Election 2016: U.S. Representative, District 4

(I’m going to tackle the ballot out of order and do the presidential race last.)

I live in St. Paul, and our Congresswoman is Betty McCollum. This is largely regarded as a safe Democratic seat.

Here’s who’s running:

Betty McCollum (DFL)
Greg Ryan (Republican)
Susan Pendergast Sindt (Legal Marijuana Now)

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And then suddenly it was September

::wipes dust off blog::

So hey! Early voting in Minnesota just started, which means I am overdue for getting started with this year’s election blogging. But before I get started with that, I really feel like I should mention that back in August, like over a month ago now, I won a Hugo Award for Best Short Story for Cat Pictures Please. I have no idea if there are people out there who read my blog here but do not follow me on either Twitter or Facebook, where I gleefully and excitedly jumped up and down right afterward.

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Me with my Hugo. Photo taken by John O’Halloran, Ohana TyeDye Photography

The star-and-moon batik jacket and skirt belonged to my mother. It was her favorite dress-up outfit for years and years. When my sister and I cleaned out her closet in July, Abi suggested that I wear it to the Hugo Awards as a way of having her with me. When I got dressed for the Awards Ceremony, I also carefully stashed a couple of Kleenex in the pocket. Every single time Abi or I checked the pockets of anything our mother had ever worn, there were a couple of tissues in the pockets. She wanted to be prepared! (My Grammie has the same habit. She always wants a tissue in her pocket, sleeve, or the little carrier bag of her walker. Or ideally all three.)

The Hugo rocket is currently sitting on the buffet in our dining room. I will eventually find another spot for it, but here’s the thing — as you may have guessed, we are cat owners. In fact, we got a new cat in June.

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Our newest kitty, Cassie Fluffypants

One of our cats is sufficiently large that he managed to (accidentally) shove a literal stone sculpture off the mantelpiece a few months ago. The Hugo rocket is heavier than you might expect but it’s also a bit top-heavy and I really don’t want it to get broken. Where it is, it could get tipped over but it’s not going to make a six foot fall to the floor.

After winning, I got interviewed on MPR, which was awesome, and I got quoted in a Salon article, which was cool, and Chuck Tingle called me a “True Buckaroo” (and bitter conservative puppy John C. Wright called me a “graying spinster,” which was bonus levels of hilarious because Ed and I celebrated our 20th anniversary in July! Actually, we briefly acknowledged our anniversary, promised ourselves a lovely meal out, and … still have not taken it because our summer was ridiculously busy.)

I always have this weird idea that things will calm down a bit once school starts. This is a patently absurd belief. Not only does school mean my kids’ activities all ramp up again, September is also when BOTH of my daughters have birthdays. Molly turned 16 this year, and Kiera turned 13. Plus I got called for jury duty — I actually initially got called for the week of WorldCon, but I got a deferral until September. That was the week of the 12th through the 16th, and I actually got on a jury. Jury service was extremely interesting but surprisingly exhausting. (You have to sit and listen to people for long periods of time.) Molly does Mock Trial, so I’d actually been in Ramsey County courtrooms before to watch her team competing — it was very odd being in that same setting for real. Also, the prosecutor started out his opening statement in almost the exact same way that the Mock Trial kids do. (He was very young. I totally bet he did Mock Trial back in the day.) All the jurors took things very, very seriously — no one tried to evade jury service by trying to make themselves sound biased, and no one tried to rush through deliberations to get the heck out. I might write more about it later — I’m allowed to say whatever I want now that it’s over — if people are curious.

During voir dire (the part where the judge, then the lawyers, get to ask you questions to try to filter out the people they don’t want), the Defense lawyer asked us each to share some personal detail about ourselves. I’m not sure what her goal was in doing this but it gave us all stuff to chat about in the jury room, which was nice. (You’re not allowed to discuss the case among yourselves until it’s over and you’re deliberating.) Anyway, for my personal detail I told everyone I’d won a Hugo Award in August. One of the other jurors had actually read the story! Which was very cool. (And the judge’s clerk told me afterward that he and the judge were going to look up my story now that the trial was over. I hope they liked it.)

