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Rudy Perpich

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:


 Cuyuna Range native Rick Nolan sees the momentum building in his campaign for the DFL endorsement for congress, winning new endorsements from 8th district leaders and a former lieutenant governor as he heads into the precinct caucuses Tuesday.

State Rep. Bill Hilty of Finlayson,
Koochiching County Commissioner and United Steelworkers labor activist Rob Ecklund of International Falls, former Pine County DFL chair and Minnesota Farmers Union official Thom Peterson of Pine City and former Perpich Lt. Governor Marlene Johnson have joined an ever-growing list of DFL, labor and community leaders endorsing the former three-term congressman.

Johnson, who served as lieutenant governor under the only Iron Range governor in Minnesota history, cited Nolan’s extensive experience in business, in creating jobs and in building coalitions among diverse groups as the reasons for her support:

When Governor Perpich needed a real leader to transform his vision of a Minnesota World Trade Center into reality, he turned to Rick Nolan.  Rick worked tirelessly with Rudy and me and with so many others to help generate new jobs and transform Minnesota into a leader in global export and trade.  Now more than ever, we need his wisdom and courage back in Congress.

Former Congressman Nolan previously served as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Family Farms & Rural Development and is widely recognized as an expert in agriculture policy and as an advocate for family farms.  Thom Petersen of the Minnesota Farmer’s Union  praised that record of championing rural America in Congress:

Minnesota family farms, small businesses and rural communities have never had a better friend in Congress than Rick Nolan.  Rick will be so much more than a dependable vote for farms and rural America.  Rick will return to Congress as a champion for farmers and our rural way of life.

Rep. Hilty, former chair of the Energy Finance and Policy Division, says he admires Nolan’s honesty and integrity as well as his record of remaining true to his DFL/labor roots and progressive values:

Are you as tired as I am of listening to candidates mouthing politically correct (and safe) platitudes? Of course you are! Rick Nolan is the breath of fresh air and the courageous truth-teller that we all have been hoping for. Don’t let the rare opportunity to support a real democrat slip through your fingers. We need a majority of Rick Nolans in Congress. Let’s at least start with one. We’ll work from there.

Former Congressman Nolan, a strong proponent of single-payer universal health care, is clearly pleased to have earned the support of his fellow progressives:

Over the past eight months, our campaign has become a rallying point throughout northern Minnesota for those who want regular people to matter again in Washington DC.

Marlene Johnson, Bill Hilty, Thom Peterson and Rob Ecklund have always been leaders and champions for the progressive values we share, and I am so very honored to have their confidence and support.

With these new endorsements, the Nolan campaign continues to build a broad based coalition with strong support  throughout the 8th district, from the Mesabi Iron Range and Duluth in the north to the Cuyuna Iron Range and Kerrick in the west and south.

DFL, labor and community leaders who have previously endorsed the former congressman include Iron Range Labor Assembly President Tom Cvar, Duluth Central Labor Body President Dan O’Neill, Carlton County Labor Body President Mike Kuiti, former Duluth Central Labor Body Presidents Al Netland and George Sundstrom; Duluth State Rep. Kerry Gauthier; Brainerd State Rep. John Ward; former Minnesota Senate President Don Samuelson; Iron Range Legislative Delegation Chair and IRRRB member State Rep. Tom Anzelc; former Cuyuna Range State Rep. Kris Hasskamp; Iron Range publishing icon Veda Ponikvar of Chisholm; former State Representative and Eveleth Mayor (and present Citizen Representative on the IRRRB) Joe Begich; House Assistant Minority Leader State Rep. John Persell of Bemidji; Duluth community activists Erik Peterson and Tina Welsh,  Bemidji native State Rep. Ryan Winkler; Duluth businessman John Goldfine, former State Sen. Becky Lourey of Kerrick; former State Rep. Tim Faust of Mora; former State Sen. George Perpich of Chisholm; and former Minnesota Congressmen Gerry Sikorski, Bill Luther and Martin Sabo.

