Friday, September 29, 2006

Debate Minnesota hosts Bonoff-Johnson forum

Debate Minnesota conducted a 90-minute debate last night between Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) and her challenger, current Plymouth mayor Judy Johnson. The debate was conducted at the Plymouth Creek Center, in a venue called the Black Box Theater. The name is misleading: it's not black, and its three-quarters arena floorplan served as temporary city council chambers during the expansion and remodeling of Plymouth City Hall last year. The approximately forty audience members made for a nearly full house.

Debate Minnesota began operating in 2004. It is funded by the nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Debate Minnesota Foundation. In the current election cycle, fifteen Debate Minnesota debates are scheduled in the races for U.S. Senate, Governor, three Congressional Districts, and ten state legislative races. In the spirit of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Debate Minnesota strives to "promote civility" in the political process, and "provide a platform for a fair, informative, and in-depth exchange of ideas."

After the candidates' opening statements, seemingly plucked from their campaign lit, moderator Steve Berg, editorial writer at the Star Tribune, presented the policy questions in two areas: transportation and education. Each area was allotted ten minutes total, for the question and responses from both candidates plus follow-ups. The candidates had to get to the point quickly with a timekeeper, Toastmasters-style, holding up cards to show the remaining time. That left about an hour for the questions from the audience and candidate closing statements.


Berg started off by observing how terrible the roads are in Minnesota compared to places like North Carolina, Phoenix, and Denver. He quoted MnDOT as saying that Minnesota is years behind in the building of our transportation infrastructure. Then he asked the candidates how they would address Minnesota's transportation issues.

Johnson used her three-minute response to endorse the constitutional amendment that would dedicate 100% of the MVST to transportation, to be split "at least 40 percent for public transit assistance and not more than 60 percent for highway purposes." Johnson hopes that if passed by the voters, the "at least-not more than" language will be clarified in statute.

Bonoff also endorsed the MVST amendment, and claimed credit for the idea to also dedicate the motor vehicle lease tax to transportation in the same proportion as the MVST (HF 3127, Abrams). She also promoted the need for heavy investments in "multimodal" transportation solutions like other cities in the country have.

Berg asked the candidates whether the Governor should have vetoed the gas tax increase last session.

Bonoff said no, and blamed the veto on his No New Taxes pledge to the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. But then she said that she is "not solidly" in favor of a gas tax increase today.

Johnson suggested that bonding for road construction would make sense if the MVST amendment passes. She pointed out that delaying the start of construction projects inevitably leads to increased costs. She would "consider" a gas tax increase because it would be a user fee for transportation and ease the pressure on local governments' transportation expenditures.


Berg gave a weak, open-ended intro to the topic of education, basically saying that you can't get a decent job out of high school anymore, then asking the candidates to take it from there. I don't think that Lincoln or Douglas, or any high school debate coach, would have been impressed with Berg's prep for this important topic. All he would have had to do was read from Debate Minnesota's own thorough education issue backgrounder and sample questions!

Johnson will be looking at an upcoming state report on funding an "adequate education" as a guide for future K-12 funding discussions. She believes that schools should be able to count on a stable source of funding. She also believes in local control, saying that from her conversations with school board members, it sounds like it's easier to be mayor than a school board member due to the mandates imposed on school districts from state and local governments. She also said that if school districts want to raise additional taxes to provide an education "beyond adequate," then they should have the power to go to voters for excess levy referenda, without artificial caps on the levy amount.

Bonoff said that school districts have a big "problem" of diversity, meaning students from many diverse backgrounds with diverse needs. She suggested a repeat of the "Minnesota Miracle" to reinvest in education.

Berg asked whether the candidates favor Governor Pawlenty's proposal to spend at least 70% of K-12 funding in the classroom.

Bonoff used words like "ridiculous" and "nonsense" in her response, saying that Pawlenty's proposal makes her mad. The average is already 69% statewide, she said. Bonoff spoke about various education legislation that she sponsored last session.

Johnson does not support the 70% plan, either. She said that "mandates cost you more, and get you less." She reiterated her support for local control of the schools. As a further example of local control, she cited the local WALT tests used in the Wayzata School District, which track individual student performance year-to-year, as opposed to the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, the state mandated tests, which aggregate student performance data.

