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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

The Top 10 Best In Politics For 2016

Category: DFL 2014
Posted: 01/05/17 07:00

by Dave Mindeman

Although 2016 was a generally depressing year for many of us, I haven't forgotten that there is also some good things out there as well...you just have to look kind of hard for them.

But here are the Top 10 Best in Politics for 2016.

10. Phyllis Kahn: I cannot let Phyllis Kahn's political career end without a salute to her extaordinary life and service. Phyllis was defeated in a primary for her legislative seat where she has served for an impressive 44 years. Phyllis came to the legislature at a time when women were a legislative curiousity as members. She paved the way for many more to come, but she had to fight her way for acceptance and position. Her district was ever changing but Phyllis kept adapting and serving to the best of her ability. This year a young and talented woman challenged Phyllis from within the Party and the generational divide caught up with Phyllis Kahn. It will be different to have a legislative session without Phyllis...but we can still celebrate and admire what she has accomplished in a remarkable career. Well done, Phyllis Kahn...enjoy life.

9. Angie Craig: Although she ended up losing her Congressional seat campaign for Minnesota District 2, Angie Craig gave use a model campaign to emulate. She organized. She worked hard. She built a team. And frankly should have won, if not for the Trump phenomenon which gripped this partially rural suburban district. Angie had to build a campaign from scratch, but it was effective and showed off her skills of reaching out to people and in team building. I don't know if Angie Craig plans to run a second time. It is a hard thing to ask of some one. But if she was willing, I have a feeling that the 2nd District Democrats would embrace her for another try.

8. Erin Maye Quade: Erin won a seat in District 57A, in a year that turned out to be difficult for Democrats and in a district that had a previous Republican incumbent, who had a leadership role. She began her campaign expecting to challenge that Republican, but circumstances evolved into 57A becoming an open seat. Erin never stopped or changed her plan and ran an effective outreach campaign that the district responded to. Her opponent tried to insinuate that Erin's race and sexual orientation should be an issue, but Erin took the attacks in stride and focused on what the district needed..not some return to social issue divisions. She will be a good fit in St. Paul.

7. Matt Little: Another DFLer who emerged from a difficult Democratic year was former Lakeville mayor Matt Little. He takes over a Senate seat held previously by the conservative bastion, Dave Thompson. Thompson moved to sunnier climes and Matt went to work. This district has been deep red in the past and although Little has been building a base of support in the Lakeville area for some time, this was still going to be a daunting challenge. Matt won by a few hundred votes and is ready to take on the new challenge of State Senator. Watch this guy - he will make waves at the Capitol.

6. Sen. Al Franken: Al continues to be a good will ambassador for Minnesota. He has built some extraordinary relationships in the Senate on both sides of the aisle (especially important in Trumpland). And he is building a national reputation on policy. While he supported Hillary Clinton for President from the beginning, he continuously reached out to everyone in the Party to build a consensus. Franken has been a party builder for the state DFL, and that has made a world of difference in some trying times. We hope to keep this guy in the Senate for years to come.

5. Rick Nolan: Rick should not still be a Congressman. Nolan was a prime target of the House Republicans. And the enormous amounts of money that passed through the 8th Congressional race was staggering. But Rick Nolan is an extraordinary, gifted politician who knows people and how to communicate with them. The 8th District was primed to be Trump territory and Rick's opponent Stewart Mills III, was primed to take advantage. But Nolan cut through the noise and managed to reach his constituents on substance and not rhetoric. He didn't win by a huge margin, but he will still represent the 8th.

4. Mark Dayton: Mark's high approval with the Minnesota electorate didn't seem to translate into the legislative races. Mark's campaigning abilities have been limited these last years but he still has a gift for being a great governor. That will be tested over the next 2 years as he will have to deal with two Republican controlled legislative houses. He has done it before. And he will do it again. Mark fights for his beliefs. He will compromise when he must to get things done, but he has a core which we can count on. This year more than ever.

3. Keith Ellison: I admired how Keith Ellison made the transition from effective Bernie promoter and supporter, to a fixture on Hillary's campaign surrogate team. Ellison embodies the principle of policy over personality. Keith is running an active campaign for DNC chair and I think he will be a good choice. A hard worker and consensus builder, Ellison will find a way to help Democrats succeed. He has done that for the state Party - he would do it well for the national Party.

2. Ilhan Omar: Ms. Omar is now an historical figure. The first Somali-American legislator in America. That is no small achievement, but Ilhan plans to be much more than that. She brings great advocacy skills to our legislature and promises to be a voice that speaks for a broader constituency. She has unusual political skills and brings some political capital to St. Paul. Capital that she plans to use...as a Somali-American.. as a woman...as an advocate for the poor and immigrant communities. She will be an immediate fixture on a national stage. That can be a difficult way to navigate but she has already shown us that she is up to any challenge.

