Betty McCollum has a more serious opponent this year than she usually does. On the DFL side of the ballot:
Betty McCollum (DFL-endorsed, incumbent)
The real race here is Amane vs. Betty, but let me take a minute before I dive into that to tell you about Fasil Moghul. His most distinctive position is that he wants a whole lot more war. Way more war.
His Issues page calls for direct military airstrikes on North Korean military installations (“The human rights violations against the great people of North Korea must stop”), direct military airstrikes on Venezuelan military installations (“The human rights violations against the great people of Venezuela must stop”), direct military airstrikes on Syrian military installations (” The human rights violations against the great people of Syria must stop”) and the immediately after that there’s an entry for “Pakistan-India” and I thought holy shit which one does he want to bomb but that one says, “Our hope is to increase B2B (Business to Business) relationships between our country and Pakistan-India. We would also like to see a rise of tech-workers from both countries to help alleviate labor shortages.”
He appears to have no campaign beyond this website. Anyway, I do not recommend voting for him unless you, also, would list “MORE WAR” as a top foreign policy priority.
The actual contest here is between incumbent Betty McCollum and immigrant and organizer Amane Badhasso.
Amane has attacked Betty on a couple of specific points:
- Betty takes donations from defense-industry lobbyists and other lobbists, while Amane takes zero money from any such groups.
- She chairs the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee
- According to Amane, she’s ineffective. (In that article about the race, Amane is quoted as saying, “The main reason why we need a new generation of Democrats and folks who are not beholden to special interests is because we’ve observed time and time again why important legislation that should be supported on behalf of working class families dies. It dies because we send folks like Betty McCollum to Congress.”
- According to Amane, Betty doesn’t get votes out as well as she should.
“I, unlike my opponent, am pure” is an easy claim to make about fundraising when you’re an underdog challenging a popular incumbent in the primary: you’re not going to be offered any donations that might compromise you.
I think the claim that legislation dies because of people like Betty McCollum is absurd on its face; legislation dies because of Republicans and the actual conservative Democrats, of which there are many. Betty is a cosponsor of the Green New Deal and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. There are 435 people in the US House and Betty is not on the “this is why we can’t have nice things” list and the idea that a new person with no seniority is going to be able to get us the stuff Betty hasn’t is not a claim that holds water.
The piece here that I really dove into was the claim about getting out the vote. Someone on Twitter linked me to this site with an interactive map. In 2018, turnout in 04 was 64.3% with a margin of error of plus or minus .6%. In 05 it was 66.4% with a margin of error of plus or minus .8%. This is not a huge difference. (Turnout in 02 and 03 was extremely high but they had competitive congressional races; this is why it’s important for the reps in 04 and 05 to work on turnout regardless. But clearly both Ilhan and Betty are putting in the effort here!)
I like Amane, but replacing a representative comes with a cost for the district that does it, because of the emphasis on seniority in both the House and the Senate. People who’ve served for decades get better committee assignments and more power, which Betty has used to further progressive goals — which does not mean she’s gotten us Medicare for All or all the many other things I would like us to have, because other people in Congress have stood in the way, but has meant things like, “she directed a bunch of defense funding toward cancer research and sexual assault prevention.” (I highlighted those two because they were accomplishments that were much more under her control because she’s the chair of the Defense Subcommittee. She’s also voted the right away on all the things you’ve probably heard of, some of which then stalled out but some of which passed the Senate.) My sense broadly is that a huge amount of St. Paul isn’t even aware that Betty has an opponent, which makes it hard for me to buy the idea that Amane will be better at turning out the vote.
I am planning to vote for Betty McCollum. If you want a younger rep (someone on Twitter said they’re voting for Amane because Betty, who was elected in 2000, has been in office longer than they’ve been alive) then absolutely go ahead and vote for Amane; if you want to send Betty a message that it’s time to start thinking about retirement, go ahead and vote for Amane. (I think “send a message” voting is risky when the opponent is awful, but Amane strikes me as fine, so the risk here is low.)
I got asked by someone who’s confident in the outcome on the DFL side of the ticket whether there’s a Republican running in the primary who’s not a seditionist, which is an interesting question and surprisingly hard to answer. Here’s who’s on the ticket:
May Lor Xiong (GOP-endorsed)
Gene was the nominee last time, when the City Pages called him a “good old-fashioned solitary crank.” He remains an old-fashioned crank, complete with a website that is both incoherent and illegible. He doesn’t say anything about elections, but was a party in a lawsuit in November 2020 to block election certification.
