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By Request: my local political endorsements

November 3rd, 2008 (01:50 pm)

A friend of mine e-mailed me this morning to ask if I was going to post up comments on down-ticket races. So -- what the heck. Here's what my ballot looks like, and here are my thoughts on the races.

First of all, just so you know, most of my research on down-ticket races was done via MyVote at the Star Trib website. Second, my ballot is not your ballot; if you are a Minneapolis or Hennepin County resident, some of our races will overlap, but not all. You should visit the site and do your own research.

I'll throw in an LJ cut here for the non-locals. Though I'll say, if you're an American and eligible to vote, GO VOTE.

My recommendations and commentary:

Barack Obama
I'm not going to try to write up any commentary here. Really, if you're voting in this election and have Internet access, you've got access to far more eloquent and interesting commentary than any I could possibly provide.

U.S. Senator
Al Franken
I am not, in fact, a huge Franken fan at the moment. I was worried during the endorsement battle that he would run a very negative, nasty race, and that is exactly what he did. To quote my sister, I love me some Norm bashing, but when that's ALL you're running on it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I would not have hesitated to vote for Dean Barkley if he had a serious shot at taking out Norm, but I've watched the polls, and the sad fact is that he does not. I don't blame anyone who chooses to vote for Dean, but if, like me, you want to cast a vote AGAINST Norm, you'll need to cast your vote for Al.

U.S. House
Keith Ellison
I'm happy with him so far. I'll admit that part of what I like is being able to tell people that I'm represented by a pro-choice pro-gay Muslim Democrat. It's a good illustration of just HOW liberal the 5th District of MN is.

Sales Tax Amendment
No endorsement.
You know what, on one hand I think this is a terrible idea, and on the other hand I really want the funding to be in place. I voted for it, but I'm not going to tell you that you should vote for it.

MN House
Jim Davnie
Jim is so cool. He's not in any danger of losing his seat so I'm not going to worry about making a strong case for him, I'll just note that he is funny, smart, pragmatic, flamingly liberal, and a great speaker. And his kids go to the same school as my kids and he volunteers in the classroom. There's nothing not to like here.

Seat 53 of the Minnesota District Court
Jane Ranum
Almost all the judicial races have an incumbent and unless there seems to be a compelling reason not to, I normally just vote for the incumbent. I didn't spot any compelling races this time around, but this one has no incumbent. I voted for Jane Ranum because she's the one that's endorsed by most of the Democrats; her opponent, David Piper, is endorsed by most of the Republicans. Some comment last time complained that she wishes to take away constitutional rights from people who were never convicted of a crime, so I did some searching to find out what this person was talking about. That would be the vote on the concealed carry bill; previously, your County Sheriff could decline to issue you a permit at his or her own discretion, and the concealed carry bill took that away. The example she gave was OJ Simpson; he was never convicted of a crime, so under the law (which is now on the books) he would have to be issued a concealed carry permit. Well, NOW he wouldn't, but a year ago -- yeah. Personally, my interpretation of the 2nd amendment allows some fairly strong regulations of the circumstances under which you're allowed to actually bear your arms around my town, so I don't have a problem with her stance on this, but there are people on my f-list who feel very differently and they'll probably want to vote for Piper. Which is fine; nothing I read made him sound terrifyingly evil or anything like that.

Soil and Water supervisor, Seat 3
And now we come to the race you all clicked to read about. (Am I right?) There are four people running for this seat:

Richard A Klatte
Ben Torell
James Wisker
Rahn Workcuff

My endorsement is for James Wisker; he's a recent graduate in Ecology, and he works in regulation for the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. Of all the candidates, he seems like the one who would really know what he was doing. His position statement talks about storm water management and other specific issues.

Ben Torell doesn't sound terrible aside from his Overuse of Capital Letters (yes, I nitpick grammar and spelling in candidate statements; if you're smart but have poor writing skills, you'll have someone proofread it for you before you send it to the newspaper!) Richard Klatte talks about making Big Oil pay for cleaning the air, water, and soil they've destroyed, and....yeah, good luck with that, man. But for sheer freakshow value, it would be hard to beat Rahn Workcuff's candidate statement, on the question about his priority issue:

I strongly agree that a marriage should be only between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of same sex marriages. I strongly agree that all MN residence should have affordable health insurance. even if it means new or added cost to businesses. I strongly agree that we dont need anymore increase in taxes, we are all ready being taxed to death. I strongly agree that an increase of funding should be put towards educating our children in grade k - 12. I strongly agree funding should be allocated toward natural resources conservation.

DUDE. Did you file for the wrong office, or what?

Moving on.

