I’m just going to give some general political musings in this post. Take them as personal observations – any appearance of endorsement is just my own personal opinion. In other words don’t read too much into it. Once the primary is over on the Democratic side, I plan to work for the winners. Period.
But given that, here are some general thoughts. First of all, in the Democratic governor race, I do not really have a preference. Anyone of the three would be a strong candidate for the general. They each have their own particular strengths and weaknesses, but any one of the three can beat Pawlenty. I feel relatively confident of that.
As for Pawlenty, it is clear that he does not have the full support of his own party. Oh, for sure, they will vote for him in November, but the enthusiasm factor is lacking. And this is not saying that Jeff Johnson would somehow be better….he’s not, and clearly would be less competitive. But I think the contrast between the Pawlenty years and the Dayton years is so clear that I feel Pawlenty is really going to struggle this time around. The only worry for Democrats is that Pawlenty has pretty much an open checkbook from donors. But if the polling turns very negative, they will abandon him, because there are too many places that will need defending.
Senator Tina Smith has a challenge from Richard Painter, which is its own curiousity. Painter’s reputation got a high profile from his talk show segments in which he clearly stated the flaws in ethics with this administration. And I have very little problem with his progressive views. He almost sounds like Wellstone in that regard. However, when you are a sudden Democrat after serving in the Bush administration, the question becomes, where have you been? I realize that Trump has caused him to jump ship…at least for this cycle, but how can we be sure of his sincerity? I still think that he wants to be part of a reanimated Republican Party if Trump should self-destruct. But bringing the GOP back to its moderate roots seems like a ship that has sailed.
And I do not understand this lack of enthusiasm for Senator Smith. She is a solid progressive. Was an executive with Planned Parenthood. Has been invaluable to the Dayton agenda. Helped with Rochester’s expansion. While she does not have a charismatic personality, she is more than competent at the job. I’m still puzzled by her detractors.
The Attorney General situation has bordered on chaos. Keith Ellison left his safe seat to run state wide, but why? I assume he thinks that as the AG he can put together high profile challenges against the Trump administration. And while that is needed, it seems a bit more self serving than a practical improvement. Having said that, Ellison will probably be more confrontational than Lori Swanson has been – and that, in my opinion, is a good thing.
Matt Pelikan is the endorsed candidate,(his convention speech was a barnburner) but he has become overwhelmed with higher profile opponents. And if we were really talking about the right qualifications for the job, I think Deb Hilstrom is your pick. I think the Democratic winner here will carry on the DFL tradition in the AG office. Republican Doug Wardlow has a lot of questionable credentials – both professionally and ethically.
The attorney general scramble opened up another scramble in the 5th Congressional District. Rep. Ilhan Omar is the endorsed candidate and is looking to mark another historical first as a Somali American Congresswoman. Margaret Anderson Kelliher is trying to make a political comeback, and Senator Patricia Torres Ray is part of a strong female field. Five candidates in all, and the winner will almost certainly be the new Congressional Rep for the 5th.
So, how about the Congressional races? Minnesota is going to be really high profile in this regard. Both parties will be targeting this state for basically 4 closely contested seats. Two Republican incumbents look very vulnerable – Jason Lewis (2nd) and Erik Paulsen (3rd). I think Angie Craig is a pretty safe bet to unseat Lewis. And Dean Phillips is running a great campaign against Paulsen – who is showing signs of cracking with indecision on how to approach an unpopular Donald Trump in his district.
The Democrats have some problems in 2 other districts. The 1st is the seat that Tim Walz is leaving to run for Governor. He had a very narrow win last time around which gave the GOP a lot of encouragement. Jim Hagedorn is endorsed by the GOP and he is still a lousy candidate. Coming close in 2016 was not because he did a great job – it was a Trump surge down there. State Sen. Carla Nelson is giving him a tough primary challenge and probably would be a better candidate for the GOP. The DFLer Dan Feehan looks pretty good though and seems to be gaining ground. If Feehan can hold this seat for the Democrats, a Congressional turnover might be in the works. In the 8th district, where Nolan has retired, is up for grabs again. The GOP has coalesced around Pete Stauber and he looks like he will be a good candidate. The DFL has a large field for its primary, but I think Joe Radinovich and Jason Metsa will be the main contenders. Either one of them would be a good fit, but this will be a close one and outside money will be heavy.
The Minnesota House needs significant wins in Republican held seats – and this is complicated by a larger than usual number of Democrats retiring. The selection of Erin Maye Quade as the running mate for Erin Murphy was a real monkey wrench in the plans. The selection of a State Senator would have been much better strategically, but I guess the House DFL is dealing with it. There is a path to the majority, but they will need that blue wave to be actual and not theoretical.
There is also an unusual situation in the State Senate. Senators are not up for re-election in this cycle, but with Michelle Fischbach joing Pawlenty’s ticket and resigning from the Senate, the majority status for the Senate is actually in play. The DFLer for District 13, Joe Perske, is a bit of a long shot, but he is the best candidate for the job. If the DFLer wins this seat, the Senate will go back to DFL control. It is a strong Republican district, but as we have seen across the country, that is no guarantee anymore.
This will be one the most significant primary elections in some time for Minnesota. So make sure you VOTE!