Saturday, August 30, 2008

SD 33 hosts gold coast soiree

Connie Doepke (photo: Doepke Volunteer Committee)Senate District 33 Republicans hosted a well-attended, lively fundraiser at the venerable Lafayette Club in Minnetonka Beach Thursday evening. Beyond local volunteers and candidates, the event attracted Minnesota GOP staff and activists from outside the district.

The event was also a coming-out party for Connie Doepke, the endorsed Republican for House District 33B, who will run against Republican John Hollander in the September 9 primary election. The primary winner will face the DFLer Kim Kang in the general election.

I served with Doepke (pronounced DEP-key), a former Wayzata School Board chair, on the district's Legislative Action Committee several years ago. I know her to be well-versed on education issues specifically, and the ins-and-outs of the legislative process in general. She is an active member of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, and currently sits on the Wayzata Citizens Financial Advisory Committee, a citizens committee that oversees district finances.

Naturally, if elected, Doepke hopes to be named to one of the House education committees, where she would be an outstanding contributor in the vein of former Rep. Barb Sykora, who served this district.

Nine-term HD 33A Rep. Steve Smith, who will have a rare DFL challenger this cycle, addressed the audience with the DFL-controlled Legislature's most significant achievements of "the worst session" of his career: spending a $2 billion surplus into a $1.1 billion deficit, and raising the gas tax.

Former state Representative and current candidate for Hennepin County Commissioner (District 7) Jeff Johnson gave a typically energetic update on his candidacy, asking supporters to vote for him in the September 9 non-partisan primary. The top two vote-getters from that election will face each other in the general election in November.

The significance of the event was underscored by the roster of Republicans from outside SD 33 in attendance: Rep. Jim Ramstad (MN-3), state Representative and Third District Congressional candidate Erik Paulsen, House Minority Leader Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall), and Fourth District Congressional candidate Ed Matthews.

A well-dressed group from the Minnesota Young Republicans were also in attendance, which is an encouraging sign at the type of event that typically attracts just the "old guard" who can afford a Lafayette Club membership.

There was also a large screen TV monitor showing coverage of the Democratic National Convention, but more were occupied by the silent auction, the bar, and the outstanding soup-to-nuts hors d'oeuvres table (mea culpa) than by even Barack Obama's acceptance speech.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain picks "Sarah Barracuda"

I have been a fan of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for months. This is a bold, game-changing move for John McCain. Americans will be charmed and galvanized by Governor Palin as her story is told over the next few weeks. Conservatives will be energized, and this will help Republicans down ticket.

While musing about 2008 Republican vice presidential candidates last fall, I become enamored with a certain young, charismatic, cold-weather state, winter sports loving Republican governor whose electoral victory was one of the few bright spots for the party in 2006.

Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin is a conservative before she's a Republican. As Fred Barnes reported in the July 16, 2007 Weekly Standard:
The wipeout in the 2006 election left Republicans in such a state of dejection that they've overlooked the one shining victory in which a Republican star was born. The triumph came in Alaska where Sarah Palin, a politician of eye-popping integrity, was elected governor. She is now the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating in the 90s, and probably the most popular public official in any state.

Her rise is a great (and rare) story of how adherence to principle — especially to transparency and accountability in government — can produce political success. And by the way, Palin is a conservative who only last month vetoed 13 percent of the state's proposed budget for capital projects. The cuts, the Anchorage Daily News said, "may be the biggest single-year line-item veto total in state history."

Gov. Palin's nickname on her high school basketball team was "Sarah Barracuda." This go-getter and great American is just what Republicans need to win the White House in 2008 — and quite possibly in 2012 with Palin at the top of the ticket.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Law and order

The last thing Guy Still saw before his encounter with officers of the MPD Special Operations Division (Photo: Guy Still)Photo: The last thing Guy Still saw before his encounter with officers of the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Division (Photo: Guy Still)

"Speak softly and carry a big stick." —Teddy Roosevelt

This morning, KMSP-TV aired an interview with "aspiring photographer" Guy Still. MPR's Tim Nelson identified him, at Still's request, as simply a "former journalist." Whomever he is, Still was allegedly roughed up by Minneapolis police when his seemingly innocent photo safari strayed to the MPD special ops division building on the city's north side.

Meanwhile, MPR's Bob Collins posted a story with Denver police officers twirling hula hoops in the streets, while reporting that "many of the Denver residents I've talked to this week have been unnerved by the sheer size of the police force here."

