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Earth Train heads to DC for climate change rally

by The Big E on February 16, 2013 · 0 comments

70 Minnesotans hopped on a train headed for Washington, DC this morning. They’ll be attending the Forward On Climate rally tomorrow on the Washington Mall. The rally is expected to draw tens of thousands of people.

This morning 70 Minnesotans discovered that changing one word can change the world. As they gathered at the St Paul Amtrak station, a flash mob blossomed singing, “ride on the earth train,” a heartfelt adaptation of Cat Steven’s “Peace Train.”
The dream of an earth train was born on November 30th as Susan and Jim Lenfestey left Bill McKibben’s Do the Math Tour feeling inspired and ready for action. Bill had suggested attendees join him for a rally in Washington D.C in February to encourage President Obama to take meaningful action towards a clean, sustainable energy future. Susan joked, “well we know we can’t fly. Let’s take the train!”
Her offhanded joke was really a deeper reflection of a commitment to a clean energy future. Planes are one of the biggest contributors of carbon, and if we are to significantly lower the carbon in our atmosphere, limiting our air travel is an excellent place to start. The train ride to D.C will be long, but it will be a chance to enjoy the landscape, engage with other passengers, and minimize carbon emissions on a long journey. (Read more about Amtrak’s commitment to environmental sustainability here).

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) was one of the 70 to hop on the train.

“I’m a life-long environmentalist,” Hornstein said. Hornstein is chair of the House Transportation Committee and a member of the Energy Policy Committee. “I strongly believe that climate change is one of the defining issues of our generation. This event is nothing less than historic.”

A few others hopped on the train, too. Author Louise Erdrich, humorist, storyteller Kevin Kling as well as musician Prudence Johnson.


61A: Frank Hornstein vs. Marion Greene

by The Big E on March 24, 2012 · 0 comments

In the redistricting hell otherwise known as the Nice-Off-To-The-Death, Reps. Frank Hornstein and Marion Greene face off against each other for DFL endorsement at the SD61 Convention. Hornstein is a ten year veteran of the legislature, Greene is in her first term.

The new district, 61A, is primarily Greene’s former district, but Hornstein has been active in SW Minneapolis for more than 20 years.

To give you some perspective, Margaret Anderson Kelliher spoke on behalf of Hornstein. This is MAK’s old district … as many of you know.

After the first ballot, Hornstein leads Greene 53.8% to 45.5%.

3:00pm Update
The second ballot had Hornstein with 58%, but there were problems with the voting in six precincts. Both campaigns agreed to a revote. I’m awaiting the new second ballot tally.

A third ballot should follow shortly.

3:20pm Update
After revoting, Hornstein awarded 57% on second ballot. Third ballot upcoming.

4:30pm Update
Greene concedes! Frank Hornstein wins the DFL endorsement for the new 61A.


Two friends of mine were redistricted right out from under me yesterday. My Senator, Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls), and my Representative, Frank Hornstein (DFL-MN), are now in SD61 (I’m in 62). Dibble is paired against Sen. Ken Kelash (DFL-Mpls). Hornstein in the new 61B against first-termer Marion Greene (DFL-Mpls). Dibble, Greene and Hornstein promptly announced that they are running for their new seats. Kelash is considering his options and may run in SD50 (Richfield).

This new district is mostly the old powerhouse district 60. SD60 regularly sent out activists to suburban districts to help win swing races. There are more DFL activists per block than anywhere else in the state. Several key precincts almost always lead the state in voter turnout.

Nice-Off To The  Death

Hornstein vs. Greene is going to be a tough one. Both are the nicest people. But Hornstein has served SW Minneapolis for a decade and the network of supporters he’s built up over the last 20 years of organizing give him the edge in this contest.

