Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Insultingly ironic

In my inbox the other day was an email from Cindy Bills, asking me to come out and support Scott Honour for Governor.  Cindy is the wife of 2012 US Senate candidate Kurt Bills, and her email is reads as an intentional insult to Republican activists across Minnesota.

In 2012, after his surprising endorsement at the state convention, Kurt Bills emerged as a major candidate with no money, no fundraising plan, no volunteer base, and little if any name recognition.  The meager positives he had going for him on the campaign trail were his undeniable conservative beliefs, and his endorsement by the state party.  All around Minnesota, Republicans who didn't even quite know who Bills was, myself included, pounded lawn signs, made calls and walked in parades on his behalf.  One local activist who has been involved in party politics since before Jimmy Carter was president asked me if we had any signs left for 'that Bill Kurtz guy, the Senate candidate'.

So after relying on the endorsement for support in 2012, Kurt and Cindy Bills are now repaying all those who worked on their behalf by thumbing their nose at delegates and activists statewide and telling us to come out and support a candidate who never even seriously competed for party endorsement.

In response to the Bill's entreaty for my support, I'd like to go on the record today and predict that Scott Honour will finish dead last of the three challengers to Jeff Johnson in the August primary.  Money is an unfortunate requirement in politics today, but money alone will get you nowhere.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reality rears its head in CD1

In the MNGOP's Year of the Primary Challenge, there's an odd situation in CD1-a Republican primary challenger who ran for the endorsement, promised to abide, and then changed his mind.  Jim Hagedorn, who claims he had an epiphany a few weeks after the convention and decided that he didn't think the endorsed candidate, Aaron Miller, was working hard enough, has done his best energizer bunny impression, trying to make public appearances everywhere possible.  But even a casual observation brings to light the fact that while Hagedorn does in fact travel around the district quite a lot, his public appearances and parades feature a small handful of supporters.  Miller on the other hand, appears with dozens of volunteers everywhere he goes.

But the real irony is that while Miller was suppossedly 'not working hard enough', what he was actually doing was raising money, exactly what newly endorsed candidates should be doing.  And the campaign finance reports just released this week validate Miller's strategy and should put the final nail in Hagedorn's campaign.  From the Mankato Free Press-
Hagedorn's $30,025 fundraising total included $18,310 in contributions from individuals and $11,725 from Hagedorn himself through in-kind contributions. His individual contributions included $3,000 from the Fitzsimmons family and people associated with their business Protein Sources.
While Congressman Walz raised over $230k this quarter, Hagedorn raised less than a tenth of that.

Miller, on the other hand, just announced fundraising totals of $143k, and $107k cash on hand.  His fundraising totals make it clear that he was doing the least fun thing for any campaign-raising money- in order to put himself in a competitive position with Congressman Walz.  Good fundraising totals attract the attention of national players and PAC's, which means Miller can leverage the hard work he has done raising money into larger donations and more national visibility.

Jim Hagedorn now faces the prospect of limping into the primary with few campaign signs, no presence at Republican events and country fair booths across the district, and certainly no money for radio or TV ads.

Interestingly, Hagedorn is likely to drag down the vote totals of another candidate who fumbled the endorsement-Marty Siefert.  Hagedorn's going back on his word about abiding upset a lot of activists, and is strongly motivating them to vote for the endorsed candidate.  That backlash against Hagedorn is carrying over to Siefert- primary voters in CD1 are much more likely to vote the endorsed GOP ticket because of their antics.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Convention heroes and goats

The GOP convention in Rochester is over (finally) and it is time to review who came out a winner and who didn't.

Hero- Phillip Parrish
Parrish needed an extension to qualify to speak to the convention in his dark horse run for the Senate nod.  A virtual unknown to the delegates, Parrish came on the stage and wowed the convention with an unscripted but impassioned speech about the issues facing America.  Parrish was briefly in the position of kingmaker, courted by all the other candidates to throw his support to them.

Goat- David Carlson
After getting late notification of the delegate petition requirements (my fault), Carlson tried to parlay an innocent mistake into a media buzz over an alleged conspiracy.  Carlson, who ran for Senate in 2012 and did well in the primary against endorsed Kurt Bills, claimed that the required signatures of 2% of the convention delegates was an imposition and would be a burden to his campaign (a claim squarely disproved by Parrish).  Carlson spent the weekend posting snarky tweets encouraging a deadlocked endorsement, only to wind up with a McFadden endorsement.  The Senate primary now becomes McFadden and some also rans, and I would be surprised if Carlson gets 10% of the vote total he enjoyed in 2014.

