Election 2014: Minnesota State House, Districts 63A and 64B

So I’m just going down the ballot in order, and next up on your ballot will be State Rep. I used to live in 63A, where I was represented by Jim Davnie. Now I live in 64B, where I am represented by Michael Paymar but won’t be for very much longer because he’s retiring.

All the interesting stuff in 64B actually happened back in March, when there was an endorsing convention. I went. It was, to my surprise, significantly faster and more efficient than the endorsing conventions in Minneapolis have ever been. The DFL endorsed candidate is Dave Pinto, who I like quite a bit, though he wasn’t my first choice going in. (My first choice going in didn’t even make it to the second round of voting, alas.)

Anyway, I’ll do Minneapolis first. For State Representative District 63A, your choices are:

KYLE BRAGG – REPUBLICAN
JIM DAVNIE – DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR

Kyle Bragg appears to have no website. When I googled for his name, I found a union organizer who lives in Queens; I’m thinking this is probably a different Kyle Bragg. (I mean, there are Republican union members — it does happen — but you can’t run for the Minnesota House of Representatives if you life in New York.) The New York Kyle Bragg actually sounds pretty damn cool

The Minneapolis Kyle Bragg has a LinkedIn profile that says he’s a lease specialist for an office machines company; his Facebook page has a lovely picture of Minnehaha Falls in winter, so I’m pretty sure I’m looking at the right guy.

Anyway, the bottom line is, he’s not a serious candidate; if you can’t even be bothered to set up a Facebook page for your candidacy, you’re not actually running for office even if you’ve filed for it.

Jim Davnie

I have known Jim for over fourteen years; I was pregnant with Molly (and his wife was pregnant with their older daughter) when he ran for office the first time. Jim is smart, funny, honest, thoughtful, and an amazing speaker. If you live in his district, not only should you vote for him, you should seek him out at neighborhood events to chat. Jim is freaking awesome. I would vote for him for anything. Well, maybe not Attorney General. I think you’re supposed to have gone to law school to be AG.

On to St. Paul.

This district has been represented by Michael Paymar since 1996. Paymar is stepping down at the end of this session, so there’s no incumbent. You might think this would have led to a bunch of people filing, but nope. For State Representative District 64B, your choices are:

DANIEL SURMAN – REPUBLICAN
DAVE PINTO – DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR

According to the Pioneer Press, Daniel Surman is an office director for a Republican campaign office covering the 4th Congressional District. In the MNGOP notice about the endorsing convention they held in July, they note that Daniel Surman is the only candidate who filed, and adds, “With the retirement of former-Rep Michael Paymar, he hopes to rally Republicans in our community to make sure our next State Representative will be a Republican!”

So possibly the problem is “rallying Republicans in our community.” I mean, I know there are a few. But you’d be hard-pressed to find them. Even though Daniel is so Republican he works for the party, and even though he has a Twitter, a blog, and another blog (this one’s with a group of bloggers), he doesn’t seem to have a campaign site of any kind. In other words, like the guy in 63A, he filed but he’s not actually running.

If you’re a Republican you’ll probably vote for him anyway, although you might ask yourself, don’t you want a State Rep who acts like he wants the job of representing you?

Dave Pinto is a county prosecutor. During endorsement season he held “conversations” (with topics) rather than meet-and-greets, which was an interesting idea. He doorknocked us at least once and I also talked with him on the phone; I found him thoughtful and engaged. When he doesn’t have an answer, he’ll ask for your ideas (as opposed to pulling buzzwords out of his ass to try to make it sound like he has all the answers.)

Anyway, I think Pinto’s going to be an excellent State Rep, and I’m planning to vote for him.

Election 2014: U.S. House in District 4 and District 5

Both District 4 (St. Paul and some suburbs) and District 5 (Minneapolis and some suburbs) are rather solidly DFL districts. The 4th District was last represented by a Republican in the late 1940s; the 5th in the 1960s. We do have Republicans running in both these districts this time around and strange things do happen, but these are not generally considered to be competitive races.

