So, if you live in Minnesota, you have a primary election coming up on August 14th -- next Tuesday. If you want to find out your candidates, you can visit http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/ and put in your address -- in addition to getting your polling place, you can click a link to get a list of candidates. Complete with their web pages! I think that last bit is new.
That almost makes my endorsements beside the point (I mean, I endorse, but I think the main service I provide my most local friends for those down-ticket races is pulling together information so they don't have to go hunting for it) but I still have to go click the links and do the research, so I might as well share my notes with you.
And just to remind everyone: this is the Primary. Neither of the Constitutional Amendments will be on this ballot. You'll have to come back to the polls in November to vote on those (and please do. I tend to assume I'm preaching to the choir here and I want all you choir members to at least get out and vote on those amendments.)
LJ-cut to have mercy on those out-of-state people who puzzlingly enough do not find my analysis of Minneapolis school board races fascinating.
I don't vote in the Libertarian, Independence, or Republican primaries so I'm going to focus on the DFL primary.
Amy Klobuchar is the incumbent. The other candidates are "Dick" Franson, Darryl Stanton, and Jack Edward Shepard. Franson is a perennial candidate who never gets taken very seriously. Darryl Stanton seems to be a passionate liberal but I don't think he'd be particularly effective, even if he had any chance of winning, but he doesn't.
The actual potential danger on the ballot is Jack Edward Shepard, who makes absolutely no bones about the fact that he's a Republican who's trying to act as a spoiler.
I'm reasonably satisfied with Senator Klobuchar and will be voting for her in the primary.
The District 5 incumbent is Keith Ellison.
He has two opponents. One is Gregg Iverson, who doesn't seem to have a website. The other is Gary Boisclair.
Excuse me for a minute while I take a deep breath.
I find deliberate spoiler candidates obnoxious. But people who run on blatant bigotry take it to a whole new level.
Congressman Keith Ellison is Muslim. Apparently Boisclair has a problem with this. (I'd like to send him this rebuttal to the idea that Muslims can't be good Americans, but somehow I think it would sail right over his head.) He's also a member of the "horrible pictures" school of anti-abortion activism.
Boisclair is a disgusting person. Frankly, while in general I don't care about a political candidate's religious views (provided that they don't want to force them on me), I view Keith Ellison's faith as sort of a fun bonus, because he makes right-wing Christians so incredibly frothy.
SCHOOL BOARD AT-LARGE
And now we get to the first down-ticket race. There are four candidates running: Doug Mann, Janice Mae Harmon, Carla Bates, and Willis G. Trueblood. There is one open seat; two candidates will advance to the general election, and one will be seated on the school board.
FYI, although Minneapolis City Council and the Park Board are done by Instant Runoff, School Board is not. Fortunately, this isn't going to be a particularly agonizing choice.
Carla Bates is the incumbent. Despite being deeply unimpressed by the Minneapolis School Board overall, I have a strong pro-incumbent bias because almost no one wants to do this job more than once. They get paid $13,800/year; they generally work far more than 40 hours a week; and everyone hates them. Getting blamed for everything that goes wrong with the Minneapolis public school is pretty much the job, right there.
Anyway, the typical candidate comes on to the board bright-eyed and optimistic, is crushed into misery and despair within months (maybe weeks), and decides not to run again because really, being hated by 387,753 people for $13,800/year is a shitty gig. And the net result is a complete lack of institutional memory that makes a not-terribly-effective school board even less effective. So if someone wants to do it more than once? Unless I really, really hate them I'm probably going to vote for them.
I'm pretty sure Carla Bates has pissed me off, but I can't remember what she did so it can't have been all that bad. Therefore, she gets my vote.
I was thinking that because it's a primary they'd have me vote for two -- but I e-mailed Carla Bates and she says it says "Vote for One." Which is good, because:
Willis G. Trueblood is not actually running. A reporter went to his house to interview him and was told by someone who refused to identify himself that Willis Trueblood was in intensive care. That leaves Doug Mann and Janice Mae Harmon.
Harmon doesn't have a website but did show up for a forum on Monday night. Here's the article about it. Some choice excerpts:
"Harmon was unable to get through her introduction, more than once forgot what she was saying, and once gave an answer that didn’t in any way respond to the question."
"The next question was whether the candidates would agree to adopting a resolution to enact a racial and economic equity impact assessment....Harmon seemed not to understand the question, going into a speech about abortion."
