Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays*


Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere, and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.


This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

[These Terms and Conditions were written by an anonymous author and posted to the Internet. These Terms and Conditions are posted on this blog under the Fair Use doctrine; no infringement of copyright is intended. The reader is cautioned against taking this post as an indication of the writing talent of the owner of this blog.]

Matt Abe, MOB
North Star Liberty

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I am a Republican

After the 2006 elections, many Republicans are wondering what it means to be a Republican. On that topic, here are some excerpts from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention:

When I was a boy, the Soviets occupied part of Austria. I saw their tanks in the streets. I saw communism with my own eyes. I remember the fear we had when we had to cross into the Soviet sector. Growing up, we were told, "Don't look the soldiers in the eye. Just look straight ahead." It was common belief that the Soviet soldiers could take a man out of his own car and ship him back to the Soviet Union as slave labor.

Now my family didn't have a car — but one day we were in my uncle's car. It was near dark as we came to the Soviet checkpoint. I was a little boy. I was not an action hero back then. But I remember how scared I was that the soldiers would pull my father or my uncle out of the car and I would never see them again. My family and so many others lived in fear of the Soviet boot. Today, the world no longer fears the Soviet Union and it is because of the United States of America!

As a kid I saw the socialist country that Austria became after the Soviets left. Now don't misunderstand me: I love Austria and I love the Austrian people. But I always knew that America was the place for me. In school, when the teacher would talk about America, I would daydream about coming here. I would daydream about living here. I would sit there and watch for hours American movies, transfixed by my heroes, like John Wayne. Everything about America seemed so big to me, so open, so possible.

I finally arrived here in 1968. What a special day it was. I remember I arrived here with empty pockets, but full of dreams, full of determination, full of desire. The presidential campaign was in full swing. I remember watching the Nixon and Humphrey presidential race on TV. A friend of mine who spoke German and English translated for me. I heard Humphrey saying things that sounded like socialism, which I had just left. But then I heard Nixon speak. Then I heard Nixon speak. He was talking about free enterprise, getting the government off your back, lowering the taxes and strengthening the military.

Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air. I said to my friend, I said, "What party is he?" My friend said, "He's a Republican." I said, "Then I am a Republican." And I have been a Republican ever since!

To my fellow immigrants listening tonight, I want you to know how welcome you are in this party. We Republicans admire your ambition. We encourage your dreams. We believe in your future. And one thing I learned about America is that if you work hard and if you play by the rules, this country is truly open to you. You can achieve anything.

Everything I have — my career, my success, my family — I owe to America.

In this country, it doesn't make any difference where you were born. It doesn't make any difference who your parents were. It doesn't make any difference if you're like me and you couldn't even speak English until you were in your twenties.

America gave me opportunities and my immigrant dreams came true. I want other people to get the same chances I did, the same opportunities. And I believe they can. That's why I believe in this country. That's why I believe in this Party, and that's why I believe in this President.

Now, many of you out there tonight are "Republican" like me — in your hearts and in your belief. Maybe you're from Guatemala. Maybe you're from the Philippines. Maybe you're from Europe or the Ivory Coast. Maybe you live in Ohio, Pennsylvania, or New Mexico. And maybe, just maybe, you don't agree with this Party on every single issue. I say to you tonight that I believe that's not only okay, but that's what's great about this country. Here we can respectfully disagree and still be patriotic, still be American, and still be good Republicans.

My fellow immigrants, my fellow Americans, how do you know if you are a Republican? Well, I'll tell you how:
  • If you believe that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government, then you are a Republican.

  • If you believe that a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group, then you are a Republican.

  • If you believe that your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does, then you are a Republican.

  • If you believe that our educational system should be held accountable for the progress of our children, then you are a Republican.

  • If you believe that this country, not the United Nations, is best hope for democracy, then you are a Republican.

  • And ladies and gentlemen, if you believe that we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican!

Now there's another way you can tell you're a Republican. You have faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people, and faith in the U.S. economy. And to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: "Don't be economic girlie men!"

The U.S. economy remains the envy of the world. We have the highest economic growth of any of the world's major industrialized nations. Don't you remember the pessimism of 20 years ago when the critics said that Japan and Germany are overtaking the U.S.? Ridiculous!

Now they say that India and China are overtaking us. Now don't you believe it. We may hit a few bumps — but America always moves ahead. That's what Americans do.

We move prosperity ahead. We move freedom ahead. And we move people ahead. And under President Bush and Vice President Cheney, America's economy is moving ahead in spite of the recession they inherited and in spite of the attack on our homeland.

Now the other Party says that we are two Americas. Don't you believe that either. I have visited our troops in Iraq, Kuwait, Bosnia, Germany and all over the world. I've visited our troops in California, where they train before they go overseas. I have visited our military hospitals. And I tell you this: that our men and women in uniform do not believe there are two Americas. They believe there's one America and they are fighting for it!

We are the America that sends out the Peace Corps volunteers to teach our village children. We are the America that sends out the missionaries and doctors to raise up the poor and the sick. We are the America that gives more than any other country to fight AIDS in Africa and the developing world. And we are the America that fights not for imperialism but for human rights and democracy.

My fellow Americans, I want you to know that I believe with all my heart that America remains "the great idea" that inspires the world. It is a privilege to be born here. It is an honor to become a citizen here. It is a gift to raise your family here, to vote here and to live here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Back to Basics for the Republican Party, Part II

Part II of my interview with Michael Zak, author of Back to Basics for the Republican Party.

MA: In Minnesota, there seems to be a push-pull struggle between the self-proclaimed conservates in the Republican Party and those who call themselves “moderate.” There were a number of legislators who jumped the Republican Party and ran as Independence Party candidates. There was one legislator who did win in her district as an Independence Party candidate, a former Republican. The Senate Minority Leader, Dick Day, threw his support behind these incumbents because they had caucused as Republicans, even though they had chosen to run as independents. Another example was Martha Robertson. She was denied the endorsement by our [senate district] caucus for re-election, she ran for Lieutenant Governor as an Independence Party candidate. My question to you is what do you make of this push-pull within the Republican Party between “conservatives” and “moderates?”

MZ: Minesota has a special history of an independent streak, with the Democratic Party being the DFL, the Republican Party has had an “independent wing,” and you have the Independence Party. Minnesota is one of the states where third party movements have always had a lot of strength.

The two-party system has always been a pillar of strength for our country. People align themselves with one or another party. It’s a tremendously strong integrating force in our country. In Minnesota, my guess is that these third party splinters from the Republican Party will return to the fold. I think they split off because they didn’t see a sense of direction, and they thought their own political careers would be better served by not having the Republican label, regardless of whether they are going to caucus with the GOP or not. But as we go forward, I think we are going to show a tremendous surge in ’04 as well, and generally these splinter groups are going to come back to the party.

MA: During the State Republican Convention in Minnesota, there was an epic battle for the endorsement for governor between Brian Sullivan and Tim Pawlenty, who tried to top each other as being the most conservative candidate. One of the arguments that the delegates fought over that night was who is the “more electable candidate?” From a party perspective, is it more important that we field a candidate who believes in Republican values, or is it more important to field a candidate who can be elected?

MZ: Let me quote Abraham Lincoln: “I’d rather the victory of some of my policies than the defeat of all of them.” Lincoln was a big fan of Henry Clay. In fact all his life he said that Clay was his all-time hero. I quote him in my book as saying, “He was the man for whom I fought all my humble life.” But twice when it counted, he didn’t back Henry Clay, he backed the more electable candidate. So the political father of our party was very much in favor of going for the winner, rather than going down with the ship with your first choice. I think we can all learn from that example. I think it’s very much in the Republican tradition to prefer the stronger candidate rather than the “honorable defeat.” I don’t think there’s anything honorable in handing power to Democrats.