In District 4, here’s who’s on the ballot:

DAVE THOMAS – INDEPENDENCE
SHARNA WAHLGREN – REPUBLICAN
BETTY MCCOLLUM – DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR

Dave Thomas

So whereas the Independence candidate in the Senate race was running somewhere to the right of the Republican, the Independence candidate here (who is actually endorsed by the Independence party, unlike the guy in the Senate race) is running to the left of the Democrat. Whereas the Independence guy in the Senate race is your embarrassing bigoted uncle, the Independence guy in the Congressional race is your extremely liberal and overly enthusiastic very young cousin whose Facebook feed has more than its share dubiously sourced re-shares about the dangers of plastic water bottles or whatever it is this week. When you talk to him at family parties, he wants to buttonhole you about some ISSUE that he is currently passionate about. One Thanksgiving it was the paleo diet; another it was marijuana legalization. You don’t actually disagree with him about much of this stuff, mind you, but his passionate declarations of fervent belief make you realize that you’ve gotten old.

Dave Thomas doesn’t give a bio on his campaign website, which had me wondering if he was still in college. His Facebook page, however, says that he is “an Iraq War veteran, volunteer firefighter and works in the special education department at Brimhall Elementary in Roseville, MN. He is happily married with two beautiful children.”

Anyway! He wants a system of state-funded tuition-free public higher education, and in the meantime we should forgive all loan debt. He wants universal paid maternity leave. He wants a manned mission to Mars and a 5% increase in our National Park lands. He wants energy self-sufficiency in eleven years, he wants marijuana legalization, he wants the NSA to be defunded.

To pay for the stuff like tuition-free college, he wants a new tax code: “A sliding scale, percentage-based flat tax on all income generated (from the federal level) would rectify most of the problematic situations that our current code perpetuates.” I’m not sure what a sliding-scale flat tax is, other than contradictory sounding.

Under Veteran’s Affairs, he suggests that when members of the Armed Service go through extensive training equivalent to a technical degree, we call it an Associate’s Degree. This strikes me as possibly really reasonable (and wouldn’t cost anything extra — essentially it’s a way of upgrading the credentials soldiers are already coming home with into something employers recognize). I wonder why this isn’t what they do now?

Possibly the funniest, from the National Security section “It should be illegal to sell any seed which is unable to produce viable offspring.” So just to be clear: he thinks it should be illegal to grow seedless watermelons. (Marijuana: legalize and tax. Seedless watermelons: BAN.) (I’m sure he’s actually thinking of some of the varieties of corn developed by Monsanto that are specifically designed to make it impossible for you to save seeds. But his proposed legislation basically bans hybrid garden vegetables.) Dammit, Dave Thomas, YOU CAN HAVE MY SEEDLESS WATERMELON WHEN YOU PRY IT FROM MY COLD, DEAD HANDS.

Sharna Wahlgren

Sharna is the Republican. She provides a fairly standard political bio (community service on non-profit boards, work ethic honed by high school labor at the State Fair) and states that her priorities are fiscal responsibility, local solutions, and job growth. She’s got a paragraph about each. I salute her willingness to run in a race she’s going to lose, and her pragmatism in accepting that this is not a campaign worth investing a lot of time in.

Betty McCollum

Betty is liberal and hardworking, and has so far avoided embarrassing us with any scandals or criminal behavior. I kind of preferred being represented by Keith Ellison just because he upsets so many Republicans just by existing, but I really have no complaints about Betty. I’m going to vote for her.

In District 5, here’s who’s on the ballot:

LEE BAUER – INDEPENDENCE
DOUG DAGGETT – REPUBLICAN
KEITH ELLISON – DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR

Lee Bauer

I clicked on Lee Bauer’s website with trepidation, eager to find out which variety of Independence nutbar I’d find.

I don’t really want to make fun of him, but I wouldn’t vote for him, either. Lee is a blue-collar, working class, gay single father. (Based on the age of his kid, I’m guessing he had a brief marriage to a woman.) He’s earnest and means well but is overly fond of exclamation points and doesn’t know much about most of the issues.

