Monday, November 03, 2014

Majority rules

As Scott, my old political mentor and impetus for this blog, always used to tell me, "It's all about the gavels." Put another way, "the majority rules."

The partisan split in the 134-seat Minnesota House of Representatives is currently 73 DFL to 61 Republican. This makes the DFL the "majority party" by twelve members. Because an even split would be 67 members each, the Republican Party is seven seats from gaining majority status in the upcoming election.

The majority party gets the better offices, establishes the session rules, appoints the committee chairs, sets the agendas, schedules the hearings, determines which bills get heard in committee and how fast they pass out of committee (if at all), decides which bills are heard on the floor, and generally determines the political realities at the Legislature.

It's much more fun to be in the majority. The majority party gets the gavels. When one party has the majority in the House, Senate, and Governor's office, it's called "single-party rule." The DFL is the single-party ruler now, which has given Minnesota the MNSure debacle, a $77 million Senate Legislative Office Building, the controversial $1.6 billion special-interest Southwest LRT train, crumbling roads and bridges, and a persistent education achievement gap.

When vetting candidates, local parties must weigh "electability" against ideology. Both are important, but if you don't have the gavels, as Scott would say, your caucus gets to spend much of the session keeping its agenda on life support until the next election.

Our candidate for House in District 44B, Ryan Rutzick, is the most "electable" candidate we have endorsed in years. Rutzick is young, energetic, photogenic, and charismatic. He can work a parade crowd and deliver a stump speech like few I have ever seen in my ten-plus years of campaign volunteering.

Ryan Rutzick for House
Ryan Rutzick (source: campaign)
Rutzick is running for a rare open seat, which is being vacated by the retiring four-term Rep. John Benson (DFL). The conservative Republicans on the "B-side" of 44 have been trying to elect a conservative Republican to unseat the incumbent ever since Republican Rep. Ron Abrams, a moderate, left the House for the Hennepin County bench in 2006.

Various political organizations and pundits have included 44B as a competitive and therefore crucial election. If seven seats flip to the "R" side of the aisle, the House Republican caucus will be the majority caucus. (The Senate is not up for election this year, and the governor's race is being called a matter of turnout by both parties.)

Judging by his endorsements, Ryan Rutzick is a moderate Republican, in the mold of moderates like Abrams and others who were swept out of office in the conservative wave of the early 2000s:
  • Senate District 44 Republicans
  • Rep. Erik Paulsen, U.S. Congressman (MN-3), who previously represented Eden Prairie in the Minnesota House
  • Former U.S. Congressman Jim Ramstad
  • Tom Horner, former Independence Party candidate for governor
  • Arne Carlson, former Republican Governor of Minnesota
  • Star Tribune editorial board
  • Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
  • TwinWest Chamber of Commerce
  • National Federation of Independent Businesses
  • Minnesota Medical Association MEDPAC
Rutzick's campaign has also attracted independent expenditures from the state GOP (not a given) and the Minnesota Jobs Coalition.

To put the brakes on the runaway train of liberal one-party rule in Saint Paul, first we have to get elected.
In this district, a pragmatic problem-solver like Rutzick may be what the House Republicans need to get elected, get the majority, get the gavels.