Press releases below the fold …
Scott Dibble tweeted his announcement:

Delighted new SD61 is almost the same as SD60. Look forward to reelection-making campaign about movement for social & economic justice.
11:14 PM Р21 Feb 12 via web · Details

Here’s Ken Kelash’s:

To my Constituents,

Today, a panel of judges issued an order redrawing Minnesota’s legislative districts.  Unfortunately the new lines have paired me against my colleague and friend Senator Scott Dibble.  Senator Dibble and I agree that there are more important battles to wage for the betterment of our state rather than opposing each other.   I am, however, strongly considering a run in the newly drawn SD 50 which includes much of my old district including Richfield, where I grew up, and Bloomington.  I will discuss my options with my wife Elaine and our family and will be making a more formal decision soon.

I want to thank all of you for your support and input during my time in the Senate.  I enjoy reading your letters and meeting with many of you at the Capitol during your visits.  While we may not have always agreed I can assure you I put great weight on the information and opinions I received from you.

Regardless of any future decision I hope to continue serving the public interest as it has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.

Here’s Frank Hornstein’s:

State Representative Frank Hornstein announced his candidacy today for the new House District 61A in southwest Minneapolis.

Hornstein has represented voters in the southern part of this new district for the past 10 years.

A lifelong advocate for social justice and environmental issues, Hornstein first won election to the current House District 60B seat in 2002.

“I’m running to continue my work to promote transit and renewable energy and to advocate for human rights and equality,” Hornstein said. “During my time at the legislature, I’ve learned how to build coalitions to pass legislation that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

In his years at the legislature, Hornstein has emerged as one of the key DFL legislative leaders on transportation issues, passing bills ranging from creating stable funding for transit corridors to banning texting while driving.

He played a leadership role in building the bi-partisan legislative coalition that overrode Governor Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the transportation bill in 2008.

“Minnesota in 2012 is at a crossroads,” Hornstein said. “In a time of mean-spirited politics and divisive, misguided constitutional amendments, I want to continue to be a passionate voice for social justice and progressive values.”

Hornstein emphasized: “I will continue to be a strong advocate for protecting a woman’s right to choose and for marriage equality for the LGBT community.”

Hornstein has lived within the boundaries of the new House District 61A for 23 years.

Prior to winning election to the Minnesota House, Hornstein served as an appointed member of the Metropolitan Council. His Metropolitan Council district included all of the new House District 61A and adjacent suburbs.

A community organizer by profession, Hornstein founded and directed two nonprofit grassroots organizations, the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability and Jewish Community Action.

He also served as co-director of Clean Water Action Alliance in Minnesota.

Hornstein is a graduate of Macalester College in St. Paul and earned a Master of Arts degree in urban and environmental policy from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.

Hornstein, 52, lives in the Linden Hills neighborhood with his wife Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, the senior rabbi at Temple Israel. Daughters Rebecca and Naomi are graduates of Minneapolis South High School and son Max is currently a junior at Minneapolis Southwest High School.

As a Minneapolis Public School parent, Hornstein chaired the leadership council at Clara Barton Open School.

His community service also includes serving on the board of the Linden Hills Co-op.

Here’s Marion Greene’s:

“I’m proud to announce that I am running for re-election. Every day I am honored by the responsibility of representing my constituents at the State Capitol. Minnesota is at a critical juncture.  We have a lot of work to do and I look forward to continuing to represent my constituents’ progressive values in the fight for equity.”

“Redistricting has expanded my district, adding approximately three new precincts in southwest Minneapolis, including my first Minneapolis home in Linden Hills. I look forward to meeting my new constituents and representing them in the legislature.”

This week, a five judge panel revealed its plan for redrawing Minnesota’s state legislative and congressional districts.  Redistricting occurs every 10 years after the national census to reflect changes to our state’s population.  Minnesota’s population increased by 7.8% from 2000.  In drawing the new district lines, the panel sought to have each House member represent approximately 39,582 residents.  The new redistricting plan will go into effect after the elections in November.


On Thursday, MPR’s Midmorning had a program on the dangers of using cellphones while driving, and it’s a perfect illustration of how science gets denied when its implications are a challenge to our habits or values.

Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-60B (Minneapolis), was a guest and advocates restricting cellphone usage while driving, including conversing with hands-free devices. A caller raised an objection, that to her, it seemed talking on a hands-free device is no more dangerous than speaking to a passenger. Sounds reasonable. I used to think that too. I used to use a phone while driving as a matter of routine. Hornstein said there are about 20 studies that looked into the question and came up with the same conclusion: not so. Using a hands-free device is more dangerous than speaking to a passenger. Counter-intuitive maybe, defies common sense maybe, but there it is. Whatever the reason this is so, whether the lower sound quality increases the amount of our available concentration we need for the call, whether the passenger is a second set of eyes or knows when to shut up, all that matters in terms of safety and in terms of the point I’m making is that it is so.

So the next guest came on, Lance Ulanoff, Editor in Chief of Mashable and author of an article critical of cellphone bans while driving, and made exactly the same point about hands-free devices being just as safe as talking to a passenger. Presumably he hadn’t heard Hornstein’s response to the caller, so Hornstein repeated what he said about the studies all coming to the same result. What counter-argument did he get? He might have expected a response like a question about who did the studies, or the claim other studies have different results…

But no. Ulanoff made the same point as if it hadn’t come up. So did another caller. So did someone sending a text comment. When it came up the fourth time, the host, Tom Weber, didn’t mention that it had been answered, didn’t ask Hornstein to repeat the point abotu the studies that have been done, but merely said the latest commenter made the point about it not making sense that hands-free devices could be more dangerous than talking to a passenger, as if which side the commenter agreed with was the only interest. Did Weber let Hornstein explain again, or explain it himself? No, his next question was how Hornstein could think he could get anywhere when the Republican chairing the relevant committee was against it. He might as well have said, “You’re point is wrong because you can’t get it enacted into policy.”

What’s going on here?
We’ve seen this sad movie before: when we don’t like the implications if the science is true, then we don’t accept the conclusions of the science. If the science shows that using a cellphone while driving makes us more dangerous, even if we’re using a hands-free device and keeping our eyes on the road, the implication is cellphone use while driving has to be stopped. I don’t want to stop. Being able to converse while driving is convenient. I think I’m a safe driver. I think I can drive and talk without creating a hazard.

The science tells me I’m wrong.

Will I find an excuse to keep talking? Probably. I’m a human being. I have trouble sensing the danger. I’ve talked who knows how many hours without an incident. I’ll just finish the call I’m on or I’ll keep it short or it’s urgent or hey, science or no, it’s not illegal.

Was there no rebuttal at all offered to Hornstein’s point about he studies? I don’t like picking on Ulanoff since I know nothing about him and he doesn’t sound dumb or dishonest, but he said a couple times, after being told what he research says, he just couldn’t see how conversing hands-free is more dangerous than talking to a passenger. By that logic, if we don’t know how planes fly, then we can refuse to believe they fly.

There was a strong counter-argument offered, that some people need to use a phone as part of their jobs. That, however, doesn’t deny the science, just raises a legitimate issue to be considered. Likewise, there’s a legitimate objection to a ban in that states that have it haven’t seen safety improvements, but again, that doesn’t nay-say the science, but merely shows there’s something else going on, like probably a compliance and enforcement problem.

Cellphones are a bit of a derived issue though. The bigger problem is getting people to alter opinions and behavior when science comes to clear conclusions that violate people’s beliefs and habits, requiring changing behaviors and maybe deeply ingrained belief systems, like my car is my castle and what I do in there is strictly my own business. To accept that using phones makes a driver more distracted and less safe, you then have to accept that phone use creates a danger to other people, and the implication is your behavior and belief about your ability as a driver has to change. Want to accept you’re not as good a driver as you thought?

Apply the same thought process to issues that seem fraught with denial. If you accept that global warming is real, you have to accept regulation of polluting activities, even if you hate interference in the free market and make your living on fossil fuels. If you accept deregulation caused the financial crisis, you have to accept re-regulation, even if you hate regulation. If you accept evolution, then you have to accept that literal interpretations of sacred religious texts are wrong, even if you believe your text must be literally true as part of your faith. Is it any wonder intelligent people can fall into denial?

As someone who tries to be reality-based, please excuse me if I decline to take your call if I’m driving. Despite my admitted flaws, I’m going to try to do better.


