One of the most interesting political developments this election cycle involves Sheila Kihne, a well known conservative activist in House District 48B, and friend, who single-handedly denied the republican endorsement to incumbent Jenifer Loon, Republican Deputy House Minority Leader. Kihne's challenge came late and without much warning. Loon apparently expected an easy time of it but at the end of the day was left with a divided convention voting no endorsement. So much for grass roots support.
To the dismay of entitled Minnesota republican incumbents everywhere, Kihne followed through with her effort by registering to run in the primary (photo above). This was thought of by many as very bad form indeed. People are entitled to their views but I see it as rather the opposite: keeping us true to ourselves by reminding us, unpleasantly, of how easy it is become DFL-lite in this state. If you like Arne Carlson, you'll love Jenifer Loon.
The conventional take on this race, and Kihne's candidacy, is that it all comes down to her disagreement on Loon's vote for same sex marriage. Spare me the martyrology of politicians who preen that they must vote their conscience because they're brave things and then whine like spoiled children when they suffer adverse consequences. The brave don't whine and if you do, we're entitled to conclude you were never brave to begin with. What do the phony do for an encore?
I've written about this at length concerning former Rep. David FitzSimmons and that piece can be read by clickinghere.Eric Lucero won the endorsement over FitzSimmons and a great hue and cry was heard about the land. In fact, the hash tag #IStandWithFitz was popular for a time among the, how to say it?, Twitter tough guys. ™Andy Parrish.
By the way, has endorsed 6th Congressional District republican Tom Emmer endorsed Lucero? Lucero has a primary challenger; a weak version of the empire strikes back.
Or will Emmer pull a Bachmann and encourage a vote for the person who is bucking the endorsement process? Bachmann endorsed McFadden for US Senate at Rochester's endorsing convention at the end of May. The DFL has already run ads denoting him as her favorite republican. That's rich, given how much Norm Coleman can't stand her. "Bachmannistan," anyone?
Remember, we're a high minded and principled party. Until we aren't.
The gloss that this race is same sex marriage redux is understandable but ultimately false. Even Sally Jo Sorensen, who blogs at Bluestem Prairie (Minnesota's best blog in my envious opinion) pretty much treated it as such when she wrote about Lucero encouraging his supporters to donate to Kihne. The idea, however, that this has very much to do with a women's front group funded by Bob Cummins "scorning" Kihne is simply wide of the mark. (When the group's leader doesn't know to from too, scorn runs in the opposite direction). Given that Bluestem is on the outside looking in, I understand the analysis. Sorensen's post can be read by clicking here.
There's much more involved here, however, and that more consists of the voting record of Rep. Loon. If a politician's voting record is not something from which we may object once they are in office, then republicans in Minnesota may as well join the Phyllis Kahn Legislator For Life Caucus. And this is what has bothered me about republicans in the House and Senate: they believe people like Sheila Kihne shouldn't do what she is doing. They won, once, and should be reelected again and again by the same voters, only to be taken out by a democrat should the tide change. Breathtakingly, they act as if how they vote is really no concern of republicans.
No thank you. Winning once doesn't give you carte blanche to stray so far (and I'm giving wide berth here, as anyone who knows me would agree) from conservative, republican principles. And yes, we are north of the Mason-Dixon line so a lot of far right agendas won't and shouldn't play here. But that isn't what Sheila Kihne is about in this race, despite what her detractors say. She's running against a specific candidate with a specific record.
Loon's record is not that widely known: it's appalling.
Loon introduced legislation that would reduce property taxes for businesses owned by women. At a time when we, as republicans and a nation, are trying to move further and further away from identity politics, here comes a left-wing democrat idea. Who was it that said to me on Twitter last week we don't promote women simply because they are women? Perhaps that woman can talk to Jenifer and set her straight (or is that word hetero-normative?) about republicans not being a party that gives financial breaks for some taxpayers simply because of their gender.
She voted against legalizing Wisconsin-type fireworks, which legislation eventually passed but was vetoed by Governor Dayton. She knows better, you see. This is how a liberal democrat thinks, acts and votes. She appears comfortable with her arrogance; at once of a piece with her membership in the deeply mediocre House leadership. They keep hiring their friends instead of real talent; that's worked out so well recently why change?
Loon voted for making failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense, meaning police could pull you over for such a failure alone, including the failure of your backseat passengers to use them. She's from the government and she's here to help.
She was an author of two separate bills to grant HOV lane privileges to hybrid or electric cars. Loon should move to California, where she'd fit in with the brain dead liberals who run that state.
