Election 2016: MN State Senate, District 63

My old Minneapolis district has the following two people on the ballot:

Patricia Torres Ray
Ron Moey

So, here’s my story about Patricia Torres Ray. Back when the seat opened up, Ed and I had gone to our caucus and signed up to be Senate District Convention delegates, so we were getting door knocked and called by all the various DFLers running for the open seat. Patricia door-knocked us as we were preparing for a St. Patrick’s Day party — cleaning house, peeling carrots and potatoes, etc. We told her we were happy to talk to her but she’d need to come in and talk while we continued to get ready for the party. Which she willingly did.

We really liked her. We actually liked several of the people running that year, but Patricia wound up being our first choice. And that was true for a lot of people: she was ahead on the very first ballot, and gained each time until she hit endorsement levels.

She’s smart, progressive, thoughtful, and good at her job. I’m still a fan.

Ron Moey has no website. Here’s what I was able to glean about him:

  • He runs a drain cleaning company I’ve heard of – Ron the Sewer Rat. I looked him up on Angie’s List and he has a ton of reviews and a solid A rating. If you need a drain cleaner, he’s a great person to call.
  • A Gun Owner’s PAC thinks he’s great.
  • The anti-abortion MCCL thinks he’s great.
  • Here’s the weirdest and most interesting thing I found. He also ran back in 2002 and filled out a questionnaire about education policy. This is still online. The thing I find sort of fascinating is how differently Republicans talked about education 14 years ago. Back then, the target of everyone’s hatred was the Profiles of Learning. And let me just be clear about this: I hated the Profiles of Learning. I still consider it one of the most jaw-droppingly misguided and badly implemented educational policy iniatives I’ve seen in my lifetime. It came from my own party, and I remember looking at one particularly dismaying set of state election results and saying, “well, on the bright side, hopefully they’ll ditch the PoL.” (They did.)

    But the questionnaire talks about protecting students from job training. (“The Profile of Learning and School-to-Work system are turning K-12 schools into job training centers where job skills training is replacing academic instruction. … Will you support legislation that protects students in K-12 schools by prohibiting all requirements that all students must participate in career skills training or other work-based curriculum, instruction or employment-related activity in career areas?” Ron answered “yes,” clearly the correct answer.) I think most Republicans these days are OK with in-school job training these days, but maybe not?

    He also answered yes to this one: “Nonprofit foundations and the federal government are promoting a massive expansion of an early childcare system in every state that will place the government in authority over parenting. An early childhood government education system will require government credentialing, and therefore mandate a government curriculum. State early childhood curriculum incorporates content aligned with the Profile of Learning and often uses material deeply offensive to parental values and beliefs. For example, the early childhood credentialing program called TEACH uses a curriculum that promotes childhood acceptance of homosexuality, engages in sexual identity training, promotes negative attitudes toward western civilization and history, rewrites history that reflects a bias against traditional values, and trains young children to be political activists. Will you support legislation that prohibits the state from usurping the authority of parents for their children or from requiring early childhood curriculum that is negative toward traditional values?

    I’m not even 100% sure what they were objecting to there — early childhood education programs like ECFE? (ECFE is a parent/child education program run through local school districts. I went to ECFE classes with Molly when she was a baby and toddler. I got some useful stuff out of the program.)  Universal Pre-K? Credentialling requirements for day care providers? The fact that the state can remove your children from your home for abuse or neglect?

    I mean, clearly they’re opposed to the book Heather Has Two Mommies but the precise objection here is genuinely unclear to me.

Anyway — Ron Moey has no website or online info and is endorsed by a bunch of people I don’t like, so I’d strongly recommend Patricia Torres Ray.

 

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Election 2016: State Representative District 63A

On the ballot:

Jim Davnie
Kyle Bragg

So there are a couple of politicians around I know personally, some from way, way back. I met Jim Davnie (State House representative for my old neighborhood) back in 2000, when he was first running. I did some lit-dropping over the summer and went to some campaign events. His wife and I were both pregnant. So when he door-knocked me in mid-October he started with “hi, I’m Jim Davnie, I’m running for–” and then broke off mid sentence when he processed that it was me, and I was holding a newborn, and that meant I’d had my baby. He squee’d over tiny Molly, asked about the birth, told me that he was not going to tell his wife (who’d had 24+ hours of back labor) about my ridiculously short-and-easy labor, and headed onward to introduce himself to someone else.