Hornstein and Simon on Allen West’s nazi gaffe

by The Big E on December 16, 2011 · 0 comments

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) has become notorious for making some really, truly horrific statements. He’s at it again. He can’t help himself, if a reporter sticks a mic in his face and asks a question, he unleashes.

In an interview with several reporters today, the Florida Republican blamed Democratic messaging for a recent poll that showed Americans blame the GOP more for Capitol Hill gridlock.

“If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat Party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine,” he said, according to the Washington Post. Goebbels was minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany.

This was not the first Nazi reference for West, who at times seems to be the Congressional example of Godwin’s law, an Internet adage that says that any conversation will eventually end with a reference to Adolf Hitler.
(Roll Call)

Minnesota Reps. Franken Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) and Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park) released the following statement:

Sometimes, even in politics, someone says something in public that is so hurtful and offensive that it takes your breath away.  That just happened today, when we heard Congressman Allen West’s comparison of the Democratic Party to Nazis.  His specific comment, that infamous Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels would be “proud” of Democrats, is an outrage.  It diminishes Congressman West, it diminishes the political debate in our country, and it diminishes those who suffered at the hand of the Nazis.  The real-life Josef Goebbels aided and abetted the most most monstrous crimes in human history; the systematic slaughter of millions of people.  To attach the name of someone so evil to political opponents, even when you disagree with them, is shameful and irresponsible.  Congressman West owes an apology to all Americans, not just Democrats or Jews, for further poisoning our politics with mean-spirited comparisons.  We call on him to apologize, and we call on public figures everywhere to stop using Nazi analogies that cheapen the suffering of real people.


Bellwether races to watch on election night

by The Big E on November 2, 2010 · 0 comments

Nationally, the DC pundits are convinced that Republicans are going to take back the House and in their narrative the GOP has a chance of taking back the US Senate.  Whenever I take a look at what I think are key races nationally, I keep seeing right wing teabagger nut jobs and I wonder how divorced from reality these pundits are.  

The key is Democratic turnout.  If too many Dems are disgruntled with Obama and Congress and stay home, we are in trouble.  I’ve selected a few races to watch as they will indicate how the night will go for us.

Back in Minnesota, Republicans think they can win the Governor’s race and have a shot at taking the State House back.  So I’ll be watching a few races which I think are bellwethers.  Dayton’s and our hopes for a House majority all hang upon DFL turnout.

National races
NV – Harry Reid (D) vs. Sharon Angle (R)
DE – Chris Coons (D) vs. Christine O’Donnell (R)
AK – Scott McAdams (D) vs. Joe Miller (R) vs. Lisa Murkowski (write-in)
PA – Joe Sestak (D) vs. Pat Toomey (R)

State House races
31B – Steve Kemp (DFL)
34A – Leanne Pouliot Kunze (DFL)
38B – Mike Obermueller (DFL)
60B – Frank Hornstein (DFL)
64B – Michael Paymar (DFL)
Nevada – Reid vs. Angle
Republicans are intent on unseating yet another Senate Majority Leader.  I happen to despise Harry Reid because when America needed a leader in the US Senate, we got Harry.  Despite my antipathy towards him, if Sharon Angle wins this seat, it could very well be a bad year for Democrats.

Delware – Coons vs. O’Donnell
Christine O’Donnell is going to lose.  By a huge margin.  Polls close early so I’m going to be watching the margin.  The larger the margin, the more Democrats defied the DC pundits and showed up to vote.  If we have a really huge margin, the 2010 election may not turn out as badly as the pundits narrative says.

Alaska – McAdams vs. Miller vs. Murkowski
There’s a three-way race in Palin-land.  Teabagger Joe Miller, the Republican candidate, is fading fast.  Current Senator and write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski wants to keep her seat.  However, with the Republicans splitting their votes, Chris McAdams might be able to win this.  His polling numbers are improving rapidly.

Pennsylvania – Sestak vs. Toomey
If turnout among Democrats is high in PA, our chances of keeping the House improve.  The senate race is very competitive and will provide an indication of turnout.  Admiral Joe Sestak beat Arlen Specter in the Dem primary.  Pat Toomey is a far right conservative who pushed Specter out of the GOP.  Toomey’s lead has been disappearing, but has it been disappearing at a fast enough rate while Sestak’s climb?  

