Politics

Democrats step up Horner attacks

by Briana Bierschbach
Pub: Politics in Minnesota
Issued: September 29,2010

Party, liberal independent groups take up offensive against Independence Party nominee

A slate of prominent Minnesota Democrats gathered at a private home Tuesday evening to appeal to DFLers who are thinking about voting for Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner in November instead of DFL nominee Mark Dayton. The event, hosted by top-drawer DFLers like House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza – all of them one-time 2010 candidates for governor themselves – was billed as question-and-answer session in a mass email sent out to Democrats.

The panel included Dayton campaign advisers, including former Rybak gubernatorial chief of staff Tina Smith and Wellstone Action head Jeff Blodgett, as well as members of the business community. They hoped to make a clear distinction between Dayton and Horner, who for the first time is showing up on Democrats’ attack radar.

The Republican Party of Minnesota has been going after Horner since he first announced his bid for the state’s top office. Republicans have repeatedly attacked Horner in official party press releases, blog posts and on Twitter. The GOP’s early advances on Horner made sense: Horner was a longtime Republican Party fixture as former press secretary to GOP U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger and a frequently cited Republican media pundit. Many thought he would peel votes away from GOP nominee Tom Emmer.

Until now, the DFL has steered clear of team Horner, largely ignoring the third-party candidate and focusing its attacks on Emmer. But with less than six weeks to go before the general election, the DFL is switching into Horner attack mode after some recent polls showed Dayton losing ground and Horner gaining momentum.

“In 1998, the DFL party made a fatal mistake in ignoring Jesse Ventura until the very last days,” DFL lawyer and adviser David Lillehaug said. “I’ve heard it has been discussed among campaign people that they are vowing not to make that mistake again.”

When Democrats attack

Horner campaign spokesman Matt Lewis said DFL Party trackers have been hitting non-public Horner campaign events recently, something they had not done before, and the DFL only recently started going after Horner in news releases related to the governor’s race.

At least four anti-Horner emails have gone out from the party since September 20, including one that attacked Horner’s education plan and another that criticized his refusal to release a list of his former public relations clients. One of the emails referred to Emmer and Horner as the “Republican Toms,” and the DFL released a web video comparing Horner to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, calling him “just another Republican.”

The Dayton-friendly political action committee Alliance for a Better Minnesota also recently put out at least two anti-Horner mailings that drew comparisons to the Republican governor. One noted past donations Horner has made to Pawlenty.

For Dean Barkley, former Independence Party U.S. senator and campaign chair for Ventura, this is a good sign. “Every time I see an attack ad against Horner I smile, because that means he is doing well,” he said. “I hope they keep them coming, because that’s only going to help him.”

In the numbers

Generally, Republicans and Democrats ignore the Independence candidate unless they become a threat, Barkley said. Horner recently reached 18 percent in the latest KSTP/ SurveyUSA and Star Tribune gubernatorial polls, double what he was polling through most of August.

At this point in Ventura’s 1998 run for governor, the ex pro-wrestler was polling at about 10 percent. Ventura only started surging ahead in the polls in late October, when it was too late for both parties to make a significant attack on his candidacy, Barkley said. For Horner, the surge and the attacks are coming earlier.

Polls have also shown Dayton and Emmer have been unable to reach about a quarter to a third of self-identified Democrats and Republicans. Horner, meanwhile, has seen his support from Republicans and Democrats increase, and he has made more gains with independent voters.

“Early on, the belief for Democrats was that Horner was a Republican so he will take votes away from Emmer, but that hasn’t been the case,” Lewis said. “We have been taking relatively evenly from both sides.”

Longtime GOP strategist Gregg Peppin said upcoming polls are likely to show Horner taking more votes from Dayton, who has led in most of the polls conducted so far. “Mark Dayton has peaked,” Peppin said. “The polls have shown that he isn’t going to go any further north. Horner has gotten what he is going to get from Republicans. If he is going to win, he will have to poach from Dayton.”

Appealing to moderate Democrats

Alan Wilensky, a former secretary for tax policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and now a professor in the business tax program at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, was also on Tuesday’s DFL panel to address questions from Democrats who may be hesitant about Dayton’s plan to increase the income tax on the state’s highest wage earners.

Peppin said Horner’s tax policy, which proposes a mix of tax cuts and an increase in the state’s sales tax, is going to draw more votes from Democrats than Republicans. “It’s going to be those limousine liberal types, the professorial types who don’t like what they are seeing in Dayton’s tax plan but aren’t entirely tax-averse.”

Former Republican Party Chairman Bill Morris, who is now head of Decision Resources and a Horner supporter, said Dayton has sharpened his rhetoric with Horner, particularly in the debate over increasing the sales tax or income taxes.

“Mark is going to have to be very, very careful with the more moderate Democrats,” Morris said. “That’s the group where his populist rhetoric isn’t helping him.”

The most likely scenario, according to Morris, is that Horner will pull votes from Dayton – historically, the Independence Party candidate has pulled more from Democrats – to tip the scale toward an Emmer win. Horner will have to pull in 25 to 30 percent in the polls soon to become a major contender, Morris said. “If he can pull that off by Oct. 20, then he would really shake up the race.”