She co-authored, with uber liberal Rep. Ryan Winkler, a HEAD Start bill that would have allocated $150 million to low-income pre-schoolers despite abundant evidence such programs do no good. As John Derbyshire recently noted, its "been failing for 50 years but the elites still believe in it."
Spare me "feel good republicans." They are worse than democrats, who at least believe their tripe. Loon thinks women in her district are stupid and will buy such nonsense. They aren't and they don't.
She voted for the misnomer anti-bullying bill, in a previous incarnation, not the one signed into law, which does nothing but create legal and bureaucratic nightmares for our school districts. Of course, it makes people who vote for it feel good about themselves and doubtless Jenifer invites you to feel good about her.
There are a multitude of other issues and votes with which any sane conservative in HD 48B could take issue in Rep. Loon's career. The high school sensibility (and concomitant sophistication) of both senate and house caucuses regarding Loon being challenged tells any reasonable observer what dire circumstances the Minnesota republican party is in.
Here's the question then: why should republicans continue to vote for state officials despite--instead of because of--their record? Why should a challenge to an incumbent, who may technically be a republican but surely no conservative, get the backing, reflexively, of the entire party apparatus? And if you don't think the stale establishment was behind Loon (for fear they were next, mostly,) then you should clickhereto see their fund raiser invitation for her. The invite claims she's a champion of "less intrusive government" and has many legislative accomplishments. I'm not sure it's possible to articulate how dumb they think you are.
Minnesota republican incumbents would do well to remind themselves that they serve at the pleasure of their base, initially, and then the general electorate. No, not every challenge to an incumbent will be sound or warranted so I decline to fight that straw man.
But some are and Sheila Kihne's race against Jenifer Loon is one of them. Loon is accountable but resents it. In this she mirrors her peers. But to say such is only to mark how far afield those in office have come from those they pretend to represent.
Please make a donation of whatever amount you can to Sheila Kihne by clicking here.
Correction: The original post has been changed to make clear that Loon voted for a previous version, not the enacted version, of what would ultimately become law and known as the anti-bullying bill.
Last weekend's Minnesota Republican state endorsing convention was a debacle by any measure of the word, and not simply because my preferred U.S. Senate candidate, Julianne Ortman, failed even to make it to the fifth ballot. She missed the cutoff for that vote by .03%. I was a paid consultant for her campaign for April and May, with research and writing my main tasks.
I met many fine people on that campaign. Rob Doar, the deputy campaign manager, has a deservedly bright future. Keep an eye on him. Better yet, hire him, Brad.
I should have known that any Minnesota republican candidate having a Somali woman on the dais speaking Somali in front of the delegates would be doomed to failure. Plus the candidate being a woman is a disadvantage in our party. The idea that we need to reach out to others besides the blindingly white audience seems to be taken as a personal affront. The convention eventually went on to endorse six white males for the six statewide constitutional offices on the ballot this fall.
If you're fine with this, you're part of the problem.
I waited until today to post. I trusted my instincts and I'm glad I did. Yesterday morning on Twitter I was accused of promoting women simply because they were women. No one who reads this blog, or who knows me, would fairly say that of me. I'm the last to endorse identity politics.
That said, do we really have no women or minority republicans worthy of advancement? If that's your argument, you have a heavy burden of proof.
I know we kill the messengers in this party but by now Rasputin has nothing on me.
What's really remarkable about the convention is how confused and divided in their own minds the delegates were: no guiding principles, no consistent code of conduct for behavior nor any sense of what it takes by way of fielding candidates in order to defeat the democrats this fall.
On the first ballot for Senate, it was a three way tie between Chris Dahlberg, Mike McFadden and Julianne Ortman. The latter lost votes in each subsequent ballot. Ortman gave, by what even her opponents said, was a gracious and sincere exit speech. Pointedly, she refrained from withdrawing. Yesterday she reached out to McFadden to congratulate him and urge unity. If an accomplished, gracious and conservative woman like Ortman doesn't have what it takes for higher office in the Minnesota Republican Party, then I'd suggest no woman, or minority, does.
This is a recipe for political extinction.
Once Ortman was no longer on the ballot, it was a race to bludgeon Dahlberg supporters into submission. Mike has money, Chris doesn't. Once Julianne was out of the way, the conventional, consultant driven wisdom kicked in. Besides, neither campaign had people who didn't look like us on the dais. Alas, that's still not nothing in Minnesota republican politics, despite the pretense of minority outreach.
