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 (

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

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.