Category: John Kline
Posted: 09/10/15 13:00
by Dave Mindeman
There is this tendency, when a politician announces his retirement, to wish them well and talk about their accomplishments. In the case of Congressman John Kline, I have some difficulty with that.
Having blogged about him for several years, it has always been difficult to put a positive spin on his legislative work. As chair of the Workforce and Education Committee he has been an obstacle to good reform, anti-union in the extreme, and, frankly, has not accomplished much of anything in terms of getting NCLB changed and on a different path.
Yes, the man has had 25 years of exemplary military service. But I cannot in all good conscience say that his legislative career matched that high standard.
OK, there I said my peace. Take it for whatever value you deem appropriate.
So, let's look forward.
There is going to be a scramble in both parties to go after this seat.On the GOP Side
On the Republican side, real possibles seem to be Sen. Dave Thompson, Rep. Steve Drazkowski (a website with his name for Congress has been purchased by a GOP operative), Mary Pawlenty, and Mike McFadden. Others may surface but these seem to be the likely possibles.
Thompson ran a campaign for Governor but it never really went anywhere. However he is a very focused, principled conservative - the type that would fit right in with that chaotic GOP House majority in Washington. Can he raise enough money is his main question now.
Drazkowski has some similarities to Thompson....maybe even a little more extreme. He has a knack for one-liners and would keep the press happy. His name recognition is kind of low, but he has a following in the southern part of the district and he seems to be an energetic campaigner. And again, he would fit right in with the hard core conservative trouble makers.
Mary Pawlenty could be formidable. When her husband, TPaw, ran for President, there was a bit of a consensus that she was the best campaigner as a spouse of any of the couples involved in the Presidential campaign. She has an evangelical streak which I find a bit alarming, but, of course, that will bring instant support in the GOP base. She can appeal to independents because she can appear moderate - and has no legislative baggage. It would depend on how much she embraces or distances herself from he husband's record. I guess how TPaw is perceived in the 2nd will determine some of that.
Mike McFadden, Sunfish Lake, is considering a run. Of course, after running a Senate campaign, a Congressional campaign may seem like a cakewalk money wise for the wealthy financier. But he may have picked up some negatives along the way as well. His name recognition would be as high or higher than Mary Pawlenty - and he might have the ability to organize a little more quickly. We'll see what he decides to do.On the Democratic Side
The Democrats have two established campaigns working the 2nd. Dr. Mary Lawrence, an eye doctor who has had management level experience in the VA. Angie Craig, former St. Jude's executive. Both women have had campaigns going for a few months now. Speculation has Rep. Joe Atkins considering a run. He has been mentioned often as a Kline opponent in the past, but has always declined to move on that. The open seat has to be tempting, they don't come along very often. Other than those three, there doesn't seem to be any serious move on the part of any other people.
I attended a DFL Senior Caucus event on Wednesday and both Mary Lawrence and Angie Craig addressed the group (which actually featured Dr. David Schultz, the Hamline Political Science Professor - a very informative talk, by the way).
I have seen both of these women at this and prior events and I am going to give you my own impressions. This certainly isn't anything definitive, but you can take it for what it is worth. I have made overtures for sit down interviews with both campaigns, but have not fully connected.
Mary Lawrence....is a wealthy person. Pioneer Press noted
that, if she were elected, she would be one of the wealthiest of the Congressional membership. And she seems to be more than willing to self-finance the campaign if needed. That is important to note and she talks about how the money is unfortunately a key aspect of campaigns these days. She doesn't like it - and would probably work to get rid of unlimited campaign money - but she knows that this is where we are at.
Here's the problem with Lawrence. She is very weak at addressing groups. She knows her facts but cannot put them forward in a clear way. And it is a bit alarming that she still cannot seem to address the basic question of whether or not she will abide by the endorsement. She was pressed on it at this event. She tried the vague generality approach and seemed to get lost and then when asked more directly, she went into this winding Doctor/Patient metaphor which seemed to compare a campaign as the various stages of enhancing treatment. It didn't work. Now, do I care if she bypasses endorsement and runs in a primary? I don't. But even if your plan is to go to the primary, figure out a better way to say it.
Angie Craig is better with speeches and articulating the facts. And she is fairly wealthy herself. However, she is not going to self finance and will depend on raising money from donors to stay competitive. Now that the 2nd is an open seat, the money appeal may get a bit easier, but it will still be time consuming. (Side Note: Craig has a family and Mary Lawrence seemed to be trying to emphasize that she is a retired empty nester and that she can devote all of her time to the campaign. That seemed to be a bit of a dig at Craig having responsibilities at home. Not a real issue but Lawrence seemed to be pushing it).
Craig has been pushing for endorsements and has many elected official on board. She also has a few union endorsement (which as my wife pointed out is highly unusual a this early stage). She has worked the parades and attended all the meetings. Craig has been visible and has been getting rank and file support.
As for Joe Atkins....I can't believe I'm saying this 14 months out, but it might be a little late for Joe to get in. He has a lot of catching up to do in terms of raising money and getting some name recognition, especially in the southern part of the district. Atkins has been a strong legislator and has leadership positions in the House Democratic caucus. He would quickly find a number of legislative endorsements that would probably match Angie Craig in that regard. Atkins is still making up his mind. He said he had over 400 calls over the Labor Day weekend - so there is plenty of interest in him being a candidate. If he would announce, we will see how that interest translates into support.
Dr. David Schultz said that the media markets in the Twin Cities started salivating when John Kline announced his retirement. He thinks that about 60% of the campaign money spent will gravitate to TV. It is going to be expensive and will take its toll on the individuals running.
Watch closely -- we need to choose wisely.