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.

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