Local issue: eminent domain

Bethany Wesley, managing editor of the Plymouth Sun-Sailor newspaper, asked the local issue question: was eminent domain reform, passed in the last legislative session, necessary? And will the new law go too far, perhaps preventing the renewal of urban blight?

Bonoff said that eminent domain reform was necessary, a good law was passed. She said that it could stop urban renewal if only one property owner refuses to sell, but that it would not necessarily be a bad thing, since the old law may have favored governments too much; time will tell.

Johnson, favors protecting private property rights, and agreed that eminent domain reform was necessary. She does not believe that the new law will prevent needed urban renewal.

Questions from the audience

While orderly and civil, the program to this point found little disagreement between the candidates, and revealed little new information to the audience. The written questions from the audience, however, spiced it up a bit.

  1. Do you favor the teaching of Intelligent Design theory in the schools? (Funny, I didn't notice Eva Young in the audience.) Bonoff said no, it's a separation of church and state issue, and the issue "will be coming to the legislature." Johnson also said no, but that she does not favor mandated curriculum in the schools, either.

  2. Minnesota Defense Of Marriage Amendment (DOMA) — Johnson said that only one person has mentioned it in her door knocking. She has mixed feelings about the amendment, current law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman, yet we must have respect and equal rights for all. Bonoff said that the amendment is a "terrible thing," that it "writes hate into the constitution." She told the story of entering the Senate chamber through a gauntlet of protesters holding signs saying "NO GAY MARRIAGE." She told another story of participating in a forum with Sen. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater), in a church with over 2000 people in attendance. She said that the audience applauded a speaker who called for no gay marriage, and chanted "NO GAY MARRIAGE." It was unreal, said Bonoff incredulously. Some in the audience applauded loudly after Bonoff's statements opposing DOMA. Berg asked the audience, almost apologetically, to save their applause until the end. Some of those who applauded laughed. I missed the joke.

  3. College tuition — both candidates agreed that college tuition should be made more affordable. Both candidates seemed to favor Gov. Pawlenty's plan to offer free tuition based on academic merit. Neither candidate spoke about any onus on colleges and universities to help hold the line on tuition by holding the line on expenses.

  4. Kindergarten readiness — both candidates recognized the need for kindergarten readiness. Johnson mentioned public-private partnerships as a way for the private sector to participate with schools. Bonoff highlighted her effort to restore funding for the kindergarten readiness assessment. Everybody apparently accepts as gospel the distortion that 50% of Minnesota children are "not ready for kindergarten" when they enter kindergarten. I don't, and neither did the Department of Education when they released the study under then-Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke.

  5. Should the state of Minnesota increase the minimum wage? Bonoff said yes, unequivocally. Johnson said maybe, but then asked, what should the minimum wage be? And what affect would this mandate have on business (and retail prices, Judy! Where's King Banaian when you need him down here in the Cities)? She said that "wages should reflect the work being done."

  6. Do you support the requirement under the No Child Left Behind Act that requires schools to provide student contact information to military recruiters? Johnson said she was not familiar with the provision, but is concerned that student data be used for legitimate purposes. Bonoff is strongly opposed to the requirement, going so far as to place her son on the government's little-known "do not call" web site. She called this data sharing between the schools and the military "wrong." I'm guessing here, but I'd bet that most of those who oppose recruiting an all-volunteer military also oppose compulsory military service (as in Israel), or any other efforts to provide for the common defense, one of the basic functions of any government.

  7. Should voters decide whether to fund sports stadiums in the future? This hypothetical was about as hot as it got for Bonoff, which is to say, not very. My submitted question (not used) was, "Did the taxpayers of Minnesota get a good deal for the Twins stadium? Why or why not?" Bonoff said it would depend on the bill, then quickly defended her vote to exempt Hennepin County from the state law that requires all local governments to hold a referendum before levying a local option sales tax. "You knew where I stood on this issue during the last campaign." Johnson called herself "pro-referendum," saying that people who answer the door when she knocks do not like how the new Hennepin County tax was levied without a referendum. "Cities have to hold a referendum to build a library, a waste water treatment plant, or a fire station, but not a professional sports stadium," said Johnson, with irony.

  8. What would you do to make education an attractive career option? Both candidates recognized the need to pay teachers more. Johnson favors alternative pay incentives such as Q-Comp.

