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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

2014: Top Ten Best Political Persons in Minnesota

Category: DFL 2014
Posted: 12/31/14 16:28

by Dave Mindeman

Now, let's end the year on positive note. The Best Political Persons of 2014.

#10 - Rep. Steve Simon (SOS Elect):

We are expecting big things from our newly elected Secretary of State. Simon has been a leading legislative activist on voting law and voting access. His campaign was a positive one and he promoted his impressive record. Unfortunately his opponent was more focused on rehashing the Voter ID amendment and talking about voting restrictions rather than more access. There are a number of things that Simon can work to improve and, given his experience in the legislature and his wealth of knowledge in this area, I believe there is a good chance that voting access in Minnesota will be the gold standard for the nation. As we have seen in other states, the Secretary of State position, in the hands of the wrong person, can be a nightmare for "targeted" voters. Fortunately,we now have the best person for the job will carry on the great Minnesota tradition of making voting an easy, and worthy, civic duty.

#9 - Scott Leitz (MNSure Director):

I doubt Scott Leitz would like being placed in any kind of political list because he has probably had enough of politics right now. I also have doubts that Scott Leitz was very happy about taking over the reins of MNSure. The previous director had left a mess, the website was an unmitigated disaster, and Republicans were looking for more heads to roll. But with sure footed skill, Leitz managed to right the ship. Yes, there were still more glitches to overcome and more mountains to climb, but he seems to have brought MNSure back from the abyss. The 2015 sign-up period has been largely uneventful and he has managed to keep the program on budget despite shortfalls in some projections. And above all the negatives, the program has dropped Minnesota's uninsured rate by 40%. MNSure seems to be in good hands.

#8 - Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley)/Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing):

When there is a tough legislative fight to be had, it seems like Ryan Winkler or Carly Melin is in the middle of it. It was Ryan's determination that got Minnesota's minimum wage bill passed into law. Without any Republican votes (and some fights with the Senate), the Winkler sponsored minimum wage bill passed the House 71-60 in early April. It was a landmark vote because in 2018, the minimum wage will also be indexed to inflation.

Melin had an even more formidable task - Medical Marijuana. Although many of us think the law was too weak, I can respect the fact that Rep. Melin was facing full opposition from law enforcement and a reluctant DFL Governor. But she persevered and managed to get a bill together that passed both Houses and got signed. The bill may be weak, but there is now a foot in the door and Medical Marijuana is in Minnesota to stay.

Winkler and Melin have shown us what leadership looks like.

#7 - Sen. Al Franken:

Six years ago...in a Democratic wave year, Al Franken won a disputed election victory by 312 votes. He was the very last Senator to be sworn in and 100th in Senate seniority. This year, in a Republican wave year, Al Franken coasted to victory by nearly 12 points. Why? Because Franken proved that he knew how to be a strong Minnesota advocate. He worked hard. He made relationships. He educated himself on the tough issues. He has become everything that Minnesota needs him to be. Al Franken ran a text book campaign in 2014. A Republican target from the beginning, Franken blocked Republican strategies at every turn. In the end, election night was uneventful for the junior Senator. He could declare victory before the 10 o'clock news and get a head start on the next 6 years.

#6 - State Auditor Rebecca Otto:

Rebecca Otto wasn't expecting the 2014 election to be a big deal. She prepared for a quiet, publicity hungry campaign for re-election to State Auditor. What she got was a primary ambush from Matt Entenza and a Republican push to target her in the Iron Range over mining. Although she couldn't have predicted all that, she managed to handle all the surprises with relative ease. She overwhelmed Entenza in the primary and had a comfortable re-election win in November. All of this has seen her star rise in Minnesota's Democratic circles. Respect has grown for her campaign ability and for her rising status nationally among State Auditors. Her future is bright.

