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Matt Entenza

The convention hall as seen from visitor and alternate seating.

The convention hall as seen from visitor and alternate seating.

I’m writing this prior to the August 14th primary, and you might wonder why I’m writing this now, in the heat of the primary campaign when DFLer-on-DFLer campaigning is at it’s thickest (though just how negative depends a great deal on which specific race is the subject). There are two answers: one, passions about whether the endorsements made this cycle and regarding the process actually spikes right after the primary; two, this is in my mind because of recent conversations with DFLers in the last week or two with a couple connected points: the DFL has not had an endorsed non-incumbent win the gubernatorial election since Wendell Anderson, and a consensus is forming that Erin Murphy is toast. That latter opinion is based on a couple polls that are at least two weeks old by now and have other issues — not to go into a tangent, but I refer for example to the huge number of undecideds and the polling of registered voters instead of likely voters — so that opinion is premature. Not wrong, but premature, and many Murphy supporters seem in denial about the big trouble the Murphy campaign is in. By no means all, but plenty haven’t come to terms with Murphy’s situation yet.

Erin Murphy is the DFL endorsee, and if she doesn’t pull it out, we’re going to have our usual, and usually heated, discussions/arguments about how we endorse and who we endorse and whether to endorse. So I suppose I’m getting a jump on that.


When our non-incumbent gubernatorial endorsees keep losing, that begs several questions:


Johnson, Otto, and primary thoughts

by Eric Ferguson on August 15, 2014 · 2 comments

Fresh off his win in the MNGOP gubernatorial primary, Hennepin County commissioner Jeff Johnson has already released his first campaign video:

Oops, that was Eddie Murphy from “The Distinguished Gentleman”. Sorry, didn’t mean to compare Jeff Johnson to Eddie Murphy. That’s unfair. After all, Murphy is funny on purpose.

Here’s Johnson being funny, presumably not on purpose:


rebeccapointing-lgI’ve spoken to a lot of Minnesota DFLer’s (that’s what we call Democrats ’round these parts) about today’s Primary, especially in relation to the auditor’s race. Rebecca Otto, who, full disclosure, I don’t know at all but who’s husband is a friend and colleague, is the incumbent. Rebecca has really put a shine on the Auditor’s office. I understand that the previous auditor, a Republican, pretty much sucked, so that might have made looking good a bit easier for Rebecca, but it can’t be true that all of the other auditors across the country also suck, and the various professional associations that deal with this sort of thing have awarded Rebecca with top level official accolades over and over. So, she is clearly about the best Auditor in the country, and in Minnesota, the best one to come along in a while.
Now, it turns out, that two or three of our Governors were formerly Auditors. I don’t know why Auditor would be a stepping stone to Governor, or even, if it really is. That might just be a fluke, like every president elected in a year that ends in zero getting killed or almost killed. The point is, it has become local political folklore that Auditor is a good jumping off point for Governor.
So, there’s this guy named Matt Entenza who has run for Governor before. He used to be in the State Legislature. Mostly though, his political career consists of spending huge piles of family money on running races that he loses. I’m pretty sure Matt wants to be be Governor, and he wants it so badly that he is virtually delusional about the prospects. Or, perhaps, he simply has a deep and unabiding disdain for Minnesota voters. He thought he could just spend a lot of his family money on a campaign and unseat a well liked and widely respected incumbent.
In Minnesota, we use the Native American system of choosing our candidates by party to run in the general election. No one fully understand the process but it involves a lot of standing around in a special room that you need permission to be in. People join in groups and hold up symbols of their political beliefs and the candidates they support, then move between groups, sometimes combining groups. A Caucus Chief occasionally tells all the people in this or that group that they must disband, and those individuals then join other groups. If a group gets big enough and they are fast enough they can form two groups. The exact number of groups that are formed and their exact configuration can determine who ultimately is chosen by the Caucus. At various points the Caucus is frozen, and tough looking guys working for the Caucus Chief make sure no one crosses certain lines that are sometimes marked on the floor with Duct Tape. It might be unfrozen and refrozen a couple of times, but eventually the Caucus Chief calls an end to it and each of the clusters of people elect a certain number of representatives who are supposed to vote a certain way on the first ballot at a district convention. But no one knows who these people are because the Caucus Chief works for a secret society that maintains all the rules of the caucus system, and runs it, but does not provide any information from it, so the supporters of the various candidates have to rush to one end of the room where those elected by the Caucus groups are required to go to state their name and how they will vote to a group of very old people who can’t hear a thing. The friends of the candidates try to glean the names of the elected ones, and the elected ones often try to interfere with this process, which seems ridiculous because the first thing you get if you are elected is the candidate buys you a cup of coffee later in the week at Caribou or Starbucks.
Amazingly, this system works rather well, and eventually produces a set of “endorsed” candidates. Rebecca Otto, who is a successful well liked and widely respected incumbent, was endorsed by the party. Then moments before a special deadline, after the endorsement, this guy Matt Entenza, who really wants to be Governor, filed to run. So there was a primary challenge within the party.
Entenza lied and lied and lied. He lied about himself, he lied about Rebecca, he lied about what the Auditor’s job is, he lied about what he would do if elected (we know he lied because he’s not an idiot and he made claims that he would do things that the Auditor simply does not do).
So the Primary was today. They are still counting votes as I write this. And, as I said, I have spoken, especially today, to a lot of DFLer’s (Minnesota Democrats.)
Most of them strongly support Rebecca Otto and are annoyed at Entenza. I spoke today to one person who said he’d vote for Entenza, and I think maybe his wife was to. I spoke to an Entenza staffer — a paid employee of Matt Entenza’s campaign — who quit a couple of weeks ago “… because Entenza lied to me, he lied to us, we all told him to go to hell …” who is voting for Rebecca.
Last time I looked 17% of the vote was counted and Otto was ahead by over 80%. I’m calling it for Otto.