Pub: Politics in Minnesota

Tea Party activism: MIA in MN

by Briana Bierschbach
Pub: Saint Paul Legal Ledger Capitol Report
Issued: September 22,2010

Despite striking primary upsets in some states, movement shows little traction here

On a Saturday afternoon in July, a dozen or so locals sat under a gazebo in Central Park in downtown North Branch. “Wanted: Karl Marx” posters were stapled to the gazebo, and a welcome sign and a waving Don’t Tread on Me flag greeted members of the Old North Church Tea Party to what was billed as a candidate forum.

Participants sat on picnic benches that were drawn into a circle to face Ted Lazane, the event’s organizer. Lazane explained that the purpose of the gathering was to allow candidates running for public office in the area a chance to talk to Tea Party members.

But before the candidates could speak, one person in the crowd stood up and gave a five-minute speech about the federal government’s decimation of the Constitution. After he was finished, several others wanted to speak too, and were upset when Lazane said no. He wanted to get to the candidate discussion. Then another person stood up and protested to the candidates speaking, saying the Tea Party was not supposed to endorse political candidates.

In the end, several Republican candidates running for the Legislature spoke for a few minutes and were promptly cut off when their time was up. Most agreed the forum was slapped together and poorly organized. Nothing much was accomplished. .

The gathering offered a pointed contrast to the thousands of Tea Party members who rallied on the St. Paul Capitol lawn on tax day and at the Minneapolis Convention center for the Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin rally in April. During session, Tea Partiers showed up in droves to events to talk about the Constitution, their fiscal conservative values and their inevitable impact on the November elections. The Tea Party Express even parked its bus on the St. Paul Capitol’s front steps to announce the creation of a National Tea Party Federation. Nationally, the group is proving its power with major upsets in several state primary elections.

But insurgency rumblings have quieted in Minnesota. Two of the more visible Tea Party candidates running in state GOP primaries – Rudy Takala in Pine County and Kerry Stoick in Dodge County – went down to the party’s establishment candidates, and the media blitz has all but disappeared.

“Their influence has waned throughout the summer,” said Darin Broton, a DFL political analyst. “They are not as vocal and as loud as they were during the session. They’re not going to have much of an influence at all on elections if they stay this quiet in the next seven weeks. If they are on the ground, you’re not feeling it.”

A longtime Republican operative has the same feeling. “They are not organized and they have no clear leader. There is no cohesive structure for them statewide,” the source said. “I just don’t see them making a big difference.”

Realistic expectations

The face behind the Tea Party’s springtime gusto was Toni Backdahl, coordinator for the Minnesota Tea Party Patriots. She organized the tax day rally and coordinated events across the state. But she resigned from the position this summer, saying she feared the Republican Party was infiltrating Tea Party ranks.

A new group formed in its wake at the end of August. The Minnesota North Star Tea Party Patriots aims to be the umbrella organization that unites dozens of fragmented groups around the state and coordinates their efforts when possible, spokesman Walter Hudson said. The coalition is affiliated with the national Tea Party Patriots organization.

The new group has raised the Tea Party’s profile slightly in recent weeks. Organizers are promoting Tea Party events in Rochester and Forest Lake, and recently held a potluck in Maple Grove that brought out legislative candidates, Hudson said. But Hudson admits that the election is closing in and the new group is still in the “gathering the chicks under the wing phase.”

“There’s definitely been a conversation in our group on how realistic it is to expect to have a substantial effect on this year’s election,” Hudson said. “I don’t think it’s the end-all, be-all for us to talk about elections. They are important and we are putting what effort we can within our sphere of influence, but it serves no one any good to try and exaggerate that sphere and our expectations.”

Hudson said the group is trying to narrow its efforts by focusing on important issues that get lost in the political fray. That includes election reform and judicial candidates. The group has locked down a forum at the end of September that will gather 24 candidates running for a judge slot in the 10th judicial district.

Gregg Peppin, a longtime GOP activist now working for P2B Strategies, said he sees Tea Party members playing a modest – albeit still important – role in certain legislative races. Peppin said it’s possible that Tea Party momentum could help to tip the scales in several legislative districts where past races have been decided by less than 100 votes.

There are few explicit Tea Party candidates running for the Legislature after Takala and Stoick went down in the primary. Several GOP election operatives say there are no so-called Tea Party candidates left, although Senate District 10 Republican candidate Gretchen Hoffman and GOP House District 11B candidate Mary Franson have been known to attend the group’s events.

In the three-way gubernatorial race, Broton said the Tea Party has already played a role in the nomination of Republican state Rep. Tom Emmer at the state convention. With Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin’s last-minute endorsement of his candidacy and a new energized party base latching onto Emmer’s fiery stump presence, he was propelled to victory in only two ballots over the GOP’s establishment favorite, state Rep. Marty Seifert.

The group’s visibility in the state’s gubernatorial race has waned, however. Toni Backdahl said the Emmer team has tried to take over and capitalize on the state’s Tea Party movement, but has been unsuccessful because of the group’s fragmented nature.

“Team Emmer has been really aggressive from the start and they were throwing barrels and nails on my path to start this grassroots movement,” she said. “They were undermining me every step of the way.”