MA: After the 2002 elections, within about a week after election day, the chair of the Republican state party, Ron Ebensteiner made a comment to the effect that Minnesota’s transition to a Republican state is complete. I thought that was a pretty bold statement.

MZ: No kidding! I don’t think that you can find a state in the whole country that’s a totally Republican state. You know, we can never be complacent, we can never say, OK, we’ve done enough, we won. The Democrats never give up, and neither should we. Just because we won some key races in Minnesota doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy in ’04.

I’ll tell you something: beyond political disputes about the current issues before the electorate, one of the reasons I wrote the book is to show Republicans the totally untapped resource of the truth, which we do not use because we don’t know it. Republicans way back when would put the Democrats on the defensive, always, by just telling the truth about the Republican and Democratic parties. Once they’re on the defensive and once they’re reeling back and starting to defend themselves because you’ve taken the high ground, then it’s time to talk about particular issues. But we mount every campaign on the basis of Democrat lies about the Republican party. We just assume them, admit them, and try to go forward. So I would urge Republicans to learn their own story. As everybody knows, knowledge is power. It will make the legislature’s disuptes and the disputes with the governor go so much easier if you can put the Democrats on the defensive from the get-go.

MA: Do you think that’s the reason why conservatives have been so much so successful at talk radio programming than liberals have? Just because conservatives and Republicans seem to be the people of ideas?

MZ: Well, that’s a big part of it. Also, we owe a lot of thanks to Ronald Reagan, because Ronald Reagan made the big push to repeal the Fairness Doctrine, where you had to give equal time to some opposite view. Well, who decides what an opposite view is, and who decides what equal time is? Bascially, the leftist government types controlled political speech on TV and radio. Because no matter what you did, uh oh, the FCC is going to come by and say you have to give equal time to this or that, so it just froze things, and only the Democrats would get their message out. With the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, people were free to say whatever they wanted on TV and radio. There are only so many TV channels, whereas with radio it’s just endless. The vista opened up for conservatives, a void opened up and Republicans rushed right in and availed themselves of it.

Now, you’re right, Republicans are the party of ideas, the party of progress. The radio format is so much more conducive to that: it’s more thoughtful, it’s more give-and-take, with mutual respect with the people who call in. It’s just not Peter Jennings or Tom Browkaw ranting at you. Even on TV when they have a few “talking heads,” it’s very structured, and they’ll have three liberals and only one Republican, and they’ll cut him off, they can structure it so even if he is on TV they can structure it against him. But the Limbaughs and the Hannitys, those are the big guys, but also the locals can say whatever they want, and freedom is our best friend. And so that’s why it’s taken off so much.

MA: Has President Bush read your book?

MZ: I don’t know if he’s read my book. He should! I know that some people in the adminstration are trying to get me invited to speak to the White House staff. Senator Fitzgerald of Illinois tells people it’s one of the best books he’s ever read. Clarence Thomas cites it in the Supreme Court. Jack Kemp likes it. The lieutenant-governor elect of Maryland, Michael Steele, calls it his favorite book. So there a lot of big hitters who love it. And I know it’s circulating around the White House.

MA: I think it would be great if President Bush would use his bully pulpit to rally the Republican Party not just to win elections, but to take a look at the party’s history and what that means for the future of the party.

MZ: Well, I’ll give you one small example. Rather than history I talk about the heritage of our party. The federal judge who sided with Rosa Parks and overturned the blacks-in-the-back-of-the-bus law in the South, and desegregated much of the public schools in the South, was a Republican. Not only a Republican, he had been Dwight Eisenhower’s campaign manager in Alabama. A giant of a man, a Republican, his name was Frank Johnson, and he’s completely forgotten by the Republican Party today. And I’m just saying that’s just one small little example of how we could take the initiative permanently from the Democrats by just knowing our own story.

MA: My last question is looking further into the future for the party. What can we do to invest in and strengthen the party by involving our young people?

MZ: They’ve got to learn the truth. They’ve got to realize that they’re learning what lefty professor types are teaching them, and the NEA-approved history books, when they get to college, lefty professors trashing the Republican Party, trashing the United States, and they’ve got to break free of that. I think the Republican Party is doing an excellent job reaching out to younger people and getting them involved as much as possible. But it’s hard with the media being so pro-Democrat and anti-American.

MA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

MZ: I just wanted to commend you for this, it’s a great thing that you’re using the newsletter format to educate Minnesotans about the Republican Party, past, present, and future. So congratulations to you.

MA: Thank you, and thanks for your time, Mike.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Back to Basics for the Republican Party, Part I

Back in 2002, I was working on an idea for a political newsletter that eventually became this blog. One of the articles in the sample issue was an interview I conducted with Michael Zak, author of Back to Basics for the Republican Party.

Since then, just about everything has changed, except Tim Pawlenty is still governor. But Zak's insights are just as timely, if not more so, than they were in 2002.

Michael Zak is a native of Chicago and resident of Washington, D.C. Before writing Back to Basics for the Republican Party, Zak was a Foreign Service Officer, serving in Mexico and Venezuela, and an international banking analyst based in Chicago and New York. In February 2003, Zak originated the U.S. Senate’s "nuclear option" for confirming President Bush’s judicial nominees. His idea was based on the Republican Party’s success in defeating the Democrat filibuster against the 1957 Civil Rights Act.

Here is my interview, presented in multiple parts:

Matt Abe: What prompted you to write Back to Basics for the Republican Party?

Michael Zak: The main reason I wrote Back to Basics for the Republican Party is that it was so clear to me that Republicans placed themselves at a huge disadvantage because most don’t know their own story. They don’t know their own history. And that lack of information is what allows Democrats to outmaneuver Republicans so easily and put them on the defensive all the time.

What Republican activists think they know about the Republican party is generally a product of what "lefty" Democrat history professors have written over the years. So I said, "I’m going to tell Republicans their own story." I wrote Back to Basics for the Republican Party, which is a history of the GOP from the Republican point of view.

MA: I’m kind of student of history myself. I like your comment that the Republican party is known as “the party of Lincoln,” but beyond that, people don’t know what that means.

MZ: It is a cliché, and that’s more or less the theme of my book: what does “the party of Lincoln” actually mean? And then I say, “more importantly, what should it mean for us Republicans and the country we love?” The point is that history books — again, almost always written by Democrats — overemphasize Lincoln, and they portray him as a mythological figure. They do that to take him out of the context of being a Republican: the same as you, the same as me, the same as George W. Bush. What my book does is places him in context, as a man, a good man, but a man, and a man of his time. I talk about who were the Congressional leaders at the time? What was the GOP doing apart from the war?

Central to my book of course is the fact overlooked by so many history books: that the President of the United States, for the first four years after the Civil War, was a Democrat. The history books somehow completely ignore that fact. Lincoln was the one who put him on the ticket not his first, as his second running mate.

My book talks about what was the Republican party doing after Lincoln, and then all the way through till today. Putting Lincoln in context allows people to experience, to learn about the Republican party in its full breadth, from before Lincoln, actually, all the way through Clinton.

MA: Why were the Republicans so successful in the 2002 elections? Are we as a party getting "back to the basics?"

MZ: As far as Minnesota goes, especially in the Senate race between Coleman and Mondale, it was very clear that the Republican party, as it almost always has been, is the party of ideas. The Republican party is the party of progress. And the Democratic party, generally, is the party of elites who think they're better and smarter than other people, and want to control them "for their own good." That’s the way the Democratic party has always operated, since well before the Civil War.

