Friday, December 17, 2010

Merry Christmas My Friend

Staff Sgt. Cary Anderson, a team leader with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, greets an Afghan child in Habibabad during a joint patrol, Dec. 13. Marines and Danish soldiers, alongside their Afghan National Army counterparts met with locals during a joint patrol to establish relationships in the area.
Image licensed under Creative Commons

This year I would like to dedicate this poem to two United States Marines who served country and Corps honorably. As the Marines say, "Semper Fidelis."

Cpl. Sean A. Osterman, of Princeton, Minnesota, died December 16, 2010 from wounds received on December 14 while conducting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejune, North Carolina. He was serving in his second deployment to Afghanistan.

During a May 2004 mortar attack in Iraq, LCpl. Tim Carson risked his life and saved several others when he ran to give first aid to victims. After he returned to the Twin Cities, he became a SWAT officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, but severe personal problems, and diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder apparently drove him to rob an Apple Valley bank and individuals and businesses in Dakota County. He is currently serving a sentence in federal prison. Carson grew up in my church in Plymouth, and we are praying for him continually.

Merry Christmas My Friend


by Marine Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt (1986)

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live.

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn't want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The journey to 2012 begins with one step

In spite of the historic 2010 wave that gave Republicans control of both houses of the Minnesota legislature for the first time in two generations (not to mention the U.S. House of Representatives and nearly the U.S. Senate), in SD43, it's close but no cigar. Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) continued the A-side Republicans' unbeaten streak going back to Jeff Johnson in 2002 (the first election after redistricting), while Norann Dillon and Brian Grogan improved the GOP's performance, just not enough to unseat DFL incumbents Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) and Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka).

Anderson won her third election handily by 15 percentage points, winning 13 of 15 A-side precincts (the Medicine Lake precinct was a tie at 111 votes each). Dillon and Grogan both finished with around 3.5 percent deficits. That was a half-point improvement over Judy Johnson's close 2006 finish against Bonoff, and an over 8 point improvement over Grogan's first run against Benson in 2008. Grogan captured all 4 Plymouth precincts and 4 of 13 Minnetonka precincts. (The 2010 results are unofficial until certified by the canvassing board.)

The good news for Republicans is that the SD43 team now has another election cycle worth of experience, and significant Republican momentum, at the start of the road to 2012. Dillon and Grogan are seasoned campaigners could run or support other candidates in two years. Dillon in particular did an excellent job of using social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in her campaign, and Grogan's opposition voting record research was very thorough. Judging by campaign communications that played down partisan labels and portrayed them as "moderate," and by narrowing election margins, the DFL incumbents have recognized SD43 voters' desire for less spending, lower taxes, and a more favorable business climate.

The wild card for 2012, even more so than the outcome of a gubernatorial recount in Minnesota, will be legislative redistricting. In the first election after redistricting, the entire legislature will be up for election (including the Senate), as well as the U.S. House of Representatives and President. This will present a challenge to the new, post-redistricting BPOUs, or Basic Political Operating Units. After redistricting is complete in February 2012, the new BPOUs must organize, adopt by-laws, elect leadership and delegates, and endorse and elect candidates, all before November.

Activist interest will be high for the presidential election year. People like to get elected delegates at their precinct caucus, but many end up being "inactive activists." The new BPOUs would do well to set a high bar of commitment for delegate and leadership posts, including attendance at conventions, active networking within the precincts, active campaigning for endorsed candidates, volunteer recruiting goals, and lead fundraising.

BPOUs should host monthly informal coffeeshop discussions and special events, to draw supporters who won't attend a formal BPOU committee meeting, and capture their names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and social networking contacts. SD45 Republicans has been very creative and successful in this regard. As soon as possible, groups of suburban BPOUs should meet to share ideas and plan over the next two years so the new BPOUs can hit the ground running after the redistricted maps are drawn.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

More like a party this time


I arrived at the Republican Party of Minnesota's victory party Tuesday night, at the Bloomington Sheraton (née Radisson South), already in full swing: the main ballroom was crowded with activists, staff, and media, lots of media. Party animals roamed the halls in search of candidates and the best free food. These parties are a combination of a huge New Year's Eve party and a political rally-palooza. I look forward to them as a great biennial reward for all of the volunteer political and campaign work.

My first stop was the hospitality room of Sheriff Rich Stanek, who ran unopposed for the top lawman in Hennepin County. I congratulated the Sheriff and greeted his campaign manager, both of whom accompanied HD43B candidate Brian Grogan and a group of campaign volunteers on a neighborhood door-knocking this fall. Sheriff Stanek made many visible endorsements of legislative candidates (including Grogan) this cycle. A five-term former Minnesota legislator with a commanding presence, some wonder whether Stanek is doing some advance planning for a run at higher office.

I got the bad news about Norann Dillon's challenge for the SD43 state senate seat from the candidate herself. (Detailed analysis of the Senate and House races in SD43 to follow.)

I stopped by the media pit to say hello to Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey, who where live on the air for AM 1280 The Patriot. Live blogging at the same table was Luke Hellier of Minnesota Democrats Exposed. Minnesota Public Radio and several small local radio stations also had live broadcasts underway. The TV people had raised platforms along two walls of the ballroom, stuffed with their lights, gear, and boxes of pizza and soft drinks.

I remembered struggling in previous years to get a decent photo of the candidates delivering their victory speeches, so this year I planted myself at the front of the stage, under the TV lights, and waited. This enabled me to get some great video of Rep. Erik Paulsen (MN3), Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN6), and Rep. John Kline (MN2) all deliver their re-election victory speeches.

Fellow blogger and activist Walter Hudson was fresh from speaking to a group of Carleton College students about conservative ideas. "They just don't get it," said Hudson. We agreed on the need for conservative outreach to younger people (an idea also advocated by Katie Kieffer, katiekieffer.com), but lamented about the entrenched liberal mindset in the public schools and higher ed.

Derek Brigham (Freedom Dogs) was the first to alert me to rumors, later proven true, of double vote counting, ballot machine malfunctions, and other irregularities in the election process on Tuesday. While we were conversing, someone told us that the Star Tribune on its web site called Republican majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate, a stunning announcement. Minutes later, Minnesota Senate Minority Leader David Senjem (R-Rochester) confirmed the projections from the podium.

Later, Republican Party of Minnesota chairman Tony Sutton announced that over 60,000 votes erroneously tallied for Mark Dayton were just moved into Tom Emmer's column, closing Dayton's lead to 5 percentage points from 7, where it had been stuck throughout the middle part of the evening.

All of the local results were happening on a backdrop of the national wave of Republican victories. We cheered when, on the big screen, Fox News announced the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and other key races across the country. This made for an overall happier party than in the past three cycles, more like 2002.

VIDEO: John Kline wins re-election

Video: Creative Commons by-nc-nd

VIDEO: Michele Bachmann wins re-election

Video: Creative Commons by-nc-nd

VIDEO: Erik Paulsen wins re-election

Video: Creative Commons by-nc-nd

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pssst...Terri Bonoff is a Democrat

It's pretty difficult to tell from Terri Bonoff's campaign web site this year, but the incumbent SD43 senator is DFL endorsed. In fact, Bonoff's campaign generally avoids partisan labels at all, Republican or Democrat.