  9. What are you doing in your life to reduce fossil fuel use, and what measures would you support in the Legislature? Bonoff said that after watching Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth (which she recommended), she encouraged her son to buy a hybrid automobile to replace his old car. Johnson rattled off so many environmentally-friendly initiatives passed while she was mayor, I lost track (they're all listed at, said Johnson helpfully). She also said proudly that she and her husband installed geothermal heating at their lake cabin.

  10. Negative tone of campaigns — responding to a softball, both candidates agreed that "kinder, gentler campaigns begin with me (I'm paraphrasing)." Bonoff listed so many friends in the Senate Republican Caucus that she sounds like a shoo-in for either honorary member or Ms. Congeniality.

  11. Are you pro-choice? I guess this one was submitted by someone who was, well, pro-choice. Bonoff said yes, and shared her wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee moment, when she realized as a freshman Senator that you can try to "unite the middle," but when the MCCL suddenly attaches an amendment to a health and human services bill, you'd better be ready to vote yea or nay. So Bonoff wants her constituents to know that she would oppose any rollback of abortion law to circa forty years ago. Johnson said that she is pro-life, but considers herself a moderate when it comes to policy, but "leaning to the right" on the issue.

In her closing statement, Bonoff cited her long list of endorsements, and reminded us, "You know where I stand." Johnson cited her record of common sense, bringing people together, listening to all points of view, and doing what's right for her constituents and community. She said that she has always been about public service, not politics.

On the way out to the parking lot, I saw Sen. Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Minneapolis) seated at a table with six or eight others, in a cafeteria area next to the Black Box Theater. Johnson good-naturedly razzed him and greeted him with a handshake.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Republican National Convention could help Minnesota see red

The best news for local Republicans about the Republican National Committee's (RNC) announcement that it will hold their 2008 national convention here in the Twin Cities is the potential to greatly energize the Republican Party of Minnesota, from the grassroots up. It will be a chance to show the world that we're not all Paul Wellstone and Al Franken (nor Garrison Keillor and Jesse Ventura), politically.

Besides the hardcore activists elbowing their way onto delegate and alternate lists starting after the midterm elections, the party will need hundreds of volunteers to prepare to receive tens of thousands of out-of-town guests. The state party will need several staff and volunteers just to recruit and schedule the rest of the volunteers.

The RNC will probably have professional event planners do the high-visibility heavy lifting: venues, lodging, catering, transportation, media relations, hospitality tours, security, printed publications, signage. It will be up to the state party to do the grunt work of meeting delegations at the airport, registration, hospitality, VIP services, convention pages, and the like.

With all of the planning and work to be done, the state party will need all hands on deck for the next two years. There will also be some important campaigns to run! With the right leadership, the convention could boost participation at the BPOU level for years. Such a shared experience of late nights, crazy schedules, celebrities, and fleets of TV satellite trucks from around the world converging on the Twin Cities has the potential to energize the base and get out the vote like nothing else — and turn Minnesota (and Wisconsin and Iowa) red in 2008.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New middle school honors memory of Sgt. Paul Smith

A new middle school in the Holiday, Florida hometown of Sgt. Paul Smith has been named in his honor.

Paul R. Smith Middle School was officially dedicated on August 25 before 500 family, friends, Soldiers, veterans, legislators, county officials and students, according to the Army News Service. Smith's 12-year old son David is now a student at the school that bears his father’s name.

The idea for naming the school came from retired Maj. Gen. Fred Raymond. "I told the board members that students could learn a lot about courage, selflessness, and service to country and community from Paul Smith's example," said Raymond. "Paul Smith is an outstanding role model for Pasco County students."

See the St. Petersburg Times Interactive Special Report on Sgt. Smith.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A salute to Sgt. Paul Smith

"It’s a strange time when a database search of America’s leading newspapers turns up literally 10 times as many mentions of one of the soldiers who has been punished for misconduct — 10 times more — than the mentions of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in the Global War on Terror." —Donald Rumsfeld

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived." —George S. Patton

This week, in observance of Sgt. Smith's birthday on September 24, the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers urges you to learn about this true American hero, and thank God that such men lived.

Friday, September 22, 2006

SD 43 candidates to debate

Next week features a double-header debate among the candidates in Minnesota SD 43.

