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State Auditor Rebecca Otto on her farm.  (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

State Auditor Rebecca Otto on her property in Marine on St. Croix on Friday, January 8, 2016. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

Here’s why: All the available data strongly indicates that Otto will beat all the other contenders across state in the upcoming Governor’s race.


Democrats have two major problems to face in 2018 and beyond. First, how do we win elections? Second, how do we remain true to our progressive and liberal roots?


For Democrats, 2018 is a must-win election, and Minnesotans have a lot at stake. Will the state remain the shining star of the North, or will it go the way of Wisconsin, and sink into a Republican dark age of union busting, environment polluting, professor bashing, service slashing, and economic activity destruction?


Of all the candidates running or suspected of running for Governor in 2018, Rebecca Otto is the only one who can most clearly win and at the same time preserve and advance core, human based, Democratic ideals, in my opinion.


The smart move for the DFL in 2018 is to turn to a candidate that has won several times statewide and has strong name recognition, positive feeling among the voters engendered by her commitment to widely held values, and a strong base of support. State Auditor Rebecca Otto is the only candidate with that resumé. Otto has racked up several historic victories, including the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years, and is positioned to do it again in 2018. Her statewide electoral prowess far outstrips her nearest competitor, Tim Walz, who is largely unknown outside of his first district, and is untested statewide. Beyond that, Otto stands for strong for Democratic values, while Walz has shown himself to be a DINO-style Democrat. Walz enjoys a very high rating from the NRA, for example, and in February of 2013 was one of only six Democrats in Congress to vote to expand gun sales to the severely mentally ill, over the objections of senior generals including David Petraeus, Michael Hayden and Stanley McChrystal.


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(crossposted from )

Redistricting: Finally, It’s Over!

Assuming nobody runs off to the federal courts, which has happened before. Iowa got this all over with, what, a year ago? They learned long ago that redistricting is far too important to trust to the politicians who are getting redistricted, especially when they’re republicans. So they have a bunch of old judges do the job, and they get it done in plenty of time. But in Minnesota we let the politicians try their hand, even though they almost always fail, and THEN we get around to letting the judges do the job, but almost a year later.

So the Judges have delivered their judgement, and their judgement was pretty good.The new congressional district lines shuffle a few counties about from the 1st to the 7th district, but not enough to change the outcome- the 1st will still lean Democratic and probably be represented again by moderate Democrat Tim Walz, and the 7th leans slightly Republican and will probably be represented by conservative Democrat Colin Peterson.

The Minnesota chunk of the Buffalo Ridge has been losing population, so we’re losing two or three legislative seats. The judges seem to have done a good job of spreading the pain, with only one district ending up with two incumbent Democrats and a district or two ending up with two Republicans. With the district lines shifting, a few districts have gotten bluer or redder, but overall the Democrats should hold onto their current seats and maybe pick up a couple. Hard to predict, though- these will be hard fought races in swing districts.

So overall, the judges have done a good job of setting the field for some exciting races on the Buffalo Ridge.


Triage time, other Minnesota races

by Eric Ferguson on October 18, 2010 · 1 comment

UPDATE: Guess I was writing this too close to bedtime, but I left off what is likely the most contentious bit. Time to ignore Tim Pawlenty.

This is a follow up to my recent diary where I wrote about this being triage time, and we can’t keep chewing the political catnip. I used the Walz/Demmer race as an example, but let’s look at the other races in Minnesota and figure out where our limited blogging time ought to go. I’m going to take a look at the statewide and congressional races. I’m not looking into legislative races only because I don’t feel I know which ones are close enough to warrant our attention. That doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Quite the contrary, the legislators elected this year will decide redistricting, and whether we have draconian budget cuts or upper income tax increases, so I hope people more knowledgeable on close races will chime in. Just keep your eye on the calendar, because there are just two weeks until election day.
Just to avoid a point of potential confusion, this whole line of thinking would seem to be in conflict with the ground-game sorts of campaigning I’ve written about, where I’m helping some candidates despite their near certainty of winning. It’s not actually a conflict, because there’s a big difference in terms of goals and audiences between the ground game and partisan media, like blogs and talk radio.

