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Thoughts on the Senate District 53 Candidates, and Those Incessant Mailers

My opinion about the candidates for state legislature in our community; and about those incessant mailers in our mailbox.

There is a clear choice in this years election: essentially we are choosing between a moderate Win-Win Democrat philosophy where everyone matters; or an increasingly extreme Republican faction where Winning to give power to a narrow slice of power actors is all that matters.

In my opinion, “Exhibit A” is the two MN constitutional amendments on which we’re voting. Both were ramrodded through the 2012 Republican dominated legislature, ignoring Democrat ideas and avoiding the Governor. Those amendments are, in my opinion, the face of the contrast between the two parties this November.  They are intended to divide and inflame and disempower.

I’ve lived at the same address in Woodbury since October of 2000. My home is now in a new Senate and House District due to census redistricting. I’m now in Senate District 53A. Representing my District 2011-13 were freshmen Ted Lillie and Andrea Kieffer. Lillie is running to continue as Senator; Kieffer is now in neighboring 53B, and also running for a second term.

Here's what I think, as one of your neighbor citizens.

The Democrat candidates:

I am supporting Susan Kent for Senate and JoAnn Ward for House of Representatives.

Yes, I’m Democrat, but it isn’t all that simple. Kent, Ward, and Ann Marie Metzger in 53B, have a very strong sense of this community and commitment to our public schools and children. And they know business. They are multi-dimensional candidates, important in a multi-dimensional community such as ours. I would class them all, as I did Senator Kathy Saltzman and Rep. Marsha Swails, 2007-2011, as “Win-Win” candidates. To borrow a phrase from Paul Wellstone, who died ten years ago October 25, 2002, “we all do better when we all do better“.

I’ve known JoAnn Ward since the late 1990s when, as a school volunteer, she helped a great deal in organizing a Community Conversation About Public Schools for South Washington County ISD 833. That program was organized and funded by the National Education Association (NEA) and I was assigned to help pull it together.

JoAnn Ward was a great help then, as a volunteer with the School District. That practice at conversation was a success (there need to be many more such conversations.) I was delighted when I learned JoAnn Ward was running.

Recently, former ISD 833 Superintendent Tom Nelson wrote an endorsement of Susan Kent for State Senate.

While I didn’t know him personally, I do know that Supt Nelson had a long and very distinguished career as a school administrator, including time as Commissioner of Education for the State of Minnesota. His is a sterling endorsement.

While she’s not running in my part of the District, I believe Ann Marie Metzger is more than equal to the task of fairly and competently representing all of the citizens of 53B.

When I wanted to meet with her, even though I was not part of her legislative district, she took the time to actually meet with me. That impressed me. When elected, she will be ‘on the court’ for all of us.

The Republican candidates:

In my dozen years here I have gotten to know pretty well eight local candidates for state legislature. Four of these served during my time here, five ran or are running as incumbents, six are Democrat, two Republican.

From career experience, I know the process and the reality of legislating very well. It is very hard work to fairly represent all points of view, and requires working together. It’s called “win-win”. 

When one side elects to dominate and control, as happened with the Republicans in 2011 to the present, there are serious problems, like those ill-advised constitutional amendments.

During 2011-13, when Ted Lillie and Andrea Kieffer represented my district (they’re still my legislators till January), I elected to attempt to engage constructively with both of them, even though I had strongly supported their incumbent opponents, Sen. Kathy Saltzman and Rep. Marsha Swails.

My engagement was almost all handwritten letters – I know how busy it is at the legislature, and didn’t park on their doorstep. They had run primarily as candidates favoring something called "business"*, so I didn’t feel much possibility of impacting on them, but I could watch and see how or if they responded at all.

Rep Kieffer was pretty good about communicating; Sen Lillie was very bad. I noted that he picked up the title of “Majority Whip”, which gave him additional power (and responsibility) in the Republican caucus. He was a leader in that caucus.