“Tea parties are a mixed bag group of people who have flocked to Tom on the fiscal-related issues,” said Emmer campaign spokesman Carl Kuhl. “The main issues people have are about the federal debt, and that really resonates with Tom’s message that government needs to live within its means.” Kuhl said Emmer isn’t attending Tea Party rallies and the campaign isn’t specifically reaching out to Tea Party groups.

A leave-me-alone movement

It’s also hard to build a cohesive movement around the movement’s abiding individualism and distrust of institutions. Many Tea Party groups refuse to endorse political candidates or participate in talk of electoral politics for fear of tying themselves to anything connected to the “overbearing” government.

Writer Mark Lilla claims the Tea Party phenomenon is something new in the annals of American populist movements. In a New York Review of Books piece titled “The Tea Party Jacobins,” he wrote:

“Historically, populist movements use the rhetoric of class solidarity to seize political power so that ‘the people’ can exercise it for their common benefit. American populist rhetoric does something altogether different today. It fires up emotions by appealing to individual opinion, individual autonomy, and individual choice, all in the service of neutralizing, not using, political power. It gives voice to those who feel they are being bullied, but this voice has only one, Garbo-like thing to say: I want to be left alone.”

Tea Party activists, many of them political newcomers, want the government out of their health care, out of their businesses and out of their personal lives. (In some cases, they even want the government to stay out of government: CD8 congressional candidate George Burton, an independent with Tea Party sympathies, is proposing cuts in the time lawmakers actually spend inside Capitol walls.)

Generally, “Tea Party” opinions vary from state to state and group to group on issues like gay marriage and immigration.

“The Tea Party is trying to transition from being a social protest group into a political force, and that’s always difficult,” noted David Schultz, political pundit and professor at Hamline University. “What makes it especially difficult for them is, on some levels, they may be defined more by what they are against than are what they are for.”

Ian Marsh, who is working on House GOP caucus elections, sees this “hands-off” theme as something the GOP in Minnesota can tap into. Marsh says Republican’s message of smaller government, lower taxes, and less federal spending aligns most closely with the messages of the Tea Party.

The lesser of two evils

While candidates were speaking at the North Branch forum, several Tea Party devotees hovered nearby, grumbling about how Democrats have labeled the group as Republican, and how Republicans just assume they will have Tea Party support in November.

“We are sick and tired of the parties of the good old boys,” said North Branch resident Mark Koran. “It’s just a selection of the lesser of two evils. They should just put ‘none of the above’ on the ballot.”

Their ideal candidate is what Koran and others called a “constitutional conservative,” or someone who follows in lock step with their view of the country’s founding documents. Tea Party purists have described themselves as dejected dropouts from across the political spectrum: recovering Republicans, disenchanted Democrats, libertarians, or those who have been “politically uninterested” – as one North Branch resident put it – until now.

But in Minnesota, all candidates associated with the Tea Party have either sought the GOP’s endorsement or mounted runs in Republican primaries. Some observers think Tea Partiers are just more-active-than-usual Republicans, spurred to action by widespread dissatisfaction with the stimulus package, the federal health care bill and the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama.

Peppin argues that the Republican Party and the Tea Party have a cooperative “synergy” in Minnesota that you don’t find in other states across the country. Tea Party favorites Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Carl Paladino in New York recently took down Republican establishment candidates in primary elections. Many see the group nationally as bucking the traditional Grand Old Party. That’s not the case in Minnesota, Peppin said, partly because of the state GOP’s open caucus system.

Broton believes that the Tea Party is just a particularly active portion of the Republican Party base in Minnesota. “They are people who typically vote Republican, but the Tea Party movement has organized a fringe part of their base to show up this year,” he said. “It’s really always been about Republican politics.”

Takala, who started a Tea Party-friendly political action committee called Simply Right after losing the Aug. 10 primary, said the Tea Party movement hasn’t been as widespread in Minnesota because the state is more liberal than others and there isn’t a national race to spark interest. Takala sees the national spirit of the Tea Party coming to Minnesota by 2012, when high-profile Senate and presidential races will be on the ballot. This year in Minnesota, he sees the Tea Party slightly boosting the vote total for Republicans.

“I think that these types of movements are great for increasing the conservative vote at least a bit in Minnesota,” he said. “That’s all you can really hope for in a year like this.”

Analysts tussle over election outlook at PIM-sponsored election preview

by Charley Shaw
Politics In Minnesota
Published: August 13,2010

Hours after Tuesday’s DFL primary, the Minnesota GOP launched a TV ad attack calling DFLer Mark Dayton “erratic” and wondering out loud what frequency he was on.

The GOP’s speedy strike is a harbinger of mudslinging to come – or so said the bipartisan panel of political experts assembled by Politics in Minnesota/Capitol Report for a Wednesday afternoon gathering at downtown St. Paul’s University Club.

“I think the race is going to go negative early. It’s going to stay negative for a while, and then I think it will tone down near the end and spike back up again,” said retiring state Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague.

Brod was joined on the panel by fellow Republican Gregg Peppin and DFLers Darin Broton and David Lillehaug.