With the unpopularity of unsustainable Democrat spending and job-killing tax-the-rich philosophy, it's no wonder that Bonoff and many DFLers are de-emphasizing party labels this election season. With unprecedented stimulus spending (and resulting national debt) from President Obama and Congressional Democrats, the Obamacare bill that few have read and fewer understand, the spectre of the Bush tax cuts expiring on January 1, and the jobless "recovery," it isn't easy being blue, to paraphrase Kermit the Frog.

So what's wrong with eschewing party labels and focusing instead on the issues? Thomas Jefferson alternately favored and disfavored political parties:
I believe their existence to be salutary inasmuch as they act as Censors on each other, and keep the principles & practices of each constantly at the bar of public opinion. It is only when they give to party principles a predominance over the love of country, when they degenerate into personal antipathies, and affect the intercourse of society and friendship, or the justice due to honest opinion, that they become vicious and baneful to the general happiness and good. We have seen such days. May we hope never to see such again!
The Minnesota legislature was nonpartisan — candidates ran and served without party designation — from 1913 until 1973. Legislators caucused in "liberal" or "conservative" groups, but were free to vote their own or constituents' views, without influence from political parties.

Yet political parties are what we have today, and as much as Bonoff may be portraying herself in this election as neither fish nor fowl, her voting record shows her voting nearly 9 out of 10 times with her DFL caucus. Parties exist to elect candidates who can work together to advance an agenda, articulated in the party platform, which is a statement of positions on the major issues of the day. The Democrats traditionally try to solve society's problems with more and larger government, whether the issue is education, transportation, the economy, energy, the environment — or even the arts.

Norann Dillon is the Republican-endorsed candidate in the SD43 race. As a Republican, her fellow Republicans in the Plymouth-Minnetonka area endorsed her because they believe that she would be their best advocate to advance four Republican principles, which boil down to two words: freedom and prosperity. Likewise for the incumbent HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson and HD43B challenger Brian Grogan.

When voters in SD43 elected Bonoff their state senator and John Benson as their HD43B state representative, they brought change with them in the votes cast compared with their Republican predecessors. Whether this change to DFL representation was good or bad depends on whom you ask: the Taxpayers League of Minnesota or the labor unions, automobile commuters or light rail riders, tax payers or recipients of government funding.

I believe that the vast majority of people who run for office are doing so to serve their constituents and improve our general lot, we just sometimes disagree on the best way to accomplish the job. Because the majority leaders in the legislature and the governor have such an overwhelming influence over the agenda, the rules, on how individual members vote, and on the composition of the unelected bureaucracy, I also believe that in our current partisan legislature, voters must take into account the parties of each candidate, what they stand for, and the interest groups who fund them.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Look for the union label


Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka) has presumably worked hard to earn the many union endorsements he touts on his campaign web site: AFSCME, AFL-CIO, SEIU, Teamsters, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (although no part of the Minneapolis Public Schools district is within the suburban district he represents, SD43B!). Benson is a former president of his union local in Edina.

In his latest campaign literature piece, Benson's opponent in this election, Brian Grogan, has documented precisely how hard Benson has worked to earn these endorsements:
  • Benson voted to shift $80 million from the classroom to union penson plans (HF3281 - 2010)
  • Benson voted against improving high school graduation standards, aligning with the union position (HF2 - 2009)
  • Benson voted for union-favored bills that did not establish teacher accountability standards (HF4178-2009 and HF2-2010)
In his retirement speech last year, Bob Chanin, general counsel of the National Education Association, was surprisingly candid in admitting what the first priority of the union is (hint: it's not the children):
...we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.

This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing dropout rates, improving teacher quality, and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary, these are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, and collective bargaining. That simply is too high a price to pay!
Grogan, who serves on the board of the Minnesota Academic Excellence Foundation and the Special Education Advisory Council, puts issues such as redesigning the K-12 funding formula for more fairness and transparency, eliminating unfunded mandates including No Child Left Behind, and rewarding teachers for performance at the top of his education policy priorities. When push comes to shove on K-12 education policy and finance, which candidate do you think would be in a stronger position to represent SD43B students and their families?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rescue me

With one week left until Election Day, the political parties, especially the state parties, are assessing the campaigns, taking an accounting of their limited resources, and placing their bets with independent expenditures on close races that may be leaning their way. Voters in SD43, where the incumbent Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) faces Republican challenger Norann Dillon, received these bullet points in a direct mail piece paid for by the Republican Party of Minnesota:
  • Terri Bonoff raised her own pay - Bonoff voted with DFL Senators to raise their per diem pay 45% to $96. Nice work if you can get it!
  • Opposed cutting her own office budget
  • Supported other wasteful spending - where to start with all of the earmark spending? See this postcard and the Taxpayers League of Minnesota for examples (warning: taxpayer discretion advised!)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hey big DFL spenders

As Minnesota DFLers in close races campaign ever farther toward the right on tax, spending, and jobs issues, it is getting more difficult for voters who don't follow politics year-round (or ever) to sort out the differences between them and their Republican challengers.

Thank goodness for newspaper voter guides, like those in the community-based Sun Newspapers and the Lakeshore Weekly News. These guides take statements from the candidates in their own words. Some of these quotes can be revealing.

For example, Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka) said in the Sun Newspapers voters guide, "Any revenue proposal ought to be based upon the principals [sic] of benefits received and the ability to pay." Or as Karl Marx put it, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

Benson went on to advocate for a light-rail transit line to the southwest suburbs, which like all light rail transit is expensive to build and operates at a structural loss. "The state should aggressively go after every available federal dollar to fund the Southwest light-rail corridor." Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) is another outspoken candidate for light-rail transit.

In contrast, Benson's Republican-endorsed challenger, Brian Grogan, is focused on reducing state spending. "A significant portion of the state's budget deficit problem is related to the many programs that have automatic, yearly spending increases regardless of revenues," said Grogan. "This growth is unsustainable."

How a light-rail line to Eden Prairie would benefit SD43 is a little sketchy. In the Sun Newspapers voters guide, Bonoff's Republican-endorsed challenger Norann Dillon emphasized the need to add a third lane on 394 at the bottleneck in SD43, an idea that the Plymouth City Council has also advocated.

Boondoggle infrastructure spending will only increase the drag of taxes and government debt on President Obama's sputtering "summer (and fall?) of recovery." Grogan and other fiscally conservative candidates understand how to ease these burdens from all taxpayers, which is the only way to a true recovery. Increased government spending on top of bailouts and so-called stimulus spending has not and will not get us there from here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Disenfranchise this


There's a new sheriff in town.

No, I'm not talking about the Hennepin County's number one lawman, Sheriff Rich Stanek, whom I will be voting to re-elect. Actually, I'm talking about an entire posse of election integrity deputies, sworn into service by Minnesota Majority. The organization announced Tuesday that it will begin offering rewards of up to $500 for information leading to the conviction of organizers of voter fraud.