We've read the reports of the constabulary here being schooled by their civilian leaders in the art of kinder, gentler community policing, even as some protesters, who may substantially outnumber law enforcement, plan civil disobedience and worse for our fair Twin Cities next week. Yet the overwhelming show of force displayed in Denver this week during the Democratic National Convention has without doubt discouraged widespread mayhem there.

Visitors and citizens should bear in mind that next week, the Twin Cities will be the focus of probably the most intense security environment in its history. Protesters are planning to push their street theater to the limits and beyond, perhaps infringing on Republicans' right to peaceably assemble, and on others just minding their own business. This is not a drill — or a game. I have faith that local law enforcement will do their duty professionally and lawfully. May they never have to use a "big stick," but I hope that they will have one at the ready just in case.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Persona non grata

Mark Olson (photo: Minnesota House of Representatives)According to Wikipedia, "Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations Article 9, a receiving State may 'at any time and without having to explain its decision' declare any member of a diplomatic staff persona non grata. A person so declared is considered unacceptable and is usually recalled to his or her home nation. If not recalled, the receiving State 'may refuse to recognize the person concerned as a member of the mission.'"

Although eight-term Rep. Mark Olson (R-Big Lake), the GOP endorsed candidate for Senate District 16, is not a member of the diplomatic corps, he's getting an intimate lesson on what persona non grata means.

The Star Tribune reported that "Olson was convicted last year [2007] by a Sherburne County jury of misdemeanor domestic assault for causing his wife fear of bodily harm when they collided and fell to the ground behind their home in November. He was acquitted of intentionally harming or trying to harm her after his attorney argued that he had acted in self-defense in an abusive relationship." On the floor of the Minnesota House in February, Olson acknowledged his need for forgiveness from "God and my wife, my family, my constituents." Since then, Olson has reportedly reconciled with his wife.

The reaction to the endorsement from outside SD 16 has been swift and merciless. The Republican House Caucus expelled him. Minnesota Senate Minority Leader David Senjem supported Olson before the endorsement, but now he is against him (the caucus officially will be supporting Olson's unendorsed primary challenger, Allison Krueger). Blogger Michael Brodkorb (Minnesota Democrats Exposed) repeatedly said on his "Last Word" radio show with King Banaian (SCSU Scholars) that the message of the Senate District 16 endorsement is: "crime pays," drawing a cause-and-effect relationship between the crime and the endorsement.

U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) would prefer that Republicans lose another state Senate seat than support Olson. "In the unfortunate event that Mr. Olson succeeds in the September Primary," said Coleman in a press release, "I would ask that our party refuse to offer any type of assistance to his campaign. While the loss of a State Senate seat is unfortunate... we must maintain and uphold our beliefs that violence of any kind, whether it is in word or in deed, should not be rewarded with our party’s support, or the support of voters in Senate District 16."

The DFL is wisely keeping mum about the Republicans' public display of internecine unpleasantness, presumably recording every word of the endorsement's critics to use should Olson win his primary election against Krueger on September 9.

Yet the good delegates of SD 16 gave Olson his endorsement on the second ballot. With all of the bluster, very little is being said about Olson's sterling, eight term, conservative voting record and deep understanding of our nation's founding principles. Olson has been a beacon of conservatism in a DFL-controlled legislature hell-bent on inventing exotic new taxes and accelerating the already runaway growth of government. Olson would bring his fortitude to stand up to the liberals in the state Senate, a virtue that has been in shorter supply since former state Sen. Michele Bachmann moved to Washington, D.C.

Banaian offered his radio show's final word on Olson: "The [party] base gets to be the base." No one is contesting the endorsing process, flawed though it may be. On primary election day, September 9, the rest of the base will weigh in. If SD 16 sends Olson to its special election on November 4 (also general election day), and if Olson wins, it would still be easy for the Republican caucus to treat him as untouchable. Considering the large DFL majority that is likely to be sustained, one vote won't make much difference, right?

For some perspective from an SD 16 activist and Olson supporter, see Chris Krumpula's blog, What The Republic Can Do.

Monday, August 25, 2008

State Fair notebook

Friday, August 22: Hot, humid, and sunny to mostly cloudy. Windy.