The panelists said they expect well-heeled independent groups to take advantage of post-Citizens United campaign spending rules to pour more money into the gubernatorial race than campaigns and state political parties will be able to match. These third-party spenders, said Broton, are poised to shape the governor’s race.

“I think it will be negative depending on the level of special interest money that flows into this,” he told the audience. “I think that will set the tone for this cycle.”

While political pros are busy right now reading tea leaves, they are upset about how polls and historical voter turnout data contradicted Tuesday evening’s primary results.

Lillehaug said turnout on Tuesday was larger than anticipated and the polls predicted a wider lead for Dayton over DFL-endorsed candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher than actually materialized.

Everyone misjudged turnout

“News organizations need to make more money so they can spend it on better polls,” joked Lillehaug, a Kelliher supporter who had initially backed Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak in the DFL endorsement race.

Lillehaug noted that in the 1998 contested DFL primary for governor, 415,000 Democrats turned out. In the 2000 DFL primary battle that Dayton won, 433,000 Democrats turned out. Though expectations for this year’s primary voter turnout were low because of the date change from September to August, 440,000 DFLers cast ballots.

“Everyone was saying we were going to have a substantial drop-off from that. Au contraire,” Lillehaug said.

Regarding Kelliher’s 7,000-vote loss to Dayton, Democrat Broton said one lesson is that the Iron Range still matters. “I think over the last few cycles we’ve seen the percentage of [Iron Range] DFL voters in the primary keep shrinking and shrinking while the percentage in the metro picks up,” he said.

“[On Tuesday] we saw the reverse happen. The DFL primary voters on the Range showed up in massive numbers. They were still high in the Twin Cities but nowhere could they have countered the massive turnout on the Range,” Broton said.

During the audience question segment, attendees wanted to know why the DFL-endorsed candidate and current speaker of the state House lost to Dayton, whose political career had been dormant since he left the U.S. Senate after one undistinguished term.

The answer, according to Lillehaug, was that Kelliher didn’t do enough to challenge Dayton’s simple but effective message.

After the April DFL Convention in Duluth, said the former Clinton-era U.S. attorney, Kelliher “essentially sat on her hands for about two months from a message-development standpoint. Finally there was the minimum wage issue with Representative Emmer that got them going. Even then, it was a week or so before she got the hotel servers up next to her and really took after him on the minimum wage.”

On the point of Kelliher’s lack of message, the Republicans on the panel agreed.

“I think she is regretting, or should be regretting, the fact that she did not define the differences between her and Dayton very early and very continuously and very strongly,” Brod said.

And what about Entenza’s influence on the outcome?

Peppin noted that Entenza did well in southwestern Minnesota counties like Nobles and in blue-collar Twin Cities areas like Minneapolis Wards 4 and 5. Peppin said Kelliher could have possibly wrested nearly 7,000 votes from Entenza if she had done more to contrast herself to him.

“Margaret can plausibly make the case that Entenza cost her the election,” Peppin said.

The Horner factor

With Entenza gone from the picture, the spoiler question shifts to Independence Party nominee Tom Horner.

Horner lines up politically closer to Entenza and Kelliher than to Dayton, Peppin said, and as a result Dayton could lose highly educated, affluent Democratic voters to Horner.

“I believe there are more egg-head, limousine liberals who will go from Dayton to Horner, than there are moderate Republicans that will from Emmer to Horner,” Peppin added.

Independence Party candidates, such as Tim Penny in 2002 and Peter Hutchinson in 2006, have been regarded as spoilers for Democrats. Lillehaug said that Horner hasn’t done enough yet to define his position in the race.

“I don’t really understand the rationale for the candidacy except he’s not left or right. I don’t think he’s going to get much more than any other Independence Party candidate, certainly not as much as Tim Penny,” Lillehaug said.

Legislative races

The panelists also weighed in on the races for Minnesota House and Senate.

Peppin and Brod expressed high hopes for Republicans in the state Senate, who are seeking to win back a chamber they have not controlled in the past 40 years. They’re expecting strong challenges, for example, from former Sen. Sean Nienow’s campaign against Sen. Rick Olseen, DFL-Harris, and from newspaper publisher Ted Lillie’s run against Sen. Kathy Saltzman, DFL-Woodbury.

“[Senate Republicans have] kind of languished over time and have become the perpetual minority,” Brod said. “I’ve seen some excitement in the Senate where they’re not OK with being the perpetual minority anymore.”

Broton conceded that Red Wing Mayor John Howe, a Republican who is running for the District 28 seat being vacated Sen. Steve Murphy of Red Wing, and Rep. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, who is running to replace DFL Sen. Jim Vickerman of Tracy in SD 22, will probably win. But Broton said the Senate GOP’s campaign is underfunded.

“The Senate is probably a better opportunity for Republicans than the House. The problem that the Senate Republican Caucus has is they’re broke,” he noted.

The House will experience a “correction” that will cut down the size of its 87-47 DFL majority by a net 10 seats, Broton added. But he went on to say many young House DFL incumbents have gone through two election cycles in the majority that has afforded them time “to build deep roots in their community.”

From a GOP standpoint, Brod characterized the results of the legislative primaries as “ho hum.”

“I don’t know if there’s a story to be told,” she offered, “other than being endorsed matters on the Republican side of the aisle.”

