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Eric Ferguson

Minnesota looking more like the rest of the country

by Eric Ferguson on November 26, 2014 · 2 comments

Minnesota has been something of an outlier compared to almost every other state. Most states have Democratic cities, Republican rural areas, and competitive suburbs. We have long flipped those last two. This last election though, the state house election looked pretty typical of what might be expected in almost any randomly chosen state.
 
This raises some questions, namely:
— Is this trend of reddening rural areas and bluing suburbs really happening here? Didn’t I just say it was, one paragraph ago? I actually have my doubts, about which more later.
— Why is this happening? I won’t actually spend much space on this because there seem to be multiple plausible explanations, which can be simultaneously true, so it’s more complicated than can be dealt with here.
— How do we respond?
 
I used this chart repeatedly in that series on Democrats needing to do better with white voters, but that was nearly two years ago, so here it is again:
 

 
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Was it political cowardice or bad strategy?

by Eric Ferguson on November 21, 2014 · 6 comments

announcement of Donald Rumsfeld's resignation
UPDATE: Heard from the Speaker of the Minnesota House, sadly shortly to be minority leader (replaced by this guy), and looks like some state-specific comments of mine might not hold up. Details here.
 
When Pres. Obama announced his support for net neutrality right after the election, I thought I understood how Republicans felt when Bush Jr. forced out Defense Sec. Don Rumsfeld right after the 2006 election. Well, that was nice, but couldn’t you have done that before we got toasted in the midterm election?! Of course my first response to Obama’s announcement was to be glad he came out so strongly on the side of the angels, but my next thought was to recall an image of Rumsfeld’s resignation being announced. Why not do this before the election, and maybe save some seats?
 
The silver lining of an election loss is it makes us more likely to consider our assumptions. We may not even realize we’re making assumptions. The assumption in this case is the spinelessness of Democratic candidates and elected officials. We in the Democratic base have pleaded for more spine for I don’t recall how long. Back to the 80’s maybe? The 70’s? The 90’s at least. Election after election, but especially during midterms when there’s a Democratic president, we see one self-defeating move after another. The seeming political cowardice wasn’t just on the part of Obama, despite my reaction to the timing of his net neutrality announcement, and despite his failure to do anything on immigration until last night, which I blame for the lower than expected (lower than expected by me anyway) turnout among Latinos. I’m inclined give him a pass on the timing of his strong stances on global warming since those likely had to wait for summits in China and Australia, though that doesn’t explain other Democrats not running on it.
 
Nor do Obama’s decisions excuse Democratic candidates who avoided him during their own reelections, and the many who avoided other Democrats at all, as if they weren’t running on a ticket. There were exceptions: Minnesota’s statewide candidates very much ran as a ticket, campaigning on the Democratic successes most Democrats rarely mentioned, for example; but in general, Democrats ran every-candidate-for-themselves with campaigns focused on appeasing, if not conservatives, then those mysterious centrists.
 
But was it really cowardice? I’m asking the base to question our assumption of gutlessness. Maybe this was strategy; lousy, awful strategy. If that’s the case, if spine isn’t the problem, then no wonder our appeals for political courage seem to achieve so little. We’re making the wrong demand.
 

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Pointergate: KSTP does it again

by Eric Ferguson on November 7, 2014 · 3 comments

Dan Burns posted earlier about “pointergate”, where KSTP TV thought it a scandal that the mayor of Minneapolis and someone else were pointing at each other. Apparently the standards of journalism at KSTP TV have not improved since they passed along Brian Rice’s false claims of voter fraud without investigation. This raises an important question: there are still people who watch local TV news? Maybe there aren’t many left, thus why KSTP TV does these sensationalistic stories.
 

 
A more serious question: aren’t real journalists embarrassed to work for this organization? At least now I know why my Twitter app alerted me that some people had followed Jay Kolls, the reporter whose name is on the story (this is the original story). Unfortunately, I suspect the people who followed him gave him what he wanted. To be fair though, the reporter on camera might not deserve all the blame, since I don’t know who else worked on the story. Maybe he was left hanging, or maybe he is the one who really screwed up. Can’t tell; just like the voter fraud story. That’s why it’s damaging to the whole news division to make a pattern of grabbing some unproven charge and running with it; acting like someone making a claim is news, and no matter if it isn’t proven, or even if it’s dumb. Pointing is a gang sign? A bunch of people having a mailbox rental store as an address is voter fraud? Does anyone at KSTP think about this stuff before going on the air?
 
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Post-election observations

by Eric Ferguson on November 6, 2014 · 5 comments

With the voting done in 2014, let’s talk about 2016. Kidding! Stop, don’t go away! In fact, I’ll give you this handy link to Minnesota election results, but don’t leave yet.
 