So there was a very strong contrast between a forward-thinking, dynamic man like Mr. Coleman, and a sort of stuck-in-the-past, status quo, Socialist-minded guy like Vice President Mondale. It was very clear to the electorate which way they wanted to go. It was in a way a reflection of how the people see the Republicans and the Democrats nationwide. Look at George W. Bush: he’s aggressive, he’s forward-thinking, he cares about the American people, not for the sake of being "their boss," like Bill Clinton did, but just because he actually cares about the American people. And who are his opponents? Stuck-in-the-mud, status quo Socialists like Daschle and Gephart. So the American people chose, and in the case of Norm Coleman they chose wisely.

MA: That seemed to be a recurring theme nationwide, not only in Minnesota: that the Democrats seemed to be fielding candidates from the past, so to speak.

MZ: Very much so. In a lot of ways, and your readers will appreciate this, the Democratic party is the conservative party, in the sense that they want to conserve the status quo. What is the status quo? The status quo through our history has always been an elite, who think they’re smarter and better than everyone else, running the country. That's the way most countries have always been governed, and that's the way the Democratic party thinks. The Republican party has known that the country should be run for the sake of the individual. The Democratic party has just run out of ideas. They try to scare the voters and they lie, and they accuse the Republicans of all sorts of things, but they’re not putting forward any agenda of their own.

MA: A recent example of that is the assertion by some in the Democratic party that the "conservative right" has taken over the media.

MZ: One TV station: Fox News. I read this in Time Magazine just this last week, they said that "oh, it's awful, we can attribute the loss of so many because conservatives have taken over the news industry." We're talking about one TV station, Fox, that’s taking over the industry. It’s absurd. I don't know who said it, some major Democrat leader in Congress said, more or less, the majority vote for Republicans shows that the American voter is out of the mainstream! It could have been Nancy Pelosi, I'm not sure. It just shows the arrogance and the condescention of Democrats.

What the Democratic party needs is the "honorable wing" of the Democratic party has to take over. I don't see it happening yet. The decent, patriotic Democrats have to sieze control of their party. So far I'm not seeing it happening.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day, 2006

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

As Americans gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks for the many ways that our Nation and our people have been blessed.

The Thanksgiving tradition dates back to the earliest days of our society, celebrated in decisive moments in our history and in quiet times around family tables. Nearly four centuries have passed since early settlers gave thanks for their safe arrival and pilgrims enjoyed a harvest feast to thank God for allowing them to survive a harsh winter in the New World. General George Washington observed Thanksgiving during the Revolutionary War, and in his first proclamation after becoming President, he declared November 26, 1789, a national day of "thanksgiving and prayer." During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition of proclaiming a day of thanksgiving, reminding a divided Nation of its founding ideals.

At this time of great promise for America, we are grateful for the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and defended by our Armed Forces throughout the generations. Today, many of these courageous men and women are securing our peace in places far from home, and we pay tribute to them and to their families for their service, sacrifice, and strength. We also honor the families of the fallen and lift them up in our prayers.

Our citizens are privileged to live in the world's freest country, where the hope of the American dream is within the reach of every person. Americans share a desire to answer the universal call to serve something greater than ourselves, and we see this spirit every day in the millions of volunteers throughout our country who bring hope and healing to those in need. On this Thanksgiving Day, and throughout the year, let us show our gratitude for the blessings of freedom, family, and faith, and may God continue to bless America.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 23, 2006, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather together in their homes and places of worship with family, friends, and loved ones to reinforce the ties that bind us and give thanks for the freedoms and many blessings we enjoy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Marty Seifert: we're not all Democrats now

Rep. Marty Seifert. (Photo: Minnesota House of Representatives)All of this talk of bipartisanship and "governing from the middle" from the Democrats nationally and the DFL in this state is very interesting. Back in 2002, when the Republicans swept the elections from Congress to the state legislatures, the Dems were screaming about stolen elections and "disenfranchisement." About Sen. Norm Coleman's election to the U.S. Senate, Garrison Keillor said, "I'm ashamed of Minnesota for electing this cheap fraud." How you rabble were all duped by the Republican exploitation of 9/11.

This time around, the shoe is on the other foot for both parties. The Dems are "reaching out" to the Republicans who managed to win their races, inviting them to raise taxes, increase the size of government, and restage the fall of Saigon in Baghdad. Unfortunately, before even receiving their election certificates, too many Republicans have assumed the position of permanent minority party, going along to get along.

Marty Seifert (R-Marshall), newly elected House minority leader, is not one of those Republicans. In a recent newspaper accounts reported by Minnesota Democrats Exposed, Seifert showed that he may have the right stuff to help Minnesota see red in 2008:
[Seifert] also said the GOP will try to work with the DFL on major issues that are good for the whole state. But he said Republicans won't abandon core party principles of fiscal responsibility, keeping government out of private lives/personal responsibility, avoiding tax increases, protecting public safety and education.

'I think people are going to see a new face of the Republican party, something to complement the governor,' Seifert said.
If anyone in the House Republican caucus can live up to these words, it's Seifert. That's a good thing, because after 2006, liberals won't vote for a Democrat lite candidate, and neither will conservatives.

Ronald Reagan said, when you're behind in the polls, change the polls. Republicans at all levels of government need leaders who have read the party platform, believe in it, and can sell it with conviction and vision. Minnesota Republicans will be searching from the precinct caucuses to the national convention for leadership like that.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Pawlenty road trip, Part VIII

Monday, 6:00 pm: Owatonna

Joe Repya rouses the crowd, Owatonna. (c) North Star Liberty.
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Dick Day (R-Owatonna) met the rally in the parking lot of the Owatonna Cabella's. After the rally, we grabbed dinner at Wendy's.

Monday, 8:00 pm: Rochester

Rochester. (c) North Star Liberty
A light rain stopped as we arrived at Peace Plaza in Rochester, down the block from the glass-sided Mayo Clinic building, which shined like a jewel after dark. A dozen or so Hatch supporters with signs greeted the bus. (Look closely and you can see one in the photo.) We had a good turnout of media and "regular people."

Monday, 9:45 pm: Croatian Hall, South Saint Paul

The grand finale of the bus tour was held in the Pawlenty family neighborhood in South Saint Paul, at the Croatian Hall, where the Governor announced his first campaign in 2001. Although the rally was replete with Republican Party higher-ups and candidates, the rally had the feel of old home week, with one of the Governor's brothers at the side of the old-fashioned proscenium stage at the far end of the room, opposite the front door, across a well-worn wood floor. The smallish hall was packed, of course, with loud and enthusiastic supporters, and the atmosphere was warm in more ways than one.

Friday, November 16

I am nearly over the shock and awe of last week's stunning victory of the DFL in Minnesota, and the Democrats nationally. As one of the pundits observed, voters must have been pretty angry at the Republicans to vote out the incumbent secretary of state and the state auditor (how many voters even know what the state auditor does?). Yet with defense of marriage amendments passing in seven of eight states, a death penalty provision passing in Wisconsin, and the election of John Kline and Michele Bachmann to Congress, reports of the death of conservatism are greatly exaggerated.

Rather than seeing support for Ronald Reagan conservatism and a rejection of complacent, RINO Republicanism, Republican leaders here and nationally, including reelected Governor Tim Pawlenty, are taking this opportunity to steer hard to port. How disappointing to those of us who see party membership and grassroots activism (precinct caucuses, door knocking, lit dropping, bus riding) as a means to the end of advancing a vision that is different from that of the liberal left.

The challenge for the conservative, smaller government, lower taxes, free enterprise, family values base, will be to decide who's driving the Republican bus from here to 2008 and beyond (and maybe even who owns the bus).

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pawlenty road trip, Part VII

Monday, 12:30 pm: Redwood Falls

Just outside Redwood Falls, ahead of schedule, the bus pulls off to the side of the road with the KSTP-TV van. Most of the bus empties to stretch their legs. The KSTP videographer shoots some video of the Governor and, inexplicably to the rest of us who stayed on the bus, two Pawlenty staff members kicking their legs to a chorus of "New York, New York." ("Is...Brian...singing?", I hear from across the aisle.)