"The third question asked what role the principal and teacher contracts played in attracting the best and brightest teachers and principals....'Teachers do need to support our students so they can go forward in life,' said Harmon, and soon forgot what she was going to say again."
That would be a NO.
I am not a huge fan of Doug Mann -- his website is somewhat incoherent, with no current content, and my impression is that he's more of a professional gadfly than a serious candidate who is ready to do the work (being hated! for $13,800 a year!) of a school board member. But at least he can get through an introduction, finish sentences he's started, and answer questions more or less on-topic. I'd still prefer Carla Bates.
CHIEF JUSTICE: SUPREME COURT
Candidates: Lorie Skjerven Gildea, Jill Clark, and Dan Griffith.
In judicial races, since they're unlikely to announce bluntly on their website that they're for or against gay marriage, abortion rights, etc., I tend to look at their endorsements. Are they endorsed by a bunch of people I like? Good. Are they endorsed by a bunch of people I dislike? Bad. Are they endorsed by no one at all? Probably a flake. VOILA.
Conveniently, all these people have websites.
Lorie Skjerven Gildea is the incumbent. She's endorsed by a loooooooong list of people I mostly haven't heard of, plus Rudy Boschwitz, Walter Mondale, Brian Melendez, Tim Penny, and Tim Pawlenty. It's sort of the perfect resume for a judge: she's endorsed by Republicans, Democrats, and at least one Jessecrat.
Jill Clark has a lot of ranting, a lot of boldface (her name is bolded every time it appears, which I find irrationally off-putting), and no endorsements whatsoever.
Dan Griffith appears to have been endorsed by his wife and kids. Oooooh and according to his 13-year-old, "He’ll do what’s right for our state because he's a Christian." Now THERE is a big red flag, on top of the lack of endorsements.
Lorie Gildea it is, then.
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE - SUPREME COURT 4
Three candidates: Alan Nelson, Tim Tingelstad, and David R. Stras. Again, everyone has websites.
David R. Stras is the incumbent. Like most judicial incumbents, he has a pretty website, no information about his views on anything, and a long list of endorsements. I have to admit that most of the names I recognize on his list of endorsements are people I loathe. (Norm Coleman. Even just the name gives me hives.)
Alan Nelson starts out by noting that in the primary, an incumbent will sail through so he is essentially running against Tingelstad. And you don't want to vote for Tingelstad because -- you know what, I'm going to C&P to quote. Here's what Alan Nelson says on his website:
Tim Tingelstad’s views on the separation of Church and State scare me. I draw your attention to his “vision” page and these two representative quotes:
“It is particularly vital that a worldview, based upon the Truth of God and His Word, is returned to our highest courts.”
“It is not unconstitutional to bring the Word of God back into public education.”
Of course, the first question that leaps to my mind is which Word of God? The Bible? Old Testament or New? And why not the Talmud, or the Koran, or the Book of Mormon?
The second obvious question is would Mr. Tingelstad object to someone else’s Word of God being used in the classrooms of his children? Or in a courtroom where he was the defendant? Of course he would. Which is why I’m shocked that this issue is even open for debate with Mr. Tingelstad. Go ahead, visit his site and read for yourself.
In contrast, I hold the traditional view that the separation of Church and State is what makes this country so great. It is what elevates our country so far above all others. We all have the freedom to practice our own religion, and that includes the right to be free of others trying to impose their religion on us. This is especially true as we walk into the classrooms and courtrooms of this state.
Further poking around his site revealed the startling and unusual fact that he actually spells out his views on a bunch of issues. (Gay marriage: for it. Abortion rights: for it. Affirmative action: against it.) I don't agree with him 100% but I'm pretty sure he's closer to my views than the other guys. (Especially Tingelstad.)
Okay, dude! You've sold me. I will at least vote for you in the primary, and I'll consider you in the general even though you have no endorsements.
Tim Tingelstad is as loathsome as Nelson suggests but, conveniently, he makes it really easy to spot.
What the hell? Was there a three-for-one sale on BATSHIT WHACKJOB CHRISTIAN DOMINIONISTS during filing season this year?
Okay. One more race and I'm done here.
