Are Suburban Republicans Cowards or Just Cagey?

Republicans legislators may be overwhelmingly stupid or uncommonly brilliant, because they are not very forthcoming on their positions on Republican Presidential candidate Donald J Trump (R). Like it or not, Trump will have a significant effect on GOP turnout and Democrats are scratching their proverbial heads trying to figure out how a suppressed response at the top of the ticket will influence down ballot races.

By their silence we are not sure if this is a sign of political cowardice or avarice. For the last month we have been calling suburban legislators and trying the ascertain the impact of the Trump effect, and the response to it from local elected officials. To their credit, three had the temerity to return our call and answer our questions and they are: Sens Roger Chamberlain (R-38, White Bear Lake), Karin Housely (R-39, St Mary’s Point), and Reps Linda Runbeck (R-38A, Circle Pines) and Matt Dean (R-38B, Dellwood) is willing to review the questions and will contact us back if he is willing to answer.

This is far better than Rep. Kelly Fenton (R-53B, Woodbury) who asked us to call back and has failed to respond to numerous calls since and Sen. Warren Limmer R-34, Maple Grove) with who we spoke to in person and he gave us every indication he was ready for a follow-up call, but he to has failed to respond.

We have always felt it is better to meet a challenge attacking it fully face forward rather than avoiding the elephant in the room and expecting others to ignore it. We hope they will have the courage to return our calls soon, otherwise they are proving themselves to be cowardly.

Absentee Ballot Numbers Up Substantially

We contacted the Secretary of State’s office (SOS) to see what our absentee ballots numbers look like during a Presidential Election, and implementation of “No Excuse Absentee Ballot” voting. The number have increased by more than double. In 2012, at this time there were 70,899 Accepted (only absentee) with 143,011 Transmitted absentee ballots. This year, 150,973 Accepted (absentee + mail-ballot only precincts), 351,775 Transmitted ballots (absentee + mail-ballot only precincts), and 281,532 Transmitted absentee ballots (mail/in-person).

In comparison in 20114, a non-Presidential Election year, where overall turnout was the lowest at 50.51%; 45,231 Accepted (absentee + mail-ballot only precincts), 161,953 Transmitted ballots (absentee + mail-ballot only precincts), and 111,575 Transmitted absentee ballots (mail/in-person).

The SOS runs these numbers on Thursdays and they provide them with county breakdowns, we wish the numbers were available based on political subdivisions like Congressional Districts and state legislative districts, to help ascertain the concentrations juxtaposed against competitive political contests.

Democrats have been dedicating a substantial portion of their campaign activities to registering people to vote and getting new voters to apply for absentee ballots. They consider each vote collected by absentee ballot, is one in the bank.

102016_absentee_ballots (By County)

Campaign Operatives Discuss the 2016 Election

Yesterday, the MN Government Relations Council, the lobbyists state association, held a forum entitled “Before the Ballot Box.” The panel discussion featured: Mike Campbell, Senate GOP; Ben Golnik, House GOP; Alyssa Siems Roberson, Senate DFL and Zach Rodvold, House DFL.

During the discussion the panelists fielded question from the moderator and lobbyists. The topics ranging from the effect of early voting on this election to the effect of Donald Trump (R) on legislative races.

It was clear from the beginning of the discussion, these campaign insiders would be giving only a slight amount of information away, no real true insight, and merely enough to whet the appetite. During his time talking about the election, Golnik focused on the eleven seats his caucus picked up in 2014. Note, the 2014 election had the lowest results in the last 50 years at 50.51% of the eligible voters statewide. He referenced the concept of playing offense and defense. The defensive position being the protection of the 2014 Freshmen and retention of the various open seats.

The bulk of the Republican House strategy is based on a belief that any seat won by 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R), should be a GOP seat. To that end Golnik discussed the possible pick-up of Reps. Paul Marquart (DFL-04B, Dillworth) and John Persell (DFL-05A, Bemidji) and the open seat of retiring member Kim Norton (DFL-25A, Rochester). At the end he believed the majority would stay in Republican hands, and hoped for a 70-71 vote majority.

Of course his counterpart Rodvold sees things quite differently. He too focused on the 2014 losses and also expanded the scope to include additional suburban races, which were not specifically mentioned. He highlighted the fact, of the low turnout in 2014 and accounted for the differential of being in the minority and the majority at 7,600 votes across the state.

On the Senate side, Roberson emphasized her caucuses strength in recruiting candidates well suited for their districts and discussed how this will help her caucus retain the seats of the various retiring senators and provide opportunities for some new DFL senators in districts not held for a number of years.

The one person on the panel who truly seemed to be living in a fantasy world was Campbell. Who in all seriousness, actually tried to give credence to the Senate changing hands and returning to the GOP column. This is ludicrous on its face, and the only reason it happened in 2010, the first time since the establishment of partisan races, was because again the turnout that election year was abysmally low at 55.83%. He talked about pick-ups in some Greater Minnesota seats and they are targeting the open seat in SD 01, Sens. Kent Eken (DFL-04, Twin Lakes), John Hoffman (DFL-36, Brooklyn Park) and Greg Clausen (DFL- 57, Apple Valley). Hoffman and Clausen are both being targeted by local mayors and Campbell put significant stake in this concept.