1. Steve Simon: OK. I know you are wondering why Steve Simon appears at the top of this list. After all, he did not have an election this year. And when he did run, he barely squeaked out a victory. But we are going to need Steve Simon to build something. To build a means to keep Minnesotans confident in their voting system and a continual push to keep us number one in voter participation. Simon is continuously working behind the scenes to make voting easy...to make it reliable...to make the process fair and impartial. Steve respects the voting process and believes in it. That is important in a time when the integrity of our system is constantly being challenged for fair reasons and a lot of unfair reasons. Steve Simon is the right person for a necessary job. He has worked on election law for a long time in the legislature and knows his subject as well as anyone can. We need to keep him as Secretary of State - and one more thing, he loves his job.
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Why Those Commissioner Raises Are Good Public Policy

Category: DFL 2014
Posted: 02/13/15 15:44

by Dave Mindeman

When Republicans put out their charges and talking points, it is sometimes amazing to me how quickly Democrats get on the defensive and think they have to either agree with the GOP or offer an apologetic defense.

The current case in point is the Commissioner pay raises.

Republicans have forced Democrats to think of government service as an offer of charity. That you should take a job, for far less money than you would get if you worked an equivalent job in the private sector and with minimal job security, and do it as charitable public service.

When Dayton raised these salaries by a sum total of $800,000 he wasn't doing it to give money away. He was doing it to make the salary fit the job description and retain good personnel. This has been long overdue. Ask Arne Carlson:

"....he (Carlson) also supports, in principle, Dayton's decision to give the raises. "It is difficult to run complicated departments, starting with finance," he said. "When I was in office, we were getting raided by the private sector constantly."

Let me give you a very current example. North Dakota has thousands of miles of pipelines running through their state. Last month a 4 inch pipeline ruptured and spilled 3 million gallons of an oil/salt water brine which might take years to properly clean up. That pipeline was relatively new and had never been inspected. About a year ago, the North Dakota legislature finally approved an authorization to hire 3 pipeline inspectors for the state. So far they have only been able to hire one and have had trouble filling the other two positions. Why? Because as soon as they make an offer, the oil and gas companies offer the candidate a better position at double or triple the salary. Now, I ask you, is that good public policy?

In a budget which totals in the neighborhood of $40 billion, arguing about salary increases of $800,000 seems absurd. Yes, maybe it is an easy target to attack. Maybe the raises seem high in comparison to the average Minnesotan's salary. But that $40 billion budget is in the hands of those Commissioners. They are responsible to make sure that budget gets distributed as intended and for the right targeted citizens. Even at the proposed salaries, they could find a job in the private sector that would carry a salary that is double and triple what the state offers. And the only job guarantee they have is that they can maybe hold it for maybe 4 years at the will of the current governor.

Republicans are always willing to argue the absurd. It is commensurate with every talking point they come up with. That shouldn't mean that Democrats have to play the absurd game as well.

Governor Dayton was willing to take whatever hit the Republicans would lay on him about bringing these salaries in line. He obviously decided to use some of his political capital to make it right. He tried to minimize the hit on other Democrats. It was his decision.

Unfortunately, Senator Bakk decided to join in on the absurd and add his own critique to the mix. Which jeopardized the proposal and potentially jeopardize the budget discussion for the entire session.

When it comes to Minnesota politics, we are forced to have to listen to GOP absurdity. But the sad part, in this instance, is that some Democrats have joined in.

Good public policy has to navigate some ridiculous ideas - I expect Democrats to navigate that policy straight and true - and not get sucked into the foolish Republican eddies.
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GOP Minority Senate Is Actually Right on Sen. Tomassoni

Category: DFL 2014
Posted: 01/14/15 14:59

by Dave Mindeman

I don't like conflicts of interest in government. Even the appearance of one. That is why I think that Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm should either resign his new job or resign his legislative seat.

I sympathize with the fact that there is nothing illegal about this. The Senator promises to do due diligence and make sure he recuses himself if there are potential conflicts.

That doesn't matter.

If there are even the possibility of conflicts as the Senator has acknowledged, then there is no possible way that the job and the legislative position can be reconciled as far as I'm concerned.

Are we supposed to assume that he can just determine what constitutes a conflict? Can we rely on that judgment, even if he is very careful in his determination?

Tomassoni defends his stance:

Tomassoni said Monday his new job makes it no different than "a farmer voting on farm issues or a lawyer voting on court issues," but he outlined several steps he'll take to reduce concern.

While that may be a reasonable defense, the fact is that his firm will directly lobby the legislature. And yes, the Senator says his role will be only administrative and not be directly involved with the actual lobbying position,... but it will be difficult not to assume that the Senator's "advice" will not be sought by the lobbyist involved.

I sympathize with our legislators financial status....being part time legislators and the commensurate low pay. But this is still representation for the state....and all cases of even the appearance of conflicting interest need to be eliminated.

Unfortunately, I have to agree with Senate GOP minority on this one.
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