Election 2014: MN Governor’s Race: Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet

Before I get into the Governor’s race here, a brief recap of the Independence Party.

Back in 1992, eccentric Texas billionaire Ross Perot ran for President as an independent. He was successful enough to get on the ballot and into the debates, but not successful enough to actually get an electoral votes. He then founded a political party, the Reform Party, which stood for … you know, I can’t really remember. “We’re not the Republicans or the Democrats” was probably their biggest platform plank. My recollection is that Perot was opposed to the North American Free Trade Agreement, anti-debt, and not particularly socially conservative. In 1996, Perot ran again, and did somewhat less well. In 1998, the Reform Party hit what was probably its high-water mark: Jesse Ventura was elected Governor of Minnesota. Two years later, in the 2000 Presidential race, racist demagogue Pat Buchanan took over and got himself on the ballot as the Presidential nominee, and around that time the Minnesota Reform Party renamed itself the Independence Party. Lots of people called them Jessecrats.

Ventura’s biggest appeal was his bluntness. In 1998, the other candidates were Skip Humphery and Norm Coleman. Let’s say that in a public forum debate someone asked the candidates to agree with his stance that the sky was green. Skip and Norm would have both tried to find common ground on the idea that it was teal or turquoise which is really a shade of green and what ARE colors, anyway, and let’s try to steer the conversation back to their current pet hobbyhorse in the most disingenuously political way possible. Jesse would watch all of this and then say disdainfully, “The sky is blue.” That is why he won — it wasn’t so much a collective disgust with the other parties as with the other candidates. The press also adored Jesse, because he was basically a sound-bite machine; all you needed to do was throw him periodic straight lines and then go home and transcribe and you’d have a great article.

Alas, he really wasn’t prepared for success, and as governor he was less than the sum of his parts. Thin-skinned, easily worn out when it came to the political games that are inevitable when you’re trying to get anything done, he got hung up on the wrong projects (he wanted a unicameral legislature) and then quit after one term. (And became an increasingly batshit conspiracy-theorist who was most recently in the news for suing over libel.)

No one in the Independence party has even come close since that Governor’s race, but I’ll add that this is also a reason why polling in Minnesota can be so important. A lot of people look at the polls and vote strategically. Ventura was rising in the polls on Election Day, which is why so many people jumped to the third-party column — they believed he really had a shot. (Plus, I don’t think I did a fully adequate job of communicating just how uninspiring Coleman and Humphery were. I voted in the morning that year, because I KNEW that if I waited until after work, when I was tired and demoralized and grumpy, I would totally vote for Ventura.)

Anyway! That’s the background. On to this year’s candidates.


Hannah Nicollet

So the very first splash page of Hannah’s website nails rather neatly a big piece of the appeal of the Independence Party. She asks:

Why is that although 76% of Minnesotans favor legal medicinal marijuana, 68% oppose publicly funded sports stadiums, and 59% desire Sunday alcohol sales, politicians refuse to carry out the will of the people? In each of these cases lawmakers voted in favor of influential lobbies and private interests over the public’s interest. Independence is the answer.

Right? I mean HOLY CRAP, guys. WHAT IS IT with the sports stadiums? Back in 2001, I campaigned for RT Rybak in part because Sayles-Belton had backed some dumbass stadium deal. Here we are in 2014, and while RT was mayor, Minneapolis got not one but two overpriced sports palaces, paid for by taxpayers, crammed down our collective throat against the municipal law that demanded a referendum (they can’t ever put these to a referendum vote because THEY WOULD ALWAYS LOSE.)

Everyone wants Sunday alcohol sales. (Except the liquor store employees who like having a consistent day off.) Everyone agrees that allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana is a no-brainer (I mean, we let doctors prescribe Fentanyl, Seconal, and methamphetamines, right?) There’s so much we don’t agree on; when there’s overwhelming agreement on something as straightforward as, “sports teams should buy their own damn stadiums,” why does the will of the people get overruled again and again and again?