Entenza violated campaign finance laws

by Eric Ferguson on August 3, 2014 · 7 comments

Rebecca_Otto_Matt_Entenza.jpgMatt Entenza had campaign finance violations in past campaigns, and if I were to explain them with the same accuracy and fairness Entenza is bringing to his attacks on Rebecca Otto, I might write something like this: Matt Entenza apparently thinks campaign finance laws don’t apply to him. Maybe he just wanted to be the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board’s pen pal, because he sure keeps having to explain himself. Illegal contributions, forgetting to report spending, having to return money, even MPR says he seems to be trying to do it all.
Was the preceding paragraph twisted and exaggerated? Obviously, which is really the point. Well, maybe not obvious if you don’t dig in to what actually happened, or at least read my other posts on the auditor race and notice I’m a Rebecca Otto partisan so maybe you should check before believing. It might sound reasonable if you have the misimpression that candidates are all experts on campaign finance law. They’re not. Maybe you think every campaign staffer is a 40-year-old with 50 years of experience; more likely 22-years old with three months experience. Certainly I find campaign finance laws complicated, having not studied. I mostly just hope to never accidentally run afoul because I didn’t know to ask a question or someone else screwed up and made it my problem.
What I do have is a greater respect for factual accuracy than Entenza has exhibited in his ambush campaign against Otto. He’s doing to her with his “voter ID” charge what I did to him in the first paragraph: make an attack by twisting isolated incidents barely on the margins of factual accuracy with a hope of finding an audience that will believe it without checking. Though frankly, I’m not exaggerating as much.


Entenza sends another deceptive mailer

by Eric Ferguson on July 31, 2014 · 3 comments

Perennial candidate Matt Entenza just sent out yet another mailer attacking Rebecca Otto. Just for fun, made this one a video.



UPDATE: the decision of the administrative law judge summarily dismissing Entenza’s compaint against Otto is embedded below, after the images of the offending mailer.
I ran into a supporter of perennial candidate Matt Entenza while doorknocking today. It’s probably good news that this was the first one since our doorknocks had to focus on the primary. She received the deceptive mailer claiming Rebecca Otto supports requiring photo ID for voting. It’s displayed below so readers can see it’s as bad as I’m saying. The mailer essentially repeats the charge Entenza made in his complaint to the Office of Administrative Hearings, where Entenza charged that Otto lied when she denied his accusation, which complaint was thrown out for being nonsense — at the same time the mailer went out. Mr. Entenza, feel free to borrow Rick Perry’s “oops”.
Of course, not everyone reads blogs, saw the inside pages of newspapers (for all that we politics junkies thought this was big news, it’s still a page B3 sort of story) or has the developed skepticism to check out charges for scurrilousness, which presumably the Entenza campaign is counting on. So no, not everyone heard this was a lie.
So at the last address on my walk list, the outcome of which I suspect is going to henceforth push me to get to one more address in all future doorknocks, the resident said she was supporting Entenza. I asked what she liked about him, and she couldn’t immediately recall. I had a guess though, and asked if it was the photo ID charge. Yes it was. She was possibly not expecting a straightforward “it’s not true” rather than some spin, and she let me explain just what Entenza was twisting. I did catch a huge break in that this person had lawn sign for State Rep. Jean Wagenius, whose campaign t-shirt I happened to be wearing and lit I was carrying along with the Otto lit. This person is a strong Wagenius supporter, and learning the Wagenius is actively supporting Otto sealed the vote switch. You don’t always catch a break like that when trying to persuade at the door. You hope to just get someone to think about it or maybe check into something. So today ended on an good note. Voluntary disclosure, I’m chair of the DFL for SD63, which includes Wagenius’ district HD63B.
Still, that’s what it’s going to take to counter Entenza’s message. He’s sent three mailers already, which Otto won’t be able to match. She needs people who know what’s what to sway one voter at a time. The offending mailer is below the “read more”.