I believe Kieffer and Lillie’s signature issue – indeed that of the entire Republican majority in House and Senate, are the two constitutional amendments we are asked to vote on November 6. These amendments were ram-rodded through by the Republicans, passing on essentially party-line votes and passed specifically to avoid the Governor. Both amendments deserve to be defeated. Amending the constitution is no way to make partisan policy.

Rep. Kieffer early on pledged formally and publicly to “support all efforts to institute a requirement to show photo I.D. to access a ballot in any election for public office in the State”. I was surprised to find her unwilling to commit how she would vote on the initiative at the recent League of Women Voters Forum. Indeed, none of the Republican candidates revealed how they would vote on this, their own, initiative (the Democrats all said they’d vote no.)

(I'll never know, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn, some day, that both Lillie and Kieffer voted no, or didn't vote at all, on these amendments.)

Succinctly, all appearances are that the contemporary version of the Republican Party favors domination and control, and that is not healthy for our community.

The Mailers about Local Candidates

Of course, there are other kinds of communication, and I want to comment on the flood of political issue junk mail we’ve received this fall.

When the first political mailer came to our mailbox quite a while back, I decided to keep them all and see what would transpire.

A couple of days ago, October 24, I took out the stack. It is most interesting.  Of course, there will be more in this final week and a half.  All the mailings are to the 53A side of the district.

In our mailbox have been 31 of these easily identified mailers (which does not count 6 mailings from and in behalf of 4 candidates for office.

So far no mailings have been received from two local candidates in their own behalf.

Four of the mailings have come from the state Republican Party (all four Anti-Susan Kent and Anti-Union.)

Two mailings have come from the state Democratic Party (both Pro-Susan Kent and Anti-Sen Lillie.)

The remaining 25 are from assorted “independent expenditure” groups which by their text are all pro-Republican, anti-Democrat and anti-Union.

The current Republican position seems basically this: there are winners and there are losers. And judging from the mailers and the Republican legislators positioning, the main, indeed sole, priority is what’s good for “business”*. “Unions”* are apparently viewed as competition and must be reined in or eliminated. This "good vs evil" strategy has worked in the cutthroat and vicious world that is contemporary attack politics, but it isn’t good for the greater society short or long term.

It is important to note that of the 31 outside fliers that ended up in our mailbox, 29 came from the Republican side. And none have come from Sen. Lillie himself, who apparently has plenty of friends with money for advertising in his behalf.

The sources of those so-called "independent" mailers are worth looking into. In order of number of mailers attributed to them, here they are: Minnesota Future; Freedom Club; Pro Jobs Majority; Coalition of MN Businesses; Housing First. You may not be able to learn much about who is behind them; but their fruits have been in your mailboxes.

Freedom Club, with a Champlin MN PO box and no website I can find, deserves special scrutiny. It is the group which bankrolled the huge Lillie billboard just east of 3M. It exists mostly in Federal Election Commission Reports (FEC) and occasional news articles about it. It appears to be a closed-membership cooperative of a very few individuals, 90% or more men. We likely will not know its true expenditures until the FEC reports at the end of January, 2013. The last report deadline was September 30, so any subsequent expenditures are hidden for the next three months.  Start your expenditures on October 1, and they are essentially hidden from view until way after the election, when no one cares.

Similarly, Minnesota Future is not at all transparent. It seems to me much like a “trojan horse” group, initially founded on a premise that got some interesting endorsers (still on its website), but whose agenda in this election is very different.

To sum up, at least in my opinion:

Vote for the reasonable candidates who really care about our entire community November 7: Susan Kent for Senate; JoAnn Ward and Ann Marie Metzger for House of Representatives.

And after this election lobby for major changes in the way that elections are funded, and for a change in the "win-lose" dynamic that is crippling us all. Our democracy is imperiled.

* – “Business” and “Union” are generic terms that are best not judged generically. The political posturing, especially from the contemporary Republicans, is that a particular “business” point of view is all that matters; and that “unions” should cease to exist. Neither business nor union are monoliths, and should not be considered as such.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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