The following thoughts about 2014 are more or less in the order in which they came to mind, though I tried to seize opportunities for coherency.
 
Starting with admittedly a repeat of my comment on Dan Burns’ post on women voting, assuming my walk lists of voters were the drop-off Democrats, it’s a bit disturbing those lists were heavy with younger women, meaning under 40. They arguably lost the most when Republicans did so well in 2010, between Republican governors and legislatures repealing equal pay laws, closing women’s clinics to restrict abortion access (and restricting access to health services in general thereby), photo ID laws (women’s birth certificates get rejected if they changed their names when they married), and blocking minimum wage increases which hurts women much more than men. Why aren’t younger women the most motivated to turn out?
 
Despite the wailing and media hysteria, if you didn’t roughly predict the results of the 2014 midterms once the results of the 2012 election were in, you have much to learn about US politics. We’re the presidential party in a midterm — Tuesday was always going to be bad. I expected we would net a governor or two, instead of a net loss of I think it will turn out to be two. But losses in Congress, albeit worse than they needed to be, no surprise. Looks like losses were small compared to 2010 in state legislatures. Not that we couldn’t have mitigated the losses without some bad decisions — yes, that’s a prelude to bringing up things I’m ticked about, and in my own defense, all things I raised before the campaign was over. We’ll get there shortly. Some good news, besides a good night for Democrats in Minnesota whatever happened elsewhere, is the GOP Senate majority is likely short-lived. Their odds of holding on in 2016 are worse than ours this year, for the same math problems: whether it’s a presidential year, who defends how many seats, and which states have elections.
 
Weirdly, given how the elections turned out, Democrats nearly ran the table on ballot measures. Unlike 2012, they seem not to have had coattails.
 
No one wants to believe the polls when they predict bad news, but for Senate and governor races, following them meant you weren’t surprised. Disappointed, but at least you knew it would be a generally bad night. Not so much for the US House, which I attribute to few polls and small sample sizes — so I was pleasantly surprised by CD8, since the last poll showed Stewart Mills with a strong lead, plus a Green candidate taking a few percent. Point being, better to accept the polls are roughly right and deal with reality. At least no one on the Democratic side went so far as to get into “unskewing”, so we have that going for us.
 
Apartment buildings folks, come on. I’m not naming sources or candidates, because no one knew in these conversations I might be blogging about it later on. Trying to do better at contacting people who live in apartments, or “multi-unit buildings” to not exclude residents of condominiums, is something we’ve worked on in the SD I chair, and the Keith Ellison campaign developed methods of doorknocking in apartments over the last couple elections. Ellison is safe, so the main beneficiaries are on the rest of the ballot, but lots of candidates and campaigns still want to bypass multi-unit buildings. The reasons why aren’t important. What’s important is we’re passing up voters Republicans also don’t contact, or, to be more positive, where we focus on multi-unit buildings, we’re contacting people Republicans ignore. Besides, whatever fudge factors there are, can anyone claim we solved the drop-off Democrat problem? Yet turfs are still cut to steer away from multi-unit buildings.
 
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HD49B Barb Sutter has unique definition of independent

by Eric Ferguson on November 3, 2014 · 1 comment

HD49B Barb Sutter lit

Barb Sutter lit in HD 49B


HD49B GOP candidate Barb Sutter says at the top of her campaign lit “Barb Sutter is an independent voice for our community” (click the image to enlarge). I suppose “independent” sounds good in a swing district, if appealing to voters inclined to split tickets. It sounds like someone who isn’t beholden to a party or any big donors or special interests. Yep, sounds good. And sounds funny, given that before becoming the candidate, Sutter was, no kidding, the SD49 GOP chair. Independent enough to make up a new definition of independent I guess.
 

She mentioned being the chair before becoming the candidate in an interview a few months ago on Republican Roundtable, a local public access program. This wasn’t the only instance where she’d showed interesting understandings of things. In that same interview, she agreed that schools increase the number of students labeled “special needs” just to get more money. The interviewer was the one who said it, and she replied, “There’s truth to that”. Embedding is disabled on this video, so you’ll have to follow the link. Scroll ahead in the video to 14:30.

 

“There’s truth to that”. So you know this, do you? It’s fraud, so you’ve reported the schools doing this, right? No? Are you countenancing fraud, or just making up what you’re saying? Basically, the whole interview is some variation of:
 
INTERVIEWER: Government sucks and everyone is dishonest.
Sutter: Yep.
 