SD 43/HD 43A/HD 43B Candidate Forum
Wednesday, September 27
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Ridgedale Library
12601 Ridgedale Drive
Sponsor: Arc

Minnesota Senate District 43 candidates Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), incumbent; Judy Johnson, Republican endorsee

Minnesota House District 43A (open seat) candidates Sandy Hewitt (DFL endorsee), Sarah Johnson (Republican endorsee)

Minnesota House District 43B (open seat) candidates John Benson (DFL endorsee), Dave Johnson (Republican endorsee)

SD 43 Candidate Forum
Thursday, September 28
7:00 pm

Plymouth Creek Center
Black Box Theater
14800 34th Ave N
Sponsor: Debate Minnesota

Minnesota Senate District 43 candidates Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), incumbent; Judy Johnson, Republican endorsee

Monday, September 18, 2006

The war against the West

The documentary Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West shows through interviews and actual video from Middle Eastern television, the disturbing nature of the current war, how it is so much more serious than it is being dealt with by the Democrats and the Hollywood Left (it's as if the Dems don't understand that the stakes go way beyond the next election — way beyond.)

The movie is running now through Thursday, Sept. 21, 2006, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m. at the Bell Museum Auditorium, located at the intersection of 17th and University Ave. S.E. on the University of Minnesota East Bank campus (10 Church Street SE). General admission is $8, seniors and Students, $6.

I have yet to see the film, but Captain Ed (Captain's Quarters) provides us with his review. It is being shown in pre-release screenings like this before wider release. It is sponsored in the Twin Cities by Minnesotans Against Terrorism.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I got your stadium backlash right here, pal

Dave Bicking, who in 2005 ran unsuccessfully as a Green Party candidate for Minneapolis City Council Ward 9, apparently doesn't have a blog. So I'll post part of his post-primary election analysis of the Hennepin County Commissioner races, which Bicking posted to the CCARL Yahoo! Group. He makes the case that the referendum-less stadium tax issue did in fact make an impact.
In all three cases, the incumbent came in first; but in all three cases, the good showing of the runner-up will greatly boost their campaign. Once it has been shown (as it just has) that they have a chance of winning, their campaign will be boosted by additional volunteers and additional donations. For instance, in District 4, against Peter McLaughlin, Farheen Hakeem got 33% of the vote. She is also likely to pick up most of Jan Nye's voters (10% of the total) because these are protest votes against Peter McLaughlin -
Jan was only a paper candidate, running on the issue of the stadium. I am a Green Party member (as is Farheen), and there is already talk within the Party about concentrating resources on Farheen's campaign because of the very real possibility that she could win. Such is the value of a credible showing in the primary.

An historical example: last year, Cam Gordon (Green Party) got 37% in the Mpls City Council primary against a DFL endorsed candidate with considerable name recognition. That boosted his campaign to the point that he went on to win in the general election with 51% of the vote.
Here is Bicking's analysis of the District 2 race, which is where I live:

Mark Stenglein 8,370 53.0%
Gregory Gray 5,502 34.9%
Steve Wellens 1,911 12.1%

Stenglein seems to be the most vulnerable of the three. 53% is really bad for an incumbent. Steve Wellens ran pretty much on the stadium issue alone, so nearly all his votes will go to Gray in the general election. Gray, as the DFL endorsed candidate, will have considerable resources to run a strong campaign. For comparison, in 2002, Stenglein (already much despised) got 59% in the primary, with the remainder split among 4 other candidates. In the general election, his percentage actually dropped to 57%. Starting at 53% in the primary this year, he can't drop very much or he loses! I would say that Gray is actually the favorite to win in this race.
For more, see the web site, or call Bicking at 612-276-1213. A new PAC, Citizens Against Stadium Taxes (CAST) has been created to raise a ruckus on this issue during the general election. We may be closer to the tipping point than most people realize.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

The happy warrior

Photo: John Wilson

Sue Jeffers meets with local bloggers, September 9, 2006. (Photo by John Wilson)

Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing. —Vince Lombardi

Sue Jeffers finished a distant second to Gov. Tim Pawlenty in Tuesday's Republican primary election. Winning may be the only thing in football, but it isn't the only thing in politics. Jeffers ran a primary election challenge campaign that was marked by integrity, heart, class, conservative values clearly and unapologetically expressed, and most of all, Sue's always positive attitude and charm. Staying true to Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Amendment, "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican," she refused to trash Pawlenty, while making it clear where she disagreed with him. In on-air interviews and public appearances, she presented the conservative case with aplomb and a smile.