What we do here is reach out to the base with information and try to push stories and narratives into the mainstream media. Long term we want to make progress on issues, and push back on attacks from the right while going after the other side’s craziness or corruption. Short term however, the less time before election day, the less valuable it is to spend limited time or column-inches as the case may be on candidates who can’t win or can’t lose.

Direct voter contact doesn’t clash, and helping safe candidates is still valuable. We’re trying to reach one person at a time, usually someone not so engaged as to be reading political blogs, and find out what issues matter to them, what it will take to convince that individual to vote, and vote for our candidates. The person who can be persuaded to turn out for a safe candidate, or a hopeless candidate for that matter, is likely to vote for DFLers in close races. So if someone doesn’t like Mark Dayton, but has a strongly positive reaction to Keith Ellison — which I have run into a Minneapolis — I have no hesitation in asking them to turn out for the safe Ellison, figuring they’ll likely vote for the candidates in tight races. Besides, long term, campaigning seriously in a safe seat is likely to tell voters their votes are being requested instead of taken for granted and thereby keep the seat safe, and maybe, we add one more person to the base.

Right now, however, I’m addressing this to people who are already engaged, and we need to focus our limited blogging time. So while I will continue to canvass for my safe state legislators, I’m not giving their opponents even a moment of my blogging time.

So here’s how I prioritize this year’s races. Feel free to disagree, please chime in down in the comments, because we need to get this right.

Statewide races:
Governor: Can I assume no controversy if I say the gubernatorial race comes first? That’s probably obvious to anyone who isn’t new to Minnesota. Briefly, just in case this is being read by someone who is new, the reason you see a lot about this race in our diaries is there hasn’t been a DFL governor since Perpich lost in 1990. Most DFLers feel a state that used to be near the top in almost everything where being near the top is good, like per capita income, education, transportation, etc., has deteriorated into mediocrity. Moreover, Mark Dayton has a serious chance to win.

Secretary of State: Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is probably the DFLer Republicans hate most after Al Franken, except perhaps for Keith Ellison — and that was before they accused him of stealing the Senate election. We know from Florida 2000, Ohio 2004, and the year of the recount (there were I think four more besides Franken/Coleman) what a difference it makes to have a secretary of state who wants help voters vote, or wants to pursue partisan goals by preventing voting by people with the wrong skin tone. I consider this office the second most important statewide office in general. There’s no polling on the constitutional offices, so with the Republicans appearing to match DFL enthusiasm this year, I assume this race is in doubt. That’s why I devoted a “Fun with debunking the right” to this race, and I try to push back on the photo ID issue.

State Auditor: Rebecca Otto seems to have the most serious challenger this year. Otto defeated incumbent Pat Anderson in 2006, and Anderson is running again. Otto made the case Anderson wasn’t a terribly good auditor, but Anderson at least can claim the right resume. I sensed an aspect of grudge match in their forums. If I had to guess — and my point is that with two weeks left, I do have to guess — I would guess Otto has the closest race of the constitutional offices.

Attorney General: This has been the invisible race. I haven’t searched out a candidate forum, but with other races, I haven’t had to. Considering Chris Barden had a close primary against Sharon Anderson, even though it was the only contest for which Republicans asked their voters to stay in their own primary, I’m guessing even Republicans don’t know who he is. Either that, or they ignored the party’s request and crossed over to vote in our primary. My guess is Swanson will win handily, which is good since she drew the crazy opponent. Anderson, Dan Severson, and even Tom Emmer aren’t crazy, just dogmatic. Barden is the one with the questionable contact with reality, believing that illegal aliens are voting through vouching, and he calls Swanson “pro-ACORN” on his web site home page, even though ACORN doesn’t exist anymore.

CD1: The Walz/Demmer race is probably the closest congressional race this year. It’s the only one besides the 6th to attract outside polling, and Walz had a small lead. He’s had to run negative ads, and Republicans have been putting cash into helping Demmer. I rank this race our top priority among congressional races.