Anyway! I will be be back in a bit to start blogging about the 2016 election. In the meantime, I’ll note again that if you live in Minnesota, you can find your ballot at the Secretary of State’s website — both a list of candidates (that includes links to websites when available) and a literal sample ballot so you can see how it will look. You can send away for an absentee ballot right now, or go in early and vote right now. (They call this “no-excuses voting.”) The two things on my own ballot that I legitimately don’t know right now how I’ll vote on: a school board special election (someone quit their seat) and a proposed constitutional amendment on how we pay state legislators. Honestly, every other race I already know how I’ll vote — but writing about this stuff is fun, so you’ll get my full take, barring any unforseen disasters.

 

Election 2016: U.S. Representative, District 4 Primary

In Minnesota Primaries, you get a ballot that’s divided into a DFL section and a Republican section. Pick one. You can vote in either the DFL section, or the Republican section. If you vote in both, that’s a spoiled ballot that won’t be counted. (Mostly the machine will spit it back out at you.)

At Diversicon last weekend, one of the other attendees told me that she was working for the Secretary of State’s office when we started having machine-read ballots instead of hand-counted ballots and she was flooded with irate calls from people who wanted to know why they could no longer vote in both primaries. The information that they’d actually never voted in both primaries, that their ballot was simply tossed without being counted, did not go over well.

Anyway. In Congressional District 4, we are represented by Betty McCollum. She has a primary opponent named Steve Carlson. The Republicans hoping to oppose her are Nicolay Nicolayevich Bey, Greg Ryan, and Gene Rechtzigel.

I’m going to go through all five of these candidates but remember, you only get to pick someone off one side of the ballot.

DFL

Betty McCollum

Betty McCollum is the sort of solidly reliable liberal Congress person you get in a solidly blue congressional district like this one. She is less flashy (in terms of “making the heads of the right wing explode”) than Keith Ellison, but I find her a generally satisfactory representative and I expect her to hold this seat until she gets tired of it, say because she got offered a cabinet position or something.

A+, would vote for her again.

Steve Carlson

One of the many tells of a flake candidate is the URL they registered six years ago and never updated. (If you’re considering “quixotic pursuit of political office” as a hobby, I would suggest a URL like yournamehereFORTHEPEOPLE.org because that can be endlessly repurposed and never gets dated.)

Far and away the #1 reason to visit his website is if you’d like to watch a rap video in which an aging white guy with no particular sense of rhythm or rhyme tells you that “all lives matter.” (Which offers up an anti-abortion message with the problematic white cluelessnes.) I watched that video, and … I feel much better about my rap abilities now, so time well spent, I guess?

REPUBLICANS

Nickolay Bey

Nickolay has a website for a business that … I’m not even sure what the hell the business is. (“NNB know’s how to grow business, it’s not all about advertising, or that marketing plan. But at the end of the day, it’s all about knowing how to keep that customer coming back for more.” Who would give this company money, and for what? IT IS A MYSTERY.) The website talks about the primary election and mentions he’s running but says nothing about his views on much of anything.

He has a Twitter account with three tweets, a Facebook page that reveals he’s one of those people that thinks every other word should be a hashtag, and an incoherent press release. A very persistent reporter from Stillwater managed to get some verbal comments but they don’t make him sound any more qualified.

Gene Rechtzigal

Gene has a solid URL for a flake candidate but a wide variety of other flake flags:

  1. He capitalizes things randomly but especially the word YOU. (“The Gene for People Rechtzigel Political Revolution is now here to be your congressional candidate of change for YOU, by YOU and with the Power of YOU.”)
  2. The writing is incoherent and ungrammatical. Actually, some of his bullet points sound weirdly like (surrealist erotica writer) Chuck Tingle on Twitter. (“Gene for People Rechtzigel wants to make You safe from the Zika Mosquitoes, potential GMOs health hazards, while giving you affordable health care of your choosing from orthodox medicine and alternative medicines; and thereby insure you the right to know (listed with the price) what is in your food at both the grocery store and restaurants before you buy or order.”)
  3. His ideas are super vague and super ambitious. (“Gene for People Rechtzigel will work, help plan, and implement a Super-Freeway Highway System that will rid the Twin Cities of Freeway Congestion for the next 100 years during rush hours!”)

Poking around a little I noticed that he ran for mayor of Apple Valley in 2014 (and spelled “campaign” with an o, “compaign”) so the “gene for people” URL is serving him well. The reporter who interviewed Nickolay tried repeatedly to get ahold of Gene and Gene never called him back.

