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Joe Bodell

Hopkins City Council member Cheryl Youakim announces today that she’ll run for the DFL endorsement for the 46B State House seat, covering Hopkins and St. Louis Park. The southwest metro seat is currently held by fellow DFLer Steve Simon, who is running for Secretary of State (conditional endorsements ftw!)


I think Youakim has the potential to clear what might otherwise be a crowded field.(Eric Margolis is also running; I had completely forgotten that he was already in the race!) 46B is a fairly safe DFL seat, and the party’s bench in these cities is fairly deep, but Youakim has a long resume of work in non-profit education advocacy and in the political realm, having worked for several years at the State Capitol. For a technically suburban seat, this should be a great opportunity to wrap up any intramural contests early and concentrate on cranking up progressive issue ID and GOTV efforts throughout next year’s election season. The seat was previously held by Steve Kelley, who later moved on to the State Senate and an unsuccessful gubernatorial run in 2006, and who is now chairing Youakim’s campaign.


Full text of Youakim’s announcement can be found under the break.




And then there were four: Bergstrom joins 64B race

by Joe Bodell on December 1, 2013 · 4 comments

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving weekend with some post-turkey-nap campaign news, would it?


TakeAction Minnesota communications director Greta Bergstrom confirmed in a Twitter message and in a wider release this evening that she is running for the DFL endorsement to succeed State Rep. Michael Paymar in district 64B. Bergstrom previously ran for the seat in 1996, losing the endorsement to Paymar.


That makes four candidates confirmed in the race, with former Paymar staffer Melanie McMahon, longtime activist Gloria Zaiger, and political-family scion Matt Freeman already having declared their intentions. I would run down the “who’s considering?” list, but there’s already a much more comprehensive list, along with interviews of several of the candidates, right here. Kudos to Mr. Nelson both for adding coverage of the race to his already busy schedule and for pulling together such a comprehensive resource so quickly.


Bottom line: At a certain number of candidates — four? five? six? — a contested endorsement fight either becomes a maelstrom of hurt feelings and bad blood, a provincial pet-issue proxy fight, or worst of all, a victory for “no endorsement” in a district where activists should be focusing on cranking up identification and GOTV efforts ahead of a midterm election for Governor Dayton and Senator Franken.That being said, the DFL bench (and frankly, the progressive bench) in a district like 64B is frustratingly deep for those of us in suburban districts generally considered “marginal” by party organs. Many great leaders and voices for senate district convention delegates to choose from in this one.


It’s a fairly safe bet that the entire field is going to agree on most issues. It’s the kind of district where litmus tests are pretty effective: you’re not going to hear much from candidates who didn’t support the recent passage of marriage equality, or did support the voter discrimination effort in 2012, and so on. Where delegates are going to hear distinctions is on the margins: community engagement strategies, outreach and constituent communication, and organizing in the community during and after the campaign. Assuming that any candidate who is still a candidate when the convention rolls around has at least some delegate support, those things are going to be where the endorsement is actually won.


From a movement-vs-establishment-vs-whatever perspective, I think this field is already looking fairly complex — McMahon and Freeman will definitely bring connections to the campaign, including money, endorsements, organizing muscle. Bergstrom brings progressive bona fides and her own extensive rolodex of contacts from St. Paul and throughout the state, although organizational muscle does not always translate into support in a convention floor fight. McMahon in particular should be able to lean on her experience in St. Paul and being able to talk the Capitol business talk. Zaiger has been involved with the local activist community for a long time, knows the people who will definitely be showing up, and might have a head start with the activist crowd that strongly resembled the delegate population in a Senate District convention.


Hennepin County race already underway

by Joe Bodell on November 18, 2013 · 2 comments

Lakes don’t vote.

Just after this year’s election, Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman announced that she won’t seek reelection next year. Her Third district seat covers the southwest quadrant of Minneapolis and all of St. Louis Park — as a result, the action in this open seat race won’t really be next November, but rather in the DFL endorsement and primary processes.