#5 - Ken Martin (DFL Party Chair):

Ken Martin has been a strong spokesman for the DFL during his tenure. And the party has definitely prospered during that time as well. Even this year, a year when the GOP seemed to be coasting to wins all over the country, Minnesota managed to re-elect Gov. Dayton and Sen. Franken, held onto a 5-3 Congressional majority, and won all of the State Constitutional positions. The only blemish was loss of control in the Minnesota House - which Martin has already vowed that the Democrats will take back in 2016. The State Party Chair can't coordinate with campaigns; he can only speak for the Party as a whole, but he does it well and always with the proper timing and the proper message. Fortunately, he has decided to run again for this position, in which he will probably be re-elected overwhelmingly. Then it is on to the next challenge in 2016. The State Party is in good hands.

#4 - One Party Rule:

This is a reference to the fact that Democrats held both Houses of the Legislature and the Governor's office during the last cycle. And it is something that the Republican House Caucus campaigned on during the 2014 election year. They repeatedly talked about it as a "bad thing" - something that needed to be changed. But it was always unclear as to why. I would submit that if the Republicans take back the MN Senate in 2016, it will soon become a 2018 gubernatorial issue that the Republicans need to have a GOP governor in order to "get things done" (one party rule won't be so bad then, will it?). But it is pretty difficult to say that Minnesota has suffered from Democratic control. The only taxes increased were on the wealthiest in the state. Unemployment is under 4%. We have a $1 billion surplus. Minimum wage has been raised. Medical marijuana passed. Anti-bullying law in place. Women's economic security act on the books. How would any of that gotten passed if Republicans had control of anything? There is one party that gets things done and we have seen how government can actually work with Democrats at the forefront. If you want to consider the alternative, you only have to look to Wisconsin.

#3 - Betsy Hodges (Mayor of Minneapolis):

Mayor Hodges has a new vision for Minneapolis. It is filled with closing gaps, building trust, and continuing the Minneapolis tradition of a progressive city. She has introduced body cameras for the police. Worked on reducing CO2 emissions in the city. And she has made equality in housing and education a major goal as well as finding ways to reduce the income gap. She has a low key personality with large vision. Minneapolis is adjusting to this new leader. Hodges also faced a major test of her leadership when KSTP news introduced the #pointergate story. This could have led to a major rift between the mayor's office and the Minneapolis police. But rather than overreact and retaliate, Mayor Hodges let the story filter through social media....and without lifting a finger, she gained the political advantage to a story that required a deft political response. The new Mayor will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.

#2 - Congressman Rick Nolan (8th District):

Rick Nolan had a formidable challenge in 2014. He was a major Republican target in a Republican year. He had a wealthy, donor supported Republican challenger. A Green Party opponent. A ton of ouside money ready to swoop in. And a Democratic US House caucus which seemed more of a hindrance than a help. Yet, Rick Nolan ended up the winner. Obviously, Nolan did something very right. He stayed true to his record. Took stands on controversial issues like ISIS. And never wavered when the opposition poured huge dollar amounts against him. Nolan earned the trust of the 8th District and showed us all how representation was meant to be.

#1 - Governor Mark Dayton:

Mark Dayton always thought his talents were best suited to being a chief executive - and he is right. His tenure as Governor was marked by a Minnesota economic resurgence that is still steaming forward. His campaign was the perfect example of what Democrats across the country should have emulated. He didn't run from our President. He outlined and took pride in his record. And he challenged the opposition in a straightforward and strong manner. If Mark Dayton's next four years are half as good as the previous four, then Dayton will go down in history as one of Minnesota's best occupants of the office of Governor. Every citizen of Minnesota is better off because he has been leading our state. Thank you, Governor Dayton.
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Rep. Greg Davids Is Back To Political Gotchas As His Priority

Category: DFL 2014
Posted: 11/25/14 15:15

by Dave Mindeman

Republican legislators are not very good at governing. They are like the dog in the movie UP who can't figure out what to do because he gets distracted by the very mention of the word "squirrel" and you have to start over with your explanation.

Such seems to be the case with Committee stalwart, Rep. Greg Davids. As a means of continuing with the political "gotchas"...upon which all Republican strategy depends....Davids wants Attorney General Swanson to examine the contract that MNSure had with MIT Scholar and RomneyCare architect Jonathan Gruber.