For example, here’s his comment on drug costs: “Prescription drugs, by bring down the price of will benefit the ones with chronic symptoms and the older folks. How about asthma for instance, There is a drug called Albuterol, it was put on the market 1968, the year I was born, Albuterol 5 years ago was $17.00 cash with no insurance, but today it’s $57.00, and if you were to buy in Mexico its less than five dollars for three bottles. One bottle would last a month for most and this is one drug of many that can be lowed.”

I had basically the same question last year — WTF is up with albuterol prices? This is not a new drug; why does it cost so goddamn much? It turns out that this is due to environmental regulations. The old inhalers contained CFCs. CFCs were banned by an international treaty in 1996 because they were causing ozone layer depletion; the albuterol inhalers that used CFCs were phased out in 2008. The new formulation is legally a new drug and so it’s under patent again (or maybe it’s the inhaler design that’s new? I am not 100% sure.) Anyway, that’s why albuterol suddenly costs so much. There were a lot of things that the government could have done differently to mitigate the situation; I would be a lot more interested in his ideas if he got into any of that, but he doesn’t.

Anyway, a lot of his website is like that.

Doug Daggett

Doug has another fairly standard political bio (his first job was delivering the morning paper). He’s 50, married, a tech sales person, and reasonably competent with Twitter. He presents himself as a fairly moderate Republican, suggesting changes to the Affordable Care Act rather than demanding it be immediately repealed. (He thinks people should have catastrophic coverage policies and HSAs.)

The bit that made me roll my eyes and think, “so very Republican” was this bit on education:

We all want our children to have a great education and great opportunities. Yet in Minneapolis, most likely 1/2 of our children (46%) will not graduate. This is an economic and social disaster for all of us in the 5th Congressional District! We need a leader who will get Washington DC out of our schools and allow teachers and parents to decide what’s best for our children. Doug Daggett is that leader.

Minneapolis is doing a crap job, therefore get Washington DC out because local control is the answer!

Keith Ellison

Keith is a solidly liberal, hard-working Representative who so far hasn’t embarrassed his constituents with scandals or criminal behavior.

But what I really adored about Keith Ellison back when I was living in Minneapolis was being able to tell my out-of-town friends that I was represented by a pro-Choice pro-marriage-equality Muslim black guy. Keith Ellison has been making right-wing heads explode since he took his Oath of Office on Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Koran.

Were I living in Minneapolis, I would definitely vote for Keith.

Election 2014: Senate

So let’s get this started. At the top of my ballot is the U.S. Senate race. Just to quickly recap what happened six years ago: Al Franken ran against incumbent Norm Coleman; the result was ridiculously close and had to be carefully hand-counted, and it was more than six months before Franken was able to take office. His final lead was either 225 votes or 312 votes. I could not ask for a better object lesson on the subject of, “yes, it matters that you vote, and it matters who you vote for.”

The people on my ballot for U.S. Senate:

STEVE CARLSON – INDEPENDENCE
MIKE MCFADDEN – REPUBLICAN
AL FRANKEN – DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR
HEATHER JOHNSON – LIBERTARIAN PARTY

So let’s just go top to bottom here.

Steve Carlson

Steve Carlson’s party is officially Independence. There was a brief period of time when this party was actually legit rather than a motley collection of weirdos and paranoids. Where Steve Carlson falls can be spotted very quickly on visiting his website. (The fact that the URL is “stevecarlsonforcongress2010” is also a pretty big clue.) Let’s say you have an uncle you see at big family gatherings and he’s okay as long as you stay on topics like how good his BBQ recipe is and how smart his kids are, but when you get onto politics, out come the racism, homophobia, sexism, wingnuttery, and rampant paranoia. Let’s say he made a whole bunch of videos showcasing his political ideas and put them on a website. That’s Steve Carlson.