“We are putting a price on the heads of anyone who would attempt to organize people with the intent of cheating in our election,” explained Jeff Davis, president of Minnesota Majority. “We've received reports of organizers enticing people to vote fraudulently with small financial incentives such as gift cards. We’ve also seen evidence of this illegal practice in the official incident logs from the 2008 election. We will now offer individuals a more lucrative incentive for turning-in these organizers of voter fraud.”

This effort takes election judges and poll watchers to the next level, arming volunteers with training, a media awareness campaign, and a call center to take reports of suspicious activity. “We’ve got a really robust program here,” said Randy Liebo, an organizer with the North Star Tea Party Patriots, which is also participating in the program.

“This is serious business,” said Andy Cilek, president of the Minnesota Voters Alliance, in the press release. “Voter fraud is a felony with penalties up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. We’re hoping people will see it’s not worth the risk with so many people on guard this year.”

To participate, see the Election Integrity Watch web site (http://www.electionintegritywatch.com).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ersatz Republicans

Rep. John Benson (photo: Minnesota House)Sen. Terri Bonoff (photo: Minnesota Senate)After years of governing from the left, SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) and HD43B Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka), like many of their DFL colleagues, are campaigning toward the middle. Bonoff has gained endorsements from business groups (which are becoming increasingly anti-free market), at least one of her parade appearances featured a costumed actor as the Statue of Liberty, and Republican door-knockers have heard from some SD43 voters who think that Bonoff is the Republican endorsee. Benson is endorsed by former Republican governor (and current RINO) Arne Carlson.

Yet their voting records, very closely following DFL leadership Sen. Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Minneapolis), House Majority Leader Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL-Minneapolis), and even Congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama, belie these canny yet misleading efforts at partisan makeovers for the 2010 elections. Voters in other districts should also evaluate their DFL incumbents' claims against their voting records now for an informed vote on November 2.


For example, if Benson is on-board with Tom Emmer's emphasis on jobs as he claims in his latest campaign literature piece, then why is he authoring the Minnesota Health Plan bill, which eliminates 1100 health insurance jobs in Minnetonka and Plymouth? If Benson is all about jobs, why hasn't he addressed the onerous regulatory environment in Minnesota for the last four years he has been in office? This effort alone would have kept thousands of jobs in Minnesota. If Benson is for jobs, why does he vote for a fourth income tax tier on families earning $150,000 or more, which hurts small business owners? If he is about jobs, why does he support billions in tax increases on businesses and high income families?

If Bonoff is such a fiscal watchdog, why does she favor an expansion of the sales tax so that state government can spend even more of Minnesotans' money? If she is such a "moderate" Democrat, why has she voted with the liberal DFL caucus almost 9 out of 10 times, and consistently scores among the lowest on scorecards from the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and Minnesota Majority?

The DFL has finally recognized that Minnesotans are tired of the runaway spending and insatiable taxation that has forced businesses and jobs out of The Gopher State. To save their seats, these DFL incumbents may have had deathbed conversions on taxes and spending, but I wouldn't count on it lasting much longer than the day after Election Day, regardless of the outcome.

Brave Sir Dayton


In case you missed the Progressive-Liberal-Demcorat agenda, Mobopolis artist David Burnon provides his perspective in this spoof of the Eric Idle character. Click the image for a high resolution version; the detail is almost as breathtaking as the disaster if Dayton is elected governor.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Happy trails


We're in the home stretch to Election Day, and the race is either approaching its most exciting or most exasperating, depending on whether you are a candidate or a voter! Candidates like HD43B challenger Brian Grogan (Twitter: @bwgrogan) are hitting the campaign trail with campaign appearances, marching in parades, door knocking, attending candidate forums, and doing whatever they can to get in front of the voters and earn their support.


Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of walking a Minnetonka neighborhood with Grogan, some of his campaign volunteers, and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who is running unopposed for re-election. Grogan's support seemed strong in this particular precinct, with many Republican lawn signs evident, especially for Grogan and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. We saw relatively few signs for HD43B incumbent John Benson.

To volunteer for your favorite Republican candidates, go to http://www.mngop.com.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Grogan speaks out for jobs, business

HD43B candidate Brian Grogan sat down with podcaster and blogger Walter Hudson for a wide-ranging interview that touched on Minnesota's jobs and business climate, tax and spending policy, and local government accountability.

You can listen to the entire interview here, or on the Podomatic web site.

Friday, October 01, 2010

October to-do list

Thank God It's Friday, and it looks like we will be treated to fall colors near their peak in the Twin Cities, along with crisp, clear, gorgeous "football weather." I hope you'll knock off a few items on your to-do list, like:
  • Take care of the lawn
  • Go for a walk, run, or bike ride
  • Visit an apple orchard
  • Fight for freedom and prosperity
If you are anywhere near broadcast, print, or Internet media during the month of October, on city streets or country roads, or open the mail or even your front door, you will be reminded continually that this is election season. This year there is a large slate of conservative candidates running for office in Minnesota, from the legislature to Congress. Affecting change begins with winning elections, which happens when people tick items like these off their to-do lists:
  • Get informed - use the Internet and mass media to understand where the candidates stand on the issues that are important to you, and use this knowledge to choose which candidates to support and to persuade others to join you.
  • Contribute money to candidate campaigns - when you send money to a candidate, you not only show your support, you exercise your First Amendment rights to free speech and to peaceably assemble. Candidates must have cash on hand to get their messages out to the voters.
  • Get in the ground game - campaigns need volunteers to distribute campaign literature, door knock neighborhoods, post campaign signs, walk parades, write letters to the editor, and make get-out-the-vote phone calls. These are fun and easy ways to help candidates and meet other like-minded citizens.
  • Show up to the meetings - public events are a good way to hear directly from candidates and show your support for your favorites. For example, all four of the school districts within Senate District 43 are conducting candidate forums this month on education issues:
  • Tuesday, October 5, 7pm-9pm - Hopkins School District Candidate Forum at the Eisenhower Community Center (School Board Room) in Hopkins
  • Monday, October 18, 6pm-7:30pm - Wayzata School District Candidate Forum, location TBA
  • Tuesday, October 26, 7pm-9:30pm - Robbinsdale School District Candidate Forum at Robbinsdale Schools Service Center (Board Room) in New Hope
  • Wednesday, October 27, 7pm-9pm - Minnetonka School District Candidate Forum, location TBA
Contact the candidate campaigns or state or local party organizations to find out how you can help, or you may regret not doing so on the day after Election Day.

I'll add one last item: vote! If you will be out of town on Election Day, vote absentee now. Otherwise, get registered to vote if you have not done so already, and find your polling place. Get these links and more on my new Voter Information Center page.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Norann Dillon in her own words


The campaign of Republican-endorsed SD43 candidate Norann Dillon (Twitter: @dillon4senate) has created a series of videos in which she shares her major campaign themes directly with the voters: jobs, liberty, and the purpose of government. Her YouTube channel is Dillon4Senate, which also includes a campaign rally address from Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.

I have also linked my favorite Dillon videos to the YouTube toolbar button at the bottom of the North Star Liberty blog, along with other video that I shot and produced.

Dillon is ready to serve, and lead, in the Minnesota Senate. She would use the passion and conviction of her values to work with Governor Tom Emmer to bring Minnesota back to its Constitutional roots and fiscal responsibility, to reduce spending, lower taxes, and restore our economy.