Is the County Commission actually a big deal? Depends on your perspective. The Commission does a lot of work that goes unnoticed, administering some law enforcement, library management, tax collection, housing, and transit functions — things that the communities in the Metro can’t do by themselves, but can’t push to the state either. I interviewed the retiring Dorfman way back in the 2006 cycle when she was running for the DFL endorsement for Congress in the Fifth district, and she noted that the Hennepin County Board administrates the second largest municipal budget in the state — right behind the State of Minnesota itself.


So, yeah, kind of a big deal. I spoke recently with one DFLer who confirmed that she is running: St. Louis Park City Council member Anne Mavity. Other names that have been bandied about in DFL circles include former State Rep. Marion Greene and her opponent in the 2010 race to replace outgoing House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher in district 60A, Katie Hatt. One source has said that State Sen. Scott Dibble will *not* run, but that source is not Dibble himself, so we won’t treat it as a certainty just yet.


So given that the 2014 caucuses are what, less than three months away? This race is going to get underway in a big darned hurry. Have a connection to any of the candidates I mentioned, or another whom I didn’t? Let us know what you think.


Obamacare “Loser” speaks out

by Joe Bodell on November 17, 2013 · 1 comment

Via TPM, a member of the “3 percent” (those may come out slightly less ahead than they were before the Affordable Care Act) speaks:


 Having insurance, even crappy insurance, in the individual market means we are almost by definition, healthy and relatively young. If we were not, we wouldn’t be able to get coverage of any kind in the non-group market. If our ACA-compliant replacement policy costs us more, it’s likely because we’re too affluent to qualify for subsidies.


It takes a remarkable degree of self-absorption and sense of self-entitlement to be healthy, young(ish) and affluent—and yet consider oneself a “loser.” It’s a label I reject out of shame (no matter how much the lazy, superficial MSM want to fixate on me and my “plight”) NOT because there’s anything shameful about being a loser; the shame is in thinking oneself a loser when one is actually fortunate.


Go read the whole thing. It’s about time we started having a discussion about exactly who the “losers” in this particular system of equations really have been, are, and will be under the Affordable Care Act.

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Paulsen probably has a DFL challenger

by Joe Bodell on November 7, 2013 · 4 comments

It's Minnpost's image. But I linked to the piece, so we're cool, right?

Jim Lawrence

MinnPost’s Cyndy Brucato posted on it first: a potential candidate named Jim Lawrence put a poll in the field this week in the Third congressional district, testing messages and setting baseline numbers for a run against incumbent Republican Erik Paulsen.


I’m a bit ashamed that Brucato got to it first, as I actually got the call and participated in the poll yesterday evening. I answered as you might assume – no, I probably won’t vote for Erik Paulsen under any circumstances, meaning I’ll probably vote for his challenger under every circumstance. Et cetera. The message testing was an interesting bit – it would seem that Lawrence’s team, whoever they are, want to push his business experience at Northwest Airlines and General Mills (ixnay on the Ain Capital-Bay).


Lawrence doesn’t exactly seem like someone who could catch fire in a short timeframe among the DFL faithful. On the other hand, maybe he doesn’t need to – we’ve had several candidates over the past several cycles start from the grassroots and get walloped in the general election. There simply aren’t enough solid Dem votes, dollars, and hours available in a single cycle to start a campaign that way and expect victory in the Third. On the other hand, money alone doesn’t win either; starting a campaign this late with no grassroots support whatsoever means a heavy emphasis on ad spending and careful attention to messaging, because there won’t be much support on the ground. A campaign like that would take even more than the two to three million a normal, grassroots-driven campaign would take. And you can’t even start to go after swing voters until you convince your base voters, so Lawrence will need to find a way to get the DFL base fired up, and fast.


So is Lawrence serious? From the sounds of Brucato’s piece, he’s playing his cards close to the vest for now. That he’s in the field with a message-testing poll means either he or some of his earliest backers (whoever they be) are putting money in the pot already. And we should assume that the results of this poll will be kept private, as they likely present a stark picture of what any potential candidate is up against: an extremely well-funded, fairly well-known incumbent who isn’t as crazy as Michele Bachmann and who has easily dispatched every candidate to face him in a district that hasn’t yet turned completely blue beneath the Presidential line on the ballot.


If Lawrence thinks he can break through, then it’s time for him to get to work. There’s plenty to do.


