Election 2018: Governor of Minnesota

This was a genuinely hard choice in the primaries but now that we’ve arrived at the general election, it is SUPER easy.

On the ballot:

Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan (DFL)
Jeff Johnson and Donna Bergstrom (Republican)
Chris Wright and Judith Schwartzbacker (Grassroots – Legalize Cannabis)
Josh Welter and Mary O’Connor (Libertarian)

Josh Welter and Mary O’Connor (Libertarian)

Mary O’Connor has held actual elected office, but Josh Welter is at the top of the ticket because why would you run a more qualified woman when there’s a man available? (Possibly I’m being unfair and this was about who had more time to go around making speeches? Except I checked their FB page and found no events, so.)

Anyway, their platform is to eliminate the Met Council; legalize weed; and cut taxes and spending by 10% a year. The first year, they think they can do this by eliminating the Met Council.

Current (well, 2017) Met Council budget: slightly over $1 billion. If I’m reading this correctly, the state expenditures for the same period were about $48 billion. We would need to find an additional $3.8 billion to make his 10% goal even if we cut the entire Met Council and everything they do, which includes:

  • All the local public transit.
  • All the region’s wastewater collection and treatment.
  • The Three Rivers Parks system.
  • Affordable housing for 7,000 households.

All of which would presumably be eliminated since you are eliminating their budget, not just saying, “the Met Council sucks and we should do this stuff some other way.”

I’m thinking about what I pay in taxes every year and if you cut my taxes by 10% or 50% or even 100%, I could not use that savings to buy myself a municipal supply of clean water. I could buy myself a household water purification system for several thousand dollars, and I could buy myself bottled water every time I was out of the house and got thirsty, and I could buy myself health care when I inevitably got sick anyway, but this option sucks.

The Met Council is not my favorite branch of government but I am a huge fan of municipal water purification. Transit is cool, too. I want to keep this stuff. Fuck these guys.

Chris Wright and Judith Schwartzbacker (Grassroots – Legalize Cannabis)

This is the same guy I made fun of four years ago for being a one-issue candidate. This time, Chris Wright wants you to know that he is not a one-issue candidate despite the pot leaf in his logo, and his website goes into tremendous detail on a bunch of positions he holds, some of which are nice progressive ideas, some of which are super conservative, and some of which are super weird.

I don’t honestly understand enough about how the money supply works to suss out whether his plan to eliminate the Federal Reserve and just print more money (rather than allowing banks to lend more money out) is viable in any way, but I’m skeptical.

On his page about gun control (which he mostly opposes) I’m really struck by the fact that he says he’s the moderate between Democratic and Republican positions but nowhere addresses any of the genuinely contentious issues right now, like red flag laws. (He does say he’d ban bump stocks. Even most Republicans are in favor of banning bump stocks. I don’t understand why the hell bump stocks were ever legal since they turn a semiautomatic into an automatic and automatic weapons have been illegal to sell or possess since I think the 1934 National Firearms Act.)

I like his ideas about single payer but I think the most likely route to single payer is to elect progressive Democrats, not to vote for third-party candidates. (I think that’s also the most likely route to legalized weed.)

Chris’s political experience consists of running for office unsuccessfully a bunch, trying to get permits to grow hemp, and getting arrested for civil disobedience. I do like this story:

Mr. Wright discovered that it said in Article 13, Section 7, of the Minnesota Constitution that, “Any person may sell or peddle the products of the farm or garden, occupied and cultivated by him without obtaining a license therefor.”(10)  Since the MN Constitution supersedes MN statutes, Mr. Wright realized that the only thing that makes drugs illegal is being in possession without a license.  Since it was forbidden to require a license of farm products, marijuana being a farm product in 1906 when Alwin Rowe introduced this amendment, all subsequent laws forbidding marijuana were illegal.  Mr. Wright didn’t even need the license required under the previous hemp control law and began growing marijuana as a matter of civil disobedience. However, Mr. Wright was arrested for growing 41-marijuana plants and appealed his case all the way to the MN Supreme Court.

I mean, good try! Can you imagine if in 1998, the Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled that Minnesotans had a constitutional right to grow and sell pot? That would have been awesome.

Anyway, I would take him over the libertarian or the Republican but not over the Democrat. (1) He has never held elected office (nor does his political experience include anything like “serving on a municipal board.”) (2) I don’t like his ideas on gun control. Also, (3) He’s definitely not going to win; it’s going to be either Tim Walz or Jeff Johnson. And that would be true even if everyone in the state truly felt free to vote their hearts without fear of the wrong people winning (for example, if we had instant runoff in statewide elections).

Jeff Johnson and Donna Bergstrom (Republican)

Jeff Johnson ran four years ago on the “blandly affable” version of the Republican platform. He tried to talk other Republicans into reaching out to immigrants (while kissing up to every Tea Party group in the state) and he avoided social issues, saying he’d sign anti-abortion legislation if it was put in front of him and that he considered marriage equality settled law.