Election day is only about a month away. Please make a contribution to the Dillon for Senate campaign today.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Plymouth on Parade


On Saturday it was Plymouth's turn to stage its hometown parade. By far the best giveaway of the day was a fresh, mini beef & pork stick from Von Hansen's Meats from (presumably) its nearby Plymouth Boulevard location.

Bologna of a different variety was being dished out by the politicians in the parade. Oh, calm down, I'm only kidding.

Headlining for the Republicans was Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN3) (Twitter: @erik_paulsen), followed by the party's SD43 slate: Norann Dillon for Senate (Twitter: @dillon4senate), Sarah Anderson for House 43A, and Brian Grogan for House 43B (Twitter: @bwgrogan). The DFL was represented by SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka). I did not see the other DFL candidates, but I did not see the entire parade.

Shortly after the Erik Paulsen contingent reached the end of the parade, the group reconvened at Joe Senser's Plymouth location for a volunteer appreciation lunch hosted by Paulsen. I wanted to stay much longer than I did, but domestic duties called. On the way out, I met Kim, a Dillon for Senate volunteer coordinator, and Derek Brigham (Twitter: @derekbrigham), of the Freedom Dogs and True North blogs.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

John Benson would eliminate thousands of jobs in Minnesota's private health insurance industry

By Brian Grogan

In Minnesota, the DFL party has been committed to establishing a single-payer health care system in Minnesota for nearly forty years. It began during the 1970s when government leaders in Minnesota began regulating health insurance and established the HMO delivery system. We are now in the final stages of the DFL's incremental approach to government control of health care.

My opponent in State House District 43B, John Benson, is co-authoring the Minnesota Health Plan. The bill (HF135) is the DFL's final step in establishing a government controlled health care program in Minnesota. This bill exceeds President Obama’s health care bill in regulation and mandated coverage.

It is frightening to read and will eliminate thousands of Minnesota jobs! Written in 2009, the bill is currently resting in the House Finance committee.

The bill establishes six new Minnesota government agencies. The bill creates the Minnesota Health Board, the Office of Health Quality and Planning, an Ombudsman for Patient Advocacy and an Inspector General. In addition, the bill requires the government to expand mandated coverage.

This should concern every Minnesotan. Today, our state artificially escalates health care costs by requiring all private health insurance plans offered in Minnesota to cover services whether you want it or not. In particular, our state leads the nation in the number of mandated services (sixty-four) that health insurance plans must offer.

The DFL's Minnesota Health Plan bill significantly expands this government-mandated coverage. The plan if enacted would cover all citizens (including illegal immigrants). It includes such services as long term care, home health care and dental care. How does the government plan on paying for this? Don’t ask the DFL party — they will figure that out later!

This bill exceeds Obama Care in that first and foremost the plan will collapses all private insurance plans effective the date the bill is "operational." Once the bill becomes "operational," it will also collapse jobs: 1100 jobs in Minnetonka and Plymouth and thousands of additional jobs across Minnesota!

The job elimination provision is written in the bill in Section 3, Subdivision 3. These lines specifically state that the bill will collapse private health insurance plans in Minnesota.
Subd. 3. Prohibition. On and after the day the Minnesota Health Plan becomes operational, a health plan, as defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 62Q.01, subdivision 3, may not be sold in Minnesota for services provided by the Minnesota Health Plan.
This means that Minnetonka-based Medica, employing 1100 employees, ceases to exist. This line means that Blue Cross Blue Shield and a division of United Health Care are out-of-business. Thousands of Minnesota jobs are eliminated by Benson's bill.

My opponent consistently states he is pro-business, stands for Minnesota jobs and is a "moderate" legislator. Is this a pro-business, jobs-oriented, moderate approach to addressing our health care issues?

It is essential that we change control of the Minnesota House. The first step in accomplishing this would be to unseat my opponent, John Benson. This bill proves he is a member of the liberal wing of the Democrat, progressive party. He wants a government-run health care system that takes away our choices and erodes our economic freedoms. He is willing to disrupt lives and eliminate jobs in order to carry out his vision for the world.

Brian Grogan (Twitter: @bwgrogan) is running for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 43B. His web site is www.groganforhouse.com.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Photoblog: James J. Hill Parade, Wayzata

SD43 candidate Norann Dillon (Twitter: @Dillon4Senate) and HD43B candidate Brian Grogan (Twitter: @bwgrogan) and their volunteers walked the annual James J. Hill parade on a perfect afternoon this past Sunday in Wayzata.




Tuesday, September 07, 2010

State Fair poll reveals conservative views

The annual opinion polls at the State Fair conducted by the Minnesota House of Representatives are informal and unscientific, but close to 10,000 responded this year. The poll revealed several positions that conservative Republican candidates should be able to echo on the campaign trail:
  • Only 14% favored tax increases alone to balance the state budget. Over twice that percentage, 32%, favored spending cuts alone, while 50% favored a combination.
  • 80% favored tax breaks or other funding assistance to encourage small-business growth
  • 73% want the Legislature to take steps to limit tuition and fee increases at public colleges and universities 
  • 72% opposed giving school districts the authority to increase their operating levy without voter approval
  • 69% favored requiring voters to show a picture ID before casting their ballot.
  • 66% were against using public dollars to fund a new Vikings stadium.

The state Senate conducted a similar poll, but it has not posted the results as of this morning.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Warning: these donuts may be hazardous to the economy

Rep. Ellen Anderson

Public Service Announcement:

WARNING: Purchasing State Fair Grandstand DFL Donuts May Result In Higher Taxes, Increased Regulation, Enlarged Government, Loss Of Employment, Insatiable Spending, And Higher Budget Deficits.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

John Benson's tax-heavy voting record

In a previous blog post, I summarized the votes that make up Sen. Terri Bonoff's (DFL-Minnetonka) poor career rating on the Taxpayers League of Minnesota's legislative scorecards. In this post, I'll show why Rep. John Benson's (DFL-Minnetonka) career score is even lower than Bonoff's.

2007: Benson repeatedly voted in favor of what the Taxpayers League called a "bloated" transportation bill, then voted to override Gov. Pawlenty's veto of the bill, which would have raised taxes by billions of dollars, by up to $500 a year for a family of four. Benson also voted in favor of the Health and Human Services Finance bill, which would have reversed many welfare reforms and increased welfare spending in Minnesota (the bill was vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty). Rating: 25.

2008: Benson earned a big zero in this year, for voting contrary to Taxpayers League positions on every one of its tracked votes, including amending the state constitution to dedicate revenue from a new sales tax to fund "natural resource protection and cultural heritage programs;" levying an additional $6.6 billion in taxes on transportation and creating a new Twin Cities metro bureaucracy (vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty, veto overridden), and a $1 billion bonding bill with according to the Taxpayers League, "hundreds of millions for local arenas, hockey rinks, parks and trails and the Central Corridor lightrail boondoggle… with no money for state priorities like road and bridge construction." Rating: 0.