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HD10B clarity sits next to incoherency

by Eric Ferguson on October 30, 2014 · 1 comment

That headline might sound more cryptic than it really is. Incumbent DFL State Rep. Joe Radinovich sat next to MNGOP challenger Dale Lueck during their recent debate. One question for the candidates was about a proposal to replace our current method of electing judges with retention elections, and that’s the incoherency part. If you can understand Lueck’s answer, you’re a step ahead of the candidate (starting at 14:30):
 

 
Leuck seems to be saying he opposes changing to retention elections, but then goes on about all the problems with current system, says we can’t change it because of the constitution, and finishes by saying “we just gotta own up, and get busy on that.” He can’t be entirely unaware of the issue, because he later said Iowa has retention elections, which is correct, and no judge can ever be removed that way, which is remarkably wrong. In 2010, Iowa voters removed three state supreme court justices for overturning Iowa’s same-sex marriage ban. If you’re going to pick a state for an example, wow, bad choice.
 

Advance the video to 31:42 for the clarity part, when Radinovich gets his turn at answering a question about MNSure and gets to rebut Lueck’s answer. DFL candidates struggling with that should feel free to copy. Radinovich explained the delay the MNSure faced because the Republican majority in the legislature had chosen to delay. He then went on to explain the benefits that have already accrued to the public, like less reliance on emergency rooms, no more denial of insurance for pre-existing conditions, and the large drop in the number of Minnesotans who are uninsured. Lueck had a response that was, well, it was more coherent that his judicial retention answer.
 

And one little gem later on: Lueck said the issue over transgender kids in high school sports was caused by gay marriage. So there’s your choice 10B. As a general rule, you’re better off with the smart candidate.

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Minneapolis at-large school board candidate Iris Altamirano issued this statement about recent negative campaigning:
 

A recent negative mailing and negative campaign calls we’ve seen and heard about, in the past week are more examples of what I’ve been saying throughout our campaign: We need a new conversation about education in Minneapolis because the situation for our kids is too urgent. Negative campaigning does not move us in that direction. Our campaign has been focused on bringing people together and building a collective vision for all Minneapolis kids to have opportunities to succeed. I will continue to campaign with integrity, respect for all perspectives, and with the deep belief that we must move beyond the polarized framework of this debate and put children at the forefront of this conversation.

An independent group, Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund, has been supporting Altamirano and Don Samuels, and running a negative campaign against Rebecca Gagnon. Pardon me going through basics again, but I was reminded while doorknocking this weekend that there are voters who respond to questions about local elections with something like, “We have local elections this year?” I think that’s a hint. I’ve also been informed that “at-large” is a bit jargon-like. So, “at-large” means citywide, as opposed to districts. If you didn’t know, just pretend. No one will know. Non-Minneapolitans, hang on through this hyper-local stuff, because I’ll shortly mention something that might interest any politics geek.
 
Minneapolis has three at-large seats and six districts, elected for four-year staggered terms in even numbered years. So three districts and one at-large member are elected in presidential years, and the other three districts and two at-large seats are elected in midterms.
 

For the two at-large seats, the top four candidates in the primary go to the general election. The top four were Ira Jordain, Iris Altamirano, Rebecca Gagnon, and Don Samuels. All four self-identify as DFLers. Gagnon finished first in the primary, with Samuels a close second and Altamirano a close third, clustered in the 20’s range. Jordain came in a bit under 6%. Gagnon and Altamirano are the DFL endorsees. Regarding RCV, we don’t use that in even numbered years, just odd numbered years when the whole ballot is local races.
 
One interesting thing about this particular race is that even though Republicans might top out at 25% of the vote in Minneapolis, that still means one voter in four is Republican. When I’m at their door clipboard in hand, I don’t waste time trying to persuade them on partisan races, figuring I’m not going to win them over anyway, but in the school board race, they’re having to pick the most acceptable DFLers. That means it’s still worth finding out what they care about, and looking for a way to win their vote. So when I realize I won’t win them over to Franken or Dayton, I switch to school board. It’s a very different dynamic than the partisan races. It’s also a common problem for Republicans in local races in Minneapolis. We had a Republican mayoral candidate last year, but some city council races were all DFL.

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I could be wrong. If I’m right, then I have to admire the cleverness of a certain group of Don Samuels’ supporters, even if, as the title implies, there’s something coldblooded about it.

 

A new organization has sprung up for this election season, the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund. They put out a mailer promoting the candidacies of Don Samuels and Iris Altamirano for the Minneapolis at-large school board seats. Altamirano is one of the candidates endorsed by the DFL. Samuels is not. The other DFL endorsee is Rebecca Gagnon. Voters might be fooled by the effort MPEF is making to hook together Altamirano and Samuels. The images below are a mailer MPEF sent Minneapolis voters (click to enlarge). Some voters have received a robocall supporting Samuels and Altamirano while bashing Gagnon. I didn’t receive one myself and don’t know of anyone who caught who made the calls, but the content sounds roughly the same as the MPEF web site. The mailer is positive about the supported candidates, but the robocall and web site are pretty negative. The web site tries to tie Gagnon to the unproven rumors about State Sens. Bobby Joe Champion and Jeff Hayden. Pretty nonsensical rumors unless someone believes the senators are politically suicidal (denying funding to the Minneapolis public schools? Remember that saying about extraordinary claims…), but MPEF says, “The Star Tribune and MinnPost also have reported on claims…” and yes, someone made claims, those outlets reported that someone made claims, so true as far as it goes. Other than that attack on Gagnon, it’s all generic “every child can learn” sort of stuff said by all school board candidates everywhere.
 