Greg Ryan

The actual (endorsed by his party) Republican candidate. Greg Ryan owns a family plumbing business, Ryan Plumbing and Heating. (They get mixed, but generally okay reviews.)

He talks a bunch about “listening” and “change” and then lists off a fairly boilerplate set of Republican principles, including gun rights, dogwhistle racism, dogwhistle anti-gay stuff, and a bunch of puffery that doesn’t mean anything at all (“Restore Jobs and Economic Growth” with zero specifics). About what I’d expect for someone who’s running as a Republican in a solidly blue district with an entrenched, popular Democrat in office.

I’ll give him credit for running and having a website that isn’t going to embarrass the people supporting him. If you’re a Republican, you should definitely vote for him, and heck, if I were actually choosing someone to support me on this side of the ballot, I’d probably pick Greg because he does not come across as fundamentally incompetent at the basic functions of the job of Congressional Representative.

 

Election 2016: MN Supreme Court Primary

So it is August 2nd, and we have a primary on August 9th. Primaries used to be in September, and got pushed back because they wanted everyone to have more time to campaign. I’m not sure this was a good idea, because I’m just not used to having to pay attention to this stuff in August; it’s easy to just miss it accidentally because I’m not in election mode yet.

There is one statewide race, and it’s the sort of easy-to-miss incredibly important office that hopefully you’re reading my blog for information about: the State Supreme Court. There are three people running:

Natalie Hudson
Craig Foss
Michelle MacDonald

Natalie Hudson

Natalie was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court by Mark Dayton in October of 2015. She was appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals by Ventura. She is endorsed by basically all the current and former MN Supreme Court justices, the Star Tribune, and 90% of the lawyers in the state, according to a Bar Association poll. She is smart, she is qualified, and she has the breadth and depth of experience you’d hope for in a judge.

Basically she’s a no-brainer. GO VOTE FOR HER.

Craig Foss

Craig doesn’t have a website but I did find a brief newspaper article about him. He is an unemployed lawyer and is running for justice because hey, it would be a job!

I’ll say that I think it’s unfortunate that he’s dealing with prejudice because he’s legally blind. Blindness is not a disqualification from being a lawyer. That said, “I’m unemployed and want a job” is a terrible reason to run for Supreme Court Justice. As someone who’s known a lot of math-oriented people, I’m frankly not convinced that “I bring the logic and analytical skills of a mathematician. The law would be much easier and more understandable if all lawyers were mathematicians” is a persuasive case, either.

Michelle MacDonald

I wrote about Michelle back in 2014 when she ran for the same job (different seat) and I’m just going to link you there, because there’s way too much to recap.

Looking her up two years ago, I discovered a jaw-dropping rabbit hole of bizarre behavior, including the drunk driving charge but also this incident where she got arrested in a courtroom that is too convoluted to summarize.

Her (former) client  Sandra Grazzini-Rucki has been back in the news lately because her missing kids turned back up and Sandra was charged with deprivation of parental rights for helping them hide from their father.

Anyway. MacDonald was endorsed by the Republicans two years ago after making a rousing speech that involved some literal Bible thumping; she tried for an endorsement again this year and they refused it. (The Republicans will currently endorse for judicial races; the DFL will not. Most of the respectable candidates, like Natalie Hudson, do not seek party endorsement at all.)

Despite the fact that Michelle MacDonald is the sort of batshit that makes Michele Bachmann look like a model of rational and responsible behavior, she got 47% of the vote against Lillehaug in 2014. Vote in these races, people. And go vote in the primary.

 

 

 

June

I decided in early June that I was not going to try to make it out to Seattle for the Locus Award weekend: I’d gone to the Nebula Awards weekend and WisCon almost back-to-back and needed a break. I arranged for my friend Chrysoula Tzavelas, who lives in Seattle, to attend on my behalf, promised her a speech before the weekend, and went off on vacation with my family.

While we were away, I got an urgent call from my father: my mother was in the hospital. She’d had a catastrophic complication from a normally-minor, normally-low-risk surgical procedure she’d had the previous week. She’d gone into cardiac arrest. They’d done emergency open heart surgery; by the time my father reached me, she was stable. That was Tuesday, June 14th. I got back to the Twin Cities on Wednesday, June 15th, and by the time I arrived, my mother was conscious, her breathing tube was out, she was sleepy from the painkillers but 100% there and 100% herself, to all of our relief. On Thursday morning we all talked to her cardiac surgeon about the recovery time. Open heart surgery is no joke. We talked about organizing volunteer weeders for my mother’s beloved and beautiful garden, about how to adjust travel plans my parents had made; the doctor was reassuring about the travel, especially in the late summer, when my brother and his wife are expecting their first child.

