This is definitely the race that people in my circle are the most undecided about. They’re not waffling over whether to go for Ole Savior, just to be clear: it’s basically a Walz vs. Murphy debate. And a lot of people are really undecided:
SUPER WITH YOU THERE, DAVID.
Here’s who’s on the ballot:
Let’s dispense with the obvious ones first:
Tim Holden ran for Mayor of St. Paul last year, and also four years before that — four years ago he went so far as to rent himself a kiosk at the State Fair, so apparently he’s willing to throw a fair amount of money down the campaign funding hole (and he’s not taking donations for his race for governor.)
He’s fond of capital letters, he thinks that metal detectors on schools constitute “common sense gun control,” and he seems to think vague statements about belief in a strong educational system are a bold, novel stand. As is so often the curse of the perennial candidate, he didn’t get his website fully updated when he changed which office he was running for.
His running mate appears to be a chiropractor who had his license suspended for repeatedly coming to work drunk or high. (That was a few years ago. Possibly he’s better now.)
Ole Savior runs for something every year; his website talks about his Senate run and then mentions governor, but seems to think he’s running in the Republican primary.
Ole Savior is the quintessential flake candidate.
You’re not going to vote for any of those guys, so on to the three real candidates: Lori Swanson, Tim Walz, and Erin Murphy.
I don’t like Lori Swanson. I have never liked Lori Swanson. She keeps sending me e-mails telling me that she needs my money:
I actually replied to that one:
Lori, I can’t stand you. I’ll vote for you in the general if I have to but I am the absolute last person you should ask for support in the primary as I would pick either Walz or Murphy over you without a moment’s hesitation.
P.S. I also find the Mothership Strategies churn and burn style of fundraising offensive in the extreme and even if I did like you, my likelihood of donating to you in the primary would drop to 0 after getting this sort of bullshit email.
I got no response, and her campaign has not stopped asking me for money, most recently three hours ago. Anyway. She’s Mike Hatch’s protege, and I couldn’t stand Mike Hatch, either.
Lori is also far and away the weakest candidate on gun control. I swear earlier today I saw something on her site where she defended her record by saying the NRA only endorsed her in 2010 because her opponent was a completely unqualified whackjob, but she was also endorsed by the Minnesota Gun Owners PAC in 2014, which said that Lori “has been a steadfast supporter of the constitutional rights of Minnesota’s gun owners as attorney general.” She had to be heavily pressured before she took any sort of stand on gun control, and as a further example of the sort of things about her I loathe, this piece from MPR talks about the DFL state convention, where she failed to get endorsement on the first ballot:
Swanson said she was turned off by requests from convention delegates to sign pledges on certain issues as attorney general, and she has vowed not to sign any agreements during her campaign for governor.
Really, you’re turned off when people expect you to articulate a real stance on issues? On her website under “Gun Rights and School Safety” she says, “Lori is unencumbered by any pledges to any special interest groups.”
[Profane rant deleted. If you’re sad, just mentally insert the f-word a bunch of times and you’ll basically have it.]
Most recently, she was in the news because during his 2016 re-election campaign, Nolan re-hired a staffer who’d been fired (well, “allowed to resign,” actually) for absolutely brazen sexual harassment of multiple young women in the office. It’s crystal clear that Nolan does not see years of groping women as anything particularly serious. After over a day of trying to duck the issue completely (despite knowing this was hitting the news), the Swanson campaign responded with some absolute weaksauce line about not condoning sexual harassment, blah blah blah; meanwhile, her campaign added that one of the women levying the accusations worked for a rival campaign.
People, I am begging you, please don’t make me vote for Lori Swanson in the general election.
Editing to add: she also union-busted her own office a few years ago, plus apparently she made a bunch of her employees do campaign work for her:
Linda McEwen, who worked at the state Capitol office as Swanson’s executive assistant from 2007 to 2009, said she directly witnessed employees engaged in political campaigning while there. … McEwen told The Intercept that, during her tenure, she knew which employees were participating in campaign work, and she saw firsthand those individuals receive disproportionate promotions and pay raises.
“They’d recruit folks out of the consumer division, who were generally young and wanting to build their careers and connections in politics,” said McEwen, referring to staffers Swanson used to mobilize others. “I worked closely with Swanson, I was right across the hall from her office, and I would schedule these people to accompany her to campaign events.”
