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The convention hall as seen from visitor and alternate seating.

The convention hall as seen from visitor and alternate seating.

This is the promised follow up to Changing how the DFL endorses gubernatorial candidates where somehow I had a long post and didn’t get to what the title implied. So, the primary is over, and we have another data point. A gubernatorial endorsee lost again.
The main reason Erin Murphy lost should be obvious, at least if you looked at the results by CD: she did terrible outside the Twin Cities metro area. She did win CDs 4 and 5, but not by much, whereas Tim Walz cleaned up in his district, CD1, and got right around 40% everywhere else. Murphy needed to do that well in her central city base, and she didn’t.
Murphy did catch a break when the Lori Swanson campaign imploded. I noted, as the results came in, how if Murphy’s percentage went up, Swanson’s went down by the same amount, and visa-versa. The preelection polls had massive numbers of undecideds, and Murphy and Walz went way up from their poll numbers as undecideds decided, but Swanson actually went down. I’m convinced Murphy was the big beneficiary of Swanson’s problems (self-inflicted — I don’t think Murphy pulled something) but that wasn’t enough to overcome the perception she was too metro-centric. That gets us to the error in choosing a running mate.


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:


Presidential primary is not a done deal

by Eric Ferguson on March 19, 2016 · 4 comments

When state DFL chair Ken Martin endorsed a “hybrid” primary, that made me happy because I’ve been wanting that ever since I helped with sign-in at my precinct’s caucus in 2008. I had no training or experience in running an election, and we made up procedures as we went because there was nothing else we could do. It was one of those deep blue urban precincts with the massive turnout, but the problems we ran into were pretty much the same as everywhere. Clearly, running a primary on a precinct caucus infrastructure was a lousy idea, and surely we would never try that again. We did try it again, as did several other states.
We had the same problems as 2008, and so did the other states that tried running a binding presidential ballot at a caucus: massive lines, harried volunteers with little if any training or experience, improvised procedures, and angry voters who had no idea what a “precinct caucus” does and left frustrated at the most screwed up polling places they’d ever seen. Except these aren’t polling places. People think there are staff running elections, but it’s all-volunteer, from the conveners and the people they recruit to help right through to the local party chairs.
The problem is essentially that the binding ballot brings out masses of people, with my seante district getting several times normal caucus turnout, so we’re taking the people who would vote over the whole day of a primary and trying to shove them through more or less all at once. Whereas election judges have time to set up before opening, we had lines of people even before the facilities were unlocked. Many conveners had literally no time to set up, and then they had to run a caucus simultaneously with running a polling place. This is literally the worst way to hold an election; thus my support — even before trying to make the unworkable work in my role as a local chair — for moving the presidential ballot to a separate primary. Let the primary determine the allocation of the state’s national delegates, while the caucuses do everything else. I wrote about what “everything else” means in my pre-caucus post urging attendees to stay and participate, but it’s no accident that the things I said caucuses work well for did not include binding ballots. What did concern me was that the many people coming to their first precinct caucus would leave alienated by a bad experience, and that volunteers would feel burned out and not come back. Those are the same people who knock on doors, make phone calls, and come early to run events. Given how much of a chair’s job is asking people to volunteer for something, losing part of the volunteer pool is scary.
Frankly, the presidential ballot is a mess even if everything goes perfectly, and it never does with caucuses, a point I really want to hammer home with anyone who still thinks we did things the right way. There are always conveners who are late because of a personal emergency, facilities that don’t unlock their doors on time and/or forget to tell the staff, volunteers that forget to show up, “help” from people who have no idea what’s going on but think sure they do, organizations that put out misinformation which causes problems for local parties, and I can tell you that in my district, all those things happened. That’s expected, and we cope with normal turnout and no primary to run. With several times normal turnout and a primary to run, good luck.

That makes it good news that a member of the majority party in each house of the legislature has offered a bill to have a presidential primary, and that the state chair has endorsed moving the presidential ballot to a primary. The MNGOP chair hasn’t said no, and the Gov. Mark Dayton is supportive. So why do I say the primary is not a done deal yet?