CD2: John Kline is a conservative in a conservative district in a conservative year. Shelly Madore has gotten no press that I’m aware of. I wouldn’t tell anyone in the 2nd not to campaign for her, because every voter you can turn out helps the winnable races, and builds up the database of identified DFLers. In blogging terms however, this race is done.

CD3: I’ve heard of no polling, but Erik Paulsen’s ads have all been attacks on Jim Meffert, complaining about Meffert’s ads, despite Meffert having been unable to get on TV. Perhaps Paulsen has an internal poll showing a close race? CD3 is one of those rare districts that voted for Obama but GOP for House. This ought to be a competitive district, and though no analyst has listed this as a competitive race, Paulsen’s ads make me wonder. This is perhaps our second priority.

CD4: This seems to be the quietest race other than CD2. I’ve heard of no polling for the McCollum/Collett race. It’s a heavily DFL district. My guess is this one is over though again, if you live in CD4, don’t let that deter you from turning out voters for Betty McCollum, for the sake of the rest of the ballot.

CD5: I strongly support Keith Ellison. I know him, I like him, I will come to his defense if he’s attacked — any other time. Unless an attack could cause long term damage, I’m going to fight the temptation to punch back. This race is over.

CD6: I can read the polls and realize Clark’s chances aren’t good. She is however close enough to keep trying. A Bachmann win is basically just a conservative winning a conservative district, but beating Bachmann would be a big blow to the paranoid right. Only the nuttiness makes this race competitive. Bill Prendergast is right: while there’s a chance in this race, we have to try. It’s an arguable second priority with Meffert/Paulsen.

CD7: Colin Peterson recently released an internal poll that showed him way ahead. This was presumably to counter the idea his seat is in doubt. The 7th leans GOP, and would favor a Republican for an open seat — but it’s not open. This race is over.

CD8: Chip Cravaack claimed an internal poll showed him just 3% behind Jim Oberstar, but unlike Peterson, he released no details, which seems strange if you’re so sure about the poll. He got his press attention though. He has some decent funding, and anecdotally he has lots of volunteers and signs. We know the 8th was extended into the Twin Cities exurbs in the last redistricting, which is where most of the state’s growth has been. The exurbs are the GOP base, thus why the 6th and 2nd are so conservative. If this seat was open, it would be purple. I personally rank this race fourth priority, but I see a reasonable argument for ranking it higher. Cravaack has so far gone unscrutinized, so far as I know, but if anything had reached the mainstream press I would think I would have heard.

There’s one person I left out, who deserves none of our attention: Tim Pawlenty. That’s a tough habit for a lefty blogger to break, but one thing stands out: he’s not running for anything. After election day, since he’s likely to declare for president in the next few months, then it will be important for us to have information on him at hand when the national media are ready. This is what Alaska bloggers did when the national media hadn’t even heard of Sarah Palin until she was nominated for VP. So November 3rd, get the facts. Until then, he doesn’t matter.

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Triage time, or time to lay off the political catnip

by Eric Ferguson on October 15, 2010 · 2 comments

I use the term “political catnip” to describe stories that are fun, but devoting more attention to them doesn’t actually accomplish anything. This being campaign season, I specifically define “political catnip” as Carl Paladino and Christine O’Donnell. Sure, they say something new and bizarre almost every day, but look at the polls folks, they’re not going to win. Election day is less than three weeks away, and we’re in triage time.

That means we have to look at the races where there’s a chance to win, and to lose. Digging deeper into these catnip cases is like spending our time looking for the dirt on Joel Demos. Demos, who you actually might not have heard of, is the GOP challenger to Keith Ellison. He might not get above 30%. I hope it’s obvious why he’s not worth our time, but is Paladino worth it at this point?