Swanson spends unusually little on campaign staff. Her attorney general campaign committee, which has spent $660,000 since the beginning of 2014, does not report a single dollar of payroll or employee expense. In the current gubernatorial race, among the 10 candidates with the highest campaign expenditures, staff expenses account for about 25 percent of all campaign spending — an average of about $107,000 per candidate. Every one of those candidates reported significant staff costs — all, that is, except for Swanson, who again reported $0 in payroll or employee expense. This was despite spending nearly $470,000 overall, more than all but three other candidates.
I saw someone dismiss this article because it used anonymous sources, but it also uses a named source, and the $0 payroll on campaign staff is just jaw-dropping all by itself. If she were running for school board, sure, an all-volunteer staff is plausible, but in a governor’s race where she’s spent $470K?
I first ran across Erin Murphy in 2016 when she was running for re-election in 64A — she participated in a candidate forum along with the people running in 64 and 64B, and I watched it. I really liked her, and my first thought when I heard she was in the race was, “oh, good; she’s really cool.”
More or less my second thought was, “…if anyone else has heard of her.” I mean, she was the Majority Leader in the State House, so people should have heard of her, right? But I hadn’t. And I think I pay somewhat better attention than the average Minnesotan to what the legislature is up to. I mean, I know the people who represent me. But not necessarily the party leadership at any given time. Anyway, her name recognition is low. It’s been growing, but it’s been growing slowly.
Tim Walz is better known than Erin Murphy (although maybe less well-known than Lori Swanson? I find that really odd — I feel like the US House is a higher profile job than Attorney General, but who knows). I have also always liked Tim, although as a congressional representative in a district that leans red, he’s been soft enough on gun control that the NRA supported him. (That’s been a major point of contention in the race: he donated the NRA’s money and has embraced a stronger line on gun control. Also, he doesn’t call people asking for actual commitments on gun control “special interest groups.”)
They both want to open MinnesotaCare to anyone who wants to choose it as their insurer. Erin emphasizes her background as a nurse and her inside knowledge of health care issues, and expresses support for a national single-payer approach. Tim places families priced out of the health care market side-by-side with families who have to “drive hours for a simple doctor’s office visit,” i.e., rural Minnesotans. Tim also calls out mental health care as an issue (“Access to affordable mental health care is a right, too. It’s time we listen to and deliver for Minnesotans and their families facing mental health challenges. They deserve our love, respect and commitment to meaningful action.”) He’s definitely not wrong. It’s not clear to me what he’s going to do about this (there’s a tremendous shortage of psychiatrists — that’s a national problem that’s actually a lot worse in many other states) but at least he’s acknowledging the issue.
Anyway, here we see a central plan that they both endorse (MinnesotaCare for anyone who wants it). Erin wants single-payer, and says so; I’ll note also that she calls it “single payer.” (Some recent study found that most Americans have no idea what single-payer even means, and Republicans like the term because it’s easy to spin negatively. This is part of why there’s been a shift toward pushing for Medicare for All — most Americans do know what Medicare is, and like it. Mind you, I suspect that people voting in the DFL primary are more likely to recognize the term.) Tim talks about the challenges of rural care, and mental health care.
Looking through their issues pages, here are some issues I found where they were different.
- Housing. Erin talks about affordable housing; Tim doesn’t, and a Google search suggests it’s not an issue he’s devoted a lot of attention to.
- Higher Education. Erin wants two years of free higher education for all, and four years free higher education for people whose families make less than $150,000/year. (I think.) Tim wants to provide two years of free higher education for people whose families make less than $125,000/year. (To be honest, I don’t like either of these solutions all that much; my take is that public universities should be affordable to students who are putting themselves through college by working part time. They don’t need to be free; they need to charge tuition that students can realistically earn money to pay for, working summers and part time, like they used to. That may be asking a lot, though.)
- Gun control. Both have a “Gun Violence Prevention” section on their website. Both want an assault weapons ban, a red flag law (where you could essentially extend a restraining order to prevent the person from buying a gun), universal background checks, and public health research. Tim mentions fighting Stand Your Ground laws and Erin doesn’t, but in this case I am super sure that’s not because she doesn’t oppose them. Erin mentions restrictions on magazine capacity and “Requiring built-in safety measures that limit accidents and holding gun manufacturers responsible if that standard isn’t met,” which … I’m guessing means stuff like fingerprint-readers on triggers? I’m not sure. Tim has taken NRA money in the past; Erin has not been offered it; I think it’s reasonable to suggest that this is an issue on which Erin is less likely to be malleable than Tim.