Kentucky/Indiana House races
Polls in KY and IN close early in relation to MN polls.  Here’s what Daily Kos says about the importance of these two races in keeping control of the House:

Control of the House hinges on… two seats in the Kentuckiana region: Kentucky-06 (Chandler) and Indiana-09 (Hill). Both are seats that the GOP has controlled in recent years, and both seats feature GOP challengers that were considered pretty formidable. Recent polls in the Kentucky 6th have Andy Barr creeping within four points of Democrat Ben Chandler, while last week’s series of Hill polls had Democrat Baron Hill up just a pair of points on Republican Todd Young. If the GOP picks off either of these seats, the polling in the cycle might be close enough to dead on. If that’s the case, ruh-roh for the Democrats.

Florida, North Carolina and Virginia races
This is one of the most expensive races in the nation (behind Bachmann-Clark, of course).  Two-termer Ron Klein (D) is battling Allen West (R) in the FL-22 race.  The only poll is from a conservative newspaper and shows West with a slight lead.  

Considering how disastrous the FL-SEN race is (Dem Kendrick Meek is in a distant 3rd place) and former Republican Charlie Crist may win as an independent, this should be a telling race for how the turnout is going to be nationally.

I’ll let Daily Kos sum up the other two, VA-11 & GA-2.

Virginia-11 has gone, amazingly, completely unpolled, despite the fact that the DCCC has thrown seven figures at the race, a rematch featuring freshman Democrat Gerry Connolly and Republican Keith Fimian. Last, but certainly not least, the Georgia 2nd was on few radar screens, but Republican polling hints that Republican Mike Keown might pulls the upset in a race where no one thought longtime Democrat Sanford Bishop was vulnerable early in the year.

Minnesota Races

31B Steve Kemp (DFL)
This district is down in the Winona area.  In 2006, Ken Tschumper (DFL) beat Gregory Davids (R) by 52 votes.  Davids won the rematch by 407.  Now Steve Kemp, city council member from Spring Grove, is challenging Davids.

A good DFL turnout means this race is close.  Obviously, high turnout is good for Dayton, too.

34A Leanne Pouliot Kunze
The DFLer who ran last time against Paul Kohls (R) got clobbered in this southwestern exurban district.  However, Leanne is well known and has been working her butt off.  Leanne is the perfect candidate for her district and knows exactly how to campaign in it.  While she needs to sway independents, her ability to turn out DFLers is key.

If Leanne is close or wins, this bodes well for Dayton.

38B Mike Obermueller
This is a very symbolic race.  This is Tim Pawlenty’s House old seat in Eagan.  Mike Obermueller started campaigning late in 2006 and shocked everyone by coming within 163 votes of winning.  

In 2008, Mike started early and won fairly easily.  This year Republicans are targeting this race.  Obermueller works smart and hard — he shouldn’t be in any trouble.  His turnout will be another sign of how Dayton is doing.

60B Frank Hornstein
There is zero chance Frank Hornstein is in any trouble.  That’s not why I’m going to be watching his numbers.  Frank’s district is the heart of the highest turnout precincts in the nation.  

In many ways, Dayton’s hopes ride on how many DFLers show up in south Minneapolis’ strongest of all strongholds.  

64B Michael Paymar
I’m going to be watching Michael for the same reason as Frank.  High turnout in his race means more Dayton voters.


DFL-endorsed MN-GOV candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher had a door knock in SD60 & SD61 today.  How do I know?  Cuz my lovely wife hosted it at our house.  

BTW, yesterday they doorknocked SD62.  In the rain.  37 people knocked on 1200 doors.

Today, closer to 60 are heading out.  And the weather couldn’t be nicer.

Rep. Keith Ellison, Henn. Co. Commissioner Gail Dorfman, Sen. Scott Dibble, Rep. Frank Hornstein, Rep. Jeff Hayden, Mpls School Bd member Jill Clark and SD60A DFL-endorsed candidate Marione Greene and all the volunteers are all out on my back patio right now pumping up the volunteers.  It’s weird to have people cheering in my backyard.  Usually it’s only the peanut shouting at my cat or the neighbors dog.