Early morning, Carnes Avenue and Underwood Avenue: Watched and listened to a hilarious radio skit performed at the WCCO-AM booth, with two or three hundred others in the audience. This has become an annual ritual over some Tom Thumb Doughnuts and Moon Beam Coffee. Watched and listened to Minnesota first lady Mary Pawlenty gracefully deflect an on-air request from Gov. Tim Pawlenty to tell a funny if slightly off-color football story (Mrs. Pawlenty was saved by a hard commercial break.) Just missed shaking hands with U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

Breakfast: Spicy breakfast wrap from Dino's Gyros, essentially a gyros with less lamb and a scrambled egg, plus peppers and onions. Could have done without the feta cheese; it was satisfying but a bit of a mess to eat.

GOP booth: Loaded up on info from the Minnesota House Republican Caucus, including an audio CD of "greatest hits" from caucus members. The caucus always produces some excellent issues information. Bought a McCain campaign button for 50 cents, received a Norm Coleman button (the old blue round one, not one of the new red oval ones) for filling out a survey. Picked up a pocket booklet of the 2008 Minnesota GOP Platform.

Dan Patch Avenue: Visited the AM 1280 The Patriot booth, across the wide street from the DFL booth. Explained to my son who Dan Patch was.

Education Building: Scoped out the Minnesota House and Senate booths, picked up a copy of the session-recap issue of the excellent Session Weekly. Responded to the annual State Fair opinion poll. Picked up a new official state highway map (free) from the MnDOT booth. Got some free Spam (the Hormel product, not the junk e-mail) merchandise at the Spam cook-off event, which was staffed by some lively, Minnesota-nice Hormel employees. (Note: the Spam Mobile is missing this year, but don't miss the Spam curds and Spam logo merchandise booth at the Grandstand.)

Lunch: Foot-long hot dog, Lion's Club malt.

Eco-Experience: Discovered how annoyingly loud and unsightly wind power generators are, and why they are always located in sparsely-populated areas (as opposed to Nantucket Sound, for example).

Dairy Building: Opted for the Lions Club malt instead of the one from this venue, but discovered an incredibly cool $3 fishing line knot tying gizmo for sale.

Snack: Sno-Cone. Took the Sky Ride to the Grandstand area.

Grandstand: Picked up a "vote no" fan at the Taxpayers League of Minnesota booth. Briefly watched an amazing demo of hairspray and petroleum jelly being cleaned from a mirror, with just water and a Starfiber mop.

Ran out of time and energy for the brand new International Bazaar, the Princess Kay of the Milky Way butter sculptures, the KTLK-FM booth, the Minnesota Sesquicentennial exhibit, the trompe d'oliel sidewalk chalk art, the animal barns, and the Mighty Midway. Left the Fair tired but ready for fall.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Convention blogger headquarters

Members of the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers have long enjoyed the friendly confines of Terry Keegan's Pub in Minneapolis, for impromptu meetings, MOB gatherings, and trivia contests. With great brews (I discovered Smithwick's on tap at Keegan's), wonderful pub grub, and free WiFi, what's not to like?

Keegan's will become even more blogger-friendly during the Democrat and Republican national conventions. From Terry Keegan:
Keegan's pub has declared itself the official blogger headquarters for both the DNC and RNC.

Bloggers are invited to gather at Keegan's Pub for both national conventions. The Democrats meet in Denver, August 25 through 28 and the Republicans are in St. Paul, September 1 through 4. Bloggers who enjoy face-to-face interaction with fellow bloggers are invited to meet at the pub. Bloggers who wish to work quietly and on their own are also invited to attend.

Keegan's offers free WiFi for real-time blogging during both conventions. The televisions in section 1 (turn right when entering through the front door) will be tuned-in to convention coverage, with audio. Pub quizzes on Tuesday and Thursday nights will work around the convention coverage. Twins baseball will be telecast in other areas of the pub, without volume.

The patios will be open for cigar smoking and Keegan's will serve the Best Beer in the Twin Cities.

The biggest problem will be getting a table, so get there early if you want to blog. If you just want to hobnob, no worries!

Keegan's Pub is located at 16 University Avenue SE — take a left on University after you cross the Hennepin Avenue bridge from downtown. You can park on the street or in the ramp behind Keegan's.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Benson: your voice in Saint Paul?

Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka)Legislative scorecards can be a meaningful way to evaluate candidates for office. Find an interest group that tracks votes on issues you care about, and look up how your representative or senator voted.