70% of Republicans Rejected Johnson

by Grace Kelly on August 13, 2014 · 3 comments

jeff johnson speaksMore people voted for Dayton in yesterday’s primary than for all of the Republican candidates for governor. There should have been Republican excitement in a primary with four strong Republican candidates. There was not. To win with 30% of the vote is sad. It meant that 70% of the Republican primary voters rejected Johnson. Perennial candidate Sharon Anderson received more Republican votes and a higher percentage of Republican votes for Attorney General, and she is not even a lawyer. Maybe Republicans just like those plain vanilla names like Johnson or Anderson. Maybe Sharon Anderson should have run for governor on the Republican ticket instead of Attorney General.


In the debates, it was clear that Republicans have little enthusiasm. They ask questions about how the Republican candidate would deal with a Democratic legislature. Even Jeff Johnson says, “We kinda start out in hole”. When pressed for what he could do, Johnson says “We can’t promise the world”. The most exciting promise is that he is going to fire all of the Met Council. Most of Johnson’s answers were long meandering diatribes on how we can’t really make promises. I noticed the debates did not display the audiences, which was curious until I found out there was a pattern as the picture to the right shows. Since yawning and sleeping are contagious, it was definitely in the best interest of the Republican party to not show the audiences. There were even worst days where debates had many empty chairs in the audience. Maybe the poor and homeless that Republicans so despise were finding a place to safely rest. Republicans don’t get kicked out even when they fall asleep in Congress.


Heh, wake up!


Otto Vote Had No Sulfide Mining Effect

by Grace Kelly on August 13, 2014 · 9 comments

Even though Matt Entenza never talked about the sulfide mining issue, there was a suggestion of sulfide mining advocates voting against Otto. Otto had recommended that sulfide mining companies put up the equivalent of rental deposit on the risk of harm to health and environment. The sulfide mining effect would show up in Congressional District 8. Dayton’s percentage between state wide and CD 8 drops by 3%. Simon’s percentage between state wide and CD 8 drops by 10%. So Otto’s drop of 6% is between those two numbers. I conclude that there was no effect based on sulfide mining.


Steve Simon was having a name recognition problem against two perennial candidates, so he has lower numbers and more variation. Simon was considered safe although I must admit those numbers were closer than I felt comfortable with.


This table was generated with a 93% of the precincts counted.


otto analysis


What Otto Winning Over Entenza Really Means

by Grace Kelly on August 12, 2014 · 4 comments

Rebecca_Otto_Matt_Entenza.jpgBoth Rebecca Otto and Shawn Otto exemplify grace under pressure. Still under shock of an unexpected opponent, they rallied and organized an outpouring of support. Shawn personally ensured that every request of mine was fulfilled. Every one I know said the same. So every DFL event and parade became focused on persuading for Rebecca Otto. It also helped that Rebecca Otto had done great work, that was easily documented with awards and online-published papers.


DFLers responded strongly because Entenza threatened the whole DFL endorsement value.

I think Entenza thought he could run in the primary because of Mark Dayton. Entenza’s challenge was vastly different than Dayton’s challenge. Mark Dayton’s primary run had been clear when he entered the governor’s race because Mark Dayton had never been a person who flourished in endorsement politics. Yet Dayton was still a good election candidate. At every point, Dayton was clear and honest about his intentions, running against DFL opponents in a fair way. Entenza is great at insider politics, yet he snubbed insider politics. Entenza did not give notice. The way that Entenza made his case was not considered fair by DFL standards. Quite frankly, DFLers talk about the Entenza challenge in way one talks of a friend who unexpectedly changes on you.


So this race became about the people power of the DFL vs the money power of Entenza. In the dead of summer, in a race that normal media would not cover well, the DFL had to rally its votes. And they did. DFL endorsements are valuable and important.


clowncarMNGOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Honour thinks he’s the most conservative candidate, and he has a case, especially if that case is about holding to conservative principles and refusing to compromise.

I plan to work cooperatively with the Legislature to get this done. But if legislators say no to good ideas, if they get bogged down in the usual political games, I’ll subscribe to Ronald Reagan’s adage: “If they won’t see the light, make them feel the heat.”


So when it comes to abolishing the right to join a union, killing MNSure and replacing it with nothing, across the board cuts in all spending regardless of the effect, and cutting taxes at the top, he’s willing to work with the DFL — on how to implement his agenda. He’s willing to use good ideas from DFLers, provided those ideas are how to better implement conservative ideology. Seek common ground, compromise, split differences, show pragmatism when it comes time to stop thinking like an ideologue and start solving problems, not so much.
Apparently he thinks he can conduct negotiations that consist of the other side giving him what he wants, provided he just shows “leadership”.