Ortman tried to show what an inclusive future looked like, both by her own candidacy and by those whose supported it.
The balloting went late into that Friday night and when Dahlberg agreed to resume the fight the next morning he gave up all momentum and lost, on the tenth ballot, to Mike McFadden, who had vowed not to respect the endorsement if he didn't get it. Keith Downey, chair of the MNGOP, was a strong supporter of the effort to suspend Friday night's voting. It hurt Marty Seifert and that was fine with him. Downey claimed the delegates had to be out of the building by two in the morning but in fact the party had the hall for the entire night. This is called lying.
But here is what's important: an endorsing convention's delegates gave their support to the guy who said he wouldn't respect them in the morning. Fuck us anyway, they said.
Make of it what you will, my only point is that the clearly declared intent of one candidate to go to a primary was not a bar for the delegates to ultimately endorse him. And to feel creepily good about themselves in the process. If this doesn't constitute losing your mind, nothing does.
The smug factor in Rochester was positively liberal. This is important in understanding, or not, what happened later in the gubernatorial race.
I tweeted my congratulations to Mike, Brad Herold, Kevin Poindexter and Tom Erickson the day of their victory. I'll work to help Mike win but in the process make sure he's something other than Norm Coleman-lite. I have my doubts but going forward Mike has the benefit of them, for now. Here's to his beating Al Franken this fall.
In between Senate votes (I was working the convention, only returning to my seat when I needed to vote) I had the opportunity to hear, partially, some delegate complain about vaccinations and how "no government" is going to tell her what to put in her child's body. These aren't republicans, they're kooks. Why are we indulging them? Not vaccinating your children puts the rest of ours at risk. Welcome to modernity. Besides, just let that mother try not letting her child have a life saving blood transfusion. What have republicans become?
After Ortman departed the race and the convention, I was resident in her hospitality suite along with the other members of her faded effort. I confess to laughing heartily when the doors suddenly swung open only to see Rob Doar hauling in Andy Parrish, campaign manager. Andy had been expelled by the Sergeant At Arms from the convention floor.
He slapped an activist, calling him a cream puff.
Somethings are self-evident and I put this in that category. Parrish, appropriately, apologized the next day. The hilarity was undeniable, however, and I'll be forever grateful to him for it.
Like a bad dream, I woke up Saturday in Rochester still in Rochester. Inception-like, I thought: "when's the kick coming?" Like so much in life, it never did. Bad coffee in the room followed. I left at noon.
By the time I reached St. Paul, McFadden had won, to the surprise of just about everyone. Brad Herold, campaign manager, and his team brought their A-game and it showed. Forget the cheesy indoor fireworks and the geriatric balloon drop. They got the delegates to eat the dog food and like it. You have to respect that.
The repulsive Michele Bachmann played a part by endorsing McFadden, thereby proving again her lack of principles and integrity. Heretofore she had insisted on the importance of supporting only candidates who agreed to abide by the endorsement.
The vote for governor was grossly delayed, however, and that delay must be figured in to what happened subsequently.
Dave Thompson withdrew after the third ballot and addressed the convention. Marty Seifert addressed the convention immediately after and released his delegates, many of which were from CD 7 and 8 and who had to get back home. In a greatly diminished convention, Jeff Johnson won the endorsement. Republicans have a four way primary for governor this August.
The reaction to Seifert releasing his delegates was as embarrassing as it was deeply ignorant. Not very bright people outdid themselves in an effort to act stupid. They succeeded. One buffoon declared it his intent to "end" Seifert's career. Please. Another called on his running mate, Pam Myhra, to withdraw from the ticket. Welcome to high school.
Yesterday we were treated to six white guys flying around the state in a small plane. The DFL and its allied groups immediately emphasized that fact. You don't have to like it but the reality is that the resistance of Minnesota republicans to opening up their party meaningfully to women and minorities will continue to be exploited and to their detriment.
How could it be otherwise?
The common reaction, in my experience, to pointing this out is irritation and resentment. But at some level everyone knows its true. The longer passive aggressive Minnesota republicans pretend everything is fine the longer we'll be in the political wilderness.
Yesterday Keith Downey said that the contested gubernatorial primary will be a good thing because it will increase voter participation. He's not bright enough, really, to understand that this is a fundamental argument by those of us who support a primary system over the archaic and dysfunctional endorsing process. But there it was, said as if there was no contradiction. When republicans at this level have a hard time processing reality, it's an open question whether there's any realistic chance of improving the party.