Lillehaug delivered one of the best zingers of the afternoon when he noted that Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, lost after a controversy over fishing restrictions and Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, lost an intra-party battle in which he drew fire for being openly gay.

“Before the primary season a few months ago, if you would have said there’s one incumbent who would have gone down because of a gay porn star and there’s going to be another incumbent who goes down because of a walleye scandal, [could you] choose which party is which?” Lillehaug said.

http://politicsinminnesota.com/blog/2010/08/analysts-tussled-over-election-outlook-at-a-politics-in-minnesota-panel/

Caucus election teams scrambling for an edge

by Briana Bierschbach
Published: August 18th, 2010

Dems play defense, Republicans offense in season of expected midterm backlash

For as long as Republican state Sen. Amy Koch has been alive, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has held control of the state Senate. The 39-year-old Republican senator from Buffalo – who is heading into her first cycle running elections for the Senate GOP caucus – thinks the tide may finally turn this year.

“I think that the majority is within reach,” Koch said by phone from Delano, where she was in the middle of a lit-drop for GOP candidate Joe McDonald. “I think there is going to be a pretty big shift, if not the biggest shift ever.”

Longtime GOP activist Gregg Peppin of P2B Strategies said the veto-proof 46-21 DFL Senate majority is primed for a flip, and that Koch’s efforts are one big reason.

“She is a recruiter, a cheerleader, a motivator and even leader when she needs to be with these candidates,” he said. “She is absolutely tireless in these efforts.”

Koch isn’t the only one who’s hitting election efforts with fervor. The Senate DFL caucus and both parties’ House caucuses have put their point people to work, recruiting candidates and selling them to as many voters as possible in the months remaining before the general election.

Taking the Senate

Koch is teamed up with political consultant Ben Golnik of Golnik Strategies to handle Senate GOP elections this year. Golnik only recently joined the Senate election team after caucus chief of staff Cullen Sheehan left to become campaign manager for party nominee Tom Emmer’s gubernatorial bid.

Golnik said he is excited to be working with the caucus in a year where Republicans are likely to grab seats “up and down the ticket.” Golnik served as executive director of the Republican Party of Minnesota from 2005 until 2007, and worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid. He started his own firm in 2007, and has since worked on House GOP elections and the failed gubernatorial campaign of former House Minority Leader Rep. Marty Seifert.

Koch and Golnik have a tough DFL match-up in Mike Kennedy and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller of Minneapolis. Kennedy has been with the Senate DFL caucus for more than a decade, working full-time to raise money and elect Democrats to the body.

Since senators usually face elections every four years (they serve two-year terms once a decade due to redistricting), Kennedy spends his time between cycles raising money for DFL candidates. When election season ramps up, he adds recruiting candidates, managing campaigns and targeting voters to the list.

Pogemiller has been aggressively hitting the campaign trail as well, getting out personally to many districts to knock on doors and making calls on behalf of incumbent senators, Senate DFL spokesman Gary Hill said.

Many Republican analysts see higher hopes of capturing a majority in the Senate than in the House. But Kennedy said he is confident the Senate DFL will retain a majority after November, despite dissatisfaction with the Obama White House and Democrats in Congress.

“There is no question that Democrats are running uphill this year, but the hill got a little less steep in the last few weeks,” Kennedy said. “I’m not convinced that the Tea Party and voter anger are going to be a huge factor. That’s certainly not what our local candidates are finding at the doors.”

Wind at their backs

In 2008, state Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, watched his then 24-year-old legislative assistant, Tara Mack, challenge DFL incumbent Shelley Madore in House District 37A. Dean said he saw Mack all the way through the process, from her initial urge to jump into the race to her ultimate 1,000-vote victory.

Now, he is overseeing elections on a much larger scale, taking on his first cycle as the leader of House GOP caucus election efforts. He is assisted by Ian Marsh, the part-time political director for the House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC) who helps raise funds and manage campaigns.

Retaking the House for Republicans is no small endeavor. DFLers currently hold an 87-47 majority in the chamber. But the House has proven to be a tumultuous body. It was only four years ago that Republicans lost the speaker’s gavel. Dean thinks Republicans will have more than 60 members after the general election, and possibly as many as 78. (They would need 68 total seats to assume majority status.)

“Since 2004, the wind has been in our face. Now the wind is definitely at our backs, and it’s a welcome change,” Dean said. “We don’t know exactly how many seats we will pick up, but we have our candidates keep their heads down and work as hard as they can, no matter what.”

Dean says that with the help of Minority Leader Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, this year’s candidate-recruitment process was a major success. The caucus managed to win over top-tier candidates that it has courted for a long time, he said. While Dean declined to specifically name those candidates, he said they include mayors, council members, county commissioners and influential members of the business community.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich of Chisholm is running the House DFL’s election team. Handling day-to-day operations for the caucus is Sean Rahn, who took a leave from his position as legislative director for departing House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher to work full-time on campaigns.

Sertich, like the Senate DFLers, expresses confidence that the DFL will stay in power after November. Their caucus campaign model is the same one Kelliher crafted as House Speaker. That means heavy door-knocking, a strong field game and talking about “bread and butter issues,” Sertich said.