Lt. Gov. Molnau, Redwood Falls. (c) North Star Liberty.
By this time, the clouds had parted to reveal a sunny and almost warm midday. Majority Whip Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) welcomed us to the Pizza Ranch in Redwood Falls. Many families with children waited there to meet-and-greet the Governor and Lt. Governor, pose for a snapshot, and get an autographed campaign sign. I had the pleasure of sharing a pizza lunch with Lt. Governor Molnau.

Monday, 2:45 pm: New Ulm

Veigel's Kaiserhoff, New Ulm. (c) North Star Liberty.
On the way to New Ulm, I caught a few words of conversation between my naps. CNN covered the Giuliani rally. The Strib tracking poll shows a 2-point race for governor. Someone discovered that she can't send e-mail from her Blackberry, but she has four bars on her cell phone. Hatch's schedule is "not available."

More families awaited us at Veigel's Kaiserhoff in New Ulm, a German family restaurant, along with Sen. Denny Frederickson (R-New Ulm), and one other legislator whose name I missed. The Governor repeated someone's joke about chanting "four more beers" instead of "four more years."

Monday, 4:00 pm: Mankato

Mankato. (c) North Star Liberty.
The KSTP video guy boarded the bus and shot some more video on the way to Mankato. Mark and Debbie Kennedy and local legislative candidates met the crowd with us in Mankato. These stops are beginning to blur: grab sign, leave bus, wave sign and chant "four more years," get back on bus, take nap, repeat. If it's 4 o'clock, this must be Mankato.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pawlenty road trip, Part VI

Monday, 8:15 am: Giuliani rally, Minnesota Professional Firefighters headquarters, Saint Louis Park

Jeff Johnson, Mark Kennedy, Rudolph Giuliani at the rally. (c) North Star Liberty.
Our bus rolled up ahead of schedule to an empty front lawn at the Minnesota Professional Firefighters union hall, but before long it was filled with about 200 firefighters, cops, politicians, press, and activists. With former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani scheduled to speak at 9 am, this was obviously the centerpiece event of the road trip.

Sen. Norm Coleman, with Jeff Johnson, Vince Flynn, Mark Kennedy. (c) North Star Liberty.
In attendance were U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minnesota), U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kennedy, Republican attorney general candidate Jeff Johnson, Hennepin County Sheriff candidate Rich Stanek, Act of Treason author Vince Flynn, fellow road warrior Joe Repya, and lots of media, including CNN.

Joe Repya. (c) North Star Liberty.
It was nice to see some familiar SD 43 faces under the cold gray sky at the rally, including former Senator and current Pawlenty Chief of Staff David Gaither, and various members of what I call his 2002 campaign "A-Team" that helped to get him elected.

Tim Pawlenty at the Giuliani rally. (c) North Star Liberty
The founder (or one of them) of the grassroots effort Citizens Campaigning Against Renegade Legislators (CCARL), whom I still know only as Shar in Minneapolis, stopped by to take the Governor to task for signing the Twins stadium bill. She couldn't hide her disappointment at my support of the Governor on the bus trip, given my criticism on this blog of the stadium deal.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pawlenty road trip, Part V

Monday, 6:20 am: Anoka

Sparky's Cafe, Anoka. (c) North Star Liberty.
The dinner-plate size blueberry pancakes were hitting the tables at Sparky's Cafe in Anoka as the Pawlenty-Molnau bus rolled up. One of the people riding the bus since the start of our trip, Lt. Colonel Joe Repya, creator of the "Liberate Iraq" signs, was particularly welcome at Sparky's, because it was Veterans Appreciation Day there.

This is where a videographer from KSTP-TV Channel 5 joined the road trip, staying until the end. I don't know whether the decision to cover the bus tour had anything to do with DFL candidate Mike Hatch's comment about KSTP and its owner: "Stan Hubbard is a political hack, and he's got a news media station full of media hacks," but the story did not air until the day after Election Day. In any case, Hatch made it difficult to follow him on the day before Election Day, because he did not release his schedule to the media, except for a campaign rally in Duluth.

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Pawlenty road trip, Part IV

Monday, 12:30 am: Alexandria

Alexandria Republican HQ. (c) North Star Liberty.

Gov. Pawlenty recalled that Douglas County put him over the top for the Republican endorsement at the state convention, and he asked for the county's votes to return him to the governor's office on Tuesday.

Between the adrenalin and a cat nap between every stop, I was able to feel pretty good for the rest of the trip.

Monday, 2:45 am: Willmar

Willmar. (c) North Star Liberty.

Somehow, in the dead of a 34-degree night, the Pawlenty-Molnau team was still going strong, enthusiastic and animated. And somehow, Republican activists were able to turn out a decent crowd (around 20-30) at every stop through the night. A USA Today reporter, in town to cover another story, joined us in the Holiday Inn parking lot to see what all the commotion was about.

Monday, 4:45 am: Buffalo

Buffalo campaign stop. (c) North Star Liberty.

At every stop, the Governor mentions that his Lt. Governor knows what E85 is. This jab at DFL lieutenant governor candidate Judi Dutcher's blanking out at a reporter's E85 question a few days ago is a big hit among the Republican partisans and corn growers on the tour. We wore E85 stickers on our Pawlenty for Governor shirts, and one campaign staffer wore an E85 ball cap.

Molnau exclaims, "4:45 is gettin' up time!" This also resonates well with the rural folks. Everyone recognizes that this all-night bus tour is a little crazy, but the mood is undeniably upbeat and positive.

Sen. Amy Koch (R-Buffalo) was as the microphone to welcome the Pawlenty-Molnau team to Buffalo.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Pawlenty road trip, Part III

After the debates, we loaded up the bus and headed toward Saint Cloud. Gov. Pawlenty joined us on the bus to a round of applause, thanked the group for joining him, then worked his way down the aisle, greeting each person individually for up to several minutes each. (Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau boarded the bus with us before the debate.)

When the Governor reached my seat, we briefly discussed the races in SD 43, and how our district went from three incumbent Republicans to three open seats in just a few months (David Gaither was appointed Pawlenty's chief of staff, Jeff Johnson ran for state attorney general, and Ron Abrams was appointed a judge by the Governor). I was going to thank Pawlenty personally for getting Cheri Pierson Yecke to be his commissioner of education, and for his ambitious education reform agenda, but I forgot.

The mood on the bus was relaxed and upbeat. The thirty-some aboard consisted of Pawlenty administration staff and campaign volunteers. Everyone referred to Pawlenty and Molnau as "The Governor" and "The Lieutenant Governor," or "Governor Pawlenty" and "Lieutenant Governor Molnau," but interactions and conversations with them were friendly and informal.

Keeping the figurative wheels of our cross-country motorcoach bus going 'round and 'round was an outgoing woman named "Mo," equal parts den mom, cruise director, and cheerleading captain. As we approached each campaign stop, the lights in the bus came on and Mo played CDs on the bus's great sound system with our road trip soundtrack, which included Van Morrison's "The Bright Side of the Road" and Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."

Sunday, 10:30 pm: Saint Cloud

Saint Cloud campaign stop. (c) North Star Liberty.
In Saint Cloud, we stopped at the Republican campaign headquarters. Our two "roadie" crews leapfrogged each other, setting up at every other stop, then tearing down and moving to the next stop. Every time the Pawlenty bus rolled into town, the lights were lit, microphone hot, and crowd pumped up (twenty, thirty or more at every stop, all night and into Monday) and waving signs.

At the end of the rally, I turned around and recognized none other than Saint Cloud's finest blogger and member of the Northern Alliance of Bloggers, everyone's favorite econ prof, Saint Cloud State University's own King Banaian of SCSU Scholars. He seemed surprised that I wasn't liveblogging the road trip. I am not worthy!