The 2000 election was probably won by Al Gore. But George Bush was put into office anyway. Imagine what this world would be like had Gore been ensconced in the white house? The Tea Party would probably have emerged sooner and madder, but less organized; global climate change would have become a widely accepted issue to do something about within a couple of years, instead of much later (cuz, you know, that hasn’t even happened yet). We probably wouldn’t have had this war in Iraq. If Gore had continued Clinton’s policy dealing with Al Qaida and Osama Bin Laden (no relation) there probably wouldn’t have been a 9/11. I’m sure we’d have other problems, but none of those problems.


As you know, national elections are actually handled by states, and states are charmingly diverse in how they do that. For instance, the technology of elections, and what you have to do to prove you are eligible to vote at the polling place, vary across states. But after the 2000 election there was some movement to make the system work better, to implement chad-free technologies, and to update the procedure for determining eligibility.


Eventually, of course, the changes got politicized. Everyone knew that Democratic voters and Republican voters are different, not just in their politics or who they vote for, but in how they vote. The Lockstep Party, Republican, is more homogeneous and generally privileged. You want to vote, you stop in at the voting place on the way home from work and vote. You know where it is because it is the church you go to, you have a car so transport and weather are not issues, you have access to information which is all in English and that is your native language, so you know things like when election day is and so on and so forth: Democrats have that too, but being a big tent Democrats also have other folks. Recent immigrants who don’t understand the system, older folks who don’t have a car and have a hard time getting across town, people who don’t happen to go to the well established local church so they don’t even know where it is. Also, among Democrats are people with overt labels as to how they are likely to vote. You can’t wear a button on your shirt declaring your support for a candidate, but you can, say, be black, and therefore visibly less likely to vote for the Republican. This last bit allows people who control the polls to harass or turn away certain voters.


At some point in recent history, Republicans got aggressive with strategies that would make it hard for that diverse subset of Democrats to vote. Some of those strategies are just downright dirty and illegal. When I was working on Get Out the Vote for some Democratic Candidates a few years ago I found recent African immigrants, likely Democratic voters, who had been told by Republican operatives that “Republicans vote Tuesday, Democrats vote Wednesday. So go vote Wednesday.” Seriously.



Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 7.34.11 PM

DFL activists and party leaders were both surprised and annoyed when perennial candidate Matt Entenza filed at the very last moment to run for State Auditor against sitting Auditor Rebecca Otto in this year’s primary. He claimed he would fight corporate giveaways at the local level and scrutinize spending on education, addressing the state’s achievement gap. Also, he would be nice to out-state local governments and not favor the Metro, because he was born out-state. Entenza has a habit of running, flush with vast family resources, in DFL primaries and against the party endorsement process, and DFLers have a habit of not responding well. Nearly six million dollars of mainly family money got Entenza third place in a three way race for governor in the 2010 DFL primary.


DFL primary voters have to ask themselves three questions on August 12th. First, is Entenza bringing something to the auditor’s office that is valuable? Second, do we need to replace Otto; is she doing a poor job in her position? Third, is Entenza auditor material?


Entenza wishes to improve education in Minnesota. This is not actually the Auditor’s job. Also, Auditor Rebecca Otto has an advanced degree in education and a science B.A. and served as a teacher for five years. Otto chaired a successful $55 million levy campaign in a conservative district, and served on the Forest Lake School Board before serving in the State Legislature. She is not only pro education but a highly qualified contributor to that discussion. Entenza wants to make the Auditor more friendly to out-state Minnesota. Otto, however, has a reputation for fair dealing and respectful interaction with all of the municipalities with which she works state wide. Many, from folks on the street with whom I’ve spoken to the Governor, have questioned Entenza’s motive in running for Auditor in the way he has chosen, and a frequent conclusion often said with a wink and a nod is this: He wants to be governor, and sees the Auditor position as a stepping stone to that. The stepping stone hypothesis certainly explains his candidacy better than any of the things he’s said about why he is running.