JUDGE - 4TH DISTRICT COURT 22
Oh my god, it looks like there's no incumbent. It's a Judicial Race that actually matters. I'm pretty sure Liz Cutter has sent me mailings. (They were attractive postcards with pictures of her looking distinguished. I think. I don't pay that much attention to that sort of thing, except that I always save them to cut up and put in the bookmark cup. Political postcards are always printed on the perfect thickness of cardstock for bookmarks.)
Here's who's running: Steven E. Antolak; Diane M. Krenz; Deborah Russell; Elizabeth V. Cutter. There was a forum in late July. Here's the video. It's an hour long, and no one seems to have written anything about what got said. (I wish I could find the reporter who reported that school board forum, stick them in a time machine, and send them back to report on this. Dammit. Because watching an hour-long forum? WAS NOT ON MY LIST OF THINGS I WANTED TO DO TONIGHT.)
Apparently three of them are prosecutors; Deborah Russell prosecuted Amy Senser. Antolak is the exception; the Star Trib article about this describes him as a "business lawyer."
Liz Cutter. She's done trainings on how to deal with domestic violence, both locally and internationally (!) She has a respectable list of endorsements -- it includes Keith Ellison and Walter Mondale. I also really appreciate the fact that she understands how some of us make decisions -- instead of just listing everyone alphabetically she breaks them up into categories (elected officials, law enforcement, lawyers).
Steve Antolak. No endorsements listed. He seems to be an active civic volunteer (he chaired the Hennepin County Citizens Solid Waste Advisory Committee for four years, for which I will give him some credit: this is clearly someone who is willing to do unglamorous work). I am deeply, deeply unimpressed by the boilerplate ad he's stuck on the front of his website, though -- you can go watch it (it's only a minute long) and be totally unimpressed with me. It's an ad saying that he has the AV PREEMINENT RATING and when I say it's a boilerplate ad, I mean that he got a letter through the mail saying "We are willing to give you this rating if you pay us a fee! And for an additional fee we will give you a SHINY COMMERCIAL that you can put on your website to IMPRESS POTENTIAL CLIENTS!" This rating may be totally legit and not even remotely like being offered a spot in "Who's Who Among American High School Students" or "Who's Who Among American College and University Faculty" or "Who's Who Among Residents of South Minneapolis (Not Southwest, They Have Their Own Listing)" but frankly if you put that ad on your campaign website you seriously damage your credibility with me.
Diane M. Krenz has one of the most badly designed websites I've seen in a while. That link will take you to the page with the utterly pointless Flash intro: here's the actual site. Her kid is eight, according to her bio; if her kid were fourteen, I would think the site was probably put together by the kid, but eight's a bit young.
Let's see. She goes to a Missouri Synod Lutheran church. She's a union member (AFSCME) but doesn't seem to have the union's endorsement. She has an endorsements page but I don't recognize any of the names (and there aren't very many). I do like this bit, from the Testimonials page: "I am supporting Diane Krenz because she always treated me and my clients fairly and respectfully. She would do the same as a judge." --Craig Boone, retired Assistant Hennepin County Public Defender. If your court opponents would say that about you, it's generally a good sign. In her FAQ, she also notes that a Prosecutor should be the Constitution's first line of defense, and assess whether the police violated the rights of the suspect.
Deborah Russell is the one who prosecuted Amy Senser. (For the out-of-towners: this was a high-profile vehicular homicide case. It got a lot more coverage than would be typical because Amy Senser is married to a former MN Viking.) Her website says LAW ENFORCEMENT AND LABOR ENDORSED! -- the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police and the AFL-CIO endorsed her. I tend to actually view law enforcement endorsements as a negative. Since I'm guessing these are not the ONLY supporters she's got, I don't know why she doesn't have an "endorsements" page, but she doesn't seem to have one. She does have a "Testimonials" page which includes positive comments from a Public Defender.
The only personal info on her biography page is that she lives in the Kingfield neighborhood and does dog stuff. It doesn't say whether she's married, whether she has kids, whether she goes to church (and if so which one), etc., and I have to admit, I kind of like this. She does mention that she served in the military (US Army Reserves JAG Corps).
Anyway. I think I am going to vote for Liz Cutter, but if anyone would like to make a case for someone else, please feel free. (And hey, if any of you fine individuals I'm discussing would like to stop by in the comments -- anonymous comments are screened, because I have problems with spammers, but I will definitely unscreen anything left by a candidate.)