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Pawlenty road trip, Part II

MPR Debate, Fitzgerald Theater

Peter Hutchinson, Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Hatch at the MPR debate. (c) North Star Liberty.
Minnesota Public Radio sponsored two debates that night, one between the three candidates for U.S. Senate, and one between the three Minnesota gubernatorial candidates. The concession stands were open, including beer and wine service. People of all ages were present, from a middle schooler filling out a worksheet for his social studies class, to pierced twenty-somethings, to retirees. The seating was general admission, except for several rows in back that were reserved for guests of the candidates. The audience seemed to be a diverse mix of educated voters, although one Hispanic member of our group remarked at the relative lack of racial diversity.

Political reporter Kerri Miller moderated the Senate candidates debate, tenaciously asking follow-up questions, and allowing the debate rules against applause and other audience noise to go unenforced. Most of the cheering and jeering came from Amy Klobuchar's supporters. Klobuchar had a Cheshire cat-like grin during most of the debate, especially while her Republican opponent Mark Kennedy was speaking.

Veteran MPR host Gary Eichten moderated the gubernatorial debate, attempting to keep a lid on audience noise so we could "hear from the candidates." Unfortunately, some in the audience laughed at his requests for restraint. Miller's earlier wink-and-a-nod to the Dems didn't help them to take Eichten's admonishments seriously.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Pawlenty road trip, Part I

I got the call from the Pawlenty for Governor Committee last Saturday evening. Did I know of anyone who might want to join Governor Tim Pawlenty on his upcoming campaign bus tour? Maybe I would be interested? The invitation was hesitant, almost apologetic, as if I was being asked to drive over to Eagan to mow the governor's lawn. By the way, the bus leaves tomorrow at 5:00 pm, and the tour won't be over until 10:45 pm on Monday, almost 30 hours later!

How could I say no?

I quickly discovered that there are two kinds of people on these bus tours: those who think of them as purgatory on wheels, and those who think of them as hog heaven. Even at the end of the tour, I was in the latter group, definitely the minority. I wasn't expecting anything glamorous, and for the most part I was not disappointed. But I met a lot of smart, interesting and, dare I say nice, people in the campaign's inner circle, including the governor and Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau, and many of the good people of central Minnesota, from Saint Cloud to Redwood Falls to Rochester, and points in between.

Sunday evening, the streets of Saint Paul

Demonstrators chant to each other at The Fitz. (c) North Star Liberty
Our boots first landed on the ground at Exchange Street and Wabasha Street in downtown Saint Paul, where large groups of demonstrators for gubernatorial candidates Mike Hatch (DFL) and Peter Hutchinson (Independence Party) gathered on opposite sides, literally and figuratively. Saint Paul Police Department officers admonished us to get off the streets and onto the curb. We waved our red Pawlenty campaign signs and chanted "four more years," first to passing cars, then to the Hatch people. The Hatch people chanted back. The Hutchinson people chanted, then sang Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore" to a vigorously-played acoustic guitar. Someone was driving a miniature radio-controlled car up and down the street. Hatch and Amy Klobuchar sign carriers began to mingle with Pawlenty and Mark Kennedy sign holders. One of our group was bashed in the forehead with a campaign sign (no blood, well, not much anyway).

After a few minutes, all of the chanting and waving signs was fun, but we weren't going to change anyone's mind here. We left the corner and got in line for the Minnesota Public Radio debates for U.S. Senate and Minnesota Governor at the venerable Fitzgerald Theater.

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Judy Johnson statement

Judy Johnson sent this e-mail to her supporters today. Win or lose, whether you agree with her on this issue or that, Johnson is a class act.
I want to thank all of the volunteers who worked so hard on my campaign for State Senate. I met the most wonderful folks who will be my life long friends for their selfless dedication during this past election phoning, door knocking, dropping campaign literature, writing letters of support and holding Judy! signs on election day.

I also want to thank my family. Without them, none of this would ever be possible. My husband, Phil, supported me beyond belief and worked hard putting up all of the Judy! signs all over our community. My children stood by me and endured some amazing times, some not so easy, but they worked with me everyday door knocking, stuffing envelopes and building my website. My mother, Lois, stepped up to help keep things running smoothly at home, phoning and passing out literature. My sister-in-law, Helen, was the wind beneath my wings and the best campaign manager anyone could ever hope for. She worked tirelessly along side me each and everyday.

I am overwhelmed by what a great campaign we ran. We can hold our heads high because we talked about the issues that matter to our community, working for a brighter future in our state.

To the voters, I am deeply grateful for all of your support over the years. I will continue serving as Mayor of Plymouth through the end of the year. I am so honored to be part of such a wonderful city and will continue being involved working to make a positive difference for my fellow citizens and friends.

Lastly, I wish Senator Terri Bonoff all the best as she serves at the Capitol on behalf of our senate district.

At Your Service,

Judy Johnson
Mayor of Plymouth

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The morning after

"One day, quite suddenly and without warning, the same thing will happen to you."—HRH Queen Elizabeth II, to Prime Minister Tony Blair, in The Queen

"For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph — a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."
—from Patton

Steve Seel doesn't quite know what to make of me as we meet, at MPR Galactic Headquarters (photo: Julia Schrenkler)

Thank you to Minnesota Public Radio for allowing this low-profile blogger to liveblog from the top tier of the blog pit at last night's "Election Night Policy and a Pint" event. I met many talented professionals, from the traditional news operation to new media and Public Insight Journalism. I got a chance to see fellow bloggers Robin and Steve Marty (Minnesota Monitor), Eva Young (Lloydletta's Nooz and Comments and Dump Bachmann), and Jeff Kouba (Bachmann v. Wetterling) in person. The event exceeded expectations for attendance. There were few visible technical glitches during an event that ran on technology. But the most amazing things about it were the audacious idea of creating an election night event with a new mixture of the public, pundits, music, radio, and the Internet; and that MPR, or at the very least a rogue band of visionaries within MPR, is redefining what a media outlet looks like in the 21st century, with creativity, technical innovation, and most difficult of all, the willingness to fail.

For my part, this was one of the most difficult things I have ever attempted: not only blogging in public, but blogging inside a circus of sensory and information overload.

West metro Republicans suffered disappointments but were not shut out. In the Minnesota Senate, reelected were: Sen. Geoff Michel (SD 41), Sen. David Hann (SD 42), Sen. Warren Limmer (SD 32), and Sen. Gen Olson (SD 33). Our friends Judy Johnson and Derek Brigham were unsuccessful in their challenges of DFL incumbents in SD 43 and SD 45 respectively. In the Minnesota House, Bill Cullen failed to beat incumbent DFLer Maria Ruud (SD 42A), but Erik Paulsen kept his seat in 42B, Dave Johnson lost the open seat in 43B to John Benson, but Sarah Anderson came from behind to beat Sandy Hewitt for the open seat in 43A. Joyce Peppin (HD 32A) and Kurt Zellers (HD 32B) won their races, while Steve Smith, unopposed in 33A, and John Berns in HD 33B, also won.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Policy and a Pint liveblog

10:48 pm They are picking up the trash and striking the sets and electronic equipment. Even Julia Shrenkler, who hovered over the blogger pit all evening, taking care of us, has disappeared. It is a big night for the Dems, but the governor's race is still a dead heat. Logging off; see you tomorrow.

10:40 pm The broadcast is over, the video lights are down, and everyone is leaving.

10:35 pm SD 33 remains in the Republican Red, with incumbents Sen. Gen Olson (SD 33), Steve Smith (33A) (unopposed), and newcomer John Berns (33B) (retiring Rep. Barb Sykora's open seat) with large leads with over 75% of precincts counted.

10:31 pm Rich Stanek appears to have won the race for Hennepin County Sheriff, with 88.5% of the precincts counted.

