DFL vs GOP: 2006 Minnesota elections thread.

Okay, I’m not from Minnesota. I spent most of a day there back in 1993, but that’s the extent of my experience with the state (unless you count a fondness for A Prarie Home Companion.) But although it’s early, Minnesota politics are heating up (so to speak.) Senator Mark Dayton has decided not to seek a second term, Representative Mark Kennedy has decided to seek Senator Dayton’s seat, a bunch of people are seeking Kennedy’s 6th district seat, and Governor Pawlenty is up for reëlection—accompanied with some rumblings of a possible future presidential bid. Whew!

Let’s start with the Senate. Dayton was widely considered vulnerable this year, and isn’t much of a fundraiser. He paid for his campaign with his personal fortune, kind of like Pete Fitzgerald did in Illinois back in 1998. This seat is wide open for both parties now, though Kennedy is the clear frontrunner in his party. In fact, the only other Republican who’s considering running is Bob Grams, whom Dayton beat in 2000. (Gil Gutknecht and Erik Paulsen have announced they’re not running.)

There’s apparently a bunch of Democrats, though. Amy Klobuchar might do it, but she’s also thinking about running for governor. Mike Ciresi, who was nudged out by Dayton in the 2000 DFL primary, is a millionaire lawyer who could save the DFL money by funding the campaign himself. I like Steve Kelley, probably because I’ve got a soft for people who work in education (but nix on Mark Rotenberg; I can’t get over his having campaigned for Joe Lieberman. Yeesh!) Patty Wetterling ran against Kennedy in the 6th district last year but lost. She’s looking into a rematch with him in the Senate race, I hear.
The 6th district is strongly Republican, it seems. Wetterling is the only DFLer who’s talking about seeking that seat (she’s expected to make up her mind this week.) I haven’t heard of any other DFL candidates for this race, though. The field for this race is packed with Republicans! Many of the social conservative stripe, too! I know Minnesota is more purple than red or blue, but it looks like this is a pretty partisan district. Or am I missing something?
Governor Pawlenty is probably going to get reëlected. I haven’t heard of anyone considering challenging him in the primaries, which makes sense. What really surprises me is the talk about Pawlenty as a potential presidential contender in 2008. As a vice presidential candidate, I can see, but is he really that well known to pull that off? I’ve heard the man speak (on the radio) and he’s not bad. Could he have what it takes to run (or aid) a national ticket? On the other hand, who here knew who Bill Clinton was in 1989?

It seems that Mike Hatch is the most likely DFL challenger, with Dean Johnson as the most likely candidate if Hatch isn’t. I get the feeling that either of them would be strong candidates. It also makes me wonder if maybe the talk about Pawlenty as a potential presidential contender isn’t just a scheme to raise his profile for the gubernatorial race? Somehow, that makes a lot of sense. My money’s on Pawlenty, for now, but it’s still early. My money also says that with an open Senate seat in a divided state, Minnesotans are going to be pretty sick of politics by the time this election is over.
Any other good Minnesota races that have escaped my radar? I’ve heard some Democratic buzz that John Kline is thought to be vulnerable, particularly on the Social Security issue, but I don’t have any details. What other interesting goings on are going on?

Is the Independence Party going to be a significant player? Or did they fade away after Ventura left office?

I think Dayton could be medically retarded. Have you ever seen him on C-Span?

I used to work with Pawlenty, he’s a weenie.

My brother used to work with Hatch. He’s a weenie.

Even the Republicans know Grams is a weenie, and he has generally received the cold shoulder for his re-election efforts.

The MNGOP does have their shit together it appears, as far as working behind the scenes to avoid any messy primary. It’ll be Kennedy, without a doubt. The MNDFL, on the other hand, wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything if it weren’t messy. But the timing is good after a fairly unifying presidential race.

I think Wetterling could win Kennedy’s vacated seat, even though she sits in pretty red territory. She did much better in the recent election than anyone would have expected, and could have made a race for any lesser candidate. But Kennedy seemed to be pretty popular down there.

But it was a dirty campaign. I feel that the only reason Kennedy hasn’t started slinging mud yet is that he doesn’t know who yet to aim it at. And any Senate race will be infused with huge amounts of outstate cash. Get ready Minnesota. Luckily, a large percentage of the population owns their own set of waiders. We’ll be deep into not only the party mud, but also the 527 mud as well.

I don’t see Wetterling running for a Senate seat. And Klobuchar has good metro area name recognition, but nothing outstate. Cirisi would be interesting, but the whole tobacco lawsuit ended up pretty muddled, through no fault of his own. But it would seem that his wave has pretty much crested. Which leaves Kelley. I think Kelley would have a good chance with the squeaky clean underdog image that goes over well here in Minnesota. He’d better not have any pool parties with young teens in his history, for if he does, you can be assured that it will be dug up.