I really, really like Jim. Of all the local politicians, he’s the one who most reminds me of Paul Wellstone. He’s a committed progressive and also a terrific, rousing speaker. Once a high-school dropout, he’s now an educator, one of the major movers and shakers for the state anti-bullying bill, and in general a terrific voice for progressive values in the legislature. He’s one of the people I was always happy to vote for when I lived in Minneapolis.

Anyway, Jim’s website is here.

I looked up Kyle Bragg and was immediately sort of surprised that a black man who’s a union organizer was running as a Republican. Then I realized that this Kyle Bragg lives in New York and also this confused me two years ago, as well.

When I searched “kyle bragg mn,” my 2014 post about this race was the fifth hit down. Right below the whitepages link. That’s truly pathetic, Kyle. You could set up a Facebook page for your campaign. You could set up a LinkedIn page for your campaign. You could set up a GoFundMe page for your campaign and okay it’s not like I actually recommend that option but it’s less pathetic than what you’ve got, which is nothing.

The third hit down was a page for the SD63 Republicans, with a drop-down “pick the guy you want to e-mail” contact form. Kyle is one of them, so if you want to ask him any question, have at, I guess? The other thing of interest I discovered is that this guy I vaguely remember from college, Carleton Crawford, who I think ran the college Republican group, is now on the SD 63 Republicans Executive Committee.

On page two I found Kyle’s LinkedIn, which I’m leaving here so I can find it two years from now when he runs again and still doesn’t put up a campaign web page. Pretty sure this is his Facebook. He takes some very nice shots of the changing seasons in the Twin Cities.

Vote for Jim Davnie.

Election 2016: State Representative District 64B

I live in 64B, which is Highland with a bit of Mac-Groveland. We are represented by Dave Pinto, who was elected for the first time two years ago when Michael Paymar retired.

I like Dave. I was a Senate District Convention delegate so I got to talk to him in some detail, and I found him thoughtful, a good listener, and a committed progressive.

The two candidates on the ballot:

Dave Pinto (DFL)
Emory K. Dively (Republican)

Dave Pinto

Dave is a Ramsey County prosecutor who works on domestic violence cases involving children. His big focus tends to be kids, especially early childhood education.

Emory K. Dively (Republican)

Emory is a pastor at Deaf Life Church on Snelling Avenue, which I pass pretty frequently and have wondered about a few times. It is apparently part of a loosely-organized Pentecostalist fellowship. Emory and his wife (who’s a co-pastor there) are both Deaf.

There is very little info on Emory’s website about his views (there’s not a ton on Dave’s, but he’s at least got a voting record plus I remember him from when I was contemplating the Senate District Convention back in 2014) so I went looking for other info on him. I was thrown for a bit by the fact that there are two Emory Divelys, this one plus an Emory David Dively who turns out to be Emory K. Dively’s son. There’s a bunch of interesting biographical information over on this site, including the fact that he speaks eight different sign languages. (Sign languages are not the same from country to country; in fact, ASL (American Sign Language) and BSL (British Sign Language) are apparently not mutually intelligible.

I also found a District 64 Candidate Forum that was held last night and is now up on YouTube:


and watched it. (Well, okay, I fast-forwarded through some bits.) It’s not just Dave vs. Emory: Dick Cohen and Ian Baird, as well as the candidates from 64A, Erin Murphy and Riley Horan, are also in it.

 

Emory used ASL and had an interpreter. Some of what he was saying came across as pretty incoherent and I’m honestly not sure whether the problem was that he is an incoherent communicator, or if the interpreter was having trouble. The interpreter sounded a lot smoother on his closing statement than on some of his answers, though, which made me think that it was him, and he was not great at coming up with answers he hadn’t practiced.

