Posted: 01/05/17 07:00
by Dave Mindeman
Although 2016 was a generally depressing year for many of us, I haven't forgotten that there is also some good things out there as well...you just have to look kind of hard for them.
But here are the Top 10 Best in Politics for 2016.
10. Phyllis Kahn: I cannot let Phyllis Kahn's political career end without a salute to her extaordinary life and service. Phyllis was defeated in a primary for her legislative seat where she has served for an impressive 44 years. Phyllis came to the legislature at a time when women were a legislative curiousity as members. She paved the way for many more to come, but she had to fight her way for acceptance and position. Her district was ever changing but Phyllis kept adapting and serving to the best of her ability. This year a young and talented woman challenged Phyllis from within the Party and the generational divide caught up with Phyllis Kahn. It will be different to have a legislative session without Phyllis...but we can still celebrate and admire what she has accomplished in a remarkable career. Well done, Phyllis Kahn...enjoy life.
9. Angie Craig: Although she ended up losing her Congressional seat campaign for Minnesota District 2, Angie Craig gave use a model campaign to emulate. She organized. She worked hard. She built a team. And frankly should have won, if not for the Trump phenomenon which gripped this partially rural suburban district. Angie had to build a campaign from scratch, but it was effective and showed off her skills of reaching out to people and in team building. I don't know if Angie Craig plans to run a second time. It is a hard thing to ask of some one. But if she was willing, I have a feeling that the 2nd District Democrats would embrace her for another try.
8. Erin Maye Quade: Erin won a seat in District 57A, in a year that turned out to be difficult for Democrats and in a district that had a previous Republican incumbent, who had a leadership role. She began her campaign expecting to challenge that Republican, but circumstances evolved into 57A becoming an open seat. Erin never stopped or changed her plan and ran an effective outreach campaign that the district responded to. Her opponent tried to insinuate that Erin's race and sexual orientation should be an issue, but Erin took the attacks in stride and focused on what the district needed..not some return to social issue divisions. She will be a good fit in St. Paul.
7. Matt Little: Another DFLer who emerged from a difficult Democratic year was former Lakeville mayor Matt Little. He takes over a Senate seat held previously by the conservative bastion, Dave Thompson. Thompson moved to sunnier climes and Matt went to work. This district has been deep red in the past and although Little has been building a base of support in the Lakeville area for some time, this was still going to be a daunting challenge. Matt won by a few hundred votes and is ready to take on the new challenge of State Senator. Watch this guy - he will make waves at the Capitol.
6. Sen. Al Franken: Al continues to be a good will ambassador for Minnesota. He has built some extraordinary relationships in the Senate on both sides of the aisle (especially important in Trumpland). And he is building a national reputation on policy. While he supported Hillary Clinton for President from the beginning, he continuously reached out to everyone in the Party to build a consensus. Franken has been a party builder for the state DFL, and that has made a world of difference in some trying times. We hope to keep this guy in the Senate for years to come.
5. Rick Nolan: Rick should not still be a Congressman. Nolan was a prime target of the House Republicans. And the enormous amounts of money that passed through the 8th Congressional race was staggering. But Rick Nolan is an extraordinary, gifted politician who knows people and how to communicate with them. The 8th District was primed to be Trump territory and Rick's opponent Stewart Mills III, was primed to take advantage. But Nolan cut through the noise and managed to reach his constituents on substance and not rhetoric. He didn't win by a huge margin, but he will still represent the 8th.
4. Mark Dayton: Mark's high approval with the Minnesota electorate didn't seem to translate into the legislative races. Mark's campaigning abilities have been limited these last years but he still has a gift for being a great governor. That will be tested over the next 2 years as he will have to deal with two Republican controlled legislative houses. He has done it before. And he will do it again. Mark fights for his beliefs. He will compromise when he must to get things done, but he has a core which we can count on. This year more than ever.
3. Keith Ellison: I admired how Keith Ellison made the transition from effective Bernie promoter and supporter, to a fixture on Hillary's campaign surrogate team. Ellison embodies the principle of policy over personality. Keith is running an active campaign for DNC chair and I think he will be a good choice. A hard worker and consensus builder, Ellison will find a way to help Democrats succeed. He has done that for the state Party - he would do it well for the national Party.
2. Ilhan Omar: Ms. Omar is now an historical figure. The first Somali-American legislator in America. That is no small achievement, but Ilhan plans to be much more than that. She brings great advocacy skills to our legislature and promises to be a voice that speaks for a broader constituency. She has unusual political skills and brings some political capital to St. Paul. Capital that she plans to use...as a Somali-American.. as a woman...as an advocate for the poor and immigrant communities. She will be an immediate fixture on a national stage. That can be a difficult way to navigate but she has already shown us that she is up to any challenge.
1. Steve Simon: OK. I know you are wondering why Steve Simon appears at the top of this list. After all, he did not have an election this year. And when he did run, he barely squeaked out a victory. But we are going to need Steve Simon to build something. To build a means to keep Minnesotans confident in their voting system and a continual push to keep us number one in voter participation. Simon is continuously working behind the scenes to make voting easy...to make it reliable...to make the process fair and impartial. Steve respects the voting process and believes in it. That is important in a time when the integrity of our system is constantly being challenged for fair reasons and a lot of unfair reasons. Steve Simon is the right person for a necessary job. He has worked on election law for a long time in the legislature and knows his subject as well as anyone can. We need to keep him as Secretary of State - and one more thing, he loves his job.