But lest you forget, this is the state that voted Jessie in. And you would be remiss in your duties if you failed to bring up the two big names (Other than Jessie) in Minnesota independence party politics. Tim Penny and Dean Barkley. It is what these two decide where the race turns. Penny is a former Democratic congressman who would most likely end up eating away at Democratic support, but he was recently singled out by George Bush on a couple topics, so he could show himself to have a red stripe to the Right. Barkley was a US Senator, for about two days. When Jessie Ventura appointed him to fill Wellstone’s seat after Paul’s death. Barkley would eat away support from both sides here. Alot of the red in this state isn’t real happy with the Bush administrations course, but would never vote blue. Alot of the blue from up North would gravitate towards Barkley as they have in the past. Of these two, I would expect to see Barkley before Penny, just because he is in more of a power position inside the IP. And Jessie would campaign for Barkely. But who really knows if that would hurt or help.

Klobuchar will probably run for Senate.

Wetterling will run for Senate; that’s why her campaign site asks for donations to be sent to “Wetterling For Senate.” The official line is that it’s an exploratory committee, but that’s crap. It is my understanding that a candidate may not include a phrase such as “For Senate” in the name of an exploratory committee; saying “Wetterling for Senate” indicates she has already made a decision to run for Senate. Furthermore, her fundraising page has already been updated with Senate graphics and her official Senate campaign web site is under development. Patty will make it official in a few weeks at most. Thinks could change, but I’m pretty sure about this one.

The poll I’ve seen gives Patty, IIRC, a +9 lead over Kennedy. Klobuchar is +2. But I think it was a Dem poll, and this far out from the election polls don’t mean much. Depending on who the DFL runs, the race will be either a toss-up or lean Dem.

For the governor’s race, I think everyone would be shocked if Hatch passed. Pawlenty is the favorite, but we still have two years of campaigning to look forward to. As for Presidential speculation, Pawlenty has certainly been spending quite a bit of time sucking up to the establishment for a guy who claims he has not been thinking about 2008. Also, Pat Garofalo, tech director from Pawlenty’s 2002 campaign, has registered the domain PawlentyForPresident.com, allegedly as nothing more than a supporter of the governor.

In the house, the sixth leans GOP. If Patty ran, it would be a toss-up, but she’s running for Senate. Ramstad, Oberstar, Peterson, Sabo, and Gutknecht are safe. Kline will probably survive, but I would expect a closer race than in 2004. Daly was a terrible candidate (note to DFL – next time, find someone who didn’t contribute to Kline in his last campaign).

The DFL will probably hole the state Senate and the GOP will probably hold the state House. Just a gut feeling.

If Hatch runs for governor, I have no idea which DFLer will run for Attorney General. Jeff Johnson has announced on the GOP side, but the fact that we haven’t had a GOP AG in about three decades tells me this is a lean Dem race.

Good analysis, NurseCarmen. Minnesota does appear to be tacking rightward these days, though I wouldn’t say it’s moving out of the middle quite yet—if it ever will. But that tack does seem to have more to do with a more organized state Republican Party than anything else. I’d been hearing Kennedy’s name for a long time, since before the presidential election, and it looks like the Republicans are savvy enough to rally around a strong candidate. Ciresi seems to be past his prime, but who knows? That didn’t stop Lamar Alexander from winning a Senate seat. I just like the vibe from Kelley, though. It seems that he couldn’t really lose, in that if he wins the election against Kennedy, great; if he loses, he’d still have name recognition for another race, and that could carry him far enough. I think Norm Coleman is vulnerable, and there seems to be no small amount of resentment toward him.

Ventura is making noise about running for president again (heh heh,) so he might want to do some grandstanding in his own state first. But I dunno… he seems to have left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, so I have to wonder how much anyone would listen to him. I can see Barkley getting some attention, but I don’t see the Ventura sideshow drawing much of a crowd anymore. Still, if an independent is going to do well anywhere, that place is going to be Minnesota. (Or Vermont.)

Bush saying nice things about Penney seems to be designed to sow discord in the DFL. I guess I can’t blame him for that, especially if it works. I get the feeling that Bush’s Social Security jiggery-pokery is going to hurt Republicans in a number of races, including Minnesota. At any rate, this race is just too tough to call at this point, though I give Kennedy a slight edge right now.