Nolan is seeking the DFL endorsement to challenge Tea Party Rep. Chip Cravaack (R- MN/NH) in November. Also vying for the endorsement are former City Councilor Jeff Anderson of Duluth and former State Senator Tarryl Clark of St. Cloud. Nolan is the only candidate who has said he will abide by the endorsement.


Rick Nolan: Not just another pretty face

by keewatinrose on July 11, 2011 · 0 comments

Perhaps the most intriguing candidate to enter the race against Chip Cravaack is former Congressman Rick Nolan, who represented the 6th district from 1974 – 1980. His candidacy has been characterized as a re-entry to politics, but the truth is Nolan has remained active in politics in Crow Wing and Aitkin Counties through the years.

Nolan, a former staff assistant to Senator Walter Mondale, began his political career in 1968 when he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives.  The Royalton (Benton, Morrison Counties) civics teacher represented District 53A for two terms serving from 1969 – 1972.

Nolan’s first try at congress was in 1972 when he attempted to unseat the entrenched conservative, Representative John Zwach. He lost in the only close congressional race that year, receiving 109,995 votes to Zwach’s 114,537. 1974 proved to be a much better year. Like his counterpart Jim Oberstar in the 8th district, Nolan won an open congressional seat, defeating republican Jon Grunseth by 18,668 votes.

During his tenure in Congress, Nolan earned a reputation as an outspoken and staunch advocate for the less fortunate, bucking the establishment when necessary. Congressman Nolan demonstrated his independent streak and adherence to principles when he joined disaffected democrats and labor leaders in creating a movement to draft Senator Edward Kennedy for president in 1980. President Jimmy Carter was felt to have been “going against the grain of the party”. Of particular concern was the fact Carter did not attempt to enact universal health care, a promise he made during the 1976 campaign.  The hotbeds of the Draft Kennedy movement were Iowa, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Hampshire and Colorado. Carter did ultimately win re-nomination, receiving 2,129.02 votes to Kennedy’s 1,150.48.
Nolan retired from Congress in 1980 to start his own import-export business. In 1987, Governor Rudy Perpich asked the successful businessman to serve as president of the new World Trade Center Corporation, a unique state agency created to promote international trade with Minnesota businesses.

With this impressive resume, Nolan is arguably the strongest candidate to emerge to date. The only real negative (for some) is his age. But he is an energetic 67 year old and has several advantages that greatly outweigh the age factor. He is well-known and respected by veteran party activists. The 8th district has an older populace who will likely remember his previous public service. As a former congressman, Nolan will not have a learning curve and can hit the ground running. Another plus for those of us in the 8th: his previous years of service in the House count towards seniority, so he will be a fourth term congressman, equal to Tim Walz, Keith Ellison and Michele Bachmann (if re-elected), not a freshman.

It is clear that the successful DFL candidate will need to at least hold their own in the western and southern parts of the district in addition to getting a solid turnout in the north. Nolan has a demonstrated ability to win in conservative areas. The 6th congressional district that he represented included Mille Lacs, Benton, Sherburne, Wright, Stearns, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Wright, Chippewa, Big Stone, Lac Qui Parle, Yellow Medicine, Renville, Lincoln, Lyon, Redwood, Pipestone, Murray, Cottonwood, Rock, Nobles and Jackson Counties and a part of northwestern Hennepin County. With the exception of Mille Lacs, these counties are now part of the very conservative 6th and 7th congressional districts. Sherburne and Benton counties were once part of the 8th district and may well be again after redistricting. The Brainerd native and former Little Falls resident clearly has the ability to undercut Cravaack in his base.

Nolan can also be expected to run well in the North, where his solid ties to organized labor and his close relationship with the Iron Range’s own Rudy Perpich will certainly be an asset.