Hero-Dave Thompson
No surprise to anyone who knew him, but Thompson delivered a clarion call to party unity and humility with his concession speech.  He gave the requisite thank you's to his family and supporters, but spent the bulk of his time talking about the importance of the endorsement process and even challenged those headed to a primary to think twice about their choice.  He ended with a request, not an order, for his supporters to cast their next vote for Jeff Johnson.  Thompson will be long remembered as a man of principle and dignity, especially after his speech was followed by...

Goat- Marty Siefert
There is a raging debate going over whether Marty was justified in trying to use a parliamentary trick to his advantage, or exposed as egocentric for a very obvious effort to thwart the endorsement process.  If Marty had simply wanted to end the convention knowing he couldn't win, he could have withdrawn from the endorsement contest.  That would have left him free to run in the primary, since he never agreed to be held to the endorsement anyways.  Instead, Siefert's attempt to deny a quorum meant that over 1000 delegates who were already tired from a long weekend, had to sit thru another ballot to make Jeff Johnson's endorsement official.  Maybe we would be calling Marty smart and shrewd if his plan had worked, but in such a dramatic failure, Siefert is now persona non grata to hundreds of activists that had formed the only hope for him in a primary.

Hero- Rob Farnsworth
A political unknown and hardly a stereotypical Republican, Rob was never truly listed as a contender for the governor's race.  But given the chance to speak, he gave a moving tribute to the emotional issues that fire up much of the Republican base.  A union member and a teacher, Rob now has enough name recognition and activist support inside the party to run for a county commissioner seat or mayor's office.  He probably isn't ready for higher office yet, but his work over the last none months has positioned him for whatever local office he wants to pursue.

Goat- Bonn Clayton
The number one political issue in Bonn's world is getting Republican judges elected to state courts.  It's a nice theoretical idea (although one that I oppose) but the reality is that the state has little resources to devote to getting judges elected, especially when you consider the party's 0% track record for judges over the last decade.  The delegates know this, which is why Bonn had to fight tooth and nail to have judicial endorsements be considered at the convention.  Another election cycle without a victory will likely mean the end of any momentum for endorsing judges in the GOP.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

MN DFL muffs chance to support women in the military

One of the more overlooked items in the bonding bill was the fact that the Minnesota DFL completely whiffed on a chance to strongly support women in the military.

Well over a year ago, the Pentagon lifted restrictions on female personnel serving in combat units.  Though I didn't support the change, the Minnesota National Guard did, quite emphatically.  Both the StarTrib and MPR reported on the MN Guard being part of the pilot program to integrate women into infantry units. But integration into a unit doesn't just mean sensitivity training-it also means upgrading National Guard armories with basic amenities like separate female showers.  Which is exactly why the MN National Guard asked the legislature for $1.38 million for upgrades to the Owatonna armory, home to one of the state's two infantry units.  The most significant change would have been the installation of separate female shower and locker room areas, a key feature that would help put female soldiers on par with their male counterparts.  Currently, the Guard unit has to post hours on the single shower area to restrict male and female personnel, a situation that exacerbates the integration issue.

But when the full bonding bill was finally released from the DFL House and DFL Senate, funding for the Owatonna armory upgrade was mysteriously absent.  In fact, the DFL Senator from Owatonna, Vicki Jensen, couldn't even explain why, how or when the funding was removed.  Instead, a 2 million dollar general appropriation was given to a military 'asset preservation fund', that may or may not choose to spend the money on the Owatonna armory.  Other National Guard facilities had requested money in the bonding bill, so it is by no means decided about who will get to spend the allocated money.

The integration of women into the combat arms was a folly, in my opinion.  But soldiers follow orders, and once the die was cast, out elected leaders should have given every ounce of their support to the brave female soldiers who will try to navigate what was an all male world up until last year.  The MN DFL, with control of the Legislature and the Governor's office, had a perfect chance to support the very women they profess to support so vocally.  Instead, they left the decision up to the brass in the MN National Guard, who are most likely to be older white males. 

Hello, hypocrisy.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Improving the endorsement ideas

My friend Jeff Kolb took up my challenge of trying to improve the endorsement process, rather than trying to demolish it.  He lists out several ideas, some good, some not so good, and several that already take place.  here's my response to his points in the order he listed them;

1) Require a 75% vote for considering endorsement
While this sounds simple, a 3/4 majority is incredibly rare in parliamentary procedure.  50% plus 1 is a majority, 60% is a 3/5 super-majority, and 66% is a 2/3 super majority.  75% runs the risk of allowing a 1/4 minority to dictate the process tot he majority.  Consider the MNGOP over the last few years.  How many good conservative candidates would have been denied endorsement (and thus party support) by a 25%  Ron Paul wing vocal minority? 