Bush is saying nice things about Penny because he’s the only Democrat that supports privatizing Social Security. Calling him a Democrat is a bit misleading; when President Bush introduces him as a “Former Democrat Congressman,” the former refers to both congressman and Democrat, as Penny left office in 1994 and ran as the Independence Party’s candidate for governor in the 2002 race.

Kennedy will be the Republican nom. He has loads of money and the party has all but officially endorsed him. The actual voting has been reduced to a mere formality. This is not unusual for the MN Republicans in recent years. Anyone remember the last election when Bush essentially ordered the Pawlenty out of the Senate race?

Kennedy, however, is not a great candidate. He represents the Bush right, not the moderate side of the Republican party (assuming there still is a moderate Republican party). He ran as an incumbent in a hugely red district and still had trouble holding off political novice Wetterling. Additionally. he talks funny - like he has something in his mouth all the time. He ran his whole campaign around his support for the war and will that play in 2006? He is good at mud-slinging though and he will have a mountain of money to play with.

I think Klobuchar will get it on the Dem side. She is very well thought of in the cities (and her father was a local celebrity for a long time). I don’t know how well known she is in the rest of the state. Her role as the county prosecutor will make it hard for Kennedy to portray her as a liberal softy, but he will. Kirby Puckett won’t vote for her. I just can’t see Kennedy beating her. She would absolutely destroy him in the Cities. Kennedy would be beaten by her in the suburbs as well. She would win northern MN, so Kennedy would need to get an astonishing amount of support in farm country to pull it off. He won’t do it. He won his first term in western MN in a race so close it went to a recount. And this is supposed to be his stronghold?

A third candidate would be the saving grace for Kennedy. But if it’s two guys against a gal will that help him?

The Gov. race is tough to call. Pawlenty won last time against essentially two Democrats. The race was really tight until Pawlenty made a big deal out of attacking immigrants via driver license restrictions. This really separated him from the other two guys (who both opposed his plan). He won with less than 50% of the vote. He has not always supported Bush as Governor (such as on the importation of drugs) and that will help him next year. He has been a strong advocate of the war in Iraq, but I doubt that will be much of an issue in the Governor’s race. It does help position him for a GOP bid for the White House though. Before he can dream of Washington though, he has to be reelected here. The odds of that are about 50/50.

Mike Hatch is certainly aiming for him. He has a personal dislike for Pawlenty and the race would be fierce. Don’t count out Dean Johnson though. He is a moderate Democrat from Wilmar who was a long-time Republican. He is a Lutheran Minister and a General in the Army Reserves. He is well-liked just about everywhere. He would win loads of support in traditional Republican areas. He would seem to be invincible on the issues conservatives like to attack with the most. He has been a sharp critic of Pawlenty on education spending, an issue on which Pawlenty is vulnerable. He’s a little guy and maybe not the most exciting person in the world, but I honestly think he would knock off the Governor if he ran and if he got the nomination.

All of this pales in comparison to the 2008 Senate race, however. I mean Al Franken is probably going to run against Norm Coleman.

On a platform that so far focuses on teeth.

On the local side, bitchy trumpet Michelle Bachmann (R-Stillwater) is up for re-election again. She’s the one who has been pushing for the anti-gay marriage amendment on the state level. She’s also the one introducing a bill limiting a college professors right to talk about politics. She’s been in power in part due to her promise to push for the infamous Stillwater bridge that she hasn’t moved on.

No, really – what about the Independence Party?

He’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and, doggone it, people like him!

I think Minnesota learned its lesson with Jesse.

I am biased against Jesse, admittedly (translation: I think he is a publicity whore and nothing more), but the Independence party in Minnesota suffers from the same problem as it did nationally after Perot lost - the star to whom they hitched their wagon had no particular interest in party building after defeat. Jesse has what he wanted out of politics, and is not much at building grass-roots support for anything but himself.

I don’t much that Wetterling has done to address her weaknesses - she has no legislative experience, and not enough people are going to vote for her just because her son was kidnapped. “Law and order” is her core issue, and she doesn’t have enough credibility on it to get anywhere.

I can’t take Franken seriously. I get the feeling that he is counting on this, but if so, he might be putting too much faith in the “vote for him as a joke” demographic that is partially responsible for Ventura. He isn’t going to be able to bait Coleman into over-reacting, and it is going to be too easy to treat Franken dismissively if he doesn’t develop a serious campaign. The first time Franken is forced into saying, “I was only kidding!” about anything in his books, his campaign will begin to collapse. He will then be obliged to show that he isn’t running for office as another joke, and by then, he will be starting a campaign too late. Hopefully.

Early days yet, of course.