But — if Hannah sounds like an ordinary person asking the sort of common-sense questions that we all ask, the problem is that she’s also an ordinary person repeating stuff she’s heard without checking on it particularly closely. Under “Economy,” she says, We also have a permit and licensing obsession that must be addressed. Did you know that in Minnesota, more classroom time is required to become a cosmetologist than to become a lawyer? And becoming a manicurist requires twice as many hours as a paramedic?

She cites a source on that: this editorial. Which starts out stating baldly, “In Minnesota, more classroom time is required to become a cosmetologist than to become a lawyer. Becoming a manicurist takes double the number of hours of instruction as a paramedic.” But (a) it’s an editorial, not an article, and (b) it’s completely unsourced. So I dug up numbers and checked out the claims here.

To get a cosmetology license, you need 1,550 hours of training. Those are clock hours, but they’re not actually spent in the classroom. The Minnesota School of Beauty explains the curriculum a little bit on their website. Because I’m a completist, I called them up and asked them to go over their curriculum for me. (They assumed I was a prospective student, which was sort of sweet. I would be the worst cosmetologist EVER, even with 1,550 hours of training.) It’s a ten-month program. For 2.5 months, you go to classes with textbooks and listen to lectures on hair cutting techniques and how to dye hair so it doesn’t wind up green. And then you spend 7.5 months in “clinic,” which is to say, practicing on people under supervision. And then you take an exam. Is that excessive training to require of someone who wants to cut, dye, and style hair? Maybe? I mean, for some styles they’re messing around with hot stuff and caustic chemicals right by your scalp; I think I probably do want someone to have some mandatory training so they’re not going to injure me.

But, to make their point that this was excessive they were comparing it to being admitted to the bar. To be licensed to practice law in the State of Minnesota, you need to pass the bar exam; you also need a JD or LLB degree from an accredited institution. (And you have to be eighteen years old and “of good character” and there’s some other odds and ends, but that’s most of it.)

So what does it require to get a JD? I found the ABA’s requirements here. The ABA requires 67 credit hours to actually happen in the classrooms of the law school and Washington University requires 86 credit hours overall (I’m not sure if that’s actually part of the ABA’s requirements for accreditation but I’m guessing they do require more than 67 credit hours overall.) Note that “credit hours” are not “clock hours.” According to the wikipedia page on the subject, a credit hour is an hour of instruction once a week for a semester, or between 12 and 16 hours in a semester. Let’s say 14 hours x 86 = 1,205 required hours in the classroom, which is, in fact, less than the 1,550 hours required by the State of Minnesota for Cosmetology school.

Except in order to get into law school, you’re going to need a Bachelor’s degree. It’s not actually in the requirements as written for admission to the bar but it’s in the requirements for programs where you get a JD (and the JD is required.) Also, just as most of those cosmetology hours are actually supervised practice rather than sitting in a classroom, most of the hours spent in law school are spent reading, writing papers, and studying, it’s just that you don’t have to do those under supervision because no one’s worried you might actually stab someone with scissors. (Maybe they should be.) If it were possible to do law school in ten months rather than three years, there’d be a program for it out there. There isn’t. I looked. (I did find someone who thinks law school should be a two-year program and he mentions there are a few schools out there that cram three years of work into two years.)

So that part is marginally accurate misleading bullshit; by contrast, the manicurist/paramedic comparison is straight up bullshit. Manicurists need 350 hours of training. Paramedic programs range from 1000 to 1500 clock hours, according to the organization that accredits paramedic training programs. The thing with manicurists, hair stylists, and estheticians, though, is that all of the training requirements are about requiring supervised practice, not classroom instruction. Should we be requiring training? I mean, I guess this is one of those areas where we could go the libertarian route and say that it’s on you to check into the training and credentials of your manicurist, waxer, or hair stylist. That’s a lot more reasonable than expecting you to check into the training and credentials of the paramedic on the ambulance that responds to your call about chest pains. You can make a case for keeping the government out of beauty salon regulation, but don’t make your case by saying, “more classroom time is required to become a cosmetologist than to become a lawyer,” because that’s true in only the diciest possible sense of technical accuracy.

Moving on.