His claim to address government handouts must be a reference to the system of Tax Increment Financing. But TIF is not a government handout. It is a development tool that has positively affected the lives of many Minnesotans. More importantly, TIF, as well as education reform, are policy matters for the legislature and Governor. It seems that Entenza wants to have the job as Auditor so he can be that … the legislature and the Governor. But that is not actually how it works, and it makes me wonder if he really understands what the State Auditor does.


We should not be replacing Rebecca Otto. When she came on board, the Auditor’s office had been used as a political tool by the GOP and State-Local Government relations were poor. Otto has been studiously non-partisan and professional in her role, and this has been recognized at a national level. She has the National Excellence in Accountability Award, was elected President of the national State Auditors Association, and was named one of the 15 most influential auditors of all auditors at all levels of government across the entire country (and that is a lot of auditors). She is also the first DFL woman in this position and only one of 7 elected female state auditors in the country. We should be proud of that, not trying to undo it. DFLers know that when they have a top person in a position like this, who chooses to run for re-election, you don’t damage their position by staging an attempt at turnover. That’s not only bad party politics but it is also a negative contribution to governance. Entenza running against a woman who is arguably the top in her field is very difficult to account for.



Rebecca Otto: Minnesota nice, not naive

by Eric Ferguson on June 16, 2014 · 10 comments

State Auditor Rebecca OttoI had chance to talk to State Auditor Rebecca Otto after her speech at the DFL state convention. I rather proved my proclaimed volunteer status as a reporter by discovering half the interview was lost, due, I expect, to operator error, meaning I’m guessing I accidentally hit the stop button. In the part I lost, I asked her about the reference in her speech to her predecessor using reports for partisan purposes, which I noted in the live blog. Otto expanded on that, explaining that local governments would come to the auditor’s office for help, but instead of getting help, would be held up for ridicule. The prior auditor, Pat Anderson, whom Otto defeated in 2006 and again in 2010, preferred to use the government’s problems to make herself look like an enemy of government waste. It’s easy to imagine what this did to the trust local governments had in the auditor’s office. Why bring problems forward if you’re going to be attacked for them?


So the first challenge Otto had was restoring trust. Given that looking like the enemy of government waste plays well regardless of party, governments might well be as suspicious of an auditor of one party as the other. It took time to get local governments thinking of the state auditor as someone looking to help them get their accounting right rather than looking to jump on them when they made a mistake. That rebuilding of trust is part of why she has won recognition from her peers across the country.


Q. Are you getting much pushback on your vote on the sulfide mining?

A. I thin kthe Republicans are trying to make an issue of it, but really, no. Initially, there were some people who made some claims about my vote that were not correct, and that was Republicans, in my opinion, and I’m not pro- or anti- mining. What I’ve been is all about the finances. So that these foreign multi-national corporations that come into our state know that we mean business, and that we’re going to make sure that they have incentive to protect us from any future cleanup costs, or maybe injury to our workers, or anything like that, so that they don’t leave a financial burden behind once they take the non-ferrous minerals and leave.


Q. I’ve noticed you using the term “damage deposit”.

A. I’ve been using it so when I talk to people in general, I talk about a “damage deposit” like you would about an apartment. They’ve got a more technical name, “financial assurance”, but people understand what a “damage deposit” is, and it incents you to make sure you get it right, and the mining companies have to put enough down to reclaim the land afterward. And that’s usually more of a known cost. It’s the issue around water treatment that may be required that is the more unknown cost.  And so again, letting any of these foreign multi-national corporations understand that we may be “Minnesota nice”, but we’re not naive, and not to mistake our “nice” for “naivete”. We’re not. And so that we have high standards, and that we expect them, if they’re going to come in, to be good stewards of our natural resources.



Entenza’s Missing Pathways to Governorship

by Grace Kelly on June 10, 2014 · 6 comments

entenza wind turbine

Matt Entenza is running against DFL endorsed and respected Rebecca Otto for State Auditor. The best guess about why Matt Entenza is running for Rebecca Otto’s State Auditor office is that Entenza thinks he needs a stepping-stone office to run for governor in two years. It is hard to imagine Entenza with a burning desire to audit books!


If Entenza wins, it isn’t like there are great auditor issues to mine for basis a run for the governorship. Maybe when Republicans were running things in their don’t-pay-the-bills ways, that would have worked. Democrats pay the bills, put aside money for a rainy day and budget. Going after small local government would just look mean. So where is the Governor’s stage in all of this?