Again, this strategy seems borrow from the House GOP, focusing on districts where Romney won, except President Barack Obama (D) carried both Brooklyn Park and Apple Valley.

Now, as the election grows closer and Donald Trump continues to implode turnout becomes a more impactful issue. Republicans seem to be relying on and equal distain for Trump and Hillary Clinton (D). To the point they envision a low turnout universally, we disagree.

For the Democrats the prime motivator may not be to vote for Clinton, but rather to vote against Trump. His erratic, offensive, lecherous behavior is not emblematical of a true national leader. He is a punchline of a joke, his is an embarrassment all around, and his campaign will have trouble expanding its voting base from beyond uneducated, angry white males.

For the record the statewide turnout of eligible voters in 2008 was 78.11% and 76.42% in 2012.

Why Did the Republican Senate Minority Give Nearly All of Its Money to Norm Coleman’s Group?

One interesting figure that has failed to gain attention is the $500,000 contributed by the Senate Victory Fund (Republican) to MN Action Network. This the independent expenditure group formed by former Sen. Norm Coleman (R).  The group’s campaign finance report on 9/20/2016 showed only $645,394.98 and the Senate GOP only had $293,205.93 cash remaining on-hand.

This begs the question why a political caucus would give the bulk of its campaign contributions to an independent group? We have tried to understand why.

The parking of the money in this nontraditional fashion seems to be due to significant lacking of competent campaign personnel in the Senate Republican Caucus. Last week, we highlighted the failure of Chief of Staff Kevin Matzek’s ability to secure a simple contribution for Senate Minority Leader David Hann (R-48, Eden Prairie). People should remember Senate Minority Caucus Director of Research Bill Walsh was formerly a House Caucus staffer, until he was let go after leaving their campaign plan at Moscow on the Hill, and we understand he was in charge of their mail program, but his mailing didn’t start until September and as we have seen there wasn’t much money to work with.

Lest people forget the MN Senate Republican Caucus fired Michael Brodkorb, clearly one of their best political operators for personal indiscretions. Ironically, they continue to embrace a candidate for President who has shown no respect for women or social mores.

The caucus’ Campaign Director is Mike Campbell and he didn’t raise significant numbers, and then in turn turned those over to his former boss’s organization, where former Republican Party staffer Gina Countryman may better be suited to disburse the assets.

We expect there will be more money secured by Coleman’s group although the only other larger contribution to the Action Network was made by Thomas Rosen, former husband from caucus member Sen. Julie Rosen (R-23, Vernon Center).

It’s Nothing but Bad News for MN Republicans

The 2016 election is setting up to be a wholesale debacle for the MN GOP.  The following stories are showing examples of how the Republican House of Cards is set to fall come November 8th. We highlight numerous instances where Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump is a drag on the Republican down ballot races.

We are close to projecting a win for Congressman Rick Nolan (D-MN08), a far closer race for Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN03) and an outright drubbing for Sen. David Hann (R-48, Eden Prairie). All of these problems are due to the Sen. David Hann (R-48, Eden Prairie), Trump effect.

If you are a card player, it seems No Trump is a safe bet.

Trump Is a Hypocrite: He Used Chinese Steel to Build His Empire

There are three stories published this week that likely interject a significant issue into the Presidential and Eighth Congressional District. Newsweek reported Presidential candidate Donald Trump used Chinese Steel and Aluminum in the construction of three different buildings. This seems to pit Trump against himself in regard to actually following his own words. While he is regularly stating his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPT) his actions show his hypocrisy. Here is a link to the Newsweek story. How Donald Trump Ditched US Steel in Favor of China

The Newsweek story was followed by two in the Mesabi Daily News USW Fumes Over Report That Trump Used Chinese Steel & A New Steel Champion. The first story reiterates the points raised in the Newsweek story and provides local flavor from the United Steelworkers. The second story talks about Congressman Rick Nolan (D-MN08) award as the American Iron and Steel Institute’s New Steel Champion.

Many people have discussed Trump’s strong support on the Iron Range and once people learn he has personally been responsible for lay-offs and plant closings, they may vote their pocketbooks rather than their emotions.

Hann is Set to be Gone

When Sen. David Hann (R-48, Eden Prairie) packs up his office it will not be to move across University Avenue, but the destination for his belongings will be back to Eden Prairie. We have seen 3 different poll results, one from the Freedom Club of MN, another from the DFL Party and the third from the GOP. Each poll shows Hann trailing retired teacher Steve Cwodzinski (DFL) by as much as 10 points, depending on the poll, will a margin of error of 3.5%.

If these polls are accurate, and since two of the three are from Republicans sources, this lends credence to our story yesterday, about Sen. Michelle Benson (R-31, Ham Lake) being selected as Hann’s replacement. Capitol observers will not miss Hann much especially since he is seen as duplicitous in many of his dealings.

In Minnesota politics getting caught in a lie is the most heinous offense and on issues like the Southwest Corridor Light Rail, Hann might as well be a Hydra, because he says one thing to one person and something totally different to another and another fabrication to someone else. Around the State Capitol many people question the veracity of Hann’s integrity.

So Long, Farewell, Auf Weidersehen, Goodnight.