“When political insiders talk about being “realistic,” it’s code for “we just have to keep doing it the way we’ve always done it.” I completely reject that point of view. In politics as in business, it takes leadership to get results.

Really, “in politics as in business”? Does he get that unlike in his business, he doesn’t get to fire everyone who disagrees with him? Yet, as he’s the most conservative of the four major candidates, he must have a shot at winning. Great, another “run government like a business” Republican. That’s never worked out badly, other than every time. 


Republicans Wimp Out on Absentee Voting

by Grace Kelly on August 8, 2014 · 2 comments

Despite new laws making absentee votes easier, this huge Republican primary fight lags in the number of ballots cast at the same time four years ago, in the huge Democratic primary fight. The Minnesota Secretary of State’s news release said that 15,883 absentee ballots have been returned and accepted compared to 20,919 in 2010.


Maybe McFadden ads of pulling out stitches and letting your own kids punch you are just not inspiring folks. Maybe the Zellers claim that shutting down government is a good way to negotiate is not playing well among business Republicans. Johnson and Seifert are stuck on the old theme of no taxes and  no government. Seifert wants private citizens to light more private fireworks on July 4th.
Listening to Republicans is probably the best way to understand how poor the showing is. For example, Honor confuses unemployment and underemployment using “more jobs” to fix underemployment. Seifert can’t even use correct terms like a “Democratic” governor, saying a “Democrat” governor instead. In fact, the Republicans have been stealing Democratic arguments like education, sounding like a Democratic Lite type of brew. Then the Republicans digress into who can cut spending more. The net result is that Republicans are again promising that magically we can great education without paying for it.


The Uptake does a great job of covering the Republican debates.


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.



Voter fraud story not quite over

by Eric Ferguson on July 14, 2014 · 1 comment

Brian Rice, we’re waiting. Not for evidence. We waited in vain for that. We’re waiting now for your apology.
The news Thursday was bad for Rice. Hennepin County investigated his claim of a “coordinated effort” to have people vote illegally using the address of a business that rents mailboxes. They dismissed this allegation not merely for insufficient evidence, and not even for no evidence. They actually disproved the charge. Ouch.
Wasn’t hard to disprove. From the Minnpost link, “In fact, all but 16 of the people who registered there had done so before January of this year.”
That was Thursday. It’s now Monday. Well? Any apology coming? Rice surely knew he was dragging the reputations of legal voters through the metaphorical mud. He took his claim to an irresponsible media outlet to play up the story, knowing how voter fraud claims incite the partisans of the right, knowing he was throwing charges at an immigrant community that is detested in some quarters. How detested? Let’s put it this way: the Star Tribune stopped enabling comments on articles on certain subjects because of the hate speech those subjects attract, and one of those subjects was Somalis. Articles on Somalis bring out the racists, nativists, and islamophobes. Rice must have been aware this was the atmosphere into which he was throwing his scurrilous charges.
It didn’t have to happen this way. Had Rice restrained himself to claiming it appeared some people voted from an address that wasn’t a residence, he would have been fine. There was evidence for that. He could have said that without claiming or implying organized fraud or individual fraud. That would have saved him looking churlish in light of this paragraph:

A large number of the improper registrations were the result of the change-of-address process, which requires Hennepin County officials to update registration information when voters move. Though many of the 141 voters involved in the complaint maintain a mailbox at the Cedar Avenue center — it’s an easy way for people who move often to keep a permanent mailing address — those voters didn’t expect that their registration information would also change to the mailing center’s address.

In other words, many of the 141 did things right, registering with their current address, and adding the permanent address as the place where mail should be sent, and something got mixed up on the clerical end. Even the rest, where the voters made a mistake, were just voters making a mistake. Not one instance of fraud.
Republicans of course took the bait, jumping up and down in excitement because now the voter fraud accusation was being made by a DFLer. Vindication! Oops. Like every other claim of voter fraud, this one fell apart upon examination. So, Republicans, isn’t it time to admit you were wrong on this one? That you believed a charge that proved false? So far, nothing. A word of advice Republicans: if the information is coming from a Democrat, and you don’t want to get played like this again, then no matter how much you want to believe it, check it out first. You see how I saw right through it. You can do the same.

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