Soil and Water Supervisor, Seat 5

This was the hardest race to decide, for me. Because Jeffrey Beck had an incoherent statement with no capital letters in it and no spaces between the sentences ("everybody needs to learn proper ecology principles;and this education needs to start with children in the first grade and needs to continue with our seniors in their evening classes") while Karl Hanson sounds like he thinks you should be able to strip-mine your back yard if you want ("Preserving the public waterways and soil for future generations while allowing private property owners to use their lands with absolutely minimal government interference.") I thought Karl Hanson would actually be more effective and a better person to work with, but I was concerned he might cause harm, so I voted Jeffrey Beck because I thought he'd do less damage. And I don't have to work with him.

Why is this even an elected position? Would it be that dangerous to just appoint for this? Sigh.

Minneapolis School Levy

Yes, they promised us smaller class sizes the last time around and then decided that 27 kids per first grade class was small enough, and yes, the district does have more money per pupil than any other district in the state. But you know what? Minneapolis kids are, in fact, legitimately more expensive to educate than kids in Edina. Do I really need to explain this? Yes? OK, Molly's school has a huge percentage of kids who are in the process of learning English. There are families that are financially comfortable, but the school office solicits donations of grocery store gift cards to distribute to some of the families before each vacation because these families will literally go hungry without the daily free breakfast and lunch for their kids. There are children that come to this school from homeless shelters. This school struggles every day to meet the needs of the students with the resources they've got.

Minneapolis made the hard decision to close down a bunch of schools as enrollment has fallen, but now they have a bunch of closed, empty school buildings that are just sitting there, costing more money, because as you might have noticed the real estate market has gone down the tubes.

They are not spending the money on unicorns for everyone. Budget allocations seem to be based mostly on keeping their collective head above water.

Referendum on Changing How the School District Allocates Seats

This is a referendum on whether to go to a mix of districted and at-large seats, like the Park Board. My vote on this is Yes. I have found it incredibly frustrating that there is no one school board member that I can contact with my concerns, or who has any sort of stake in my neighborhood. The downside of this proposal (and why the Strib endorsed against it) is that it's going to make it harder for the School Board to do controversial things like close schools. I'm not 100% sure that voting for this is the right thing, but I'm willing to take the risk because the at-large group at the moment is so frequently unresponsive. (There are a few exceptions, but still.)

School Board Members
I'm voting for Carla Bates, Jill Davis, and Lydia Lee. Sharon Henry-Blythe annoyed the heck out of me once; I can't actually remember why, which is somewhat embarrassing, but I like the three DFL-endorsed candidates so whatever. If I could cast a vote against one candidate, it would be Kari Reed. She is a homeschooling mom who opposes the funding referendum and says that to solve the district's problems, she's going to look at cost-effective solutions from other areas -- but provides NOT A SINGLE EXAMPLE of things she'd like to emulate anywhere on her website. (And really, I have no objection to homeschoolers, but they have no business running for school board. If you're opting not only out of the public schools but out of school as a concept -- srsly, that's fine for you, and maybe you could run for Soil Supervisor?)

I don't have time to do much with fancy formatting but hopefully this was legible.

Oh, and if you live in California? PLEASE vote no on Prop 8.


Posted by: Magenta (magentamn)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)
Good timing

We are just going over the downticket races, and were looking at your picks for the primary. Thank you for your advice.

I think some of the nuts, like Workcuff, are hoping to get elected to ANYTHING, so that when they run for the legislature or city council, they look experienced. Ain't gonna happen.

Posted by: Vanessa (batikpuma)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update!

I have a different philosophy with respect to the judges in that incumbents don't get a pass. I look for the candidate surveys at the League of Women Voters, Star Tribune, and Pioneer Press. If an unopposed incumbent filled out a survey and sounds like a reasonable person, then I'll vote for him/her. But no survey - no vote. If s/he can't be troubled to fill out a few paragraphs of basic info, why on earth should I be expected to give him/her my mandate? That's when I usually start to have fun with write-ins. I've voted for Bill the Cat in every election since way back when. Usually for judge. ack. phbbt.

Check out the statements for some of the contested judicial seats. Found this at the League site for Tim Tingelstad, who is running against incumbent Paul Anderson for Associate Justice 3:

"I believe that justice is served when judges fear God and love the people, and as a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice I will be impartial to the parties, while partial to the original intent of the Constitution. I will interpret the Constitution through the lens of its Preamble, which states, “We the people of the State of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings and to secure the same to ourselves and to our posterity, do hereby establish and ordain this Constitution.”" (Tingelstad)

Well golly, that trips my 'god tells me what to do' trigger. So, I'm voting for Paul Anderson.

Also, for Associate Justice 4, Deborah Hedlund sounded reasonable, if underwhelming, at the League site. But at the Star Tribune, she had some crazy race statements that left me scratching my head. (Hello, partial African/Asian/Indian blond lady. What is the vague claim of ancestry supposed to prove?) I'm not really buying the argument that Supreme Court justices need murder trial experience. It's a different realm of law. As my sweetie pointed out long ago, the Supreme Court is one of the logical career tracks for philosophy majors. So, upshot is I'm going for Lorie Skjerven Gildea, the incumbent.