Election Day mea culpa

by Joe Bodell on November 5, 2013 · 1 comment

From time to time, I have to remind myself of a cardinal rule of blogging: If you feel dirty posting it, you probably shouldn’t.


About a month ago I was given some information about Katie Fulkerson, who has in the past been a local Republican Party officer and is running for the Hopkins School Board (today).


That information was incomplete, as was the additional information I was given more recently and, at the time, tipped me over the “should I/shouldn’t I post” fence.


My apologies to Ms. Fulkerson. We may disagree on 90% of, well, everything, but she deserves a fairer shake than the people who handed me the information were willing to give her. And I shouldn’t have entertained their attempt to cut a hard-working candidate off at the knees. The offending post has been removed, with additional apologies for my (hopefully momentary) lack of ethical fiber.


As for future attempts to get really juicy information out into the public eye: post it yourself. That’s why we have this here community blogamatron. If you’re uncomfortable posting it, even under a completely untraceable pseudonym, then don’t bother trying to get me or any of the MPP frontpagers to do your dirty work for you. I, and we, are through with that crap.


Good luck to all candidates on today’s ballot. Have you voted yet?

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Indeed. Lather, rinse, repeat (and twice is not enough, when traditional media decide that reporting the truth isn’t their job):


The president would be attacked. He might even be impeached by the House. But maybe not: the House would then be saying that the president should have illegally failed to pay F.B.I. agents, or school districts, or Medicare doctors. In any case, he would not be convicted by the Senate. And he would have saved the nation from much agony.

Disregarding the debt ceiling would have one additional, thoroughly benign effect. It would end the capacity of Congressional minorities to precipitate crises in order to accomplish goals for which they lacked the votes. Today, a minority is holding hostage all federal programs in an attempt to eviscerate a law that Congress passed, the president signed and the Supreme Court upheld — the Affordable Care Act. In the future, an imaginative and irresponsible minority could use the threat not to raise the debt ceiling for any purpose — to shape tax policy, or foreign policy, or civil rights policy.

The debt ceiling is the fiscal equivalent of the human appendix — a law with no discoverable purpose. It is one law too many. Once Congress has set tax rates and spending levels, it has effectively said what it wants the debt to be. If Congress leaves the debt ceiling at a level inconsistent with duly enacted spending and tax laws, the president has no choice but to ignore it.

But it’s not just Brookings saying these things. From The Atlantic:

In short, we have a faction making historically unprecedented demands — give us everything, or we stop the government and potentially renege on the national debt. And it is doing so less than a year after its party lost the presidency, lost the Senate (and lost ground there), and held onto the House in part because of rotten-borough distortions.


You can call this a lot of things, but “gridlock” should not be one of them. And you can fault many aspects of the President’s response — when it comes to debt-default, I think he has to stick to the “no negotiations with terrorists” hard line. But you shouldn’t pretend that if he had been more “reasonable” or charming he could placate a group whose goal is the undoing of his time in office.


The real question now is what Boehner, McConnell, et al. can do about their hard-liners. A lot depends, for Americans and many others, on their success or failure.



Ted Cruz throwing a useful tantrum in the U.S. Senate

by Joe Bodell on September 25, 2013 · 1 comment

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is still talking.

Good question, but Cruz's answer is "anyone who probably won't vote for me anyway."

Good question, but Cruz’s answer is “anyone who probably won’t vote for me anyway.”


The Senator is in hour eighteen of his “filibuster” “against” the Affordable Care Act. I say “filibuster” because it’s not really a filibuster; his rant is going to end at a predetermined time, and I say “against” because his little attention-grab isn’t going to stop implementation of the Affordable Care Act.


Let’s keep in mind that this is a law passed TWO Congresses ago, ratified during the last Congress by both the Supreme Court and the voters of the United States, and is going to help millions of Americans gain access to affordable health insurance, while reining in some of the worst excesses that industry has wrought over the past thirty years. Cruz isn’t going to stop the law or its implementation with a little hissy-fit on the floor of the Senate. He might raise his profile in the 2016 Republican pre-primary and make the insane right wing swoon over his willingness to go toe-to-toe with the evil socioislamofascioliberowhatevero in the White House. He might cause John Boehner to lose his speakership over having to cut a quick deal with House Democrats to pass a clean spending bill to keep the lights on in the federal government. But he will not stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.