2009: Benson voted in favor of the $4.3 billion transportation bill that included funding for various light rail and commuter rail projects, continuing the trend for rail funding over highways; loan forgiveness for the city of St. Paul RiverCentre Arena totaling $32.75 million (vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty); and a $1 billion tax increase including the fourth tier tax increase, liquor tax increases, and cigarette tax (vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty; Benson voted to override the veto, which did not pass). Benson also voted in favor of the last-hour, end-of-session third attempt by the DFL leadership to pass a billion dollar tax increase. Rating: 7.

2010: At least Benson's score didn't go down this year, but in 2010 and 2009 he missed another zero score by only one vote. He voted against lowering the corporate tax rate (Minnesota has the third highest corporate income tax rate in the world!), in favor of adding a new fourth tier to the income tax, and voted to raise food, beverage, and lodging taxes for select cities as well as to authorize $34 million in additional debt for the Metropolitan Council. Rating: 7.

With another budget deficit looming, Minnesotans can ill-afford even more job-killing tax and spending increases. For more on John Benson's tax-and-spend voting record, and how you can help to restore fiscal sanity in the Minnesota Legislature, please visit the Brian Grogan for House web site (Twitter: @bwgrogan).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dillon to Chamber: government should live within its means

In its Minnesota Business Community 2010 Election Candidate Questionnaire, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce scored SD43 Republican endorsed candidate Norann Dillon 23 points higher than Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), 92% to 69%. The most telling difference came from this key question: "If elected, what will be your top priority?"

Bonoff: "Implementing a strategic plan that re-engineers the way we deliver all government services, leveraging the power and efficiency that modern technology provides. In addition, I will be a leader in making the strong and strategic reforms needed in our educational system so that each and every Minnesota child has an outstanding and excellent education. Our youngest learners must leave our schools college and post secondary ready to succeed."

Dillon: "My top priority will be to hold state government accountable to its number one responsibility: passing a genuinely balanced budget. The Legislature should decide how to spend your money by the Constitutionality, efficiency and effectiveness of programs and agencies. We need to apply the common sense that Minnesota families and businesses use every day: needs come before wants, you can't spend money you don't have, and plan for the long run. Let's look beyond the next election to create sustainable solutions and return our economy to prosperity."

While education reform is needed, Bonoff's focus on government services belies her overall philosophy that government just needs to be "more efficient" in its current role.

In contrast, Dillon would focus on making government live within its means, just like families and private businesses do every day. For example, Dillon puts forth these ideas on her campaign web site:
  • long term thinking is required: no tricks, shifts, or borrowing that delay and compound the deficit problem.

  • the Legislature will lead by example: no per diem or year round housing allowance; reduce the number of committees and their budgets to 2006 levels; merge and/or eliminate the myriad of commissions, boards and councils.

  • stop the practice of passing omnibus bills; this is where pet projects and special interest items are snuck into legislation, usually to the benefit of a select few at the expense of the rest of us.
  • Friday, August 27, 2010

    New and improved

    North Star Liberty readers, I have been busy over the summer sprucing up the place for campaign season. I hope that these new tools will help our corner of cyberspace feel more like home, and help you to share North Star Liberty with your friends:
    • New comment system - my comment system is now powered by Disqus, which provides for authenticated comments (you have to sign in to comment) and other features to make it a more robust and meaningful exchange. Try it!
    • Wibya toolbar - the toolbar at the bottom of the screen now incorporates Facebook, Twitter, navigation, and even a very slick translation tool. Be sure to hit the Like button to recommend us to your Facebook friends, or hit the Recommend button to see what posts others have recommended.
    • Share buttons - there are now sharing buttons at the end of every post, to enable you to easily e-mail or share them on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Buzz, or your own Blogger blog.
    Y'all come back real soon now, ya hear?

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Dollars to donuts (to DFL)


    It's State Fair time, and once again those clever entrepreneurs at Grandstand DFL Mini Donuts will be fundraising for DFL BPOUs in Ramsey County. And judging from the 2009 report filed by the donut stand PAC with the Minnesota Campaign & Finance Disclosure Board, the amounts of money donated to the DFL amount to much more than (ahem) peanuts:

    SD50 DFL: $6,950
    SD51 DFL: $2,800
    SD53 DFL: $9,700
    SD54 DFL: $12,500
    SD55 DFL: $6,950
    HD66B DFL: $11,100

    2009 Total Contributions to Party Units: $50,000.00, up 4% from 2008. That's a lot of bread, man.

    The Tenth Ward & Rural Ramsey DFL PAC is not required by the State Fair or any law to disclose at the booth itself where the proceeds from the sale of their deep-fried guilty pleasures are going. I'm not sure whether their sales would increase or decrease if they did. I just thought that you, dear readers, would like to know. Or as Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague) was quoted last session:
    “If you go to the State Fair and buy doughnuts at this booth, you think you’re buying doughnuts when, in actuality, what you’re doing is making a contribution to a political party of which you have no idea. You don’t know if you are donating to Republicans. You don’t know if you are donating to Democrats. You don’t know if you’re donating to defeat a ballot initiative.

    “I want them to know that they’re just not buying a doughnut. They are buying a philosophy along with it."

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    SD43 picnic fundraiser

    Please join me this Wednesday for SD43's event of the season! Share a barbecue picnic with the Republican Party of Minnesota slate of candidates, from SD43 to the statewide offices and Congress:

    U.S. Congressman Erik Paulsen, Tom Emmer for Governor, Pat Anderson for State Auditor, Dan Severson for Secretary of State, Chris Barden for Attorney General, SD43 candidate Norann Dillon, HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson, and HD43B candidate Brian Grogan


    Date: Wednesday, August 25

    Catering by Famous Dave's
    Time: 5:30pm - 7:30pm
    5:30 pm Food served
    7:00 pm Program begins

    Cost: $15 Adults, $6 Children 6 and up, 5 and under FREE

    Where: Carlson Cheshire Park
    14440 Cheshire Parkway
    Minnetonka, MN

    Sponsored by Senate District 43 Republicans, Larry Thompson, chair.


    View Larger Map

    UPDATE: We had great weather and turnout for the SD43 picnic! Here are my photos from this event:





    Monday, August 16, 2010

    The wrong kind of change came to SD43


    In 2006-2007, a change in representation came to SD43. More than a change in name only, SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff and HD43B Rep. John Benson radically changed how SD43 was represented on tax issues, according to data reported by the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. (The data for Benson is not missing in 2008, his score was zero in that year!) The question for voters in 2010 is: did constituent views really change that much, or has there been a disconnect between Bonoff and Benson and their Plymouth and Minnetonka districts?

    In contrast, HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson's tax votes have shown continuity with her predecessor, current Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. Have her constituents' views been represented in her votes on tax legislation?

    To put these years in context, in 2006 there was a growing discontent with Republicans, which apparently helped the DFL to win two of SD43's three open seats from the Republicans. 2008 was the Democrats' year with the election of Barack Obama. Since then, Obama's approval ratings have steadily declined, while the TEA Party movement has grown on the principles of limited government, lower taxes, and free markets. Rep. Benson won re-election in 2008, but Sen. Bonoff has not faced the voters since 2006.

