Posted: 12/02/09 05:55, Edited: 12/02/09 05:58
by Dave Mindeman
You can tell a lot about a candidate by assessing his "passion" level. Jim Meffert is a passionate man.
I had the opportunity for a phone interview with Jim Meffert yesterday and we talked about a wide range of topics.
Jim has never run for political office but he is obviously no stranger to the political process. His official work title is...Chief Executive for the Minnesota Optometric Association. Congressman Paulson will label him a "lobbyist". Officially, because of his position and the necessity to advocate for the Optometric Association, he must register with the state as a lobbyist, but that is not how he views what he does. He is also President of the Minnesota PTA which fuels his other passion -- improving the lives of our kids.
I asked Jim about his plans and strategy for his campaign. Obviously fundraising will be critical, but he didn't hesitate with his goal of raising $3 million for this campaign. And his strategy is a simple one -- find, and get the support of, those 200,000+ 3rd District voters who supported Obama. I also asked him about how he will deal with the probable third party issue and he said that the Independent Party issues are no different from the ones he would be addressing and there is a "home for them in this campaign".
On several issues, Meffert stressed the need to find consensus...the middle ground.
On Cap and Trade: He favors it as a "good market based method for lowering carbon emissions."
On the Stupak Amendment: He opposes the amendment, but his main position is that abortion should be "rare, safe, and legal". His emphasis is on "the time before conception". Focussing on "education and prevention" as the answer to the abortion issue.
Health Care Bill: Still, in the end, even with the Stupak Amendment, he would have voted for the House bill as a package. He was passionate about the fact that we need to look at the bill "as a start, not a finish". We have been "paralyzed in reforming the system. We must have that first step." He believes that any bill will need changes over time.
Jobs: When talking about the economy and jobs, he indicated that health care reform is a vital part of that. "We are killing jobs with the costs of benefits."
Jim Ramstad: "Jim Ramstad was always relevant. Never a safe vote. You had to work for his support." Meffert indicated that he would prefer that model of policy making.
In general, Jim Meffert believes that Democrats have to stop apologizing.
"We have become too timid and apologetic for what we believe."
He believes that there are some fundamental principles that will guide his approach to policy:
1. We must improve the lives of children. We have 140,000 children in poverty in Minnesota. That number will go up.
2. Education is an essential building block.
3. Helping our neighbors "is a good thing and needs to be encouraged".
Meffert also challenged Paulsen to have an honest discussion on the role of government and our budget.
Government role in banking is oversight. Paulsen voted against that. Paulsen talks like spending is the sole cause of our deficits. Meffert believes "we have a structural imbalance in our budget."
Defense spending is out of control and the Bush administration committed $1.4 trillion to tax cuts. The recession exacerbated all that -- that's not the fault of Bush or Obama; it is a structural problem and as Meffert stated, "We need to honestly address that....and we need to let the public in on the conversation"
My Thoughts: As I said, Jim Meffert is passionate about this campaign. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for with an enthusiastic desire to make a difference. He doesn't have any naive illusions about how tough this will be. Paulsen is an evasive career politician. But Meffert seems like the type who will unapologetically make his case and let the voters decide.
You know, in the end, that is the best anybody can do.
Note: I also interviewed Dr. Maureen Hackett, the other announced candidate for CD3. You can access that interview here.