Sertich said the wide-open governor’s race, coupled with the absence of presidential or U.S. Senate contests, will make the state’s 2010 elections hyper-local, an advantage for House DFLers.

“I don’t think our election in Minnesota is going to be nationalized,” Sertich said. “It’s really going to be focused on state issues, and whether you’re talking about education, health care, jobs or the economy, that’s where our members really excel.”

http://finance-commerce.com/2010/08/caucus-election-teams-scrambling-for-an-edge/

The most crowded primary in state history?

Politics in Minnesota – Ever since nine candidates signed up to run in the DFL primary in Senate District 67, PIM’s been trying to pin down the largest such field in state history. With the help of Robbie LaFleur at the Legislative Reference Library, we thought the puzzle had been solved: Matt Dean survived a 10-candidate state House primary to win the GOP nomination in 2003. (Somehow he even managed to get more than 50 percent of the vote.)

But Republican campaign guru Gregg Peppin, who runs the consulting firm P2B Strategies, points out a contest that we’d overlooked. In 1994, Tom Bakk emerged from an 11-candidate DFL primary in House District 6A. The Iron Range race was tightly contested: three other challengers — Lee Ramsdell, Bill Kosiak and Paul Kess — trailed Bakk by less than 400 votes.

Of course, Bakk went on to win a state Senate seat in 2002 and currently chairs the Taxes Committee. He also was among this year’s crowded field of DFL gubernatorial contenders.

Originally posted by Paul Demko on July 9, 2010 | Permalink

13 could be lucky number for Senate GOP

Politics in Minnesota – Caucus hopes to end a four-decade run in minority

Around convention time in the spring, Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, boasted that his caucus would retake the chamber’s majority in November. Considering Senate Republicans’ 38-year stranglehold on minority status, and the 13 seats that his troops will need to gain to make good on the pledge, it amounts to a tall order.

Republican insiders are touting a strong candidate recruiting class and a number of close 2006 contests in the 67-member chamber as reason for optimism, but a number of Republicans have their doubts about whether it will actually come to pass. One party insider told Capitol Report the Senate GOP could pick up four seats on the low end and possibly as many as 10 seats.

But longtime GOP political operative Gregg Peppin of P2B Strategies goes further: He thinks Republicans can take the full monty. “I think [a Republican takeover] is very definitely within the realm of possibility,” he said. “If you go down the map [of competitive races], the Senate [GOP] has top-tier candidates in virtually all those races.”

Senate DFL Caucus Director Mike Kennedy pointed out that the GOP has its own share of incumbents who squeaked by in the last election and will face strong DFL challengers again.

The GOP is sure to target seven seats that the DFL won by 5 percentage points or less the last time around: Sens. Mary Olson (SD 4), Lisa Fobbe (SD 16), Rick Olseen (SD 17), Ann Lynch (SD 30), John Doll (SD 40), Terri Bonoff (SD 43) and Leo Foley (SD 47).

Six other DFL incumbents won in 2006 by 10 points or less: Sens. Kevin Dahle (SD 25), the retiring Steve Murphy (SD 28), Jim Carlson (SD 38), Don Betzold (SD 51), Sandy Rummel (SD 53), and Kathy Saltzman (SD 56).

Conversely, though, five current GOP senators won by 5 percent or less in 2006: Bill Ingebrigtsen (SD 11), Joe Gimse (SD 13), David Hann (SD 42), Michael Jungbauer (SD 48), Ray Vandeveer (SD 52), and Debbie Johnson (SD 49) who is not running for re-election. While those races may have tightened because of the unpopularity of the Bush Administration at the time, it’s far from certain that the GOP will hold on to all of its incumbent seats. While those districts lean Republican in most cases, DFLers are touting candidates like Ham Lake Mayor Paul Meunier.

Observers from both sides of the aisle have noted that the GOP has fielded a formidable candidate in suburban newspaper executive Ted Lillie, who is challenging Saltzman. (Lillie’s brother, Leon, is a DFL rep from North St. Paul.) Republicans are likewise touting another candidate from the business community, Roger Chamberlain, who is a senior corporate tax accountant with Amerprise Financial in Minneapolis. Chamberlain is challenging Rummel.

Republicans have also put up two former legislators in Sean Nienow, who’s set for a rematch with Olseen, and former Rep. Carla Nelson, who is challenging Lynch.

One factor to watch: the Senate Republicans’ reshuffled campaign elite. Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, has won plaudits for the job she’s done since taking the lead role in candidate recruitment. The caucus has also brought Norm Coleman Senate campaign manager Cullen Sheehan on board as chief of staff.

For a complete rundown of House and Senate districts where DFLers won by 10 points or less in the last cycle, see the chart on page 2 of this issue.

Notes from the trail

In its rundown of 2010 state legislative races, the national magazine Governing predicts the DFL will likely retain control of both houses of the Minnesota Legislature. But the mag’s analysis deems it plausible that the GOP could return to power, particularly in the House:

“The Democrats are still favored to hold both chambers in Minnesota, but amid much angst over the state’s fiscal situation, a shift of control — especially in the House — isn’t out of the question. A determining factor could be how much blame voters place on the Democrats as opposed to outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.” Republicans need a net pickup of 21 seats to assume control in the House….