    People vote (or don't vote) for a wide variety of reasons, but in 2010, as James Carville famously said, it's "the economy, stupid." This fall, with Minnesota's unemployment rate the second highest in the five-state area and Minnesota businesses relocating to more business-friendly states, SD43 voters should be asking Bonoff some tough questions about votes like these:
    • 2010: Bonoff voted to increase the state debt by $1 billion
    • 2010: Bonoff voted to approve $34 in additional debt for the Metropolitan Council
    • 2009: Bonoff voted in favor of a $330 million Senate bonding bill that was $130 million more than the House version, in a year when the state faced a $6 billion budget deficit
    • 2009: Bonoff voted in favor of the $4.3 billion transportation bill that included funding for various light rail and commuter rail projects, continuing the trend for rail funding over highways and road maintenance
    • 2009: Bonoff voted to override the Governor’s veto of a $1 billion tax increase, which included a new fourth tier income tax (the override failed)
    • 2008: Bonoff voted for a $6.6 billion tax increase that raised the gas tax, sales tax and vehicle registration tax, and created a new level of government in the Metro area to spend millions on transit boondoggles including the Central Corridor light rail line
    • 2008: Bonoff voted for a $1 billion pork-laden bonding bill that contained no funding for roads and bridges
    • 2007: Bonoff voted for the transportation bill, which raised taxes by billions of dollars, including a 50% increase in the gas tax, a wheelage tax, new sales taxes and higher license tab fees
    • 2007: Bonoff voted to pass the tax bill, which included tax increases, increased welfare to local units of government (LGA) and mandated automatic spending increases
    • 2006: Bonoff voted to raise taxes for stadiums, the arts, and the environment
    • 2006: Bonoff voted to have Minnesota taxpayers bail out the Minneapolis Teachers Retirement Fund to the tune of $1 billion
    Voting to increase taxes and accelerate runaway spending will not lead to increased employment and economic recovery (it hasn't yet); in fact, it won't even lead to increased tax revenue. Sen. Terri Bonoff's radical departure from past SD43 representation shows that she was the wrong kind of change for this district and wrong for Minnesota, especially in this economy.

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Norann Dillon knocks SD43 this Saturday

    SD43 challenger Norann Dillon will continue door knocking around SD43 this Saturday, with the assistance of members of the Minnesota Young Republicans. Dillon is such a tireless door-knocker, she must be on her second lap of the district by now.

    The YRs are working hard this election cycle across the state, particularly in CD3 where the "Blue to Red" campaign is targeting DFL incumbents, including SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff. This year's YRs are party animals with a full event calendar, a snappy new web site, and abundant enthusiasm for commonsense and efficient government, lower taxes, and enjoying campaign activity with fellow Republicans.

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    What do the votes of incumbents reveal?


    If the only things you know about political candidates is what they tell you (about themselves and their opponents), and we presume that they will tell you only what they want you to hear, can you really call yourself an informed voter?

    That's why I like voting record scorecards. Typically, they list a large number of key bills and amendments that came before the state legislature or Congress and show how each and every legislator voted. Each vote is given a point value, and each elected official gets a score. A candidate can say anything on the campaign trail, but incumbents should live or die on their voting records.

    The specific bills chosen and whether a particular vote is considered "good" or "bad" depends on who's keeping score, yet the scores are objectively calculated in the same way for each legislator. Most voters don't have the time or expertise to track voting records by poring over the journals of the House or Senate over the course of several legislative sessions. Voting scorecards are a fast and methodical way to do your voter due diligence apart from the hue and cry of political parties and candidate campaigns.

    So how do SD43 incumbents and gubernatorial candidates fare on three right-leaning scorecards?

    Taxpayers League of Minnesota "Friends of the Taxpayer"
    • SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL) - 2010: 25%, 2009: 8%, Lifetime: 22%
    • HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson (R) - 2010: 87%, 2009: 87%, Lifetime: 81%
    • HD43B Rep. John Benson (DFL) - 2010: 6%, 2009: 7%, Lifetime: 9%
    • HD19B Rep. Tom Emmer (R) - 2010: 87%, 2009: 100% "Best Friend of the Taxpayer," Lifetime: 91%
    • HD60A Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) 2010: 0%, 2009: 0%, Lifetime: 10%
    • HD64A Rep. Matt Entenza (DFL): 2006: 10%, Lifetime (2003-2006): 16%
    Minnesota Majority "Heroes and Zeros"
    • SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL) - 2009: 11%, Career: 10%
    • HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson (R) - 2009: 100% "Hero," Career: 94%
    • HD43B Rep. John Benson (DFL) - 2009: 0% "Zero," Career: 9%
    • HD19B Rep. Tom Emmer (R) - 2009: 100% "Hero," Career: 100%
    • HD50A Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) - 2009: 0% "Zero," Career: 0%
    • HD64A Rep. Matt Entenza (DFL): (data unavailable prior to 2007)
    Bills and Votes
    • SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL) - 2010: 27%
    • HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson (R) - 2010: 86%
    • HD43B Rep. John Benson (DFL) - 2010: 13%
    • HD19B Rep. Tom Emmer (R) - 2010: 93%
    • HD50A Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) - 2010: 12%
    • HD64A Rep. Matt Entenza (DFL): (2010 data only available)
    How did these legislators earn each of these scores? What does that tell you about them, given who is keeping score? Which legislators are best representing their districts? We'll look into the details in subsequent blog posts. You can play this game yourself by clicking on the scorecard links or by referring to the list of voting scorecards compiled by the nonpartisan Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.

    Share your favorite scorecards with us in the comments section.

    UPDATE: Taxpayers League scorecard updated with 2010 scores, which were just released.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Tip credit would boost employment

    This image was originally posted to Flickr by jasonlam at http://flickr.com/photos/93512023@N00/3397988457. It was reviewed on 06:15, 17 April 2009 (UTC) by the FlickreviewR robot and confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

    By Brian Grogan

    Recently, Republican candidate for Governor Tom Emmer spoke of the need for a law to relieve restaurant owners from paying the full minimum wage to employees who earn tips. Unfortunately, this debate has been misstated and it is hurting the many small-business restaurant owners who employ over 100,000 Minnesotans. The debate is not about minimum wage for servers but about government regulation and its unintended consequences on small businesses and jobs development.

    The mainstream media has been delinquent in reporting the full story. Prior to this story breaking, I had discussions with the Minnesota Restaurant Association and with real estate developers who specialize in developing restaurant properties. Both groups have expressed the frustration they have with a law in Minnesota that forces small business, restaurant owners to pay an additional 15-20 percent in fixed overhead costs.

    In particular, if a restaurant generates $1.5 million in revenues, an additional $200,000 to $300,000 in potential profits is spent paying wages to employees typically earning on average $13 or more per hour. Within a restaurant, a majority of the affected, higher paid employees are single, under 26 years old and do not have dependents. They are earning a great wage and a change to the law would not significantly change their annual wage compensation.

    Regionally, this law and added business cost is unique to Minnesota. Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and 39 other states do not force the higher wage cost on restaurants. This is a classic example of how regulations in Minnesota are hurting local businesses.

