NOTE : As this commentary is being written, the election results are still being tabulated, so this commentary is more about the trend as the outcomes and margins could change.
Voters were engaged.
Unlike in other off year elections, participation was meaningful.
Just look at the Minnesota Governor race, where in 2014, the total number of voters was 1,975,406 while this year’s tally will be up over 600,000 !
The outcome was a return of control of the Minnesota House to the DFL and retention of the Executive Branch with the DFL.
Voters still cast votes for Michelle MacDonald.
This year, preliminary reports are that she will get 824,620 votes for a seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court … slightly down from the 878,270 votes she received in 2016 but up from 2014 when she received 680,265.
While Minnesota judicial candidates run in nonpartisan races, that does not prevent parties from endorsing candidates … as Minnesota’s Republican party did in 2014 with wanna-be Justice MacDonald.
May 31 2014 — At the Republican Party of Minnesota’s convention in Rochester, MacDonald is recommended for endorsement by the GOP’s Judicial Elections Committee. Afterward, delegates to the party convention vote overwhelmingly to endorse her. She gives a Bible-waving speech and is received warmly by delegates.
Since then, MacDonald has had her license suspended by the Supreme Court earlier this year, was fined by the Office of Administrative Hearings, and had questioned campaign expenditures.
She has lost each election … yet garnering significant votes.
What makes this Bad is that our process that allows voters to elect judges.
Remember John Hancock who ran unsuccessfully in 2000 receiving 639,915 votes or roughly 35% of the ballots cast, and again in 2014 when he was in the process of returning to Minnesota from Nebraska ?
Remember this story in the Wall Street Journal “A national Republican group is spending heavily on judicial elections in some states, prompting judges to get more involved in their campaigns as they seek to hold on to their seats.”
The current system of electing judges is a concern … between under-informed voters and the potential for outside spending should be reason to re-consider Al Quie’s recommendation to amending the state Constitution to establish retention elections for judges. An idea that has been supported by members of the Coalition for Impartial Justice.
While Minnesota may have dodged a bullet if money had bought a judicial seat, it appears that Trump’s money may have bought two Congressional seats.
You could not miss the television ads and Internet ads focused on one thing … attacking the candidates.
Both parties have supporters who use this tactic.
And leading the charge was Trump’s America First Action PAC at $3,256,601 in spending against Joe Radinovich in Minnesota’s Eighth District and $1,738,562 against Dan Feehan in Minnesota’s First District. On top of Trump’s group, Norm Coleman’s Congressional Leadership Fund, spent $3,908,656 in the MN08 and $1,746,710 in MN01.
As of this writing, both candidates appear to be losing.
Trump’s SuperPAC also spent heavily (and won) against Senate candidates Joe Donnelly ($2,820,486) and Claire McCaskill ($2,625,287) as well against WV03 Richard Ojeda ($1,188,011). Plus there are contests yet to be finalized where Trump spent heavily — against Senator Jon Tester ($1,909,540) and ME02 Jared Golden ($1,089,171).
The tone of some of these ads was beyond harsh … questioning the patriotism of military veterans — Feehan, Golden and Ojeda.
Heck, Richard Ojeda supported Trump in 2016, but now is expressing disappointment over Trump failures, ‘I’m going to take all them jobs from overseas and bring them to America.’ He hasn’t brought them to West Virginia. We still struggle on everything.”
Another common thread is that Feehan, Golden, Ojeda and Radinovich have all run on the need for campaign finance reform.
That is the tragedy in this election … Trump, the master of branding from nicknames to campaign ads, has moved voters off the issues that should matter to them, and onto fear-motivation to attract votes for his candidates.
I will say it again … both parties have supporters who use this tactic.
And it needs to end.
What if a candidate had a limit they could spend ?
Is democracy served when over $9.5 million dollars is spent on a congressional district that garners just over 314,000 voters … that’s over $30 per voter.
While Trump may be disappointed that Jason Lewis did not prevail, the composition of the Minnesota delegation has improved in his favor. Considering that Collin Peterson has sided with Republicans on many environmental and social issues, and Erik Paulsen was beginning to acknowledge the need to address gun violence and climate change, there will be many votes where Trump can still count on four votes for his agenda.
Yep, Trump won.