MPEF mailer image 1   MPEF mailer image 2

 
So what’s the strategy? It’s more than knowing the word “progressive” plays well in Minneapolis. The trick is Samuels doesn’t need to beat both endorsees. Since there are two positions, he just needs to beat one. Apparently the strategy is to hook him to one endorsee, giving the impression he’s the other endorsee, while simultaneously hitting the other endorsee with a negative campaign. That may explain why Samuels didn’t seek the DFL endorsement, which he never would have gotten for any public office, but instead attempted the same sort of ambush campaign Matt Entenza tried in the auditor primary: keep quiet until filing so opponents aren’t expecting anything, and then hit hard with a well-funded negative campaign. The brilliance of this strategy is it would have worked equally well whichever candidate MPEF chose to support or attack. Whether there was a reason or a coin flip, MPEF chose to make it appear Samuels is running with Altamirano, even though they’re not similar candidates, and I’ve yet to hear anyone in Altamirano’s campaign have a good word to say about him.
 
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HD2B Steve Green dislikes both science and law

by Eric Ferguson on October 20, 2014 · 2 comments

State Rep. Steve Green, HD2B
State Rep. Steve Green, R-2B, has authored some interesting bills. By “authored”, I suspect I mean “stuck his name on some special interest’s bill, and who knows if he even read it”. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he really believes this stuff. Wait, that’s sort of worse. Anyway…
 
Let’s start with a bit of tentherism. Green is one of those who buys into that doctrine birthed in John C. Calhoun’s black-enslaving heart that states can ignore whatever federal laws they disagree with. That doctrine, originally intended for the defense of slavery, has never entirely died out on the extreme right, which extremity apparently includes Green, trying to apply it to modern issues with just as little understanding of how the law works.
 
Green coauthored a bill that calls for the arrest of federal officials enforcing federal gun laws. He seems to be fond of arresting federal officials for implementing laws he disagrees with. Green was one of the Republicans who said they would support arresting federal officials implementing Obamacare in Minnesota. No shock I suppose that there is considerable overlap between the Republicans who want to arrest federal officials for one and the other. Each list is like a handy guide to nutjobbery.
 
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During Friday’s debate of secretary of state candidates on Almanac, Dan Severson repeated his idea of an express lane for voters showing photo ID. Such voters would get to go through a fast line, pretty much like now, while those without photo ID would have to have a long wait. What they would wait for is never hinted at. What is sure is that since we generally enjoy short waits now in Minnesota, he’s going to have to create some obstacles to extend the wait. Severson is entirely comfortable with inflicting discomfort on others. DFL candidate Rep. Steve Simon pointed out that Severson said he was fine with making people without photo IDs wait out in the cold for two hours. Simon said this at 43:45. Severson immediately denied it, and denied it again at 45:30. I won’t say Severson is lying because he could have forgotten he said it. And somehow no one in his campaign checked out Youtube, where they could have seen the video below from last April, just as Simon said. But lying or forgetful, Severson said it. h/t Bluestem Prairie. Severson says it starting st 53:40:
 

 
In the bit right before, Severson is denying that minorities are disenfranchised by requiring photo IDs, claiming that having photo IDs enfranchises them. He’ll enfranchise people by requiring them to produce something they can’t get, without which they won’t be allowed to vote. At least not without standing out in the cold for two hours. He seems not to get that yo can’t enfranchise people who already can vote, nor does he mind disenfranchising them. Maybe he’s just clueless about what “enfranchise” means?
 

When they’ve done studies on photo ID [no, he gave no indication of who "they" is], it actually empowers the minority communities to say you know what, I am a US citizen. I have the right to vote. This is my ticket to vote. And so in that process, I think we begin to enfranchise, to encourage those people, who meet the criteria, say you know what, you are a US citizen, we’re going to make it easy for you. Now if don’t want to do that, be my guest. You can go over to the side and wait in line, two hours, out in the cold. That’s fine.

Even our most bogged down polling places in 2012 didn’t have two hour waits. He’s going to have to deliberately create the conditions that cause two hour waits. I’d find that laughable, it it wasn’t that Republican election officials in some states have done just that in Democratic precincts.
 
BTW, if you watch the whole debate, it becomes apparent why Simon put the debate video on his web site.

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