Jerry Silver is a retired pastor who wrote a book about fighting his congregation to admit a Black student to the private school affiliated with his church — this happened in the 1990s in Illinois. His Priorities page calls for Voter ID, “opposes lawsuits against states that exercise their rights to keep their elections honest,” opposes the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, and supports a proposal for states to “award their electoral votes along Congressional district lines with the state popular vote winner gaining the two at-large votes.” In other words, he wants to make the effects of gerrymandering worse, and disenfranchise Democrats wherever possible. Regarding Trump’s big lie, and the insurrection on January 6th, I couldn’t find him saying anything at all.
May Lor Xiong is the endorsed Republican candidate. Her Issues page does not mention elections at all and she has ignored people asking for her stance on this on Twitter and Facebook. Her social media is all pretty scrubbed, but I did find her Twitter “likes” to be a little more revealing. She liked a May 11th tweet fron right-wing “comedian” Tim Young saying “81 million votes… and I’ve never seen a Biden hat or shirt in my life.” Also a lot of anti-vax and anti-mask stuff and anti-abortion extremists being smug about the overturn of Roe. So my strong suspicion is that she’s trying to keep her pro-Trump pro-sedition views out of sight as much as possible, but certainly holds them.
May is campaigning heavily on “border security” and made a field trip down to Texas to talk about how we need to finish the wall. Note that she is herself an immigrant who arrived as a refugee at age eight, and she makes a big deal about how her family did this “properly” by applying and waiting and so on. But she also tells a (pretty vivid) story in a video on her website about her mother swimming the Mekong River to escape Laos and get to Thailand — in other words, her parents fled where they were living. Let me be very clear: I 100% endorse their right to do this and I’m glad they did and I’m glad the US (eventually) did the right thing and admitted Hmong families like hers. But refugees fleeing danger and oppression today should also be allowed in.
Anyway. I e-mailed all three candidates and asked them two questions: Do you believe that the Presidential election in 2020 was legitimate? and Would you have voted to uphold or overturn the results? ETA: Jerry Silver, who I was optimistic might not be an insurrectionist, wrote back and said, “Have you watched the film 2000 Mules?” When I said no he said I should watch it and “then we can discuss.” Needless to say, I am not going to pay $20 to watch noted liar Dinesh D’Souza’s conspiracy theorymongering bullshit, but I think he’s told me what I need to know.
Gene demonstrated his seditionist views by signing onto a lawsuit in 2020. Honestly, I find it weird that Jerry’s not being louder about his seditionist views, since that would give him a shot at getting the Trumper votes that May’s leaving on the table by saying the quiet parts quiet. So the answer here is, they’re all terrible; Gene is probably the most chaotic choice, although if May wins the primary, that’ll give the GOP some hope of winning and they’ll pour a lot of money into the race. I’m not sure there’s a lesser evil here. You should absolutely vote for the Democrat in November! Either Amane or Betty will be vastly better than any of the Republicans on the ticket.
In addition to writing political commentary, I write science fiction and fantasy. My book that came out in April 2021, Chaos on CatNet, takes place in a future Minneapolis. It’s a sequel to Catfishing on CatNet and signed copies of both books are usually available from Dreamhaven. You will also be able to get them from Uncle Hugo’s when it reopens at 2716 E 31st St! (and maybe by mail order now? I’m not sure how much mail order Don is doing while getting ready to re-open.)
I do not have a Patreon or Ko-Fi, but you can make a donation to encourage my work! I get a lot of satisfaction watching fundraisers I highlight getting funded (or, in the case of the Movement Voter fundraiser, continuing to raise money past their goal). I explained back in May why I’m fundraising for the Movement Voter PAC and that fundraiser is still active. (Also, I owe some embarrassing readings of my juvenalia to the Internet.)
I also went looking and found two DonorsChoose fundraisers for classrooms at Bethune Community School in North Minneapolis: math manipulatives for pre-K students (this is such a good idea) and a nice book organizer for a first-grade classroom where the shelving is coming apart.