Weirdly, he makes all sorts of statements about why you absolutely positively should not vote for Al Franken but he makes zero case (that I found — I am really not willing to sit through his videos, though, and there don’t seem to be any written statements beyond the video titles) for why you should vote for him over Mike McFadden, the Republican candidate (i.e., the guy who might conceivably beat Al in the race). I’m curious what he has against Mike that makes him so willing to act as a potential spoiler, or if he’s just oblivious to that possibility. (In 2008, the ultra-conservative Constitution party candidate got 8,905 votes. If three percent of those voters had gone for Norm Coleman instead, he’d have won the election.)

Mike McFadden

McFadden is the Republicans. If you’re a Republican, you’re probably going to vote for him. Let me just note, though, that when I pulled open the issues page, he starts out by talking about health care. The botched implementation of the MNSure site makes it an easy topic on which to take pot shots, but here’s one of the things he says:

Covering Those With Pre-Existing Conditions. Despite all the promises made during the health care debate, there are still Americans with pre-existing conditions who are struggling to find or afford coverage. This is unacceptable. When we repeal and replace Obamacare, we need to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions actually have access to affordable insurance plans that cover their illnesses.

…with absolutely zero explanation for how he plans to do that, other than the previous paragraph where he said it needs to be “a patient-centered, market-based solution that will lower costs and increase accessibility for all Americans.”

You know something I have very little patience for from politicians are solutions woven from fairy dust and unicorn farts. Political solutions that look like this classic math proof:

That math comic where step three of a proof is,

And then a miracle occurs…

You know the solution that will ensure that every individual with a pre-existing condition will actually have access to health care they can afford? Single-payer health care. Socialized medicine. I guarantee you that this is not what McFadden is advocating. The market-based Republican solution for covering the uninsured and uninsurable was Romneycare. It was almost exactly the program that was implemented, which they liked fine before the Democrats said, “okay, fine. You know what? we’ll take it.”

So if you’re a Republican politician who’s going to go after Obamacare by saying that people with pre-existing conditions are still having trouble getting insured (true, for some, because some people still can’t afford insurance) but you’re not actually going to spell out how you’re going to fix this even in the most rudimentary way, people need to call you on it.

Al Franken

I voted for Al six years ago but with some trepidation, to be honest. I struggled with who to support in the primary. Al the candidate was combative and confrontational and frequently negative. The moment I found myself really liking him, to be honest, was when he was asked about gay marriage. “I love my wife,” he said. “Frannie is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I want EVERYONE to be able to marry the person they love because no one should be denied this sort of happiness.” That’s Al at his best: personal, ethical, and committed.

I’ve been a lot happier with Al-the-Senator than I was with Al-the-Candidate because I feel like we’ve seen a lot of Al at his best. He’s avoided showboating and grandstanding; he’s put a lot of time and energy into dealing with constituent services; he’s pursued some small-scale stuff that solve problems. (He authored the amendment to the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80-85% of premiums on actual health care costs, and to give rebates if they’re failing to meet that benchmark.)

Heather Johnson

If you pick your politicians based on how attractive they are, Heather Johnson would be your clear choice. Mike McFadden looks like the guy in the movie who will turn out to be evil in the third act; Steve Carlson looks like your uncle who mainlines Fox News; and Al Franken looks like Al Franken. Heather Johnson looks like someone you’d cast to play the femme fatale in a movie made by Evangelical Christians about the dangers of going to poetry readings with heathens.

Anyway, she’s a libertarian. I was just the other day looking at this political cartoon, the 24 types of libertarians: http://leftycartoons.com/the-24-types-of-libertarian/

I would say she’s probably mostly the “Naive” kind (on welfare and human services: “I support direct effort through voluntary community charities, locally led initiatives, and the free market with all individuals having responsibility and free choice regarding the exchange of goods and services for goods and services”) with a side of “Briefly Tempting” (On the prison system: “The privatized prison system does not work. Our prison population exceeds other developed nations and rivals underdeveloped nations. This is alarming in a country that claims to support liberty, was built to preserve personal liberty and leaders as servants to we the people.”)

The decision here for me is not at all hard: Al Franken.