In a heated GOP primary battle in District 29A, the candidate who is challenging the endorsed candidate could be vulnerable to sniping about a bankruptcy in her past.

Kerry Stoick, who is challenging the party’s chosen candidate, Duane Quam, was open with delegates about her foreclosure during the convention and said she has worked to correct her financial affairs, according to a GOP source.

“I was very honest about it in my endorsement campaign,” Stoick averred to Capitol Report, and she added that she does not expect her opponent to try to make a campaign issue of the bankruptcy.

Whether the foreclosure will turn into political baggage remains to be seen. A story last month in the Rochester Post Bulletin about the 29A primary race didn’t refer to Stoick’s bankruptcy. But it’s nonetheless registering on some people’s radar: A commenter on the site alluded to the bankruptcy issue and added that Stoick “should solve the money management issue.”

There are a couple of fundraisers in the offing to benefit legislative candidates in hotly contested races in Eagan. District 38, on the south side of the Minnesota River, is represented entirely by DFLers. That’s a switch from 2004, when the GOP controlled the entire suburban district.

On Monday Ted Daley, who is running against Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, will raise money at the Eagan home of Sandy and Gary Wiese. Contributions are $50 per person and $80 per couple. Diane Anderson, who is challenging Rep. Sandy Masin, DFL-Eagan, will raise money Tuesday at Granite City Food and Brewery. Minority Leader Kurt Zellers and conservative bloggers and radio hosts Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey are expected to attend. On Thursday, Senate President Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, and Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, are holding a fundraiser for Masin at the home of Eagan City Council member Meg Tilley….

Not only are people writing lots of checks in Eagan, they’re also planting lots of campaign lawn signs. Apparently too many, at least for the tastes of Mayor Mike Maguire. The Pioneer Press quotes Maguire as saying the signs are “real visual noise out here in the suburbs.” He’s asking candidates to pledge to forego campaign lawn signs until Labor Day….

There are few races in which candidates’ notable names precede them as emphatically as in the District 57 Senate race in the suburbs south of St. Paul. The area is represented by state Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport. She comes from a local political dynasty that includes her father, former Rep. Mike Sieben, and her uncle, former House Speaker Harry Sieben, Jr.

Sieben is being challenged by a name that is also famous, especially to those in the hockey-loving suburbs. Karin Housley will be the Republican on the ballot in November. Her husband, Hall of Fame hockey player Phil Housley, is the second-leading scorer in NHL history and is considered the peer of legendary defensemen like Chris Chellios and Ray Borque. Perhaps fortunately for Sieben, Housley coaches high school hockey outside the district in Stillwater….

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and the members of the DFL-dominated City Council will hold a fundraiser for the House DFL Caucus on Monday. The event at Sweeney’s Saloon in St. Paul will feature eight members of St. Paul’s legislative delegation. Suggested contributions are $100, $250 and $500.

When reporters ask campaigns and caucus officials for the final tally of money collected at fundraisers, they almost always decline to be specific. So it was unusual when GOP candidate Tim Utz said in an e-mail that he raised $1,300 at a fundraiser in Columbia Heights attended by GOP gubernatorial endorsee Tom Emmer. Utz is running in House District 50A against incumbent DFL Rep. Carolyn Laine.

Originally posted by Charlie Shaw on July 9, 2010 | Permalink

Shorter political calendar causes headaches

Politics in Minnesota
Original Post
by Charley Shaw
Published: May 28,2010

Early primary may be the least of them

When legislators decide to retire on the last night of session, the political parties in their home districts usually scramble to field possible successors and endorse a candidate.

But with this year’s primary election moved up from September to August — and most of the major events on the political calendar bumped up a month as well — the scene in Senate District 67 this year has looked more like chaos than a rush job.

Paul Sawyer, chairman of the District 67 DFL Party in St. Paul, found himself in a race against the clock beginning on May 18, the morning after Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul, announced her surprise retirement on the last night of session.

“It’s been completely different for us,” Sawyer said. “With the filing period previously [coming] in July, we would have announced the retirement and we would have got together with candidates and then held an endorsing convention.

“With this [year’s situation], we had an emergency meeting and, I would say, made a hasty decision for one of four bad choices.”

The menu of unattractive options included a Memorial Day weekend endorsing convention, throwing the whole matter to the State Central Committee to decide, or refraining from endorsing a candidate at all. District 67’s board chose the last, and the number of DFLers who have filed to run reached five when retiring St. Paul police chief John Harrington announced on Friday that he would run as well.

Federal changes caused crunch

The changes to Minnesota’s political calendar, which were prompted by new federal rules designed to ensure that military members and other voters who are overseas can submit ballots in time to be counted back home, has imposed new hardships on campaigns for the Legislature.

The difference was felt even before the onset of the candidate filing period, which ends Tuesday. Incumbents stuck in St. Paul watched endorsed challengers emerge earlier than in previous years. Political parties and legislative caucuses have had less time to field candidates. And the state GOP and DFL endorsing conventions, which used to happen after the Legislature adjourned, were held in late April as the end of session still loomed a few weeks away.