What prompts this isn’t just one time too many hearing the “I’m not a witch” ad. Rather, there’s a prime example of the sort of candidate who deserves more attention. I refer to this whopper by Randy Demmer, “peace talks have been going on between Israel and Palestine for thousands… probably a thousand years.”
If you don’t know what’s wrong with that statement, just…wow. You must have missed the 20th century. I thought of trying to explain why that statement is wrong, but there are just so many ways and if you’re an adult who grew up in … well, any country at all, you probably already get it. Suffice it to say that while partisans of one side or the other disagree over who did what to whom first, when the conflict really started, how to resolve it, one thing both sides probably agree on is there weren’t any Israeli-Palestinian peace talks going on a thousand years ago.

Demmer is challenging Tim Walz in CD1. He may not know Middle East history, but he could win. Sure, playing offense is more fun than playing defense. Flipping a seat is more fun than successfully defending one. That’s just how people are built. It’s why football players celebrate recovering the other team’s fumble and not their own, even though they have the ball in either case.

So in the name of performing triage, we should come to Walz’s defense and make something of Demmer’s statement. If you’re going to opine on the Middle East knowing that little, especially if you get to vote on whether to go to war in the region, you ought to know more than some recently arrived visitor from the moon.

That Minnesota Independent reported this is good. To help Walz, ask other outlets to report on it too. You can’t always get media coverage as devastating to a GOP campaign as Bill Maher bringing on the Atlantic reporter who found the Nazi guy among the Young Guns, but if you try, sometimes you get lucky.

If you’re doing voter contact in the district, ask undecided voters and unmotivated DFLers what they think of this. The more under the political radar Demmer flies, the less likely someone who isn’t reading liberal blogs will have even heard about it.


Just a quick report here- it was a slow year for the congressional forum and a bunch of loud rethuglicans tried to create some fake energy for their candidates. We DFLers were more polite, but held our own.

First of, Walz is a rock star, buring his repug and IP opponents. Even the Repug loud louts forgot their instructions and cheered him on.

In CD7, Peterson got no pass from the Repugs and newly IP candidate Metzge for his mixed voting records- they labeled him a liberal anyway, and tried to link him with Pelosi.

Tarryl Clark was well received, getting much applause for her reasoned stands on ag issues. Clearly Michelle made a mistake taking the FarmFest crowd for granted and blowing them off with her abscence.

In CD2, Shelley Madore scored a minor coup thanks to Klines and the DFL endorsed candidates abscense.

Bye for now (gotta shop for broadband for my new place in Lyon county), back with coverage of the governor forum tomorrow.


Congressman Walz’s campaign sent out a release today stating that he has raised 1 million so far for his re-election campaign.

With a $314,000 first quarter and $600,000 Cash on hand, Walz is in a good financial position.  But it never hurts to raise more…

Tim Walz Raises $1,000,000 for Re-election

More than 7,000 people join the effort

Mankato, MN – Today, Tim Walz for US Congress announced the campaign raised more than $1,000,000 for the re-election of Tim Walz. The campaign raised more than $314,000 in the most recent financial quarter and has a significant cash advantage with nearly $600,000 in reserves.

“I am humbled to receive such strong support from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. With over 7,000 folks joining our grassroots movement in southern Minnesota, it is clear they value the effectiveness on behalf of veterans, our small businesses and working families,” said Walz.

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Health care reform will protect jobs and families

by cursedthing on November 23, 2009 · 1 comment

(NOTE: This was originally submitted to SE MN Papers as a letter to the editor. To date it has been published in the Albert Lea, Winona and Rochester papers)

Americans agree that the health insurance system in our country is broken. The cost of doing nothing is too great for our nation. If Congress fails to enact reform, things won’t just stay the same — they’ll get worse. That’s why we need the Affordable Health Care for America Act and we need it now.

A recent report released by the Urban Institute illustrates what happens if we remain with the status quo. In Minnesota alone, delaying health insurance reform would hit our communities hard, with the estimated number of uninsured in 10 years skyrocketing to 577,000.