10:25 pm The broadcast is winding down, the audience has shrunk a bit more, some of the bloggers have retired to the DFL election night party.

10:19 pm Mark Kennedy is making his concession speech. The DFL candidates are leading all of the statewide races.

10:05 pm I met Michael Skoler, of the Public Insight Journalism initiative here. I complimented him on the PIJ brochure that I received at the debate at the Fitzgerald Theatre on Sunday. He told me that they have added many thousands of participants since the brochure was printed, and that they are taking the program national.

9:50 pm Overall, this event has been quite ambitious, with the many live interviews, the blog pit, DJ music, audience participation. They even had a trivia contest like they have in bars, with little remote controls for people to answer instantly, and results tabulated on the screens. My one complaint is the selection of interview subjects. They seem a little on the liberal/progressive side: university types, Britt Robson from City Pages, and international commentators (nice idea). How about inviting some conservative guests next time?

I am however finding it difficult to concentrate as well as I usually do during blogging. Even the live hosts are having a hard time hearing over the conversations. So if the writing here tonight isn't quite up to your expectations, it isn't up to mine either.

9:35 pm Amy Klobuchar is making her acceptance speech. She will become our next junior Senator from Minnesota.

9:35 pm Jim Ramstad is a bright spot for Republicans, apparently easily defeating challenger Wendy Wilde. Tim Pawlenty trails Mike Hatch, 48.8% to 42.7%, with 16.8% of precincts reporting. The standing room crowd here appears to have dwindled a bit.

9:21 pm Secretary of State says with just under half of precincts reporting:

Senate 43

(DFL) Terri Bonoff: 7,535 (51.8%)
(R) Judy Johnson: 6,994 (48.1%)
Write-In: 16 (0.1%)

House 43A

(DFL) Sandy Hewitt 3,057 (50.7%)
(R) Sarah Anderson 2,962 (49.2%)
Write-In 6 (0.1%)

House 43B

(DFL) John Benson 4,249 (51.4%)
(R) Dave Johnson 4,009 (48.5%)
Write-In 6 (0.1%)

9:11 pmThe interviews up on stage are talking about dissatsifaction with the war on terror, diversity, international perspectives.

8:44 pmWe are surrounded by an impressive array of technology.

First, the blog pit is outfitted with wireless Internet. The event is being webcast at the MPR web site, with three cameras. There is one main screen, front and center, with screens on each side of the stage. There are rows of chairs and a side standing room area. There is a continuous program up front, with interviews, commentary, and election announcements.

Over 200 free tickets were made available for tonight's event. They are all gone.

8:35 pm NOT GOING WELL, BLOGGER.COM BUSY. WIRELESS CONNECTION DROPS OCCASIONALLY. Plus I got here late, have not eaten or even seen any of the food, and it does not look good for the Republicans tonight.

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Vote! Then (political) party!

I was voter #220 at my precinct around 8:30 this morning.

The bus tour was awesome. More later.

I will be liveblogging election returns at the Minnesota Public Radio "Election Night Policy and a Pint" event tonight. Tune in to 89.3 The Current for occasional cut-ins from the event, or go to the MPR web site for a live continuous webcast starting at 7:30 pm. Check the MPR web site for a detailed schedule. Blogger "check-ins" are scheduled at 8:35 and 9:35 pm. It will be where the elite meet to eat on Election Night. Julia Schrenkler, Interactive Producer for New Media at MPR, has convinced me that the event will be awesome, and I'm looking forward to it.

MPR's cool interactive election returns tools here.

It had better be awesome, because I've had to send regrets to a number of election night party invitations sent by candidate campaigns and the Republican Party of Minnesota. These are invariably the blow-out parties of the biennium, giving candidates and party officials a chance to meet and express their thanks to campaign volunteers and paid staff. The Northern Alliance bloggers will be liveblogging over at the Republican bash at the Sheraton South in Bloomington, and on the air on AM 1280 The Patriot.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

On the road and off the grid

Tonight I will be boarding the bus on Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Driving Minnesota Forward Tour, attending tonight's gubernatorial debate in Saint Paul and then off to thirteen rallies in just over 24 hours. I will probably not be posting to this blog again until Election Day, possibly not until the Election Night blow-out event at MPR.

Vote Republican on Tuesday!

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Senate has changed Bonoff

Wedge issues that Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) used to say were off limits are now fair game. As this interview after her election in November 2005 reveals, she was indeed a moderate, focused on the issues that matter to the regular people of SD 43. But the tactics of Bonoff and the DFL against challenger Judy Johnson in recent weeks have gone negative and nasty, showing their true agenda. On Tuesday, voters in SD 43 should show Bonoff and the DFL that negative and misleading campaigning has no place in the west metro.

Click here if the audio player does not display above.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Contrasting Bonoff and Johnson, in their own words

Candidate statements from Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) and her Republican challenger, Plymouth mayor Judy Johnson, were published in this week's Star Tribune West edition. These statements in the candidates' own words reveal everything that voters need to know about how the candidates would govern for the next four years.

Sen. Bonoff could not avoid injecting three wedge issues into her statement: abortion, intelligent design, and gay marriage. Uniting the middle? More like divide and conquer in "moderate" clothing. Bonoff plays to her base with partisan ideology and FUD, but this tactic is a double-edged sword: it should rile up the conservative base and many moderates as well.

Bonoff and the DFL have decided that the only way they can win this election is to go negative. They can't beat the popular mayor, community volunteer, and face of Plymouth without demonizing her. Look for Bonoff, the Dems, and 527s to spend big bucks on negative advertising this weekend and Monday and Tuesday. Their poison pen belies Bonoff's message of moderate views and consensus building.

In contrast, Mayor Johnson's positive statement in the Strib reinforces what the residents of Plymouth already know: that Johnson is an optimistic leader of integrity who knows how to move a growing community forward in a nonpartisan manner. Said Johnson:
Plymouth is an innovative and efficient city, well-known for its high quality of life and the lowest tax rate of cities over 25,000 in population. I have worked hard to keep our neighborhoods safe, partnered with our local schools in many collaborative efforts, promoted a solid business climate and worked to build a strong park system.

My commitment to leadership, statesmanship and hard work will continue at the Capitol. I have been an active voice at the Legislature for many years. I served at the League of Minnesota Cities as its president and currently serve on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance.

As your next state senator, I will focus on: providing an excellent education for our children with accountability and results; moving Minnesota forward by improving roads and better transit options; working to reduce health care costs without sacrificing health care quality; making sure our communities are safe and secure; improving our environment; growing jobs and our economy; and seeking innovation and greater efficiency within the state budget.
A veteran campaigner but a relative newcomer to the partisan game, Johnson has held her own during two Senate campaigns with optimism and tenacity, but politics aren't what really energize her. To Johnson, politics are the necessary crucible that she must survive in order to serve and lead her community forward, to the benefit of all constituents.

Next Tuesday, the DFL brand of negative attack ads, hit pieces, and FUD may carry Sen. Bonoff back to the state Senate until 2010. If that happens, SD 43 will have lost an opportunity to be represented by an executive with over a decade-long record of public service, who has worked with school districts, counties, and cities to solve problems statewide; a policy wonk who can go toe-to-toe with David Strom on TABOR or detail her strategies for environmental protection and affordable housing; an energetic citizen advocate whose deep and wide experiences have well-prepared her for a role of service and leadership in the Minnesota Senate.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bonoff: Pohlads coulda, shoulda paid for stadium


Well of course Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) had to vote to authorize Hennepin County to levy a $1.1 billion, 30-year sales tax without a voter referendum to help build a Twins stadium. The Pohlads apparently left her no choice. As Bonoff explains at a June 26 Town Hall Meeting with constituents:

"Well that is disappointing that it seems that the wealthiest people are the ones that really made out.