And, yes, Naomi, I was waiting to hear your thoughts on the Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners. Thanks for pointing out the lurking whack job. He didn't fill in the survey at the League, but I found the quote over at the Star Tribune.

For what it's worth, Karl Hanson sounds less extreme in his statements at the League. Jeffrey Beck didn't fill out the survey. Here's Hanson's statement:

"1. What background would you bring to the Soil and Water Conservation District?

"My background is in chemical engineering and in law. I also have studied environmental science, political science, and biology and have travelled to other venues and witnessed results of other conservation efforts.

"2. What role should the Conservation District have in the management of our ground water?

"The district should, at a minimum, work to facilitate the preservation of ground water resources. Once these become polluted, it is very difficult to correct the situation.

"3. What are your views on control of non-point source water pollution?

"Much of the pollution to our rivers and lakes arises from non-point sources, and it typically enters our waterways shortly after each rainfall. The district needs to facilitate efforts to prevent non-point source pollution from entering the public waterways. Rain gardens are one good way of filtering non-point source pollution. Working and education landowners in the proper grading of new land sites also will be helpful, as well as efforts to reduce the initial distribution of contaminants."

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 09:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks for the update!

He does sound less like he's down with backyard strip-mining in that statement. Oh well. He'll probably win, and that's probably a good thing.

I vote for incumbents for judicial seats in part because 9 times out of 10, the challenger is a complete whackjob, and just voting for the incumbent is way less work than researching dozens of races. Every now and then the incumbent is the whackjob, but in cases like that word usually gets around, or the challenger has a whole host of endorsements, or there's some other indication that this particular race is worth paying attention to.

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 10:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks for the update!

WTF? That was me, above.

Posted by: jiawen (jiawen)
Posted at: November 4th, 2008 06:23 am (UTC)
Re: Thanks for the update!

Hedlund's big gaffe.

Posted by: Skylarker (skylarker)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)

Thanks for the link.
I usually vote against incumbents when there's no party affiliation or other clue (give the other guy a chance!) - but I like this better, looking at the contested seats for judges I see at least two incumbents I'd like to keep. :)

Posted by: Dan Goodman (dsgood)
Posted at: November 4th, 2008 02:28 am (UTC)

I'll be using some of your picks, and some of batikpuma's, to help guide my voting. Thanks to both of you!

Posted by: stargoatpdx (stargoatpdx)
Posted at: November 18th, 2008 12:28 pm (UTC)

You say: (And really, I have no objection to homeschoolers, but they have no business running for school board. If you're opting not only out of the public schools but out of school as a concept -- srsly, that's fine for you, and maybe you could run for Soil Supervisor?)

If you really mean what you say here -- that homeschoolers in general (not just Kari Reed) have no business running for school board -- then here are my thoughts.

1. The public schools are arguably the single greatest medium through which the world of tomorrow is being influenced. If you care about the future -- how people vote, how they provide customer service, whether they talk on their cell phones while driving, whether they make executive decisions that lead to surgeons getting five hours of sleep a night -- then the public schools are shaping things that you care about. Regardless of how you educate your own children or whether you have children at all, you have the right as a member of society to be involved in the public schools.

(Note that when I say “involved”, I’m not talking about things like being a volunteer teacher’s aide, where they would have direct contact with the students. I don’t claim to know exactly where the line should be drawn. But the right to be involved does extend to running for the school board.)

Of course everyone is free to hold their own opinions about what qualities are desirable in a school board member, e.g. “not a homeschooler”. And if enough people hold that opinion and hold it strongly enough, the voting process will in theory translate that opinion into a homeschooler-free school board. But the idea that a person has no business running for school board at all is something else again.

2. I’m sure there are numerous other aspects of schooling that, like “how we shape the future”, are the valid concern of society as a whole and everyone in it. For example:

2a. How we spend taxes.

2b. Whether children are nurtured and truly cared for in the school system.

(Why is 2b not the sole province of the children’s parents? Partly because government is ultimately responsible for overseeing the treatment of all children, animals, and legally incompetent adults.)

3. Just because someone isn’t doing X (e.g. sending their children to school) doesn’t mean they’ve opted out of it as a concept. (Particularly when what they’re doing instead is something as open to customization and to “borrowing” from other practices as homeschooling is.) The decision to homeschool is not necessarily easy and not necessarily permanent. In fact, if there are two parents, the decision to homeschool might not have been their mutual preference.

(A possible scenario: “How are we going to educate our child? Based on our extensive discussions, I think I should acquiesce: For now, we’ll homeschool. But I’m going to volunteer / campaign for the school levy / talk to school board members / run for school board / whatever to try to address some of your concerns about the public schools so that later we can agree to send our child there.”)

I don’t really expect you to agree with my first point, but am wondering what you’ll think of the third.

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