Local conservatives have not had such a charismatic, articulate, and passionate spokesperson to get excited about since Jason Lewis left the Twin Cities. With Lewis back and Jeffers likely to remain politically active (we hope), we may look back at 2006 as the year we got our groove back — regardless of who won the election.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What stadium tax backlash?

In yesterday's primary elections, referendum-less stadium tax supporters Mark Stenglein, Peter McLaughlin, and Mike Opat (Hennepin County Commissioners) all won by majorities in three- and four-candidate primary races, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who signed the bill into law wearing a Twins jersey, skated to an easy win over his Republican primary challenger and stadium tax critic Sue Jeffers.
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship.
—Unknown, popularly attributed to Sir Alex Fraser Tytler

Two things only the people anxiously desire: panem et circenses. —Juvenal

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Where everybody knows your URL

Keegan's Irish Pub (Photo: North Star Liberty)
By attending the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers (MOB) Summerpalooza III at Keegan's Irish Pub on University Avenue in Minneapolis on Saturday, I renewed my membership in good standing and refreshed my blogger juices for another six months.

Immediately after I entered the friendly confines of Keegan's, Mitch Berg (Shot in the Dark) flagged me down in a booming voice and introduced me to the knot of bloggers in his immediate vicinity, including Chris (Buddha Patriot) and John LaPlante (PolicyGuy). It was a pleasure to meet frequent Shot in the Dark commenter Kermit.

I discovered that Berg and Captain Ed (Captain's Quarters and Heritage Policy Weblog) are fellow (former) technical writers. Tech writers are natural bloggers, they're writing all day anyway.

After asking for a glass of Killian's Irish Red on tap, my server informed me that they have it in bottles only at Keegan's, but how about a Smithwick's Draught (pronounced "smith-icks" or "smit-icks," the "W" is silent, which must please Democrats)? I found it to be a very tasty Irish red ale, much less filling than Guinness for a lightweight like me.

MOB t-shirts outnumbered the campaign shirts. Richfield Republican activist Rob Hewitt sported a red Pawlenty shirt. During the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, I discovered that Rob truly puts the "active" in "activist." Various members of the Sue Crew sported the shirts and buttons of Pawlenty's primary election challenger.

David Strom and constant gardener Margaret Martin (Our House) and King Banaian (SCSU Scholars) held court at the power table on the Keegan's deck, under the chilly night sky. Those three (yes, Margaret too) plus Berg puffing on huge cigars out of David's humidor made for quite a smoke-filled image of political punditry.

Robin Marty, blogging as "rew" from Power Liberal informed Rob Hewitt and I that her co-blogger and hubby "smartie" is a homonym of S. Marty, for Steve Marty. She also told us that she will be starting a new blog that will be doing more original reporting, with journalistic-style standards, as opposed to just opining.

Grassroots activists Shar in Minneapolis, Julie W., and Eva Young (Lloydletta's Nooz) talked about their next stadium tax project: ousting at least one of the Hennepin County Commissioners who voted to levy a $1.1 billion Twins stadium tax without permission from county taxpayers (primary target: Mark Stenglein).

Being campaign season, several politicos made appearances at ground zero of Minnesota's conservative blogosphere:

  • Obi Sium, U.S. Congress Fourth District

  • Sue Jeffers, Governor - as usual, upbeat and very generous with her time

  • Jeff Johnson, Attorney General

  • Derek Brigham (Freedom Dogs), Minnesota Senate District 45 - a conservative alternative to Sen. Ann Rest

  • Penny Steele, Hennepin County Commissioner, District 7

  • Greg Gray, Hennepin County Commissioner, District 2 (Stenglein is the incumbent) - Stenglein and Gray will probably be the top two vote-getters to advance from the primary to the general — and not necessarily in that order!
Read about everyone I missed in the links below. It's hard to know at these things who's a blogger and who isn't unless they are wearing a MOB shirt or (in violation of tradition) nametag, or liveblogging.

Vote in tomorrow's primary election!