"I am sorry that those people wouldn't step up to the plate and do what they needed to do to do that stadium, they should have. That's terrible! They should have done that. I absolutely agree with you. The Pohlad family trust could have done that stadium. They didn't. I agree."

So the Pohlads faced down the Legislature, and Sen. Bonoff blinked. According to Bonoff, the Pohlads got a good deal. What about the rest of us in Hennepin County?

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Stadium-loving politicians deserve a cold November

Here is Nick Coleman's voter's guide on politicians like Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) and Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein. I still like Coleman's phrase from an earlier column, "money talks, democracy walks."

October 14, 2006

Nick Coleman, Star Tribune

Now that the Twins have been bounced from the playoffs, it is time to pay tribute to the Metrodome and to rain down retribution on the heads of the politicians who decided to replace it by putting a $1 billion burden on the backs of taxpayers.

First, the Dome: The temperature was 33 degrees outside at 7 p.m. Wednesday when the Twins might have been hosting the Tigers in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series (if the Twins hadn't lost the first round to Oakland). And there were 23-mile-per-hour gusts from Fargo, N.D. Inside the Dome, it was 70 degrees. Outdoors, at the site of Pohlad Palace, scheduled to open in 2010 to the elements and the fumes from the garbage burner, it would have been freezing, and fragrant.

I received some nasty mail during the Twins' brief postseason run, telling me I had no right to root for the Twins (I've been watching them since I was 10) or to write about them, because I have been a critic of the scandalous shenanigans that went into last spring's stadium vote by the Legislature.

Well, I do not believe that a fan has to leave his brain at the gate. So perhaps a stadium refresher course is due.

The highly choreographed stadium campaign ended in a victory for big money. Despite shadow-puppet opposition from some who voted no because they knew their votes weren't needed, the Legislature allowed the Hennepin County Board to fund the new stadium with sales-tax revenues, but without putting it to a vote of the public, as previously had been required.

This was a dive that was bigger than Torii Hunter's belly flop during Game 2 against Oakland, when he rolled around like Sparky the Seal while the A's ran around the bases.

The fix was in.

At the end of August -- just before voters returned from vacation -- the Hennepin County Board decided, boys against the girls (4-3), to seal the deal, ordering a county that can barely pay for the necessities to issue 30-year bonds for a half-billion-dollar ballpark.

That half-billion, after interest, will cost the public a billion. The cost to confidence in our system of government might be bigger than that.

To see what should have happened if democracy had been permitted to run its course, you only have to look to Anoka County, where a citizen uprising has brought a similar boondoggle -- a stadium proposed by the Minnesota Vikings -- to a standstill.

All year long, as it began to sink in that Anoka County was planning to do an end-run around the referendum law, a chorus of taxpayer voices and City Council resolutions has demanded that voters be given a say on the plan. Last week, even the City Council in Blaine -- where the stadium would be built -- joined in, demanding a referendum on the tax subsidy for Zygi Wilf, and a number of candidates for the county board are seeking such a vote.

"They've wakened the sleeping giant," says Mary Capra, the mayor of Centerville, who was one of the first local leaders to stand up to the stadium blitz. "This has been a real education in how important it is to watch the Legislature."

Are Hennepin County residents lesser citizens? No. If they had had longer to think about what was happening, it's hard to believe some kind of groundswell would not have forestalled a stadium for the Twins. In the end, we still might have gotten a ballpark. But it would have been a better deal for the taxpayers, with a more meaningful contribution from Minnesota's second-richest man, Carl Pohlad. That would have been a good thing.

By the way, a rally sponsored by Citizens Against Stadium Taxes will be held today from 2 to 6 p.m. at Stub & Herb's, 227 Oak St. SE., near the University of Minnesota campus. To learn more, and to find out how your legislator voted on the stadium, visit

If you're still reading, Mr. Pohlad, I want to assure you that I still love my Twins, which were "mine" long before they were "yours." I am happy to hear you are keeping Torii Hunter for another season. But please do the fans a favor:

Get his eyesight checked.

Putting the public in public radio on election night

Next Tuesday, please join me in a very cool experiment in election night coverage. I will be one of several bloggers who will be liveblogging next Tuesday's "Policy and a Pint" event, an ongoing series co-sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio's 89.3 The Current and The Citizens League. The goal of PAAP is to provide an informal setting for the public (i.e., the rabble) to come and discuss important policy issues with community leaders and thinkers (i.e., elites). On Election Night, the rabble with laptops, i.e., bloggers, will join the fray:
Tom Crann from MPR's All Things Considered and Steve Seel from The Current join with bloggers, pundits, campaigners and citizens from around the community to check in on the election returns, challenge one another to election trivia, enjoy live entertainment and talk about the impact of the election and Minnesota's political scene. (Source: MPR)
Julia Schrenkler, MPR Interactive Producer (pretty cool, her actual title), gets it. She gets that she is in the news and information business, not only the radio business. She (along with MPR) is passionate about the whole idea of using technology to give the public a voice, whether it's blogs or even, in the case of next Tuesday, the considerable resources of MPR. (For more, see "Public Insight Journalism.")

I found out this morning just how considerable those resources are. I took some time off work so that I could get a walk-through of the event. Schrenkler gave me a look at our venue, the UBS Forum, a state-of-the-art, big open room that was made for big groups of people to hear speeches and discuss issues. Think Speakers' Corner in London's Hyde Park meets the starship Enterprise. The room is totally wired for Internet (WiFi) and broadcast-quality audio and video. Landline phones, restrooms, and a kitchen are right around the corner. Food and drink (a limited amount, according to MPR publicity) will flow. And of course the room will be wallpapered with video feeds from television news and even occasionally our blogs. The event will be webcast by MPR, with periodic cut-ins on The Current. I will post some photos and even shoot some video for a subsequent story about the event.

We're all making this up as we go, that's what makes it truly exciting.

But it's the people there who will make it interesting from a political standpoint. In addition to the blogs I mentioned in an earlier post, Michael Brodkorb of Minnesota Democrats Exposed will join us in the "blog pit." Please tune in on Tuesday.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Consider the source

When you're a virtual house organ of the DFL party, endorsements are less about vetting candidates and more about turning Minnesota blue.

Case in point: the Star Tribune's endorsements in the west metro. In seven races, the newspaper endorsed two Republicans: one who had no DFL challenger, the other a city council member whose DFL opponent has zero experience in elective office. For the five remaining races, the paper endorsed two DFL incumbents and three DFLers running for open seats.


The Strib saved its biggest brush-off of Republican candidates for Judy Johnson, who is challenging Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), a newcomer to elective office until last year's SD 43 special election. The Strib portrays Bonoff with "a winning, enthusiastic manner," while pinning Johnson and her campaign with "an unfortunate fragrance of vendetta...bitterness and innuendo."

Anyone who has worked with Johnson during her past ten years on the nonpartisan Plymouth City Council and as mayor, on either or both of her campaigns for state Senate, League of Minnesota Cities board member and president, parent volunteer in the Wayzata Schools, and practically countless other roles serving the community and state, even Terri Bonoff must recognize the Strib's characterizations for what they are: a smear.

Republican Bill Cullen would take his ideas of limited government "further in that direction than District 42A's representative ought to go." One wonders how far such ideas should go, in the Strib's view? Can you say "Twins stadium?" How about "light rail?" "Constitutionally mandated funding for the arts?"

The Strib condescendingly predicts that Republican Dave Johnson "would be a junior player at the Capitol for some time." Apparently the Strib missed Johnson's debates with his DFL opponent in HD 43B, John Benson. I think that Johnson would more than hold his own from the floor of the House to committee hearing rooms.

The Strib thinks that HD 43A candidate Sarah Anderson's ideas "appear to spring right out of the state GOP platform." Oops, I guess Anderson should have been reading the state DFL platform instead!