    One real estate developer commented that this law is directly related to the decision by a number of large, national restaurant franchises to cease opening new locations within the state of Minnesota. He estimates that this reflects a loss of as many as 15,000 new jobs in our state. And, this doesn’t account for the lost tax revenues and ancillary spending related to new construction and other wages.

    In addition, this law is negatively affecting many small business restaurant owners who today, due to a slow economy, are close to shutting their doors. In response to the adverse effect of this law, the Restaurant Association approached the Minnesota Senate during the 2010 legislative session and asked for relief.

    This is what the mainstream media is not telling you. Senator Kathy Saltzman, SD56, the Senate DFL majority whip, took up the cause for small business restaurant owners and authored the Restaurant Recovery Act. According to association leaders, it had fairly significant support within the senate and the likelihood of passage was looking good.

    Unfortunately, according to the restaurant association, the unions found out about the bill and used their political clout to make sure the bill never made it to the Senate floor for a final vote. What is significant is that the unions do not have a foothold within the restaurant industry, so not a single union job or wage would have ever been affected by the law.

    The DFL withdrew the bill. During the 2010 session, at a time of anemic jobs growth, Democrats were more concerned about pleasing the unions than passing legislation that would have spurred jobs growth and protected jobs.

    Did waiters and waitresses support this bill? Yes! During the bill’s hearing in committee, a significant number of waiters and waitresses spoke out and were present to show their support to their employers and the bill. They understand the difficulty their employers are having meeting payroll in this slow economy.

    This is a good debate because it is about government intervention within businesses and its unintended consequences, media biases, the union strangle hold on the DFL party and the loss of Minnesota jobs! If elected to the state House, I will introduce this legislation since I am more concerned about saving jobs and spurring jobs growth than pleasing union officials.

    Brian Grogan, Minnetonka, is running for the Minnesota House of Representatives in House District 43B.

    Thursday, July 08, 2010

    The forgotten man

    In a thought-provoking podcast interview, Walter Hudson (Fightin' Words blog) interviews Don Allen, an African-American North Minneapolis activist who feels that the Republican Party of Minnesota has for too long written off his neighborhood, and other DFL strongholds, like so much bad debt.

    Why doesn't the RPM have more boots on the ground in North Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota, or Lucky Rosenbloom's Dale Street neighborhood? (Rosenbloom should be one of Hudson's next one-hour interviews.) According to Allen, some folks in the urban core think that funding distributed by the city, state, and federal governments (and spent by school districts) should be more accountable and transparent (ahem, are you listening, Pat Anderson?), and that concerns about light rail transit's impact on neighborhoods are falling on deaf DFL ears.

    Allen thinks that conservative solutions to urban ills should be heard and discussed within his community. He has invited Republican officials to stop by his town hall meetings at the Sunnyside Cafe, but so far they have been no-shows. Allen wants Republican leadership, not just well-meaning twentysomething "outreach" coordinators, to begin cultivating relationships in his neighborhood.

    It will take more activists like Allen and candidates like Eva Ng, who ran for mayor of Saint Paul last year; Barry Hickethier, who is challenging Sen. Larry Pogemeiller (DFL-Minneapolis) in SD59; and Joel Demos, who is challenging Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN5); running year after year, to plant conservative ideas and grow a GOP presence in the cities.

    As Hudson suggests, it will likely take more like a decade than an election cycle to change voting habits, and the RPM has some tough return-on-investment decisions to make with limited resources. But with that hopey-changey thing not working out so well, what better time than 2010 to get started?

    Sunday, July 04, 2010

    Emmer suggests new Minnesota Miracle: jobs

    Tom Emmer (photo: North Star Liberty)

    After keeping up via the magic of Twitter with the Republican Party of Minnesota's candidate bus tour of twenty Minnesota cities over three days, after work on Friday I headed over to the last stop of the tour to have a grilled hamburger, hobnob with fellow GOP activists, and meet and greet the Republican-endorsed candidates for the Constitutional offices, namely, Governor and Lieutenant Governor (Tom Emmer and Annette Meeks), Secretary of State (Dan Severson), State Auditor (Pat Anderson), and Attorney General (Chris Barden).

    The tour was meant to fire up the base across the state, a tactic that is usually saved until October for the home stretch to Election Day. To hear the barnstormers tell it, mission accomplished.

    Annette Meeks (photo: North Star Liberty)

    By far the number one issue on the minds of the voters is the economy. Gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer called for a new kind of Minnesota Miracle: a business climate that is improved enough for 3M to open a new plant in Minnesota, or for Marvin Windows to expand in Minnesota, or for Minnesota medical device firms like Medtronic to keep the hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes created by Obamacare and use the money instead for research and development and the creation of new high-tech jobs. Emmer said that we can get the job done by putting partisanship aside and working for the good of Minnesota.

    Supporters of Minnesota Majority would be pleased that Secretary of State candidate Dan Severson talked about the problem of convicted felons illegally voting in the 2008, and the common-sense, low-cost reforms needed to restore integrity to Minnesota's elections. Attorney General candidate Chris Barden promised to prosecute cases of election fraud. State Auditor candidate Pat Anderson made the case to get her old "taxpayer watchdog" job back, not a tough sell to this crowd.

    Speaking of making a case, Republican-endorsed candidate for the state Supreme Court, Greg Wersal, spoke on meaningful campaigns for those elected judgeships, and encouraged everyone to "flip over the ballot" and vote for the Republican endorsees.

    Dan Severson (photo: North Star Liberty)

    Several times, the candidates emphasized the importance of electing the entire slate of Republicans, from the governor's office to the House and Senate districts across the state. To underscore the point, many local candidates were also present, including Norann Dillon (SD43), Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), Emmer campaign chair Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan), and Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN3), and Fifth Congressional District candidate Joel Demos.

    I counted four or five Tea Partiers for Emmer buttons, including my own, and a similar number of Women for Emmer buttons, including one worn by former gubernatorial candidate Sue Jeffers. Jeffers received kudos from attendees for her feisty appearance earlier in the day on the Chris Baker show on 100.3 KTLK-FM with guest host Ron Rosenbaum. There was also some buzz about the growing Tea Party movement in many towns in outstate Minnesota. One vocal Tea Partier reiterated the widely-held belief that the movement should emphasize the principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and liberty over candidate endorsement.

    Among the other conservative activists present were author and blogger Sheila Kihne of The Activist Next Door, and Nancy Laroche and Derek Brigham of Freedom Dogs. Along with SD43 and other BPOU and CD3 volunteers, we took the opportunity to meet party staff and peek inside the GOP's new Cheshire Lane offices.
     

    Jacquie Emmer (photo: North Star Liberty

    Thursday, July 01, 2010

    Music in Plymouth


    Wednesday night, Plymouth residents were treated to perfect summer weather, light breezes, and no mosquitoes, to stage its thirty-eighth annual Music in Plymouth event at the Plymouth city center. Residents literally began staking out their claims with blankets and tarps about twenty-four hours before the event began, according to Plymouth police, who expected over 15,000 to attend.

    The Republican-endorsed SD43 Senate candidate Norann Dillon maintained a low-key presence, greeting concert-goers with campaign stickers and business cards. She appeared to be very relaxed and upbeat, and told me that door-knocking neighborhoods was going so well that she almost hesitated to stop doing that to be at Music in Plymouth. Republican HD43B candidate Brian Grogan was also working the hometown crowd energetically but without signage and a big campaign presence.