UPDATE: For more on the MOB party, check it out:

"Keegan's was MOBbed Tonight" SD63

"The conservative voice(s)," Polinaut

"MOB conducts semi-annual soiree," MOBANGE! - thanks to Doug Bass for saying "hi" and for running the MOBANGE! MOB community site.

"MOB Party Photos!," Crazy But Able - John was able to get some GREAT photos with no flash in the difficult lighting on the Keegan's deck, thanks to a sweet new digital SLR. Now I'm really glad that I didn't post any of my awful deck photos. Be sure to click the link to John's Flickr album of the event. See: Margaret's smile! Strom! King! Sue! Obi! Me! That biker guy!

"A look back at the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers soiree," Christianity, Politics, Sports and Me - more pics!

"MOBapalooza," hammerswing75 - even more pics!


Friday, September 08, 2006

HOO-RAH for a quiet hero (and the Strib)

The Star Tribune this morning interrupted its usual effluent of bad news and body counts from Iraq to bring you this awesome, humbling, and inspiring story of twice-decorated Purple Heart recipient Sgt. Christopher Holbrook, United States Army ("Minnesota soldier enlists for a new cause," by Joy Powell), and how one group of Minnesotans is responding.

Stories like this help us civilians to understand how much our troops are sacrificing to keep us safe, secure, and free.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What kind of Republicans are we?

Governor Tim Pawlenty recently declared, "The era of small government is over," or perhaps as his campaign has clarified, he was merely referring to an article of the same name.

Meanwhile, back at the 2002 Minnesota state Republican convention, conservatives waged a ballot war into the wee hours to endorse businessman Brian Sullivan for governor. "Sullivan isn't electable," we were told. "Pawlenty is a conservative," we were told. "To suggest otherwise is a joke." Sullivan yielded, endorsed Pawlenty, and eventually became National Committeeman, a high post on the state executive committee. Conservatives said a prayer, crossed their fingers, and in suburban SD 43, enjoyed a sweep as Republican David Gaither was elected to the Senate, Republican House members Jeff Johnson and Ron Abrams were reelected, and Republicans won all of the Constitutional offices except Attorney General.

Governor Pawlenty oversaw several conservative-pleasing initiatives, including repealing the process-oriented Profile of Learning with knowledge-oriented academic standards, the passage and re-passage of the Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act (kudos to Gaither), a comprehensive crime bill, $900 million in accelerated road construction projects, and the Woman's Right to Know Act.

Why is this man smiling?

But Pawlenty also oversaw more growth in government spending, JOBZ, a repudiation of his No New Taxes pledge, light rail, ethanol subsidies, and signing an exemption from a voter referendum for the Twins stadium tax — contrary to a state taxpayer-protection law that remains in effect for local units of government.

And at the June 2006 Republican state convention, Sue Jeffers and her supporters were "disappeared" by a breathtaking series of procedural moves, and the chair was able to declare, "Seeing that there is only one candidate, all in favor of endorsing Tim Pawlenty say aye," neatly avoiding a repeat of the 2002 gubernatorial endorsement battle.

What's a Minnesota conservative to do?

Jason Lewis came back to Twin Cities radio in August. Like a parent coming home to misbehaving teens, Jason asked us some tough questions:

  • Why belong to a political party unless it's the means to an end: advancing a political agenda?

  • If you elect a Republican who turns around and votes like a Democrat, what have you really gained?

  • I'm a conservative before I'm a Republican. Shouldn't you be, too?

Some dedicated conservatives in the local blogosphere have been struggling with Pawlenty's performance:
  • ...despite my misgivings about Pawlenty, I certainly have intended to vote for him this fall. Now, I am not so sure. ("The Era of Small Government is Over...", David Strom, Our House)

  • I'm not saying that elected officials can't change their minds or chart new territory beyond their campaign promises. But not only does Pawlenty do this on an unprecedented scale, he adds some subtle but noticeable sneering for those of us who object. We are just not capable of understanding his, well, his "Vision of the Annointed." ("Sue Jeffers for Governor," Speed Gibson)

Fred Barnes advises us to "get over it" and get Republicans elected:
...conservative elected officials at all levels of government will always wander from conservative tenets. The test is whether there's a flip side, a strengthening in the fight for conservative aims. ("You Can't Always Get What You Want," Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard, May 15, 2006)

President Theodore Roosevelt said, "All my life in politics, I have striven to make the necessary working compromise between the ideal and the practical." This could have been said by Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush as well. Reagan warned us to elect the most conservative candidates possible, because once elected, the slide toward the left becomes inevitable.