- Marijuana. Erin wants to legalize recreational pot, and expunge the records of people currently in prison for it. Tim doesn’t mention this on his site, but he’s on the record as pro-legalization. In that article he mentions cannabis as a crop that could be grown by farmers; he does not, however, mention that particular option in his Agriculture section, unless “Support the growth of organic and locally grown products that offer new opportunities for both rural and urban Minnesotans to be part of Minnesota’s strong agricultural tradition” is code for “especially POT” (but I don’t think it is). Editing to add: I dug back in to Tim’s section on Racial Equity and that’s where he mentions marijuana laws. “Tim and Peggy favor creating a taxation and regulation system for adult-use cannabis in Minnesota. African Americans in Minnesota are negatively and disproportionately impacted by these laws.” He does NOT, however, mention expunging records of the disproportionately African American people negatively impacted by these laws up till now.
- Agriculture and Mining. Tim has an Agriculture section; Erin does not. Erin has a mining section, Tim does not. I would hazard a guess that farmers would be happier with Tim’s Agriculture section than miners are likely to be with Erin’s Mining section.
- Energy, Environment, and Climate. They have nearly-identically-named sections on these issues. Tim talks about his record finding common ground between disparate groups. He wants Minnesota to get 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030; reduce greenhouse gasses by 80% by 2050; and he wants to work with farmers on “clean water solutions.” Erin wants to expand renewables but without specific numbers. (Admittedly, when you’re goal-setting for 10+ years in the future, I’m not sure how meaningful numbers like this even are.) She wants to improve the infrastructure for electric vehicles; invest in Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) projects for cleaning water; invest in development of perennial crops; and spend the $11 billion needed to update our water infrastructure. (She talks more about clean water in her Mining section.)
- Transportation. Tim has a Transportation section which mentions he wants to raise the gas tax to fund road and transit improvements. Erin doesn’t talk much about Transportation, nor does she mention how she’d raise the revenue to cover the projects she wants to see.
- LGBTQ+ Issues. Both want to ban conversion therapy and oppose “bathroom bills.” Erin also mentions wants to streamline the process of changing your gender marker on ID documents, and she wants to require health insurers to cover gender-confirmation surgeries, hormones, etc.
- Disability Rights. Erin has a “Disability” section under Equity and Justice where she comments that “folks with disabilities are often not at the table when we’re making decisions that will directly affect them” and advocates for improved accessibility, as well as service/housing options that let disabled people choose where to live.
- Unions and Worker Issues. They’re both long-time union members and very pro-union. They’re both in favor of a $15/hour minimum wage. (Tim notes that the employees of his campaign are all paid a living wage plus benefits.) They’re both in favor of paid sick and safe time.
- Racial Equity. (A commenter requested more discussion of this issue: fair enough.) Both candidates have a section on racial equity; Tim also has a section specifically about American Indian concerns. It’s worth noting that Tim’s running mate is Peggy Flanagan, who’s a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe; Erin’s running mate, Erin Maye Quade, is biracial. Both mention trying to improve education disparities, including some very similar goals (like hiring more teachers of color). Erin puts more emphasis on health disparities; she also mentions the wage gap, and restoring the right to vote to felons who have been released from prison. Tim mentions targeted job-creation programs and eliminating for-profit prisons. I know this is something that Erin has emphasized as a signature issue, and the disparities in Minnesota are really stark. Tim also looks pretty good on this issue, though. (Either is much much much much better than Lori Swanson, whose equity section is like one step removed from hashtag-AllLivesMatter, holy shit.)
Erin has the DFL party endorsement; she’s also endorsed by Take Action MN, Our Revolution, and a number of unions. She’s endorsed by Mark Dayton, plus a long list of elected officials from all over the state (legislators, county commissioners, school board members, and city council representatives.) Also St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.