It’s Hannah’s Food Freedom section that got me curious enough yesterday to e-mail her, and then, at her request, call her. (Props to her for availability, seriously. I e-mailed Jeff Johnson’s campaign with a much briefer question and have not heard a peep.)

Here’s what she says:

Minnesotans should have the freedom to drink the milk they wish, have tap water that is free from chemicals and use natural plants to treat their illnesses.

I was pretty sure that by “the freedom to drink the milk they wish” she was talking about raw milk. (There’s a provision in state law that lets farmers “occasionally” sell raw milk and raw milk products directly to consumers, but they can’t sell it at farmer’s markets. There is a farmer at a market I used to go to who sold raw milk cheese as “fish bait.” Obviously there’s no law against eating stuff you bought as fish bait, right?) Anyway — I have mixed feelings on this, in that I think it’s reasonable to take risks with your own health, but there are people out there who are convinced that raw milk is magical unicorn juice that cures all ills and want to feed it in large quantities to their children, and who will insist loudly that when a farmer selling raw milk has his product embargoed because he gave eight people e. coli, and who continues selling it anyway and people also come down with campylobacter and cryptosporidium, this is not evidence that he is a really bad bet for a safe raw milk source but the VICTIM OF GOVERNMENT PERSECUTION.

Anyway, she confirmed yes, she was talking about raw milk. The “tap water free from chemicals” was indeed a reference to municipal fluoridation (although she’s also not a fan of fracking) and “natural plants to treat their illnesses” was mostly a reference to pot. I wanted to know how she felt about cases like Daniel Hauser, a thirteen-year-old boy who back in 2009 had Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a set of parents who were very, very, very into woo. Daniel wanted to forgo chemo in favor of “natural therapies, such as herbs and vitamins.” I linked to a blog post rather than a news story because it gives a comprehensive overview, but also gets into some discussion of why this is such a particularly bad idea with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. There are cancers where the primary treatment is the surgery; chemo reduces the risk of recurrence, but if you skip the chemo, you can get lucky and be cured anyway. That’s not the case for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Chemo is THE TREATMENT. And it’s also incredibly effective in kids with this cancer at the stage his was at. Anyway, after some drama and legal battles, Daniel had the chemo and went into remission. His father got cancer a year later, treated it with pureed vegetables, and died in 2011. I respect Anthony Hauser’s right to make stupid, misguided decisions about his own health and medical treatments, but a thirteen-year-old lacks the perspective and maturity to make these sorts of decisions. (Or, to quote the Supreme Court’s opinion on Prince vs. Massachusetts, “Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.”)

Anyway, it was clear from our conversation that when she posted about using “natural plants” she was not thinking about parents making choices for their children (or, inasmuch as she was, she was thinking about the parents who want to use cannabis-based treatments for their children’s seizures). But it was also clear from our conversation that this is a woman who buys into some unadulterated woo.

She doesn’t talk about vaccinations on her website, but the red flags here prompted me to ask about her thoughts on mandatory vaccinations for school and day cares. She cited the rumor that the CDC was suppressing information about vaccines causing autism and added, “It’s not like we have some plague that’s overtaking the land!” and then said it should be up to the parents.

…so yeah.

The thing about “common sense” approaches to political problems is that it’s really important they be backed up with facts and accuracy. Because in fact the real world can be really counter-intuitive.

A couple of other notes about Hannah: she originally went to the Independence Party convention wanting to be their Senate candidate; she got talked into running for Governor when they realized they didn’t have ANYONE trying for endorsement for the governor’s race. You may recall that the Independence Party guy in the Senate race was a complete whackjob. It turns out he was not the endorsed IP candidate; he won in the primary.

The other sort of hilarious thing is her party affiliation. In her In the News section, she links to one article that mentions her staffing a Libertarian Party table at a gun show and to another that describes her as a Ron Paul supporter (which suggests to me that in 2012 she registered as a Republican and went to the GOP Caucuses.) It’s not actually that surprising that she’s been affiliated with three parties in three years; the fact that she highlights that on her campaign website is an interesting strategy, though.

This got so long I decided to just make this post all about Hannah Nicollet. Will do the others in a separate post (or multiple separate posts, it depends on how much on their website I find myself wanting to respond to).


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