This time, his core principles includes, “I am pro-life” and “my Christian faith guides every decision I make,” and he has a section where he says, “There is no more important issue than protecting innocent life” by which he means “fetuses,” not “children being shoved into Child Concentration Camps by ICE.”

Under immigration he objects to secondary migration (i.e., people who have immigrated to the US and then move from wherever they first arrived to Minnesota) and says, “I have called for an IMMEDIATE STOP to the refugee resettlement program in Minnesota. As governor, I will meet with President Trump and Attorney General Sessions to explain this situation in detail and inform them that our participation in the program will end until we tell them otherwise.” He also embraced the opportunity to incite fear of Muslims, and Muslim participation in the Minnesota Caucuses. So much for his attitude four years ago about outreach — he has unabashedly embraced Trumpism.

Aside from that, his website is just full of bullshit, some of it very random.

On Education: “Currently in Minnesota, a student does not have to show proficiency in basic reading and math to graduate. … I will instruct the Department of Education to draft plans and guidelines to ensure being a high school graduate in Minnesota means that each student has a basic understanding of the core disciplines of math and reading.” We tried this. It was a dismal failure. We got rid of it just five years ago! Was he not paying attention? Are political memories really just that short? Please tell me the Profile of Learning is not going to make a comeback next.

On Health Care: “While providers are transparent with their fee schedules, insurers consider their fee schedules a trade secret.” I want to know where he gets his health care that he thinks providers are any more transparent than insurers.

Of course, he also wants to let us buy health insurance that won’t actually cover luxuries like pregnancy or hospitalization, and like Republicans everywhere, he thinks that health care costs are a problem that can be solved through “competition,” like somehow this hasn’t been tried. Also, I don’t know how the hell we even choose the cheapest option when no one will tell you what anything costs. (He has this ad in which people are putting on badly-fitting ugly shirts as a metaphor for single-payer and then out comes a rolling rack of shirts they can choose! If this were even remotely honest these people would happily choose shirts of the rolling rack and would then get bills for $1000-$5000 per shirt, two months later.)

On Taxes: “One of my top priorities as Governor will be passage of an Automatic Taxpayer Refund provision that returns surplus tax revenue to taxpayers.” This would make sense if in years that we have a shortfall, we automatically raised taxes until the budget was covered, but that’s not how it works. In years that we have a shortfall, we postpone infrastructure maintenance and play weird budgetary games with education funding. So in years when we have a surplus, we definitely need to use that money just to get caught up.

A few more notes: he believes in climate change but doesn’t think it’s worth trying to do anything about it. During the primary, Pawlenty said he was generally opposed to gun control but would ban bump stocks; Jeff Johnson said he opposed any new gun control laws, so presumably he thinks bump stocks should stay legal. (Wow. I really do not think that’s even mainstream for the GOP at this point.)

His total about-face from “we should get a seat at their table” to “there are people in this state and country who seek to replace the Constitution with sharia” is really … illustrative. Four years ago, the Minnesota GOP had decided that talking about social issues was not going to get them back into office, and was doing their best to focus on stuff like taxes. This year, they’ve decided their best hope lies with the racism and xenophobia promulgated by the Trump administration. Please, Minnesota: prove them wrong.

Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan (DFL)

I like both Tim and Peggy quite a bit. Here are some of my favorite things from their platform:

  • They want to allow people to buy into MinnesotaCare. (Eventually they’d like to see single payer but allowing people to buy into MinnesotaCare is something that could happen in the next few years.)
  • They have a detailed section on American Indian issues. I’m not an expert on what this community needs (I mean, other than there are a bunch of people who fucking need housing) but everything in this list looks good to me, and I can’t remember ever seeing more than a cursory mention of this community before in campaigns. (Jeff Johnson’s running mate Donna Bergstrom is also Native American, but there is literally nothing, anywhere on their site, about tribal issues.)
  • They want to improve the infrastructure and build rural broadband capacity.
  • They want to pass a red flag law. I can name specific people who would still be alive if this law were on the books.
  • They want to ban conversion therapy.
  • They want to outlaw private prisons.
  • They want to legalize weed and recognize that the current laws have disproportionately affected Black people in this state.
  • They want a statewide $15 minimum wage, statewide sick and safe time, and statewide fair scheduling rules.
  • When Tony Webster spoke with the DFL candidates for governor right before the primary, he was really impressed by Walz’s commitment to government transparency: “I don’t care what your political ideology is, government works best when there’s sunlight on everything we do. I don’t want there to be fights getting data, I don’t want freedom of information requests to be the order of the day. I see no reason that the public shouldn’t have the the easiest possible access.”

I am really excited about Walz and Flanagan; I like both of them, they are genuinely a team, and I think they will bring new energy to the progressive agenda from the Governor’s office. I will be happily and enthusiastically voting for the Walz/Flanagan ticket.

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