Minnesota conservatives have some soul searching to do before Tuesday's Republican primary election. Get the gavels (majority in the Legislature), yes. Winning is good, yes. But what's the best way to ultimately get what we need?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Politics on a stick

(Photo: North Star Liberty)
I visited our State Fair (it's a great state fair) on Sunday. The afternoon torrential downpour failed to dampen the spirits, spending, or appetites of the true Minnesota State Fair-goers I observed.

Since I was there with my family, I couldn't be a total political geek, but I took whatever chances I could to greet a few statewide candidates and indulge in a little political geekiness:
  • AM 1280 The Patriot - we arrived just as Northern Alliance Radio hosts Brian "The Last Honest Sno-Cone Salesman" Ward (Fraters Libertas), John Hinderocker (Power Line), and Chad the Elder (Fraters Libertas) were taking their places on The Patriot porch. What amazed me most during their opening monologues was their ability to stare into space and deliver a stream-of-consciousness on current events in fine radio voices. We are not worthy!

  • KTLK-FM - no live remote broadcasts from the fair on Sunday, not even from the lilting voice of news reader Erica Ward or lightning-fast enunciator and Queen of the Freeways Kirsten Kline. But they did have plastic tote bags.

  • Minnesota Secretary of State - an SOS staffer walked me through a demo of the AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal, which is designed to mark ballots for the blind, vision impaired, or others who might have trouble marking a conventional ballot. At least one of the units will be available this fall at most polling places, thanks to HAVA funds.

  • Republican Party of Minnesota - Derek Brigham's sign was on the literature table, one of a few local candidates with a presence there.

  • Tim Pawlenty campaign booth - I think I know why the campaign bugged out early: the loud noise and "music" (yes, I am over 40 years old) blaring out of the adjacent arcade seemed to be designed to repel anyone of voting age.

  • Sue Jeffers campaign booth - while Jeffers was greeting other voters, I went looking for a free campaign button and met none other than Shar from Minneapolis, Julie, and Laura (not Laura Lehmann) from CCARL, the anti-stadium tax people. The group is busier than ever, even after the recent Hennepin County board vote to authorize the Twins stadium tax. To paraphrase their slogan, they're not giving up and they're not going away. Check out the CCARL web site for more. Sue Jeffers is running as a Republican against the endorsed candidate, incumbent Tim Pawlenty, in the Republican primary election next Tuesday, September 12. Sue loves talking the issues, and she is well-informed, down-to-earth, well-spoken, and conservative. She was upbeat and energized even as storm clouds gathered over Machinery Hill. At the booth they were replaying Sue's great State Fair interview with Jason Lewis. As we made our way across the fairgrounds, I saw many people wearing her campaign buttons. Did I mention that you can vote for Sue Jeffers for Governor in the Republican primary election next Tuesday, September 12?

  • Jeff Johnson campaign booth - my neighbor in Plymouth who is running for Minnesota Attorney General was cheerfully standing post at his booth, not far from the Jeffers booth. He was also having a good old time at the fair, even with the "out-of-state" folks who didn't want a politician to interrupt their feast of hotdish-on-a-stick (deep-fried-candy-bar-on-a-stick is so 2005, don'tcha know).

  • Taxpayers League of Minnesota - same booth, slightly different location in the Grandstand from when I worked there last year. I picked up a few of their boldly designed publications, and their latest, their 2006 Piglet Book, an eye-opening guide to Minnesota pork-barrel spending big and small (highly recommended, download the PDF). David Strom was not there.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Signs of the times

Judy Johnson's campaign is reporting that this week, dozens of their lawn signs have been vandalized or stolen. Unfortunately, this happens every year to campaigns across the country, as a Google search readily reveals. Short of catching the punks in the act and detaining them for questioning, there is no way of knowing whether the perpetrators have any connection to any campaign or political party, or just teens with too much time on their hands.

Such activity is a violation of free speech and a property crime. If your sign gets vandalized or stolen, report it to the police and the campaign involved.