Sunday, November 27, 2005
The Winds Of Change
Yet another sign of the changing political winds: A Minnesota exurb that hasn't elected a Democrat in over ten years has done so now -- among other things:
It was a busy week, what with travel and relatives and cooking marathons, so you might have missed news of the minor political earthquakes in the western 'burbs on Tuesday. In District 43's state Senate special election, DFLer Terri Bonoff, a Minnetonka Planning Commission member and school activist, defeated Republican Mayor Judy Johnson of Plymouth by an unmistakable 1,000 or so votes. [...] ... If a well-known, well-credentialed, well-liked candidate like Johnson doesn't sell to second-ring suburbanites over an (initially) lesser-known DFLer, what Republican can? I'd say, probably not one whose major differences with her DFL opponent are over tunes on the religious right's hit parade. Johnson is a Ramstad-Robertson moderate on matters like school and transportation funding. As president of the Minnesota League of Cities, she sides with DFLers on city funding questions. As a former welfare recipient, she's in sympathy with government support for the poor. But she wants abortion and gay marriage constitutionally banned. She danced around the question of teaching intelligent design in public schools with moves that had to leave voters confused, if not dizzy. Not so long ago, Republicans who wanted to win in districts like 43 chose fiscally conservative candidates willing to keep abortion legal and to steer clear of the rest of the social conservative agenda. Maybe that formula isn't out-of-date. The other trembles after Tuesday's election had to be felt in the Independence Party. For the little third party that Jesse Ventura rode into the governor's office seven years ago, the results in exurban District 19 had to be dispiriting. Del Haag was the IP's super-qualified candidate -- former League of Minnesota Cities president, National League of Cities board member, 17-year Buffalo City Council member, Montrose Public Works director. He came in third, with not quite 17 percent of the vote. The Republican winner, Buffalo businesswoman Amy Koch, garnered a solid 52 percent. It cannot be claimed that the presence of a third-party candidate altered the outcome. Yet it's worth wondering what might have happened if Haag had said yes a few weeks back, when the DFL Party called and asked him to be its candidate. Haag then would have had the resources of a real party -- voter lists, volunteers, special interest friends, fundraisers -- that the Independence Party lacks. More voters would have heard about his impressive résumé and thoughtful views. Haag's answer to the DFL was no, he related, but not because he disagrees with much that moderate DFLers like Senate leader Dean Johnson say. The GOP's inflexibilty on social issues has got Haag leaning toward the D side. Rather, Haag said, he went with the IP because the DFL label hasn't been worn by a winner in Wright County for many years. And because, after 17 years in nonpartisan office, he didn't feel right about plunging into the DFL water. And because the chance to be part of building something new "sort of gives you a tingle." He said that a few days before the election. He's likely felt something a little different since.
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