Rep. Mike Obermueller had an eventful first session.  He wrote about his first day right here then worked hard for his district and the people of Minnesota.

“We had some good successes, but the negotiation stopped toward the end,” Mike said.  “I guess the Governor was gonna do what he wants to do.  This is really going to impact everybody.”

“I guess that only my way is a negotiating tactic,” Mike continued.  He did want to point out that it Pawlenty’s tactic was a bit disingenuous.  

“Pawlenty’s staff was there the whole time while we were working and negotiating,” he related.  “They agreed to what we were doing.  They never said that Pawlenty didn’t like what we were doing.”

“We cut $1.6 billion and cut more than we raised taxes,” he said.  “They never said that Pawlenty disagreed with our approach.  They never came back with counterproposals.”
I asked if he was surprised that Pawlenty wasn’t going to run for a third term.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m surprised,” Mike replied.  “Winning a third term is really tough and we sure do have a lot of good DFL candidates, don’t we?”

“I don’t know about Pawlenty being a lame duck,” Mike said when I asked about lame-duck-ness.  “I don’t think Pawlenty wants to leave a massive mess.  Plus, I think we can leverage all the Republican legislators who will be running for Governor and get some things done.”

“We have to be focused because we’ll have a lot of work to be done,” he continued.  “We can’t just wait out Pawlenty.  Too many people will be hurt.”

“We all know that unallotment is going to affect everybody,” Mike told me.  “The poorest and the sickest are going to be affected the most.  I’m really concerned about our hospital system.  What’s going to happen to HCMC and Regions?  So many people are going to be showing in emergency rooms who would have visited a doctor if they wouldn’t have been thrown off of MinnCare.”

Moving on to more positive topics, I asked Mike to look back on this first session.

“It was fabulous, best job ever,” he replied.  “We had tough, bad choices to make and I was glad to be at the table.  I feel very honored to serve.”

“I had a big say on how the session went,” Mike said.  This jibes with what another first-term Representative, Jeff Hayden, told me.  “I wasn’t treated like a first-termer, but like a colleague.”

“I was amazed by the bipartisanship in the committees,” Mike related.  “The House floor was a show, people yelling, carrying on and getting all wound up.  Then you see the same person an hour after they were screaming on the floor and they’re perfectly pleasant.  It’s funny.”

Mike was very proud of the Employment Economic Development bill.  It will make it easier for the unemployed to make their cases for their unemployment benefits.

“We also worked really hard on higher education,” Mike said.  They kept financial aid strong and capped tuition.  “It will be really unfortunate if Pawlenty undoes all this good work by unalloting higher education.”

He also worked on Enterprise Minnesota.  It’s a growth accelerator for small businesses.  He didn’t get it funded as strongly as he wanted, but it should make a difference.

He was also proud of the Bio Business Alliance which will help promote and build the bio-science industry in Minnesota.

Mike pointed out that these last two items were bipartisan.

He also did those small constituent bills.  He wrote and passed bills to honor Medal of Honor winners and firefighters who died in the line of duty.  A constituent asked him to work on these.

“Both were cases of a constituent saying we don’t do these things and we should,” Mike explained.

Finally, a funny moment.

“I successfully avoided becoming the butt of any jokes,” he said.  “But Bobby Champion (Rep 58B) got hazed a bit.  He had worked really hard on a bipartisan bill.  He’d lined up a whole load of Republicans to support it.  When it came time to vote, all the Republicans voted red [against it].”

“Bobby was beside himself, freaking out.  But it was just a prank.  They all switched and only 6 or 7 ended up voting against it.”


I began my interview with Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) by asking for his elevator ride assessment of the legislative session that just ended.  Frank is by nature verbose, but he thought for a second and had this to say:

“We did our work, but the Governor [Tim Pawlenty] over-reached on the budget,” he said.  “He is absolutely dismissive of the separation of powers under the constitution.”