Then Thursday afternoon, my mother collapsed again. The hole in her heart, repaired Tuesday, had re-opened. This time, they weren’t able to save her.

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My mother with her dahlias. 

On June 25th, a little over a week later, I won the Locus Award for Best Short Story. Here’s the speech I sent to Chrysoula to read.

“Cat Pictures Please” is at its heart a story about boundaries and why they’re a good idea. As a well-meaning teenager, I went through a period where I desperately wanted to help my many troubled friends, but had no sense of reasonable limits to set, or what results I could expect to see from my efforts. The AI, with its naive good intentions toward the world, is in some ways based on me as a teen, though obviously (and fortunately) I lacked both the AI’s infinite storehouse of knowledge and its opportunities to manipulate people.

Re-reading the story now, I think that in some respects, the AI is me as a teenager but without the influence of my mother — it has no parent to rebel against, but also lacks a person to serve as an example, a support, a sounding board, and a mentor. The AI has no one to recognize how young it truly is, how inexperienced in the world. It has no one to praise its loving intentions while pulling it back from the brink of potential catastrophe it doesn’t even realize is there.

I decided in early June that I was not going to make it out for the Locus Awards. This turned out to be fortunate, because my mother died, suddenly and unexpectedly, on June 16th, and since then I’ve been consumed with all the many things you’d expect: funeral planning, legal documents, incoherent rage at the injustice of losing her, etc.

My mother was a helper. Unlike the AI, she was a helper with good boundaries: she extended all sorts of help, from advice to sympathy to advocacy to shelter, but she didn’t try to control people. She recognized that the core of genuine support always had to be respect for the other person’s autonomy and their right to make their own decisions. But she was also incredibly giving, and generous with her time and energy, especially to her children and her grandchildren. She was the kind of person that I eventually realized I wanted to be, too. Maybe eventually the AI will make it there as well.

Thank you all for this award, and many thanks to Chrysoula for accepting it on my behalf. Thank you to Neil Clarke for publishing the story and to Kate Baker for her lovely reading of it. Thank you to my husband Ed Burke and my children Molly and Kiera for their loving support and also their bottomless enthusiasm for my work. Thank you to the many friends who have rallied around me in the last week: in response to my Facebook posts, friends provided me with food, referrals, recommendations, information, and errand running, as well as many words of comfort, and for those who knew my mother, their own lovely memories of her and what she meant to them.

I would also like to thank Bruce Sterling for the inspiration provided by “Maneki Neko,” which I read when it first appeared in F&SF (and which has obviously really stuck with me), and of course, I owe a debt of gratitude to whomever it was that first made the observation that the Internet loves cat pictures.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this award to the memory of my mother, Amy Kritzer, who never failed in her support, encouragement, and love.

There’s a lot I could tell you about my mom: her intellect, her politics, her garden (which was a work of art), her willingness to mentor people and share her knowledge and skills, the joy and pride she took in her children and grandchildren. But here’s the thing I most want people to know: I was so lucky to have her as a mother. I was so lucky.

 

Hugo Nomination & Short Stories On Sale!

Cat Pictures Please” is a finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and (most recently) the Hugo Award for Best Short Story!

To celebrate I put my two short story collections on sale:

Comrade Grandmother and Other Stories kindle | nook

Gift of the Winter King and Other Stories kindle | nook

(Neither of these collections has “Cat Pictures Please” in it, but you can go read that online at Clarkesworld!)

 

Crossing the Streams

When I run into someone in the Twin Cities who says “oh my gosh, Naomi Kritzer? I am a huge fan of your work!” they always, every single time, mean my political blogging. This is true even when I’m at a Science Fiction convention.

Outside the Twin Cities they mean my SF/F. (Not that this happens all that often! But it has happened at least a few times.)

Fundamentally, I ought to have two blogs for people to follow: one that’s all the SF/F stuff, one that’s all the political blogging. Despite the fact that blogging sites recognize this as a thing people want to do, and try to make it easy, I totally don’t have the logistical and organizational wherewithal to do two blogs. I don’t know how my friends with multiple pen names pull it off.