Things I noted about his positions: he is very focused on special education; that’s his pet issue. I’d say this isn’t entirely surprising, given that he’s a Deaf man working at a Deaf church, but Dave Pinto is also disabled (he’s significantly vision impaired, enough that he can’t drive) and his pet issue is Early Childhood Education.

Asked about the racisal disparities in St. Paul public schools, Emory had no real answer. Asked about climate change he said we needed to take our time and not rush and not try to tell other states what to do. Asked about improving health care his answer was just confusing.

I will say that i kind of liked him? He seemed like a warm, likeable person, especially when compared to his fellow Republicans, the very young Ian Baird and the holy-shit-even-younger Riley Horan. (Riley is twenty years old, and is currently in college at the University of St. Thomas.) I am definitely going to vote for Dave Pinto, though. Absolutely. I sat through 90 minutes of forum and I am still not sure what his views are on most of the major issues, but more to the point, I’m not sure he knows, either.

Ian Baird came across as very young and frequently inarticulate. (Ian, if you’re reading this, go to Toastmasters.) He had handful of comments that made sense but he also thinks global warming is going to be solved with “American ingenuity” rather than government interference.

All you really need to know about Riley Horan is that he thinks the jury is still out on global warming. He came across to me like a dark-haired Draco Malfoy. I will give him credit for one thing, which is that he says on his campaign website that same-sex marriage is a settled issue and Republicans should shut up about it. Other than that, eesh. The guy has a picture of himself posing with Ted Cruz, one of his favorite politicians. (His other big favorite: Scott Walker.) If you’re in 64A, vote for Erin Murphy.

 

Elections 2016: Minneapolis School Board At-Large

Minneapolis has an at-large School Board seat coming up for a vote this year, and the incumbent, Carla Bates, isn’t running again.

Two candidates are running:

Kim Ellison
Doug Mann

Kim’s site is pretty content-free. She’s worked as a teacher both at a regular high school and an alternative high school for very at-risk kids (this 2012 interview with her gives a lot more detail on her work as an educator). She’s actually served on the school board for four years already, but previously she held the seat for the District 2 representative. She’s retiring from that seat and running for the at-large seat.

She has the DFL endorsement, which is weirdly not mentioned on her website, and the only person running against her is Doug Mann, who’s been running for the school board since 1999 with no luck.

My issues with Doug Mann can be summed up pretty well by noting that on the front page of his extensive website he lays out his priorities for schools (better retention, more mainstreaming of special ed kids, avoid watering down curricula), then adds, “Cut the war budget and raise taxes on corporations and the rich to fund the transition from fossil fuels and nuclear power to clean energy and to fund social welfare programs” and lists out a grab-bag of other left-wing positions (Medicare for all, raise the minimum wage to $15, eliminate tuition for public universities, legalize marijuana…)

I mean, do I think most of these things are a good idea? Sure. Do I think the Minneapolis School Board has the power to enact any of them? No. I am in favor of electing people who have a sense of what the job entails.

Doug’s contact information is a Facebook page which he last posted to in February. He is endorsed by the Green Party.

If I were voting in Minneapolis this year, I would vote for Kim, despite her mostly useless website. I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: serving on the Minneapolis (and St. Paul) school board is supposed to be a part-time job, but it’s not; it’s a full-time job, and one of their major responsibilities is getting yelled at for making unpopular decisions. It is a terrible job for which they get paid less than $15,000/year. For much of the time I was living in Minneapolis, most of the people who served didn’t run for re-election, which meant the school board lacked any real institutional memory. At some point I decided that I would always vote for incumbents on this board running for re-election unless they had really pissed me off. Kim Ellison definitely qualifies.

Also, I think that when the work on a school board has become a full-time job, the school board members, like City Council representatives, should be paid a salary they can actually live on. (This would have to be changed at the state legislative level, and I do not think it’s anyone’s priority, unfortunately.)

 

Election 2016: State Senator District 64

The candidates for my State Senate seat are Dick Cohen (DFL) and Ian Baird (Republican).