Nationally, up to 57 million Americans could find themselves uninsured. Unless we enact changes now, those who manage to keep their coverage will pay an even heftier price over the next 10 years, with individual and family spending on health care increasing by 49 percent in Minnesota by 2019. And these, according to the report, are the best-case scenarios.

Last week’s vote in the House of Representatives was a victory for working Americans and Minnesotans. Congressman Walz, along with a majority of his colleagues, chose to side with working families instead of propping up the insurance industry. They voted for a comprehensive health insurance reform bill that will provide coverage to 96 percent of Americans, lower costs, expand coverage, make insurance portable, and will reduce the deficit by $30 billion over the next 10 years.

In our district alone, according to the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee (, the Affordable Health Care for America Act will:

• Improve employer-based coverage for 439,000 residents.

• Provide credits to help pay for coverage for up to 160,000 households.

• Improve Medicare for 108,000 beneficiaries, including closing the prescription drug donut hole for 13,000 seniors.

• Allow 17,000 small businesses to obtain affordable health care coverage and provide tax credits to help reduce health insurance costs for up to 15,300 small businesses.

• Protect up to 700 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.

This legislation will guarantee that employers will pay no more than their fair share to provide insurance to employees. It includes a public health insurance option to lower costs and keep insurance companies honest.

It includes a surtax on the very wealthy, who can afford to pay more, rather than balancing reform on the backs of working families.

It also allows families to keep the health care they have instead of facing cuts in benefits and higher costs.

As a new employer, I’ve experienced the health care crisis from the other side of the negotiating table. One of my duties as president of the Southeast Minnesota Area Labor Council was to secure health care for the Labor Council staff. This bill offers much-needed assistance to small businesses who want to be able to provide health insurance to their employees.

For example, it will create a new small business tax credit that will be available for two years for low-wage, small firms that choose to provide health coverage to their workers. And it will create a new grant program to encourage small employers to develop employee wellness programs.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act starts solving problems immediately. It offers strong consumer protections for those with private insurance. It allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until they are 27. In addition, it insists that insurers must submit enough hard evidence to justify all premium increases to state insurance commissioners beginning in January 2010.

Thanks to our Congressman and the three other members of the Minnesota Congressional Delegation who voted for H.R. 3962, inequities will be fixed that exist in the current Medicare reimbursement system if the bill becomes law. It ensures that health care providers are compensated for their Medicare clients based on the quality of care they provide, not how many tests they order.

This new pay-for-results method will be developed by the experts at the Institute of Medicine. The bill also creates a federal study that will recommend how to remove the geographic inequities in the current Medicare payment system.

I continue to applaud and support Congressman Walz and his colleagues as they fight for fair and effective health insurance reform. Now it is time the pass the fight for reform to the Senate.

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It seems like not a day goes by these last few weeks without rain at some point within a 24 hour period, but if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes, right?

Lots of things happening down here in southern Minnesota.  Trains, wind, highways, State Senators, and the MN Secretary of State.

Come fly away with me, to below the fold
Those of you who have traveled on US Highway 14 will appreciate this:

Congressman Walz announced this week that he is seeking funds to help improve 4 segments of US Highway 14…
Congressman Walz:

“As we all know, the Highway 14 corridor is among the deadliest highways in America. Now is the time to upgrade this critical infrastructure, and create jobs. These projects will help bring key economic development investments and put people back to work.”

A plan announced on Tuesday for rerouting freight train lines to south of Rochester(rather than through Rochester) has much of Rochester ecstatic, and has Winona a bit worried.  

Gov. Pawlenty supports the proposal, though he sees it primarily as a freight rail project.

“This relates to, in a significant degree, freight rail,” Pawlenty said. “So this rail plan might fit into high passenger rail plans, but it also could be separate from that. These are two potentially related but not necessarily related issues.”

Meanwhile, in Winona…

Winona County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to join the Minnesota High Speed Rail Commission, which will press federal and state leaders to upgrade Amtrak’s Empire Builder route to carry 110-mph passenger trains from Chicago to St. Paul. Winona County will pay $7,200 to the seven-county commission in 2009, and could pay again in future years to conduct studies of the proposed Mississippi River line.