2) Restructure the nominations committee
Here Jeff is asking for something that is already in place.  The nominations committee is made up of a chair and member at large appointed by the state party chair, and one member from each CD appointed by each CD chair.  Jeff says you can game the system by getting your people on the committee.  Huh?  If you are a candidate and have the state party chair and at least 4 CD chairs in your back pocket, then yes I suppose you could leverage the nominations committee to deny other candidates the endorsement.  But you would be giving those candidates a perfect reason for running in the primary, something Jeff is already in favor of.  The nominations committee only works when it is fair and equal to all candidates, otherwise it would be seen as tainted.

3) Require financial disclosure
This is Jeff's best idea, and has real merit.  Forcing candidates to disclose the state of their fundraising would be a clear indicator to the candidates about the viability of the campaign.  But is this a proper function of the nominations committee?  Jeff and I agree that the nominations committee should only report on the most limited category of what makes a candidate qualified or not.  Running fundraising through nominations runs the risk of over-emphasizing money as a factor in campaigning.  What threshold should candidates be held to?  What dollar amount can we say right now is the minimum that a candidate should have raised to run against the deep Hollywood pockets of Al Franken?  Allowing the nominations committee to make that determination runs the risk of giving the committee an easy way of disqualifying candidates-exactly the situation Jeff warned against in point #2.  Instead, candidate financial disclosures should be a rule proposed from the floor, or a challenge from a bloc of delegates.

4) Eliminate nominations from the floor.
Already done at state and congressional district level, and by and large done at BPOU level as well.  Floor nominations are an exception to the rule, and can be dealt with effectively if the convention chair or parliamentarian has done their homework.  Maybe the party should give all BPOU chairs a copy of Robert Rules of Order, but banning a parliamentary procedure is not the answer.

5) Limit the number off ballots
Here is Jeff's most draconian idea, and the least useful.  An endorsing convention, especially at a statewide level, has its own process and flow, which can be confusing to folks who have never been through it before.  I know I was certainly mystified at how things worked when I got involved in the party.  Some delegates promise to vote for a candidate on the first ballot, and then are free to vote as they will, others are held to voting for a candidate by their BPOU chair or local leader.  How the votes shake out in each ballot is a story in itself, and appearence of momenteum for a candidate can swing the vote.

Limiting the convention to only a handful of ballots would make each vote critically important, and make an already tense process even more crucial.  That kind of intense pressure is where we tend to see the worst in campaigns-negative attacks on flyers, heated rhetoric and personal rivalries. 

There is merit in the ever increasing threshold for how many votes candidates need to stay on the ballot, i.e 10% on the first ballot, 15% on the second ballot, ect.  This is governed by the rules of the convention, and can be very effective in winnowing the candidate field down quickly.

6) Require 'no endorsement' to be a choice on each ballot
Not a bad idea, but not terribly useful either.  Any delegate can cast a blank ballot, which is effectively the same as a vote for no endorsement, as candidates must receive a majority of all ballots cast.  A motion for no endorsement can be made in between ballots, so why it would be beneficial to include the option during balloting is a mystery to me.

7) Require a 2/3 majority for endorsement
Not a bad idea, and is an option available to the rules committee.  A 2/3 majority would make a 3 way deadlock more likely however, and brings back the question from point #1; how much power should we give to a minority of the delegates? 

Most of Jeff's idea revolve around requiring super majority votes to move the endorsement process along.  While not bad ideas per se, they do run the risk of allowing a small minority to control the endorsement process, an idea most of us should have a healthy fear of given the last few years in the MN GOP.  In the end, I trust the delegates to make an informed choice more often than not on who to confer party support and resources on.  The idea of requiring financial disclosure has a lot of merit, but I don't think the nominations committee is the place to require it-rather each candidate should address the question during their floor time.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

With Benghazi, the crime is at least as bad as the coverup

Much has been made this week of the now impossible to deny cover up by the White House of the facts of the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sep 11th, 2012.  Emails and video show clearly that Pres Obama's administration intentionally fed the American people a fabrication with the 'spontaneous protest' over an obscure internet video.