Dick Cohen, the Senator from my current district, has been in the Minnesota legislature since 1976. He’s not as old as you might think — he got elected for the first time when he was ridiculously young, and so he’s younger than my father. But since 1976, my father has lived in four different cities and worked at four separate universities, despite being a faculty member (who, as everyone knows, typically get tenure somewhere and stay there basically forever). In those same forty years Dick Cohen has stayed in St. Paul, and in the legislature. (He did move from the House to the Senate ten years in.) I will admit some mixed feelings about legislators who serve for this long.

But he’s kept up with the times and has been a hard-working, reliable progressive vote.

Ian Baird looks about eighteen to me. His biography talks about his parents’ dairy business and says, “Today I work as a theater artist and carpenter.  I’ve worked on shows ranging from  Les Miserables to, well, shows you’ve never heard of.” This got me curious and I went looking for his CV. Most theater professionals make it really easy to find them, via a listing like this one on Minnesota Playlist. Or a website. Or a LinkedIn page. I turned up a LinkedIn page that might be Ian’s; I’m not sure. It’s even more pathetic than my LinkedIn page. I did find a CV that might be his here. If it’s his, he graduated college in 2013, so that explains why he looks so ridiculously young.

He also probably went here: https://unwsp.edu/ (I’m not 100% sure because there are a number of academic institutions named Northwestern. This is based in part on what I found on the LinkedIn page.) This is a small, weird, very conservative, very Christian college. They also emphasize career-oriented degrees, so the fact that he emerged with a History degree and a Theater minor is kind of fascinating.

He also doesn’t appear to have turned out the sort of Christian his parents were probably hoping for when they sent him off to school, given that his “About” page that goes with the CV includes the observation that “Religion, like performance, offers a place for people to hide from the reality of who they are.”

Working my way to his actual campaign: his positions include “why do we pay for trains when I never ride them,” “I’ve heard lots of horror stories about education,” and “paid leave legislation is bad.” He’s also pro-transparency (fair), thought the police officer who shot Philando Castile should be tried (yay), and has nothing much to say either on his campaign website or his campaign Facebook page about the GOP’s social positions. His Facebook page also mentions that he’s pro-fireworks and views himself as the candidate for fans of Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation. (I am fond of Ron as a character, but have never said to myself, “wow, I wish I could have him represent me in the legislature.” I’d totally vote for Knope, though.)

Unclear: whether he’s reflected at all on the fact that most of the people in his party view arts funding the way he views trains, or the fact that most of the people in his profession are heavily dependent on health care plans set up by Democrats.

 

Anyway, it’s an interesting picture. Not someone I’d vote for, but I wish Ian success in his life as a Theater artist and I hope he’s gained financial independence from his parents, because I bet they are a lot more conservative than he is.

 

Everyone else should vote for the progressive dinosaur!

 

Election 2016 – Judicial Races -4th District Court 45 and 4th District Court 37

When I looked at the candidate lists yesterday I missed the fact that there were in fact two contested judicial races for district courts in Hennepin County.

4th District Court 37

Carolina A. Lamas (incumbent)
Luke Kyper Bellville

4th District Court 45

Paul R. Scoggin (incumbent)
Chris Ritts

I’ll do the 4th District Court 37 first.

Carolina Lamas

Judge Carolina Lamas is a relatively recent appointee — she came to the bench in 2014, appointed by Governor Dayton. She’s relatively young, having graduated from law school in 2003. (Not scandalously young. But probably younger than me.) She’s an immigrant from Peru and prior to becoming a judge, she worked as a public defender and for a nonprofit that serves indigent people who’ve been charged with felonies.

Looking for news stories about her turned up a piece about Hennepin County judges doing free weddings for people on Valentine’s Day this year, and she set a typical (rather than an extremely high) bail for someone back in February. Searching on the guy’s name turned up no additional articles, so I’m not sure whether his trial is still pending or what. (Also, protecting the public is not supposed to be what bail is for; you’re innocent until proven guilty. You’re only supposed to be denied bail, or given an extremely high bail, if you’re a flight risk, at least that’s the theory as I understand it.)

Anyway, overall she seems to be doing a fine job.

Luke Kyper Bellville

If you visit Luke Bellville’s site you’ll probably have the same first thought I had, which is, “wait…Tripod still exists?”