GOP political consultant Gregg Peppin was a central figure in candidate recruitment efforts for his party’s House caucus from 1992 until 2006. He said the earlier calendar has had an impact on candidate recruitment.

“What I’m finding is that — obviously — taking a month off the recruiting calendar is a huge, huge challenge to both parties,” Peppin said.

Melissa Parker, who ran House DFL campaign efforts in 2006 and 2008, said the party in the minority likely faces the greatest challenge in the bumped-up political calendar because it has to field the larger number of challengers. Peppin concurred.

The two-week candidate filing period, which has traditionally happened in July, began on May 18 and ends Tuesday. Coming on the heels of the legislative session that adjourned on May 17, it left more than District 67 in a pickle.

In House District 15B, two DFL candidates filed for office after Rep. Larry Haws, DFL-St. Cloud, announced his retirement on the last night of session. DFLers in 16B plan to endorse a candidate on June 16.

Carol Lewis and Zachary Dorholt have filed to run for the seat as DFLers. Dorholt said he’s inclined to abide by the endorsement. But the DFL Party’s rules prohibit either candidate from withdrawing from the primary ballot after June 4. Both candidates will be on the primary ballot unless one of them drops out before the deadline.

“It would be a matter of agreeing not to campaign. That’s what it’s going to come down to,” Dorholt said.

Because of the earlier political season, some Senate District endorsing conventions were held earlier than in past years. That led to political anxiety among legislators, who were chained to day-to-day business at the Capitol while election season was starting to take shape in their absence, Peppin said.

Rest anticipates few changes

Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, is the chair of the State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee, which oversees elections policy. She said she’s keeping an eye on the headaches that come with the new political calendar. But she doesn’t foresee any major changes.

“Unless something startling happens, I think we will give ourselves two elections cycles and make only minor changes in 2012 and maybe not any,” Rest said.

She noted that one proposal floated in this year’s legislative session would have prohibited legislative sessions from starting after precinct caucuses. While the filing period is playing out under the new calendar, the impact of the Aug. 10 primary date remains a matter of conjecture.

In May, Hamline University political scientist David Schultz released a study making the case that an August primary would probably drive down voter turnout by about 2 percent. Peppin, on the other hand, said he doesn’t think primary turnout will be substantially different from the old September primaries.

“I guess we’ll find out,” he said. “I’m going to be bullish and say the drop off isn’t going to be that great. These are civic-minded people that are engaged in the issues in both parties.”

Republicans Outnumber Democrats in Minnesota

Smart Politics – Republicans Outnumber Democrats in Minnesota for First Time Since 2005

Study of nearly 70 SurveyUSA polls finds GOP holding first party ID advantage since October 2005; percentage of Minnesotans identifying as Republicans at highest level ever recorded by polling organization.

The first SurveyUSA poll of the Minnesota gubernatorial horserace in 2010 turned heads this weekend with Republican Party endorsee Tom Emmer jumping out of the gate with eight-point leads over DFL- endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher and former DFL U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, and an 11-point lead over former DFL legislator Matt Entenza.

Beneath the headline, however, is perhaps an even more telling story – Republicans have now eclipsed Democrats in party identification for the first time in the Gopher State since 2005.

A Smart Politics analysis of 68 SurveyUSA polls conducted since May 2005 finds that the 36 to 35 percent advantage Republicans hold over Democrats in the new poll (conducted May 3-5 of 588 likely voters) is the first time the GOP has held such an advantage in SurveyUSA polling since October 2005 (when the GOP held a 29 to 28 percent advantage and 41 percent identifying as independents).

No other polling firm has surveyed Minnesotans more than SurveyUSA during this span.

The 36 percent level reached by Minnesota Republicans is also the largest ever notched by the GOP in the Gopher State across the nearly 70 polls conducted by SurveyUSA during these five years (polls which have alternately sampled adults, registered voters, and likely voters).

The previous high recorded for the Republican Party by SurveyUSA in Minnesota was 35 percent in the organization’s inaugural monthly tracking poll in May 2005.

The GOP had previously eclipsed the 30 percent mark in party ID only 12 times during this five-year stretch and just 5 times out of the 48 polls conducted in Minnesota since 2007.

Republican Party ID had slipped to 23 percent in early March of this year – three weeks before the high profile health care vote in Washington D.C.

The record highs reached by the Republican Party in the new SurveyUSA poll give pause to one of the themes running through the media this election season – that the politically disgruntled American public is equally disgusted with both major parties.

If this were to be true, it would surely be a boon to newly endorsed Independence Party candidate Tom Horner. Horner polled at 9 and 10 percent in the horserace matchups against Emmer and the three DFL hopefuls.

However, the new SurveyUSA poll finds only 24 percent of Minnesotans identifying as a political independents.

The percentage of Minnesotans identifying as independents has gradually been on the decline, according to a Smart Politics analysis of SurveyUSA data.

Independents comprised a plurality of 36.3 percent of Minnesotans across eight polls in 2005, dropping to 28.5 percent across 12 polls in 2006, 28.0 percent across 16 polls in 2007, 25.7 percent across 20 polls in 2008, and 25.7 percent across 10 polls in 2009.

Originally posted by Eric Ostermeier on May 9, 2010 10:37 PM | Permalink