is Judy Lindsay... a hard core social conservative who reminds everybody of Michele Bachmann. She "terrorized" the local school board a few years ago trying to save the district from turning all its pupils gay. The retiring representative, Dennis Ozment, tried to deny her the nomination but, again, the "bench" was weak and Lindsay rolled to endorsement.

Now, despite the obvious "flaws" in these Republican candidates, they could very well win. Outside money is pouring in and the districts have a strong right leaning bent.

But, if all things were equal, and the voters of the districts judged these particular candidates strictly on ability and policy expertise, these districts would most assuredly be Democratic.
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Good Judgment is Best Perceived In Crisis

Category: Norm Coleman
Posted: 10/29/08 01:08, Edited: 10/29/08 01:13

by Dave Mindeman

Sometimes when you are looking to make a case for a politician's judgment, it helps to examine key parts of the past. The following are excerpts of an MPR newsstory from September 23, 2002. Norm Coleman and Paul Wellstone were locked in a US Senate struggle and the Bush administration was pushing hard for an Iraq vote.

Notice the judgment of Paul Wellstone in a crucible of war fever, as compared to the pandering of Norm Coleman. Here are the critical parts:

WELLSTONE

Speaking later to reporters, Wellstone said he does not view Iraq as the imminent threat that Coleman does. Wellstone says there's no evidence linking Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 attacks, nor is there evidence, he says, that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.

"We should call on the United Nations to act. I think they will. I think the Security Council is going to move forward. I think it would be far better if we did not do this alone. I think in terms of consequences in South Asia and the Near East making sure that we have allies in the war against terrorism. We don't want to do this alone. We want to do this with the international community and that's where the focus should be."


COLEMAN:

Coleman made his case for Congress getting behind President Bush at a news conference at the American Legion in Bloomington. Standing before a group of supporters, many of them veterans, Coleman called Saddam Hussein the "world's worst terrorist leader," and said Hussein poses a grave threat to the world.

Coleman said President Bush needed to make a case for war with Iraq to the nation. Coleman now says the president has made that case, not only to the American people but to the world through his United Nation's speech.

"Saddam is a menace. His menace grows with each passing day. History will judge us harshly if knowing what we know, we fail to act with bipartisan solidarity to prevent the death of hundreds of thousands," he said.


Coleman did not mention Wellstone during his speech. He has, however, frequently criticized the Democrat for his votes against military spending. Coleman's also gone so far as to say that had Congress been of Wellstone's mindset, more Americans would have been killed in Afghanistan because the U.S. military would not have been well equipped.

Good judgment is best perceived in a time of crisis. Wellstone passed that test.... Norm Coleman was simply wrong.


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Status of MN Congressional Races (7-1 Dem?)

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 10/28/08 13:52, Edited: 10/28/08 13:53

by Dave Mindeman

One week to go in the never ending election of 2008. So it's time to take a look at the state of Minnesota's Congressional races:

First District: Tim Walz(D) vs Brian Davis (R)

It looks like Tim Walz will be coasting to re-election. You might equate this to just another symptom of a Democratic wave, but there is more to it than that. Cong. Walz has proven to be a very strong campaign politician, as well as legislator, and I expect that he will be holding this seat for some time -- unless he gets vetted for other "jobs". (And I expect he will at some point). But helping him along has been a 1st District GOP party with no direction. In a change election year, the Republicans nominated yet another social conservative (a Republican candidate type that is rapidly becoming an antiquish '90's icon). Brian Davis never found a resonating message and his "drill baby drill" mantra faded along with a falling economy and falling gas prices. The 1st District GOP seems to be stuck with a declining base of candidate talent and this year was example number one. His only challenger was Dick Day, who tried to run a shoestring ideological campaign without support from the social conservative base. Disaster.

Should be a strong Walz win.

Second District: Steve Sarvi (D) vs. John Kline (R)

When Jim Ramstad retired in the 3rd District, Steve Sarvi's quest for the second district seat got sidelined. The 3rd got a priority on money and resources and Sarvi couldn't raise enough himself. When the election is over, I have the feeling there will be some people kicking themselves that we did not push the envelope in the second. Although there has been little obvious evidence that Kline is very vulnerable, this district has seen a lot demographic changes that have favored Democrats. I think the 2nd will end up being a much closer election than first thought, but the district still leans GOP.

John Kline wins by less than 8%.

Third District: Ashwin Madia (D) vs. Erik Paulsen (R) vs. David Dillon (I)

The money that poured into this race was pretty astounding for Minnesota standards. When Jim Ramstad announced his retirement the floodgates opened. The district has always been coveted by Democrats, but because of the moderate, centrist appeal of Ramstad, the opportunity never presented itself until now. Erik Paulsen has the backing of Ramstad but has not made the case that his politics match Ramstad's moderate nature. Madia has shown a remarkable capability as a fundraiser, but his policy positions get somewhat murky at times. Dillon hasn't been much of a factor. The campaign has been rough and tumble and both Congressional caucuses have weighed in heavily. This will probably be a very close race.

Ashwin Madia wins a close one.

Fourth District: Betty McCollum (D) vs Ed Matthews (R)

Wasn't Ed Matthews a 3rd baseman for the old Milwaukee Braves? Ooops, sorry...wrong Mathews. This race is not on anybody's radar and Betty McCollum has not been seriously challenged. (If only she had been busier here rather than weighing in on the Senate race -- and giving statements for the GOP to use against Franken...hmmmm?)

Betty McCollum wins handily.

Fifth District: Keith Ellison (D) vs. Barb White (R) vs Bill McGaughey (I)

Barb White made an attempt to merge the State Party regulars with the Ron Paul supporters. It didn't work out. She just didn't make it above all the noise out there and has been unable to mount a serious challenge to Ellison. Keith has been building a strong base and will be a force in the Democratic Party for some time.

Keith Ellison wins handily.

Sixth District: Michele Bachmann (R) vs. El Tinklenburg (D) vs Bob Anderson (I)

Has this been a strange election for the 6th or what? A month ago, Bachmann was cruising along with Tinklenburg trying to find some traction. But Christmas came early for Elwyn. Michele Bachmann wanted to raise her national profile....well, mission accomplished. As fast as you can say "anti-American", Bachmann became a national symbol of GOP negative campaigning. Tinklenburg's fundraising shot up and the traction he was seeking became monster truck snow tires. What looked like a solid Bachmann win is now up for grabs.

El Tinklenburg wins by an eyelash -- be prepared to stay up late.

Seventh District: Collin Peterson (D) vs Glen Menze (R)

Collin Peterson is never going to be mistaken for Paul Wellstone but the Blue Dog is popular and a good fit for his district. He hasn't had a serious challenge in some time and this year is not an exception.

Peterson wins handily.

Eighth District: Jim Oberstar (D) vs. Michael Cummins (R)

Jim Oberstar is a Minnesota institution and also a very powerful committee head. Oberstar will continue serving here until he decides to retire. Minnesota will continue to benefit from the additional clout Oberstar will have in the next Congress.

Oberstar wins big.

Well, if everything happens as it appears, the Minnesota Congressional delegation could end up with a 7-1 Democratic advantage. The only caveat resides with the 6th. Bachmann is a consummate survivor and her district leans her way....this last week could cause a swing either way. Get out the popcorn for next Tuesday.

The other thing that bears mentioning is that a massive GOTV drive by the Obama campaign and the potential Democratic wave could even sweep Steve Sarvi into the second. Wave elections always havve a few incredible surprises....the 2nd District could be one.

One more week.....hold onto your hat!

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