Gruber had little to do with MNSure on the whole. He did give MNSure opinions and projections in a report which had recommendations in it. And he was paid well for those observations....mainly because he had so much involvement with the Massachusetts model of Obamacare and with Obamacare itself. A number of states sought his advice and counsel.

However, the fact that he made some stupid remarks in October of 2013 in regards to how things work in Washington, seems to have given Rep. Davids an opportunity to "pile on" which, as a consummate political opportunist, he could not resist.

In reality, Rep. Davids' letter to AG Swanson is not worth the dead trees it is printed on.

Davids makes some comments:

"In light of troubling remarks by Dr. Gruber and MNsure, I believe that a review of Dr. Gruber's work, and payments made to him, is necessary."

And precisely why would that be?

MNSure agreed to pay for his opinion. He gave it. It appears that he did not make the same stupid assumptions in this contract that he made in October 2013, but maybe Rep. Davids wants us to make sure about that.

Rep. Davids was also concerned about timing.

Davids suggested Swanson should look further into why Gruber's report to the state of Minnesota was delivered later than initially promised.

A late report. My God, how in the world could that happen. Government contracts are always so prompt and precise. Geez, Davids, is that the best you got?

And yet, there is more....

Some of Gruber's enrollment projections for MNsure have since fallen short, and Davids said he also wants to know whether MNsure still considers Gruber's enrollment predictions for future years valid.

Is there a remote possibility that some of Gruber's projections might have fallen short, because THE DAMN WEBSITE WAS A CATASTROPHIC FAILURE! Is that within the realms of possibilities?

Ande even with that, some of Gruber's numbers are still actually on track, because he projected into the year 2016.

If this is an example of how Rep. Davids plans to operate his chairmanship than I guess we are back to the same mentality that brought about the shutdown a few years ago.

It seems that political points and gotchas continue to rate a higher priority for the new Republican House majority, than actual governance in the affairs of Minnesota.

It looks like the clowns are back to running the circus.
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My Venting Analysis of the 2014 Election

Category: DFL 2014
Posted: 11/12/14 03:35

by Dave Mindeman

I have been on a self-imposed hiatus this week. I just had to take a break from an election year filled with so much stupidity that it overwhelmed even my tolerance to listen to it. This may get a little long because I have a lot of backed up frustration - plus I have been looking at numbers that I have a number of observations about. So, bear with me.

1. National Election. (Sigh) It was bad for Democrats, yes, but how they lost things is even worse. Howard Dean put it best - "Republicans ran on 'we're not Obama' and the best Democrats could do is 'we're not either'. Pathetic. The GOP has spent millions and millions of dollars to wrongly label Obama as incompetent. And the label couldn't be further from the truth. The economy is the best it has been in over a decade. Obamacare is working and people are getting health insurance that never had the chance before. Yet, Democrats couldn't form a coherent message? They couldn't discuss the lower unemployment numbers? They couldn't talk about the record stock market? They couldn't talk about the US economy being the best of any developed country in the world?

The turnout numbers were ugly.

Only 13% of the voters were under 30.

Only 14 states had higher turnout in 2014 than in 2010.

Texas, which had a contested Governor's race had a 28.5% voter turnout. Think about that...71% of the electorate stayed home, while the 28.5% decided who would be their next governor.

Actually, if you count total eligible voters - only 36.4% of them turned out nationwide. 40% of the non-voters were minorities. Six states had at least a 10 point percentage drop in turnout in 2014 vs 2010. Washington state went from 54.3% in 2010, down to 38.6% in 2014. Mississippi had a 29.7% turnout - Indiana, 28.0% - Utah, 28.8% - California, 34.8%. Georgia had a key Senate race but turnout dropped from 40.6% in 2010, down to 34.1% in 2014.

When people do not vote, Republicans win - and they count on it. Think it is an accident that all these voter suppression laws are passing everywhere a GOP legislature has control?

2. Tactics. The problem with Democrats is that they succumb to GOP tactics and react to them with apologies rather than challenging them on their face. One of the most disgusting things that happened in this election is those last minute GOP ads talking about ISIS as if they were marching into our living rooms and the constant fearmongering on ebola.