Luke appears to have a family and enjoy sitting in grassy settings. He emphasizes his deep local roots, which I initially read as a fairly standard iteration of Minnesota parochialism (there are people in both Minneapolis and St. Paul who will brag about how they never ever go to the other city, which always makes me want to speculate that they’re secretly a vampire who can’t cross water) but having read up on Carolina Lamas I’m now wondering if he’s trying to channel anti-immigrant sentiment. He also says, “I, having grown up in the inner-city of Minneapolis, have little tolerance for violent crimes, and feel they are the number one thing in the modern era that needs addressing.” So possibly he’s mad about the low bail or that one guy, or again, this actually sounds a little dogwhistle-y.

He does not even hint at any actual qualifications to work as a judge, like having gone to law school. Which is weird, because he appears to indeed be a lawyer. I found his LinkedIn, which adds another odd thing to the mix — he talks about attending the U of  M Twin Cities on both his “hire me to be your lawyer” page and his “vote for me for judge” page but he got his JD in North Dakota. Which is a perfectly reasonable place to get a law degree so why he wants to cover up this fact is bizarre. (And, I mean, on his “vote for me” page, he gets really detailed: “I am a fourth generation Minnesotan who grew up on the West Bank in Minneapolis. I attended Marcy Open Elementary school when it was still on Como Avenue, then Anderson Junior High off Lake Street, and South High School off Cedar Avenue. After this I graduated from the University of Minnesota on the Twin Cities Campus.” Like, you considered it important that you attended Marcy Open but you didn’t want to tell us where you went to law school?)

Anyway, the tl;dr here is that this guy is a flake. Vote for Carolina Lamas.

On to Court 45.

4th District Court 45

Paul R. Scoggin (incumbent)

So two years ago, Paul Scoggin was running against Bridget Ann Sullivan for an open seat and I wrote about it. I thought they both sounded like strong candidates who’d make excellent judges. And in fact Sullivan won the election but Scoggin was appointed to fill an opening the following year.

I went looking for news articles about Scoggin and didn’t turn up anything about his work as a judge. Interestingly, though, I did find a news article from 2013 about a criminal case that he prosecuted and his opponent in the race defended: Minneapolis man who wrecked Lamborghini gets six months in workhouse. The case involved this idiot who was hired to repair, then store, a Lamborghini. (Presumably for the winter months.) He took it for an unauthorized drunken joyride and wrecked it. Then he tried to bill it to insurance and lied about the accident. Honestly, click and read, the whole story is sort of hilarious in an “omg what an idiot” kind of way. (I’ll note that I did some follow-up googling fascinatingly enough, his auto shop is not only still in business but doing fine. He must be one hell of a mechanic. It appears that he committed himself to sobriety and stuck with it, so hurray for the wake-up call he got working as I’m sure everyone hoped.)

Anyway, both Chris Ritts and Paul Scoggin were doing their jobs as expected in that case — I don’t think either did anything wrong. Reading the article I felt a bit more sympathy for the prosecutor, but there’s nothing wrong with defending someone guilty, I mean that’s solidly part of the job of a defense lawyer. I’m not sure how good a deal Chris got for his client — this was a plea deal — but when a guy digs himself that sort of ten-foot pit before he calls you, there’s only so much you can do. (Oh, wait. Plus he had priors, according to the Strib article. He must be an amazing mechanic to still be in business.)

Chris Ritts

Two years ago, Chris Ritts was running against Bev Benson for an open seat and I wrote about it. I thought Bev sounded a little too cozy with the police but I thought Chris sounded super flaky and not overly bright.

His website is less embarrassing now, though it definitely telegraphs “campaign committee of one.”

Searching for news stories on him turns up a couple of different stories about his work as an attorney. He defended a Maple Grove City Council Rep who stole money from her elderly father while working as his caregiver. (Maybe Brad Gerten, R-51A, should give Ritt a call.) Ritt has also worked for the family of a man killed by a Plymouth police officer and won a settlement for a man who sued a St. Paul police officer for excessive force.