    Dillon's opponent, incumbent DFLer Sen. Terri Bonoff, had numerous t-shirts, balloons, and stickers on display in the crowd. We chatted for a few minutes about her trip to Israel in November last year, an unofficial trip at personal expense taken with some fellow legislators (including Republican HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson), their spouses, and friends. (Well, why spoil either of our evenings by talking politics!) The campaign of Audrey Britton, Anderson's DFL challenger, was distributing stickers but I did not have a chance to meet the candidate.


    I said hello to the stunning (politically incorrect but everyone acknowledges it) Kelli Slavik, mayor of "Money Magazine's 2008 Best Place to Live With Populations of 50,000 to 300,000," as Plymouth residents have been reminded constantly for about a year now. At last night's event, with several thousand residents on blankets and folding chairs, and eating barbecue, roasted corn on the cob, and frozen custard, listening to great music including the Minnesota Orchestra, with the newly-expanded Millennium Gardens just down the path, it sure felt like the magazine's award was well-deserved.


    The grand finale of the evening was a concert by the Minnesota Orchestra, a spectacle in itself, topped by a truly awesome fireworks display in the cloudless night sky. Many of the fireworks were new, and the displays were plentiful and well-timed to the music. Speaking of music, it was delivered by the festival's (what I like to think of as) God's Own Stereo System, a megawatt beast with sound so clear and accurate that during Sousa's The Liberty Bell march, I had to look back at the stage to make sure that the Minnesota Orchestra hadn't returned to play it. The most memorable pieces during the fireworks were an inspiring a capella men's choir medley of armed services songs, and Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA during the thunderous fireworks finale.


    Music in Plymouth 2010 was five hours of summer classic, star-spangled community bliss.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    See no evil

    Minnesota has a reputation for running clean elections, but how do we really know that if allegations of voter fraud are never seriously investigated?

    On Monday, Minnesota Majority released its report, "Report on Fraudulent Votes Cast by Ineligible Felons in Minnesota’s 2008 General Election." That's right, convicted felons, at least several hundreds of them, who are prohibited by law from voting, may have been permitted to vote in Minnesota in 2008. If these allegations are true, and Minnesota Majority has documented evidence to support its claims, it raises serious questions about Minnesota's election integrity.

    On his campaign web site, GOP-endorsed candidate for Minnesota Secretary of State Dan Severson tells of his unsuccessful attempts as a state legislator to get claims of voter fraud investigated. From Severson's campaign web site:
    Severson, a fourth-term state representative, was contacted by a poll watcher making serious claims about election fraud. He has investigated the allegations and helped file affidavits describing the complaints.

    All to no avail, says Severson, R-Sauk Rapids.

    "[Current Minnesota Secretary of State Mark] Ritchie's office says we had a clear and transparent election. Nothing could be further from the truth," he charged.
    What other voter irregularities, in fact attacks on our traditionally free and fair elections, are going undetected if the Secretary of State's office is asleep at the switch? If the Secretary of State refuses to look into allegations of voter fraud, then Severson's common sense and inexpensive election reforms, including photo ID to vote (supported by over 70% of Minnesotans) and the elimination of vouching as a method of voter ID, are all the more urgently needed to preserve the will of the people in the election process.

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    The bus stops here

    Northwest metro Republicans are invited to enjoy a barbecue dinner, nice summer weather, and greet the last stop of the Republican Party of Minnesota's statewide Freedom and Prosperity Bus Tour, as it arrives at the party's new Third Congressional District office at 111 Cheshire Lane in Minnetonka, this Friday around 6:15 pm. You can also pick up a lawn sign, meet party staff, and work a phone bank shift. The event will cap the three-day statewide bus tour across the state with stops in twenty cities.

    Scheduled to appear are: gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, Lieutenant Governor candidate Annette Meeks, Attorney General candidate Chris Barden, State Auditor candidate Pat Anderson, Secretary of State candidate Dan Severson.

    If you're elsewhere on the tour, check out the complete tour schedule and be there when the bus stops in your area:

    Wednesday, June 30 - Red Wing, Winona, Rochester, Owatonna, Mankato, New Ulm, Hutchinson

    Thursday, July 1 - Willmar, Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Moorhead, Fertile, Bagley, Bemidji

    Friday, July 2 - Grand Rapids, Brainerd, Little Falls, St. Cloud, Elk River, Minnetonka

    RSVP on Facebook.

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Yankee, come home?

    The most significant thing about the Rolling Stone article, "The Runaway General," that apparently led to Gen. Stanley McChrystal's resignation this week was not the remarks made by Gen. McChrystal or his inner cicle disparaging the Obama administration. Nor was it the unblinking reporting about the profane warrior culture of McChrystal's Afghanistan command, the self-proclaimed Team America. These are the people we want, and need, to stand post on the wall protecting our country (in fact, we could use a few of them now — and a wall — on the Mexican border). Rather, it is the strong indictment of the entire Afghan war counterinsurgent (COIN) strategy. It led me to wonder, why are we still in Afghanistan?
    But even if he somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the U.S. homeland, the war will do little to shut down Al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock. "It's all very cynical, politically," says Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer who has extensive experience in the region. "Afghanistan is not in our vital interest – there's nothing for us there."
    In March 2009, President Obama said this about the United States policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan:
    So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That's the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just...

    Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course. Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable. We’ll consistently assess our efforts to train Afghan security forces and our progress in combating insurgents. We will measure the growth of Afghanistan’s economy, and its illicit narcotics production. And we will review whether we are using the right tools and tactics to make progress towards accomplishing our goals.
    We presume that the major players in the Obama administration, so derided in the Rolling Stone article, are using this leadership crisis (military and civilian) to assess our "Af-Pak" policy. The president should inaugurate the new Afghanistan command with an Oval Office address that updates his March 2009 remarks with a clear assessment of our efforts so far and a statement of the path forward.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    SD43 candidates on Facebook

    All three SD43 endorsed candidates have established campaign presence on Facebook, and have begun to build their online networks. To find and "Like" their pages, simply enter Norann Dillon for Senate, Brian Grogan for Minnesota House 43B, and Rep Sarah Anderson into the Facebook Search. (The SD43 Republicans BPOU has a Facebook group with an active Wall.)

    Dillon has the most established page, updating it from the campaign trail, chronicling her door knocking and formal appearances, and uploading photos. She also gets extra points for repeating her Twitter posts on her Facebook page, which has over 500 fans. Grogan's relatively new page features the candidate introducing himself in a short video. Anderson's campaign Facebook page just launched. As the HD43A incumbent, Anderson has produced several podcasts and is also well-spoken on video. She should make them more visible during the campaign.

    Politicos at all levels are learning to use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks for constituent and voter engagement. In suburban districts like SD43 where folks are spread out over wide areas with work and leisure that often takes them away from home, these tools can let candidates stay in touch, build support, rally campaign volunteers, and most importantly, get out the vote in ways that are more engaging than phone banks, e-mail, and direct mail.