Hear any talk about ebola now? Kaci Hickox deserves apologies from everybody. Christie used her as a political tactic to try and make Obama look indecisive. Governor LePage of Maine used her as a means to maneuver a last minute election issue - and it worked. The most incompetent governor in the country got himself re-elected in Maine by the narrowest of margins....and I'd bet money it was that ebola ploy that did it.

Politicians who would use that kind of fear tactics in a campaign are not leaders at all. They are exploitive opportunists. The absolute last kind of person you want making decisions in serious times.

And as for ISIS....Republicans know full well that there is no absolute correct policy on this. It is too complicated. They are aware that this is going to take some time and some sorting out. But that didn't stop them from insinuating that the ISIS threat was immediate and out of control. We should be afraid!

And yet here we are with the election one week gone and President Obama asking for funding and votes on both ebola and ISIS from a Congress that is suddenly mute on both issues.

Unbelievable and shameful.

3. Minnesota. Our state managed to hold off the Republican wave. All statewide races went to the Democrats - some pretty decisively. But turnout was incredibly low. Just over 50% of the Minnesota electorate came out which is another Republican tactic - they win with low turnout and they got what they hoped. But Democrats won even with that huge disadvantage. However, that turnout did affect the down ballot races enough that the Republicans took back the Minnesota House.

But let's dig a little deeper on that.

Let's examine those 11 House races that Democrats lost in 2014.

Here is data from just those 11 races.....

Al Franken won in 9 of those 11 districts.

But Johnson won in 8 of those 11 districts. (wild ticket splitting)

Vote totals for just those districts:

Franken 82,276 (52.19%)
McFadden 75,348 (47.80%)

Dayton 75,923 (49.08%)
Johnson 78,745 (50.91%)

It's interesting how some Republicans talk about Johnson as the weaker candidate....he consistently did better than McFadden across the board. But I digress.

Here is a comparative look at votes lost in 2012 (Presidential year) vs 2014 (mid-term):

District.... D Votes Lost........R Votes Lost.....Total Reduced....% Drop

2A................3,621.................1,062............4683....................31.3%
10A...............4,250...................226............4476....................27.65%
10B...............2,564................1,555............4119....................23.22%
11B...............2,908.................1,363...........4271....................30.44%
12A...............2,027.................1,112...........3139....................18.70%
14B...............4,412.................2,075...........6487....................57.51%
17A...............3,700....................503...........4203....................27.57%
17B...............1,777....................775...........2532....................16.44%
24B...............4,046.................1,445...........5481.....................45.36%
27A...............3,604....................935...........5047*...................32,86%
56B...............4,016.................2,659............6675....................45.96%

*27A had a significant IP vote in both years.

Democrats lost a huge number of votes- GOP, not so much. And if the GOP are assuming a bunch of vote switching, I would say the data rejects that. The numbers are just too large on the Democratic side. And total voter turnout dropped by at least a quarter in almost all districts....and above 40% in three.

Here are some notes from the individual districts....

District 2A: This district had a strange anomaly. The Republican winner was Dave Hancock...a GOP winner in 2010 as well. But in one of the Supreme Court judicial races, a John Hancock was running against Justice Mimi Wright. Hancock beat Wright in this district 56% to 43%. Were the names mixed up? I'm not sure what it means if anything, but it was a bit odd. This district is also split between the 7th and 8th Congressional districts. Peterson got 59% of his portion; while Mills got 53.5% of his. District was bombarded with ads for both races. Did that suppress vote even more?

District 12A: Republican wins by 660 votes. Franken wins handily here and Dayton wins narrowly. This is in the 7th Congressional and Peterson won 52.5% to 47.5%. Lot of Democrats did well here - yet, GOP legislator squeaks out a win. Can't believe that in a Presidential year that this district can stay GOP.

District 17B: Mary Sawatzky lost by 214 votes. Franken won the district by 700 votes and Dayton lost it by 270. Hard one to figure. The Republican had only about 775 votes less than in 2012 - while Sawatzky dropped 2500. If she ran again in 2016, can't see her losing.