In the end, these elections will be decided by the voters, not by the liberal media. West metro Republicans have a slate of candidates that offer a clear choice for smaller government, lower taxes, free markets, education that is accountable to parents and taxpayers (rather than teachers unions), strong families, secure borders, and liberty. With the entire Legislature up for election this year, the course of our state will be decided by those who show up and vote next Tuesday.

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Trick or treat

With one week to go before Election Day, Tuesday, November 7, it's FUD time.

FUD stand for Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. At this stage of the campaign, as the incumbent, all you have to do is sew enough fear, uncertainty, or doubt about the challenger to make your candidate look like the safer alternative: "the devil we know."

If your opposition researchers can't find any dirt to exploit in the challenger's past (a controversial vote, voting against an otherwise popular bill because of an unacceptable tag-on amendment, appearing in a photo with George W. Bush, or preferably some personal problem), then make up something!

The latest four-page DFL hit piece sent via bulk mail on behalf of Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) says, "Last year, Judy Johnson said 'creationism' should be taught in our public schools [lie]. Now Judy Johnson has suddenly changed her tune [lie], but who knows what Johnson really believes? And how can we trust Judy Johnson to be our schools' advocate in St. Paul?"

These charges are a rerun of a lit piece from a year ago. Well, if you repeat a lie often enough, people will start to believe it. Injecting wedge issues like this, especially late in the campaign, may rev up your base, but will do nothing to unite the middle. Of course the business of political parties is to win elections, not unite the middle. I get that.

The truth

Johnson is first and foremost an advocate of local control of schools, including curriculum decisions. "While state standards are important, local officials, school curriculum experts, teachers and parents are the best people to decide how to implement those standards in a manner that represents the interests of our local communities," says Johnson on her campaign web site.

As city council member and mayor, Johnson has a long record of working collaboratively with the school districts (Wayzata, Robbinsdale, Osseo, and Hopkins) that lie within the Plymouth city limits. All four of her children attend or attended Wayzata public schools (her oldest is a 2001 graduate of Wayzata High School). From the Johnson campaign web site:
During her years of public service, Judy has promoted innovative initiatives that have helped stretch public education dollars farther for our children. In creative partnerships, the City of Plymouth and our local school districts have worked together to offer more opportunities for our youth by collaborating on award-winning parks, pools, ice arenas and programs. By working in joint partnership, millions of tax dollars were saved and more opportunities have been made available for all students.

As President of the League of Minnesota Cities, Judy recently advocated for joint work with the Association of Minnesota Counties and the Association of Minnesota School Districts. This new effort of partnership advances cooperative thinking, stronger advocacy and legislative action at the Capitol that seeks to better serve our taxpayers and constituents. Never have these three organizations worked in such a collaboration to improve service delivery to the citizens of Minnesota.
How can we trust Judy Johnson to be our schools' advocate in St. Paul? Look at her record, not demonizing hit pieces from the DFL.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Conservation funding proposal collapsed under weight of DFL add-ons

A vote to re-elect Sen. Terri Bonoff would be an endorsement of her vision of a big-government utopia, including a government-subsidized Twins baseball stadium, government-subsidized light rail, and constitutionally-mandated, government-subsidized funding for the arts. If you don't share this vision, you should carefully consider your vote before sending Bonoff back to Saint Paul for four more years.

Her challenger, Plymouth mayor Judy Johnson, believes in asking the voters, as required by state law, for permission to raise local option taxes. Johnson has a comprehensive plan for highways and transit without light rail. She believes in transparent ballot questions, not tag-on amendments like the conservation/arts funding question that was defeated in the last legislative session.

No vote for Bonoff
To the Editor:

Sen. Terri Bonoff, when running last fall, said that she would help to simplify government.

To me that meant not having "tag on unrelated amendments" attached to meaningful legislation. I very specifically asked Sen. Bonoff to support the natural resources clean water bill without any tag on amendments, which included funding for the arts.

Her response to me was that she already had supported the bill with tag on amendments. Those amendments were not related to the bill and helped to kill the bill. This was just what the Senate majority leader planned...not to give the citizens of Minnesota, Plymouth and Minnetonka a voice in the matter! What this means is that all of Sen. Bonoff’s constituents do not have a voice, and we are not able to voice our opinion in the fall election by having the bill on the ballot.

I even suggested that there be two separate bills on the ballot, one bill was for natural resource funding and the other for the arts, and I received no response.

I do not see any help in the Senate. Vote for common sense in November! Sen. Bonoff will not receive my vote!

Roger Elias
The notion of combining conservation with the arts: Conservationists, at whatever cost, must never allow this to occur again in any consideration of dedicated funding. The shotgun marriage of the two, foisted upon the Legislature by Sen. Dick Cohen of St. Paul and his DFL colleagues, was embarrassing on many levels, not least the unseemly begging for a spot at the public trough that ensued by Bill Kling, president of Minnesota Public Radio...

In the end, however, the arts and its supporters proved themselves not only bad partners, but poor sports — seeking money in amounts that likely would not have survived public scrutiny before the November election, had dedicated funding for public radio and TV, among others, been achieved at levels sought by the DFL.1

The polling data I've seen, and my experience, tells me that the more focused a constitutional amendment proposal is, the better its chance of passage. I don't believe the arts brought added value to the bills. —DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam2

1 "Changes needed if funding is to pass," by Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune, June 12, 2006.

2 "Merriam still optimistic about dedicated funding," by Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune, June 22, 2006.

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Bonoff would give the green light to light rail

My weekday commute takes me suburb-to-suburb, between Plymouth and Eden Prairie. I used to take the side streets, winding through Plymouth, Minnetonka, Hopkins, Minnetonka again, and Eden Prairie, and reversing course in the afternoon. Sections of Shady Oak Road and Minnetonka Boulevard were often jammed during afternoon rush hour. I-494 was usually backed up for miles at that time.

This month, the long-anticipated third lane in both directions on I-494 between Eden Prairie and I-394 fully opened for business. The widening of this I-494 segment was completed in 2006 thanks to a decision by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to get an early start on several approved highway construction projects. It's been clear sailing ever since. The far left lane is clear most of the time, except for the speed demons going in excess of 70 MPH, even during afternoon rush hour. It's almost like the autobahn of the western metro — south of I-394 at least. North of I-394 is another story.

The northwestern suburbs, namely Plymouth, Maple Grove, and points east and west, need a comprehensive transportation plan, yet none is scheduled for almost a generation! Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) said in a recent press release, "I was surprised to learn that the western suburbs are not part of the long-term metropolitan light rail transit plan, and I strongly believe the I-394 Corridor is an extension of the central corridor that serves a growing population of commuters," said Bonoff in the press release. Last legislative session, Bonoff authored a bill to have the Met Council study I-394 for a possible light rail line from downtown Minneapolis to the western suburbs.

Bonoff thinks that we all need to get onboard light rail in the northwestern suburbs now, even before the Met Council studies the situation. Light rail, an expensive and inefficient people mover, is not the answer for I-394. According to U.S. Census data, road congestion has actually increased faster in cities with light rail than in cities that have invested mainly in roads.

The Interstate's HOV lanes have already been outfitted with MnPASS. MnPASS has increased traffic flow in both the HOV and regular lanes on I-394, without building additional lanes. "Income is expected to increase in years to come as overall traffic in the corridor increases, and MnPASS supporters expect the project to become fully self-sufficient within a few years." Further, half of excess MnPASS revenues ("profit" in the private sector) is earmarked in statute for transit.

Judy Johnson, Bonoff's Republican challenger for the SD 43 seat, has already been "an effective statewide leader on transportation issues," according to David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Minnesotans for Better Roads and Transit. Johnson's $2.5 billion plan for highways and multimodal transit will get the northwest metro moving again — especially on I-394, I-494, and Highways 55 and 169 — without raising taxes and without light rail.

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