The ability to raise money has unfortunately become a requisite for a candidate. The former congressman has the support of colleagues and has many contacts in the national business community (the Supreme Court ruling regarding corporate contributions may actually help us for a change). His long-time ties to the party should not be overlooked and more importantly, he is seen as one who can beat one-termer Chip Cravaack. Nolan can certainly raise big money quickly.

Those of us who knew Rick when he served in the Minnesota legislature and in congress remember him as a good campaigner and a thoughtful, dedicated public servant. It is this dedication to public service that has prompted him to consider another run for congress. He is indeed a formidable opponent. If elected, we can expect the same effective representation we had under John Blatnik and Jim Oberstar.

And wouldn’t that be nice for a change?


Rep. John Spanish: The Voice Of The People

by keewatinrose on January 31, 2011 · 0 comments

(I recently had the pleasure of visiting with Rep. Spanish, whom I hadn’t seen in many years.keewatinrose)

Former Representative John Spanish is one of five candidates running in the DFL primary  in House District 5B on February 1. Spanish held that seat from 1969 – 1978, when he was defeated by fellow DFLer Lona Minne.

At eighty-eight, Spanish is the oldest candidate in the race. But he is as sharp as ever, and ready to take others to task for transgressions when necessary. He expressed particular distress that the youngest of the candidates is choosing to spend a great deal of money on this short race and to solicit a considerable amount of campaign contributions from lobbyists.

Prior to his service in the legislature the retired steelworker served for nine years on the Hibbing City Council. Spanish feels one of his major accomplishments during his tenure was preventing the sale of north Hibbing to the mining companies. Bennett Park and Guardian Angels nursing home now stand on that land and an existing cemetery was preserved.

Spanish’s many accomplishments during his service in the legislature include funding of the Iron Range Expressway System, necessary because of the advent of taconite industry, and  Area Vocational Technical Institutes, precursors to Minnesota’s two year colleges.

He also sponsored legislation that established the white line driving lane which made driving safer in adverse conditions, and fought to remove the sales tax on all home heating fuels.

One battle Rep. Spanish fought constantly – and unsuccessfully- was to get legislators to reduce the number of bills they introduce. He expressed frustration at the number of frivolous and go-nowhere bills lawmakers introduce with no regard to the cost to the taxpayer. He frequently locked horns with DFL leadership over this issue, he said, recalling with a chuckle a conversation he had with Governor Rudy Perpich:

” Perpich said  ‘Forget it Johnny, you’re too sincere. People don’t know any better.’ I said ‘What did you say, Rudy? Is that why you’re here? Because the people don’t know any better?’ Well, he didn’t like that very much.”

Rep. Spanish turned down per diem while the legislature was not in session because he didn’t feel that was a good use of taxpayer money either.

One battle he did win, however,was to prevent the Metrodome from being funded with property taxes.  And he remains adamant that the Metrodome should have been built with steel, insisting that an inflatable roof was one of the stupidest decisions ever made. Given what happened this winter, he has a point.

As to the question of why he wants to return to the House of Representatives:

“I am running because I can bring back leadership. I can bring back integrity, honesty, efficiency and reliability to the political process.”

Spanish thinks the cost of campaigns today is outrageous, completely unnecessary, and corrupts the process.He has always refused to accept campaign contributions, choosing instead to fund his own campaigns.  He recalls sending a very sizable check back to a labor organization, whose leader just couldn’t understand why. His reason was very simple:

“I want the people to know they will get full representation. I represent all people, regardless of party affiliation”

Spanish correctly points out that with his eight years of previous service he would walk into caucus with seniority nearly equal to that of Rep. Tony Sertich, who recently resigned to take the post of IRRRB commissioner.

Rep. Spanish is a sincere, passonate advocate for the people. He has a true commitment to be the voice for those who are seldom heard. If returned to the House, he would continue his history as an outspoken legislator who would provide his constituents with honest service and would indeed serve them well.