Election 2014: Missed the Primary

I was ambushed by the August primary and failed to post anything.

I also, for the first time in many years, failed to vote in the election — I was out of town that week, and by the time it dawned on me that the primary was going to be in freaking AUGUST, it was too late to get an absentee ballot.

Fortunately, the only actual contest happening on the DFL side of the ballot was for State Auditor. For reasons that in retrospect only seem even more mystifying, former State Rep Matt Entenza ran against the endorsed incumbent, Rebecca Otto, on a platform that seemed to suggest that he didn’t really understand the job functions.

I’ll note that a former State Auditor race is one of the handful of times I’ve voted for a Republican. I voted for Judi Dutcher against a DFL incumbent — although Judi had switched parties before the next election, which I thought vindicated me rather thoroughly.

Anyway, Matt spent busloads of money in order to get about 324 votes total. (OK, I am overstating things, but only slightly; Rebecca got 80% of the vote. Though in an August primary with no real headliner races, only the party diehards are even paying attention.) Over on the Republican side, the endorsed candidates for Governor and Senator took it. I’d say the early evidence suggests that moving the primary back a month has made the party endorsements significantly more important.

I’ve been thinking I should get started with my election blogging; I’ll probably go top to bottom. The thing about starting early is that there’s less information available. “Less” in the context of the U.S. Senate race is not a problem given that there’s no shortage of data out there about Al Franken and McWhat’shisname, the Republican running against him. (I’m not being snarky here, I am legitimately having trouble remember his name. I got a push poll the other day and they asked me what I thought of McWhat’shisname and I said, “um, I’m not sure who that is. Is that the guy running against Al Franken?” Yes. And now I’ve forgotten it again. McConnell, maybe?) ANYWAY. Down-ticket races, “less” sometimes means “none.” There are apparently some competitive judge races this time, though, so I’ll definitely try to get to those.

In Minnesota this time around, we are voting for a U.S. Senator, a Governor, all the big state offices (people! pay attention to these! it really does actually matter who our Secretary of State, State Auditor, and Attorney General are!), all our U.S. Congressional Representatives, all our State Senators, and all our State Reps. Also a bunch of judges, and Minneapolis is having a school board race, and we have County Commissioners and County Sheriffs and (naturally!) Soil & Water Commissioners. AND, for your additional reading pleasure, Minneapolis has TWO yes/no ballot questions — one that’s hoping to solve the Mayoral Clown Car problem for future years, and one that seeks to make it easier for wine bars to operate, I think. (“REMOVE MANDATORY FOOD REQUIREMENTS FOR WINE LICENSES. Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to remove the requirement that businesses holding on-sale wine licenses in the City must serve food with every order of wine or beer and to remove mandatory food to wine and beer sales ratios?”)

If any city resident outside either my St. Paul precinct or my old Minneapolis precinct has a special request for a race for me to cover, let me know via e-mail or comment. (I don’t generally do anything outside the core cities, because I am inadequately informed on the crucial issues. It just takes me a long time to get up to speed on what people are talking about, in the local races. It’s been hard enough getting up to speed in St. Paul — in Minneapolis, I could look at the people endorsing someone and know a bunch of things right off, whereas in St. Paul I totally lack that knowledge base. But I LIVE here now, so I’m actually motivated to acquire it — whereas for New Hope or Eagan, that’s just never going to happen.)

And for new readers who don’t know how this works: I research the candidates, make fun of them, and do endorsements. Most people actually reading these for information are here for the down-ticket writeups; there are very few sources for information about the down-ticket races like Soil & Water Commissioners. (Okay, and last year, I had the distinction of being one of the ONLY one-stop sources for ALL the Minneapolis mayoral candidates.)

For candidates who want to make a case for my endorsement (which you totally should; I am pretty sure I swing DOZENS of votes) or anyone else who wants to get in touch with me about this, my e-mail is totally not a secret. My username is naomi dot kritzer, and I use Gmail. You can also find me on Facebook, and I know about the Other message folder now so I will probably see your message within a day or two.