Also, Winona County is getting into the wind business (or at least has the state’s permission to)…

The bill would allow Winona County to form a limited-liability company for a “community-based energy development.” Pawlenty’s signature would set the table for turbine supporters – led by the Winona County Economic Development Authority – to secure private investors to front most of the $3.6 million cost to build the twin-blade turbine, commissioner Dwayne Voegeli said.

“Frankly, we’re all waiting for this,” he said. “This is one of the final steps.”

The bill also includes a provision allowing the city of Mountain Iron, Minn., to attempt a similar renewable-energy venture.

And finally in purely political news with a slight twist, State Senator Sharon Erickson Ropes now has two Republicans vying for the endorsement to run against her in Senate District 31

Winona businessman Jeremy Miller announced Wednesday that he will seek the GOP endorsement in Minnesota Senate District 31, held by Ropes since 2006.
Miller, 26, is the son of Winona Mayor Jerry Miller and chief financial officer of William Miller Scrap Iron and Metal Co. Miller joins Paul Ibisch, a La Crescent, Minn., minister who is seeking the Republican nod in District 31, which covers Houston and parts of Fillmore and Winona counties, including the city of Winona.

Oh yeah, the twist:

Ropes added that she met Miller in a venue other than politics: he used to date the senator’s 25-year-old daughter, Ropes said.

“I look forward to the opportunity to get to know him again,” Ropes said.…

A final side note, I was lucky enough last week to attend the Olmsted County DFL Banquet, and it was quite a fun time.  I had the pleasure of sitting at the same table as Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and had a chance to discuss the recount briefly, as well his recommendations for voting procedures.  I am very glad to see legislation making its way through the State Legislature.  Voting is our right, and our responsibility, and I’m glad to see our Secretary of State being good at what he and his staff does to make sure we all count, regardless of our affiliation.

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“The purpose of the recovery act quite honestly was to put people back to work, to make sure our contractors who weren’t getting work in the private sector can start to get back to work,” [Congressman] Walz says.

The Austin Housing authority is receiving $745,000 in federal money through the ARRA 2009

It’s enough money to cause the HRA Board to re-think its five-year capitol improvement plan.

“And basically moved up projects and so we’re going to be doing the projects that were needed , especially energy efficiency projects,” Hurm says.

Moving up projects that will not only create some jobs, but also help residents of energy-guzzling buildings save some money (while our lives get a just a little greener).  Glad that the Congressman helped support the ARRA.…

Stimulus Makes Building More Eco-Friendly

(ABC 6 NEWS) — About a million dollars in federal stimulus funding is being pumped into local projects.

It’s all aimed at making some local buildings a little more eco-friendly.

The impact of the economic stimulus package is being felt close to home

“We’re going to be doing more of them, and doing them faster,” says Jim Hurm.

“We’d like to thank Congressman Walz for coming to Austin,” says Mayor Tom Stiehm.

“We received about 745-thousand dollars,” Hurm says.

The federal dollars have been awarded to the austin housing authority.

It’s enough money to cause the HRA Board to re-think its five-year capitol improvement plan.

“And basically moved up projects and so we’re going to be doing the projects that were needed, especially energy efficiency projects,” Hurm says.

Starting at two housing complexes that long ago stopped being state-of-the-art.

“You have to recognize that the twin towers is about 38 years old,” Hurm says.

“A building like this has a massive heating bill. If you can reduce that by 15 to 20 percent, ” says Walz.

With energy efficient windows going in sooner, lower utility bills will show up sooner, and that’s an economic stimulus for the people who have to pay those bills.

“And the idea is to try to get some efficiency to save some money in the long run,” Walz says.

And in the short term, bids should be awarded in the next few months for energy efficient windows at Pickett Place and that means employment will go up even before utility bills go down.

“The purpose of the recovery act quite honestly was to put people back to work, to make sure our contractors who weren’t getting work in the private sector can start to get back to work,” Walz says.