Tim has a longer list of unions, including most of the building trade type unions (pipefitters, steelworkers, iron workers, etc.) He also got the teacher’s union (Erin got the nurses, I suppose in both cases that was rather predictable). Tim is also endorsed by Walter Mondale (I’m always a little surprised he’s still alive), Collin Peterson, Betty McCollum, RT Rybak, Jacob Frey, and then a long list of elected officials from all around the state, much like Erin.
The question a lot of people have focused on is who can beat Tim Pawlenty, and the answer the recent NBC/Marist poll came up with is, probably any of them:
But when it comes to November’s general election, Pawlenty trails his potential Democratic-Farmer-Labor opponents. In hypothetical matchups for governor, Murphy (48%) has an eight-point advantage against Pawlenty (40%) among registered voters statewide. Walz (51%) has majority support and leads Pawlenty (40%) by 11 points. Swanson (51%) also garners a majority and leads Pawlenty (40%) by the same margin.
I should note that this poll had a hilariously large margin of error. But pretty consistently they found 40% of Minnesotans who were planning to vote for Tim Pawlenty and 50% who were planning to vote for whoever runs against him.
We shouldn’t be complacent, obviously. (If you’re reading this blog, I’m pretty sure I’m singing to the choir on that.) But the question for me is less “can Murphy win in November” and more “if I want to vote against Lori Swanson, which one of these people is my best bet?”
Here’s how the poll found the primary candidates lining up:
In the Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary for governor, Lori Swanson (28%) and Tim Walz (24%) are closely matched among the potential electorate including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate. Erin Murphy receives 11%. Notably, 37%, the plurality, are undecided.
You can dig into the data with a lot more specificity if you want, here. I’ll note again that there’s a large margin of error on this poll, which arguably makes it one of the more useless polls I’ve ever seen. But no matter how you slice the data, Erin’s numbers were in the teens. In her stronghold, the Twin Cities metro, they found 25% Tim, 27% Lori, 13% Erin. Among the demographics she did best with (30-44 year olds, and college-educated white people), she peaked at 16%.
Now, there are a lot of undecided people who just refused straight up to give a “leaning towards” and if a bunch of them break toward Erin, then she’ll win. But we are two weeks away right now, and I’m pretty comfortable guaranteeing you that a certain number of the undecideds were undecided because they hate one of the candidates in the race and want to suss out who’s most likely to beat that person.
I like Erin, and I was hoping that she’d be able to levy the DFL endorsement toward outreach. She did get an ad out in the last few days, which you can watch here and which has been watched 2,500 times on YouTube, so that’s something. (Tim Walz got his ad out a week and a half ago and has a similar number of views.)
…okay, I’d moved on, but then I discovered that the DFL also did an Erin ad. And it is much better than the ad Erin did. (Erin’s ad feels stiff and awkward and like everyone involved had been told 15 times, “okay, walk down the street, LOOK ENTHUSIASTIC, one more time and then I promise we can have pizza, no this time I mean it. Don’t forget to smile!”) The DFL-made ad actually captures some of what I felt when I listened to Erin speak at my DFL convention. But it’s on freaking Facebook, which means it’s not viewable without a Facebook account. It’s here. 177 reactions, 244 shares, 78,000 views. I checked out the Minnesota DFL YouTube channel and if it’s up, it’s not readily findable (although you can watch “Our Shared Values” from 2 years ago and a guide to electronic balloting created for delegates to the State Convention and uploaded in May. Seriously, this is the sort of thing that drives me bonkers. That DFL Erin video should be ON THE DFL YOUTUBE and it should also be on ERIN’S YOUTUBE. Why would you make a video and share it only on Facebook? Who is running this party and can we replace them with the CONvergence ConCom because the CONvergence ConCom is much better at what it does.)
Watching that Facebook video reminded me of why I liked Erin so much; realizing that it was only available on Facebook brought home all my hesitations about whether she has any idea how to run a statewide race.
Where Erin’s campaign has been strongest is pushing the idea of the “Politics of Joy” (check it out, it’s a hashtag). That’s really a nice breath of fresh air in our current despair-and-desperation-laden political climate. Tim Walz’s hashtag is #OneMinnesota and emphasizes the idea of unifying Minnesotans across the rural/urban divide (and various other divides). I find “the Politics of Joy” either legitimately inspiring or unbearably cheesy, it depends heavily on my overall mood. This tweet from Erin Maye Quade kind of embodies the idea:
Erin and Tim are both at their strongest when they’re connecting one-to-one with people. That was an option when running for the State Legislature and it’s even sort of an option when you’re running for US House, but when you’re running statewide you hit problems of scale. Tim right now is better at leveraging ad buys and other approaches to reaching people statewide. I think Erin right now is better at leveraging volunteers, but this hasn’t solved the problem of scale.