One of the most important legislative issues, especially in a high-tax state like Minnesota, is taxes. The burden on Minnesota taxpayers increased by historic amounts last legislative session. So I looked to see how my state House member, Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka) fared on the two Taxpayers League of Minnesota scorecards issued during Benson's first term.

The verdict? Benson went from bad in 2007 to worse in 2008.

In 2007, Benson voted as a "friend of the taxpayer" on only three of twelve bills on the Taxpayers League scorecard. He voted the wrong way on the other ten bills, including:
  • Benson voted to override Gov. Pawlenty's veto of the 2007 transportation bill, which was overloaded with tax increases.
  • Benson voted in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment to increase the sales tax with dedicated funding for arts, entertainment, parks and public broadcasting.
  • Benson voted to reverse many welfare reforms and increase welfare spending in Minnesota.
  • Benson voted to mandate that 25% of Minnesota’s energy come from unproven renewable resources by 2025, increasing costs to consumers.
  • Benson voted in favor of the $334 million bonding bill which included millions of dollars in pork-barrel spending above the Governor’s recommendations.
  • Benson voted for billions of dollars in tax increases, including a 50% increase in the gas tax, a wheelage tax, new sales taxes and higher license tab fees.
  • Benson opposed a rule that would have required a 60% vote of the House to raise taxes.

Rep. Benson voted as a "friend of the taxpayer" on zero of eleven bills on the 2008 scorecard. Here is how Rep. Benson did nothing to moderate the spending spree with your money:

  • Benson voted to place a constitutional amendment before voters this November that would increase the state sales tax and dedicate this revenue to outdoor and "cultural heritage" programs. (You can still stop this tax increase by voting no on November 4.)
  • Benson voted in favor of the historic $6.6 billion tax increase contained in the transportation bill, and voted to override Gov. Pawlenty's veto of the bill.
  • Benson voted to balance the state budget by withdrawing $500 million from the state’s budget reserve while reducing spending by only $268 million.
  • Benson voted to raise the state minimum wage and index it to inflation, which would have made it even more difficult to conduct business in Minnesota — especially for small businesses. (This bill was vetoed by the governor.)
  • Benson voted with global warming extremists for a cap-and-trade system that would hurt Minnesota employers and eliminate jobs.

Whom do you think Rep. John Benson has better represented in the moderate Senate District 43? If you're a liberal Democrat, you're probably feeling well-represented. If you're a fiscal moderate-to-conservative, not so much.

Voters in HD 43B should visit candidate Brian Grogan's web site to find out how they can make a change for the better in 2008. Voters in other districts should use the Taxpayers League scorecard to ask some pointed questions of incumbents and challengers alike, and vote for change in November. As Taxpayers League of Minnesota President Phil Krinkie said, "We can't change the legislation that comes out of St. Paul until we change the legislators that we send to St. Paul."

Monday, August 11, 2008

SD 43 photo of the day



Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Great Land, Part II

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R)Alaska's politics are a product of its nearly a century as a territory, during which it was exploited by a Congress in which it had no representation, and the rugged individuals who sparsely populate this "last frontier."

Although much of the economy is federally subsidized, "Bridge to Nowhere" notwithstanding, Alaska has a relatively flat governmental structure and a strong libertarian streak.

Most of Alaska has two levels of government: state and "borough," roughly equivalent to a county, but no township or city government, and as far as I know no regional transit boards or metropolitan councils. Much of the state falls into the "unorganized" borough and is administered by the state.

Firearms are licensed on a "shall issue" basis, and once licensed no additional license is needed to carry the weapon concealed. Carrying a firearm is illegal in Alaskan courthouses, schoolyards, bars and domestic violence shelters, but you don't see those ridiculous WEAPONS BANNED ON THESE PREMESES signs everywhere you turn as you do here in Minnesota. Alaska smoking laws resemble the pre-Indoor Clean Air Act era in Minnesota, with smoking and non-smoking sections in public places. Earlier this month, an Alaska Superior Court judge struck down a law that criminalizes the posession of up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

The state of Alaska does not have a state sales tax or state income tax. In some boroughs and cities there is a sales tax.

Alaskan politics has been known for its corrupt, good-old-boys ways, but its first female governor, the popular and photogenic Sarah Palin, has largely cleaned house since taking office in 2006. Palin, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, is the former mayor of Wasilla, 40 miles north of Anchorage (home of the Iditarod dog sled race). Her husband, Todd, works for BP at an oil field on the North Slope and is a commercial fisherman. Alaska's first family includes two sons and three daughters.