He reminded me that Gov. Al Quie only used unallotment once, but Pawlenty has used it three times.  This is an emergency tool and should not be used as Pawlenty did.  Quie and Pawlenty for several hundred millions, but $2.5 billion?  This is wrong.

“I’m angry,” Frank continued.  “This is going to dramatically affect people’s lives.”
There’s no way to understate this.  The poorest of the poor are going to be affected.  In previous posts about Pawlenty I sardonicly reprinted lyrics from the band The Dead Kennedy’s song “Kill the poor”, but the frightening thing is tossing as many of the poorest of the poor off of MinnCare could result in people not getting the medication and attention they need.  If they’re mentally ill that could be a serious problem.  If their health is in bad shape, well …

We didn’t really talk about how this will affect Minnesota cities.

“The transportation agenda moved forward,” Frank asserted when I asked.  So the session wasn’t all bad.  “But the Governor boarded the train at the last station.”  This needs a little more explaining…

Over the last few years the Governor has vetoed a number of transportation bills to a statewide rail plan and Lt. Gov/former MNDOT Commissioner Carol Molnau never did any work on the plan while she ran MNDOT.  Whereas, Illinois and Wisconsin have both been working on theirs for a while.  The result is those states are in better competitive positions to obtain federal money for high speed rail connections.  It was only this year that Pawlenty and new Commissioner Tom Sorel have begun working on it.

But this is a step forward.

Free bus passes for the homeless is pretty cool.  So is no fare increase or route reductions.  While Pawlenty is doing everything he can to protect the wealthy, Frank is doing what he can to protect those who are not doing very well in Pawlenty’s economy.

But unallotment was still on Frank’s mind.  He explained that the impact of Pawlenty’s cuts on the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) could be catastrophic.  The local government aid (LGA) cuts are going to force cities and counties to slash police, fire, street repairs and other basic services.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Frank said.  Frank’s been observing politics in MN since the 1980s.  Frank explained that this is a showdown between pay-as-you-go philosophy of the Democrats and the borrow-and-spend philosophy of the Republicans.  We’re in this mess because of the conservative worldview.

“We need to defeat [Pawlenty], either in a re-election bid for Governor, or in the Iowa Presidential caucuses, one way or the other,” Frank exclaimed.  “We need to use this as an opportunity to organize, to build coalitions and find a way to get rid of him.”

Hopefully, presidential politics will do what we couldn’t in the last election.


Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-SD60B) regularly hosts events at which Jeff Blodgett talks about politics and strategy.  Jeff Blodgett is most recently famous for running Obama’s MN campaign.  He’s also famous for running Paul Wellstone’s three campaigns and founding Wellstone Action after Paul’s tragic death.

Image Hosted by
That’s Jeff on the left and Frank on the right.

Last night, Jeff joined about 100 DFLers above Tom Braun’s Wild Rumpus bookstore to discuss Obama’s MN campaign.
Jeff talked about the 4 main elements to Obama’s victory.  While not specific to the MN campaign, Obama’s campaign shared many traits with the way Jeff ran Wellstone’s campaigns and the way that Wellstone Action trains campaign managers and candidates.

  1. Authenticity
  2. Strategic, focused message
  3. Organization building
  4. Lots of small dollar donors


“Change is believable when Obama talked about it,” Jeff said.  “In one of McCain’s darkest moments, when he was casting around for a message, he talked about change.  But just wasn’t believable.  It wasn’t authentic.”

This is such a key factor.  An African-America presidential candidate represents change in a way that McCain simply couldn’t.  Duh.  That’s the no-brainer that the Obama campaign locked onto.  

But other campaigns can do similarly.  Each good candidate and campaign manager can isolate what makes them unique and what makes them sound believable.  Hint … it also helps if they are believable.

Strategic, focused message

“Obama’s message was always about the economy,” Jeff asserted.  Jeff reminded us of how his focused message remained consistent and became even stronger in September as the economy collapsed.  He contrasted Obama’s message with McCain’s floundering.

“How do you convey that message about your candidate?” he asked rhetorically.  “The Obama campaign controlled the message on a daily basis.  McCain was responding to Obama’s message.”

