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.

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