The fact that he has only a single endorsement (vs. Soggins’ long list of endorsements) makes me think less “courageous outsider” and more “the people who know this guy don’t actually think he should be a judge,” though.

I would vote for Scoggins.

 

 

 

Election 2016: Constitutional Amendment 1

There is a constitutional amendment on the Minnesota ballot this year! Statewide. (Obviously.) Here’s what it says:

Remove Lawmakers’ Power to Set Their Own Pay
Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to remove state lawmakers’ power to set their own salaries, and instead establish an independent, citizens-only council to prescribe salaries of lawmakers?

You can vote Yes, or No. If you leave it blank, that counts as a No.

So my first gut reaction to this is as follows: I suspect that the legislators have put this on the ballot because they would really like a raise, and they would really like it not to be on them to give themselves a raise, because if you do vote yourself a raise people will slam you for it and sometimes people will indignantly run against you because you gave yourself a raise after not accomplishing whatever it was they particularly wanted you to get done that session.

How much are legislators paid at the moment? I found that info over on the Minnesota State Legislature FAQ:  a Legislator’s salary is $31,140 per year. That said, it’s allegedly not a full-time job; you’re not in session all year. If legislators have another job, the FAQ notes they’re protected from firing over their legislative-session-absence and also their employer isn’t allowed to fire them if they dislike how they voted, which is hilarious but also a good idea, I’d say.

They get a per diem during the legislative session (key, for people who live somewhere up on the Iron Range — it’s not like they can go home at night to sleep) and I was trying to find that info out from this helpful document about compensation and that wasn’t in there, but it did mention that the last time the legislature got a raise was in 1999. It also noted, “The 2013 Legislature proposed a constitutional amendment regarding how legislators’ salaries are determined. The 2014 Legislature modified the text of the proposed amendment and passed a bill that put that amendment to voters. The amendment will be voted on at the 2016 general election.” So this has been in the works for a while.

There’s a MinnPost article from 2013 about the question of whether legislators are underpaid.  It covers the per diem issue but also quotes former Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe on the whole “part time” issue. “It’s difficult for the public to understand that it’s really not part-time,” Moe says. “It’s a 150-percent of the time job for five or six months of the year, and about a 75-percent of the time job the rest of the year. It’s more than a full-time job and you kind of build your life around it.”

(They’re not as underpaid as the Minneapolis and probably also the St. Paul school board. I can tell you that Minneapolis school board members work a more-than-full-time job for under $15,000/year and a measurable percentage of the job is to be the target of hatred, resentment, and angry criticism. I would raise both Minneapolis and St. Paul school board members’ salaries tomorrow to a reasonable full-time salary, if I could, because I sincerely believe that they’d get better people who would be more likely to be able to solve the district’s problems if people who need to work for a living could afford to serve. That salary: also set by the legislature.)

The MinnPost article notes that the legislature has the same problem, to some degree: the skimpy pay doesn’t stop people from running, but it causes a lot of people to decide they can’t afford to run again.

The comments section on that article kind of illustrates the problem: “Slackers and lemmings not ‘entitled’ to increases.” “That does not justify higher pay because constituents did not benefit from your choice to work long hours.” Several people pointed out that we might get better, smarter people running for office if we paid them a living wage; a not-outstandingly-smart-sounding retired woman who can’t spell said she’d serve for free.

A more recent article in MinnPost talks about this issue again, noting that even mentioning legislative pay is just full-on radioactive for legislators, and that a lot of legislators wind up really struggling financially.

Apparently in New Mexico, state legislators don’t get paid at all. This piece compares legislative pay and talks about the benefits (and drawbacks) of a well-paid legislature.

Here’s the fundamental thing, I guess. I do think people should get paid fairly for their work, and that includes lawmakers. The solution to crappy legislators is kicking them out of office at election time, not saying “none of you get paid today!” I think a citizen commission will pay people fairly. (I don’t think it will pay them lavishly. I think it will compensate them reasonably for the actual hours they work, or at least, they’ll do a better job of this than the legislators can politically do for themselves.) This seems like a good idea to me and I am going to vote in favor of this amendment.