After Jeff finished I asked him about Obama’s rapid response which was critical in hitting back when the Republicans lied about … well … just about everything.

Jeff explained that first you need a crack team monitoring the media.  As the stories hit, you need to know immediately, have a responses prepared within minutes and surrogates hitting back while the story is still fresh.

But how would this apply to smaller races?

“The news cycle is slower, but you still need a good person running your media relations, you still need the contacts in the media,” Jeff told me.

“The trick with rapid response is to know when to respond and when to let it go,” he continued.  “When the Obama campaign thought the story wasn’t going to get much play, they wouldn’t acknowledge it.  This is tough.  You can’t seem like you’re responding to everything, letting them drive the message, but you have to answer back.”

It’s a delicate balancing act.

Building organization

“Obama had millions of volunteers nationwide, 20,000 in Minnesota alone,” Jeff said.  “They had a commitment to building an organization backed up with resources.”

Obama was originally a community organizer and built his grassroots campaign around the enthusiasm of a strong volunteer base.  These volunteers were given proper training in organizing.  Super volunteers, those volunteers who were able to spend 15-40 hours per week on the campaign, were given responsibilities over other volunteers or local aspects of the campaign.

These volunteers took ownership over their little part and made it perfect or as close as they could.  Whereas, Clinton’s campaign relied on paid staffers for many tasks that the exuberant Obama volunteers did.  Furthermore, Obama had around 4,000 staffers dedicated to organizing volunteers.

Lots of small dollar donors

“Obama raised $750 million, maybe $1 billion by the time the fundraising is all over,” Jeff stated.  “While he had large dollar donrs, much of this came from small amount donors.”  Many of you got requests for $5, $10 or $25.  Once you’d given a little, he’d ask for a little more a little later.

“3 million people gave to the campaign,” he explained.  “The campaign was able to hire all the community organizers and swamp McCain on the television.”

Other insights

Obama talked about raising taxes on people making over $250,000,” Jeff explained.  “And he won that demographic by a higher margin than his overall margin of victory.”

When you consider that Minnesota passed a referendum to raise taxes to protect the environment and pay for the arts by a wider margin than any Governor has won his race since anyone can remember, that says something.

Furthermore, economic growth was the strongest in the United States when the taxes on the rich were the highest.  From the 1930s to the 1980s, the wealthy paid high taxes.

What did they do?  They socked their money back into the companies they owned.  They hired more workers to make more product.  They built more factories.  They hid their wealth (legally I might add) in their companies.

We saw the largest industrial boom in history during this period.  Chew on that you tax-pledge-lovin’ conservatives.

How did Obama do across the state?  As I would have expected.

Jeff explained that Obama won MN-01 handily.  With the help of Rep. Tim Walz, the 1st will become an important area for DFLers in statewide races.

“Obama held his own in the 7th district,” Jeff related.  He got about 48%.  “This is probably because McCain was so tone deaf on ag issues.”

“We got hammered in 2 and 6, Michele Bachmann’s and John Kline’s districts,” Jeff continued.  “We got about 44%.  We didn’t do well there and Tinklenberg lost.”

Obama won MN-03 and did better than Ashwin Madia unfortunately.  In MN-04, MN-05 and MN-08 the Obama campaign kicked butt.  Jeff focused on the hard work Rep. Keith Ellison’s campaign put in working to increase the 2006 turnout in Minneapolis.

“Turnout went up in Minneapolis though the rest of the state was flat,” he added.  It should be noted that Minnesota did lead the nation in turnout.  He went on to explain that it’s difficult to increase turnout when you’re getting 70% and 80% turnout.

One of the keys to winning high profile and statewide races is how we should counter 3rd party candidates.  Jeff asserts that we need to recruit good candidates and apply the 4 elements that Obama applied.

In essence, we need to sell the low-awareness, swing voters that DFL candidates are worth supporting over 3rd party candidates.  As has been discussed in this blog’s post-mortem analysis of the MN-03 race, this is absolutely critical if we are going to win the Governor’s race in 2010.