As an aside, what the hell?


According to a new Fox News poll, a revision of the question’s language caused an 8% spike in Republican favorability for President Obama’s signature health care law. The findings show 22% support the Affordable Care Act (the law’s official name) versus only 14% for Obamacare.


I, just…just…no. We’re not going there right now. Back to Calgary Cruz.


I think there’s at least one good thing that’s going to come out of Senator Cruz’s little tantrum. Well, two, if you count the fact that he will not win a single state north of the Mason-Dixon line. But the one I was thinking about was this: perhaps now we can get back to the topic of reforming the filibuster in the U.S. Senate.


Why now?  Cruz is not seeking to extend debate to extract positive legislative action. Cruz is not seeking to stop a pending bill in its tracks. His intention is to stop implementation of an already settled and ratified law by holding the entire federal government hostage, and that is not what the filibuster was intended to do. This type of grandstanding serves the interests of no one but Ted Cruz’s ego, which, by direct accounts, is massive. Perhaps now is the time to discuss more reforms to the filibuster and limitations on what passes for “debate” in the Senate. After all, this is the federal government we’re talking about. You know. the FDA. The USDA. The military. Retirees. Critical services that are going to get shut down because Ted Cruz wants to get his face on Fox News for a week.


Kinda sad, really. And worthy of more discussion regarding its validity and propriety.

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by Joe Bodell on September 12, 2013 · 0 comments


No comment required.


Syria: We live in strange times

by Joe Bodell on September 11, 2013 · 18 comments

syria-mapA Democratic President gets the Republican Party to turn dove-ish on military intervention in the Middle East, but holds back from military action thanks to his ex-KGB Russian counterpart’s diplomatic proposal, which tosses that Democratic President a lifeline in both foreign and domestic affairs. All this, after the two have been at loggerheads for months over issues ranging from trade to an NSA leaker who escaped the US and sought asylum in Moscow. The President’s base reflexively opposes his call for military strikes, the base of the party opposite will flip flop like a dying fish if it means opposing whatever he says is good, but in a single prime-time speech, he managed to (temporarily, at least) convince 61% of listeners of the value of what his stance.


And seriously, what is the deal with Miley Cyrus?


We live in strange times. News cycles move minute-by-minute, and sometimes it seems that everyone on the internet is convinced that if only the people in power would listen to them and their frequent status updates, things would work out. There’s this reflexive urge to assume that the individuals in power have no more information about what’s going on than they are revealing publicly when the truth is likely much closer to the opposite case. And yet we withdraw to our corners, some going so far as to accuse President Obama of continuing virtually every foreign policy pushed by his predecessor, others simply to do what they’ve been doing, call him playground-quality names, and try to reinforce their preconceived, blissfully ignorant, and ultimately incorrect notion of this President as a failure.


As for the proposal which Syria accepted, to put their chemical weapons under international control (after first, of course, admitting that yes, they have chemical weapons. Oops.), it’s definitely a weird case. But when it comes to diplomatic solutions superceding military action, I think the ends really do justify the means. If the end is

  • No cruise missile strikes
  • no boots on the ground
  • no multi-trillion-dollar quagmire
  • no state-building required
  • no 1990s-Afghanistan-part-deux
  • Israel doesn’t get an itchy trigger finger

and the means are

  • The U.S. has to backtrack on an ill-conceived commitment to strike
  • Russia gets to look like the good guy
  • The Syrian civil war continues apace

then, frankly, I think that’s a less awful deal than many of the alternatives. Especially the one President Obama was half-heartedly asking a Congress which can barely rename a post office let alone pass useful legislation, to endorse.


There are some consequences to this path, as with all paths: Russia gets to keep selling conventional military equipment to the Syrian regime. Oil pipeline paths might be moved. And of course, people on all sides of the Syrian civil war are going to keep dying, because war is hell and civil war is an especially hot, painful corner of that hell.


But from here, in front of our keyboards and smartphone screens, we’re not going to solve these issues by reflexively retreating to our corners, allowing ourselves to be angry and ignore the nuance and consequences of each course of action, and make huge assumptions about what and how much we do and don’t know about the situation.


More here.