Maybe so – but at any rate, Al Franken recently announced he wouldn’t run for Dayton’s seat in 2006. http://www.kstp.com/article/stories/S6198.html?cat=64

Kennedy’s problem is that his campaign against Wetterling was extremely negative. For a people who define themselves as “Minnesota Nice,” I’m not sure this went over as he planned. And it was razor close - he very nearly lost. In '06, it’s possible that a number of people are going to remember him for his mudslinging and tune him out. But as Shodan said, Wetterling’s a political lightweight - she doesn’t have much experience, aside from her name-recognition galore.

Pawlenty’s got a problem in that he’s not managing things well fiscally. Yeah, he helped balance the budget after a 4.5 billion dollar deficit without raising taxes, but his unwillingness to even look at solutions that involve tax hikes could cause him difficulty. And we’re staring down another deficit as it is. Combine this with his eagerness to milk the cash cow that is gambling, seemingly without a thought as to what this might mean morally, which could bother conservatives. For fiscal conservatives, his casino and racino bills might be too much of an indicator that he can’t keep his financial house together and has to rely on too many other questionable ways of increasing revenue. Add these things onto his support for hiking taxes in other ways via increased gas taxes or higher taxes on cigarettes, and it could be enought to push someone over the edge. I can see how the way he’s handling these issues would make moral and fiscal conservatives think twice.
While he might be reelected, I don’t think he has a hope in hell for president.

I think that all you’d need to do to be re-elected senator in the great state of Minnesota is simply to be here. Be noticed. Make sure the people of Minnesota see you. This is why Wellstone was so popular - he was always returning here. He was at state fairs, he attended funerals, he went to games. Anything that was noteworthy that happened in Minnesota, he was at. And we got used to that. Coleman suffers in that he barely returns home, some (well, okay, me) see him simply as a shill for the GOP (tho’ he did recently break with party lines on a vote - yay Norm!), and that he talks funny (definitely not from Minnesota). Okay, that last one was a cheap shot. He’s good enough, but I don’t think we hear nearly enough from him. He doesn’t seem to be doing anything, except losing in popularity contests to Elizabeth Dole.

Eight percent is “razor-close”?

You have high standards.

I see it the other way 'round - he balanced the budget without raising taxes. Which was his main campaign promise.

I didn’t vote for him, but he sure did what he said he would.

I haven’t seen much opposition to Pawlenty based on opposition to gambling. Most people either gamble, and don’t care, or don’t gamble, and don’t care.

There hasn’t been the wave of disasters predicted back when the casinos opened, although there are some problems, so while I don’t support the casino initiative (which, as you say, seems questionable and unreliable), I doubt it hurts Pawlenty much with his base. Somewhat the opposite, in fact - I have heard some resentment that the Indians have a monopoly. It relates to a controversy of some years ago about Indian fishing rights. Even Bud Grant (God help us) got involved in that one. Some people (not many, I grant you) wonder why the Indians get the gravy.

Like the lottery - I doubt the politicians are going to spend the money responsibly, but it amounts to a voluntary tax on people who are bad at probabilities.


He did balance the budget without raising taxes, that’s true.

But his cuts to services, while balancing the budget, did raise taxes. My property taxes are higher now, to fund schools and basic services that he cut.

I do admire him for doing as much as possible to balance the budget without resorting to the easy out (raising taxes to increase revenue). It resonated with people, I think, his idea that since so many Minnesotans had to tighten their belts due to the economic downturn and recession, it only made sense that the lawmakers should do the same themselves. And he does stick to his guns, which while I might not agree with, I can admire.

Some of the objections I’ve heard about gambling do come from Pawlenty’s base, albeit a minor portion of it - there have been reports that this administration’s embracing of gambling to solve all our fiscal problems bothers moral conservatives, as they’re concerned about addiction and with the various and sundry other moral issues that surround gambling.

I apologize - I knew the Wetterling/Kennedy election was close, but I thought it was closer (wasn’t my district, and I don’t watch a lot of network television, so I was able to avoid it). However, even my Wisconsin relatives commented on how negative that campaign was.

The part about him balancing the budget without raising taxes is the part that has resonance (AFAICT) with rumors of a Presidental bid. Plus, he’s not a Senator.

He seems a lock for re-election as governor if he wants it. It will be interesting to see if he starts building a national organization with an eye to the White House.

But the Senate race is going to be the interesting one. Dayton spent all that money buying himself a Senate seat, and then did nothing with it. Except look like a sissy shutting down his office based on a threat nobody else took seriously.

It is just hard for me to see Mondale Land be represented by two Republicans in the Senate.