Usually with a scandal, the actual crime committed is relatively un-serious, while the cover-up is what generates the outrage.  Pres Clinton and his escapades in the Oval Office are a prime example; the Blue Dress was embarressing and demeaning, but the cover up and bald faced lies are what incensed the American people.

But with Benghazi, the crime is at least as bad as the cover up.  Aside from every thing else that happened that night, Americans were under attack for 8 hours and the United States, still the most powerful military force in the world, made a calculated decision to do nothing.  The White House left Americans to die.  While we remember the 4 Americans who were killed, it is worth noting that dozens of Americans were left out in the cold; the fact that our enemies only killed four is a testament to the heroism of some of those who gave their last full measure of devotion.

While President Obama never served in the US military, he nonetheless commands the military, and doubtless has good generals advising him on what the military is capable of, and how we think.  The fact that the White House sat idly by for 8 hours while the attack was ongoing and did nothing is irreconcilable with the Warrior Ethos we live by;

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
This ethos was not just absent on the night of Sep 11th, 2012; it was replaced by rank political cowardice.

Consider the last time a Democrat president was involved in a rapidly escalating military crisis in an African country-the now famous Blackhawk Down battle in Mogadishu.  When everything was going wrong, Americans were under fire and the situation in the ground hopelessly confused, two men demonstrated how far American warriors will go to live up to the Warrior Ethos-

Neither the White House, the State Department or the apologists on the left have ever given a reasonable, logical or plausible reason why US military rapid response forces, on high alert for the anniversary of 9/11, were not allowed to mount a rescue effort.

President Obama led a US military intervention in Libya, despite having poor intelligence on the ground, no formal backing from Congress and no clearly defined objective.  But when Americans were under fire, and asking for help, the President was too busy too even take a short walk down to the situation room.  While former Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were waiting for the president to honor the Warrior Ethos, Pres Obama was instead honoring the Politician's Ethos;

I will always place re-election first
I will sacrifice anyone to avoid defeat
I will never stop lying to save myself
I will never hesitate to leave a fallen comrade if it will further my political career

The cover up of the Benghazi scandal has been slowly and inevitably unraveling.  But as Congressional hearings shift the focus to 'who knew what and when', we have to remember that Benghazi is not a faux outrage, not a manufactured scandal, and not a slight political embarrassment that is dwarfed by the cover up.  Benghazi was a a calculated decision by the commander in chief to ignore the pleas for help by troops in contact-an unforgivable sin.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Who gets to address the convention

So last week I asked what the criteria should be for the nominating committee for statewide candidates; I got an earful of interesting comments.  Most seemed to agree that candidates need to meet the bare minimum requirements, and let the delegates decide.

But several commenters opined that only those agreeing to abide by the endorsement should be allowed to speak at the state convention.  The idea is not without merit or precedence; my own BPOU of Steele County restricted speaking access at our convention to candidates who agreed to abide.  The reason for the rule was mainly to cut down on the long list of speakers, but nonetheless it passed unanimously.  And Mark Dayton famously skipped the DFL convention in 2010 because he was the lone candidate to refuse to abide by the endorsement-he mingled on the floor but did not address the convention. 

So should the MNGOP state convention allow only candidates agreeing to abide by the endorsement to address the delegates?

Clarification; this is a hypothetical question, and I'm not proposing this for this year's convention. The rules committee, not nominations, has the responsibility of setting the rules of the convention.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Two paragraphs, so much consternation

At the state convention, the nominations committee has to report on the qualifications of the candidates seeking endorsement.  From the MNGOP state party constitution;
Nominations Committee.
To be eligible to be considered for endorsement or election, candidates for statewide
nonjudicial endorsement and candidates for National Delegate or Alternate must meet all legal
requirements and submit nominating petitions to the Nominating Committee containing the
printed names and signatures of a minimum of 2% of the State Convention Delegates.
The Nominations Committee shall report to the convention those candidates who have met the
petition and legal requirements at Section 3A and whether the Nominating Committee deems the
candidates to be qualified or unqualified to receive endorsement or be elected. 
What are the criteria for 'qualified'?  That is left to the nominations committee's discretion. Many different opinions have been brought forward on what the nominations committee should be looking at when they determine qualifications.  Should candidates be measured on how conservative they are?  Should bad votes in their past be brought up?
Since I'm chairing the nominations committee, I'd like your input on this.  Leave a comment, find me on Facebook or Twitter, or give me a call.  This is your chance to have some input on how the nominations committee vetts the candidates for statewide office.