District 56B: This is the only suburban race that flipped. Will Morgan was overwhelmed with outside money and lost by 8 points. Johnson and McFadden both won in this district by narrow margins. Just more voter drop off by Dems. Although not as much difference in drop off (GOP vs Dem) as in other districts. Still this district should be competitive again in 2016.

District 10A: GOP Heintzman wins by 7 points. McFadden and Johnson both won handily here. If Ward doesn't run, this district may not come back. Although the Dem drop in voters was much more significant here, while the GOP candidate only lost a little over 200.

District 10B: Joe Radinovich lost this one by 686 votes. Franken won narrowly and Johnson won narrowly. Did his gay marriage vote make the difference? Maybe in this kind of year but 2016 Presidential vote would overwhelm that easily. District is split down the middle, but Radinovich would be strong candidate to come back. There were 492 IP votes in the district and they probably won't be fielding a candidate in 2016.

District 14B: Tough loss here. Dorholt came 69 votes short. Franken won big and Dayton won comfortably here. Voter drop off of 57% for this district. Dorholt vote in 2012 = 10,017. Vote total in 2014 = 5605. This district has St. Cloud with a population of over 66,000. And St. Cloud State with about 17,000 students is here as well. Can this be considered a rural district? However, look at these precincts.....

Precinct.....................2012 Vote...........2014 Vote......% Drop

St. Cloud W1-P2: ......1251.....................589..............52.92%
St. Cloud W2-P2:.......1607....................1104.............31.30
St. Cloud W1-P3:........745......................300..............59.73
St. Cloud W1-P1:.......1102.....................343..............68.87

These were 4 of Radinovich's best precincts in 2012. Huge drop off. I don't know for sure but I suspect those are SCSU precincts. One caveat is that the GOP candidate was Jim Knoblach - a popular former legislator. He might be tough to unseat once in place.

District 11B: 7 point margin for Rarick. District went for Franken and for Johnson. Drop off margins were less pronounced. Might be a tough one to get back.

District 17A: GOP Miller wins by a big 11 point margin. But Dem drop off is huge while Miller's is only 500 votes. Franken won pretty solidly here, while Dayton lost by a bit over 100 votes. This one may just be swing district for awhile.

District 24B: This district has a tough MCCL base. Which explains a lot of Patti Fritz votes in legislature. She lost here by only about 220 votes. Even with a solid GOP base, Franken won here. But Dayton lost. Oddly, both of the rogue Judicial candidates (MacDonald and Hancock) won in this district. (More MCCL influence). Still the more telling aspect is the drop off in votes from Faribault.

4 Faribault Precincts.....

Year...........R Vote.............D Vote
2012..........3404.................5513
2014..........2825.................2944

Notice the huge Democrat vote loss in Faribault.

It is striking to compare the Faribault vote to the total District vote...

Faribault % of total in 2012: R = 44.74% D= 55.20%
Faribault % of total in 2014: R = 45.84% D =49.55%

Dems need strong vote from the main city. Fritz didn't get it in 2014.

District 27A; This district has another unique characteristic. It always has a strong Independence Party vote. In this election, the IP got almost 7% of the vote....and the Democrat lost by 13 points. In 2012, Savick won by about 650 votes with an IP vote which again was between 6 and 7%. Franken won here by a huge margin....and Dayton won comfortably. An oddity - The IP legislative candidate got twice the vote total of the IP Guv candidate, Hannah Nicollet. But SOS and Auditor candidates also got over 6% in the numbers. This district is in the 1st Congressional district and Walz won 59% to 40%. Why Savick polled so much lower than other Dems is difficult to say. I think there may have been some under the radar targeting for the race..(an additional oddity - Michele MacDonald won in this district as well).

***************************************************
So, these districts may be rural, but the GOP is still not really strong in many of them. These districts are poised to swing back -- certainly in a Presidential year type turnout. But rural issues need to be paid attention to as well.

2014 felt pretty bad....and to be honest the Democratic strategy on the national front was just plain lousy. We can't be running away from who we are. We have the advantage on issues. Minimum wage won on every ballot it landed on. Even gun safety won in Washington. We need to fight fear with proper education. And we need better strategies that we can stick with and follow through on.

But none of it matters if we don't vote.

So just do it, OK?
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