I found a forum that happened two nights ago in Mankato and was taped. Lori wasn’t there (due to her mother having a health crisis). Jeff Johnson was there, but Tim Pawlenty wasn’t. Anyway, I recommend fast-forwarding through Johnson to save time. (You can skip 10 seconds at a time with your right-arrow key on YouTube.)
The debate focused heavily on rural issues, and at some point the moderator asked people to respond to the idea that the cities got all the good stuff and the rural areas got the leftover crumbs, which I’d say is kind of at the heart of the “urban/rural divide.” This was one Johnson bit that’s worth watching: he jumped right in to say that rural people felt that way because it was absolutely, positively, 100% true, demonstrating that the theory that this divide has been heavily manufactured by Republicans is absolutely, positively, 100% accurate.
Erin’s talking points on this are that everyone feels left behind. And she’s not wrong, because that, too, has been the heart of the Republican strategy: give tax cuts to billionaires, cut spending to solve the fiscal crisis they’ve created, and make everyone fight each other over scraps. At the same time, I’m not sure that “everyone feels that way” is a good response, really, to anyone. People want to feel like you hear and understand their specific problems, whatever they are. (To be fair, Erin also emphasized at least once that the #1 problem she heard about from farmers was health care costs. And that’s absolutely an issue that unifies people around the state.) Tim Walz talked about how different areas have different problems, concerns, and needs.
The question of the Rural/Urban divide gets kind of endlessly kicked around on DFL Twitter: to what extent it exists, whether rural Minnesotans prefer more conservative Democrats, etc. Urban DFLers, including me, tend to be hampered in our analysis by the fact that we live in the city; I don’t even have family living in rural parts of the state. (Or any other state. My farming roots are remote.) So you’ll see a lot of superstition and tea-leaf-reading and speculation based on stereotypes.
When I went up north (to Ely) back in June I watched for political signs during the drive. I saw absolutely none from the governor’s race or anything else statewide. (The big race in St. Louis County was a County Commissioner race; that’s what all the signs were for.)
Tim’s site does a really good job of addressing rural challenges, woven in to each issue. For example, in his section on Child Care, he talks about both the costs, and the fact that some areas are day care deserts. (“Minnesota has some of the most expensive and hard-to-find child care services in the country, especially in rural areas where whole communities may be devoid of child care options. This is more than a family challenge—it’s a social and economic issue for our state.”) Erin addresses this same question but in a way that doesn’t call out rural areas. (“The lack of affordable, accessible child care is holding too many Minnesotans back from entering the workforce and it’s having adverse effects on our local economy. I will work with communities all over the state to ensure quality child care is available and affordable.”) How much does that matter? I honestly have no idea; see above about tea-leaf reading.
Where I am personally invested in rural issues is where they intersect with city issues. I live in the metro, along with 60% of the population of the state. (That’s the whole metro, not the core cities — we have many, many, many suburbanites.) But there are problems we have that are essentially the flipside of rural problems. Many people who’d rather live somewhere like Chisholm wind up moving to the Twin Cities because that’s where the jobs are. If all the people who’d rather live in small towns could find good jobs there, that would significantly alleviate some of the pressures on housing in the metro. Right now, a lot of rural Minnesota doesn’t even have broadband Internet (that got brought up at some length during the debate I linked to) and hey, you know, there’s a win/win for everyone. A bunch of people who’d rather live in Chisholm and telecommute can do that, and that’s one fewer person trying to find an apartment in Minneapolis.
I’m still undecided.
If I disliked Tim, I’d shrug off the numbers and vote for Erin. But I like Tim and Erin, and right now, my guess is that Tim is my best bet for not having to vote for Lori Swanson, so I’m leaning toward Tim.
For the Erin supporters, though: if Erin wins, it’s going to be because her supporters all became campaigners. I don’t mean phone banking or lit dropping, but talking to your friends and family members, everyone you know who votes DFL, about why you’re supporting Erin in the primary. (And not on Twitter! In person is best; phone or e-mail is next best.)