Tom Bakk spoke at the mnpACT! meeting a couple Friday nights ago in Burnsville. It was the second to the last meeting in the ongoing series featuring candidates for governor. R.T. Rybak and Margaret Anderson Kelliher closeout the series on December 11th.
Tom Bakk spoke at a meeting that also featured Matt Entenza. You can read my observation on Entenza in a previous post. As I said in that previous post, I am not going to reinvent the wheel when it comes to talking about the meeting. There is an excellent synopsis of what Entenza and Bakk talked about posted by Dave Mindeman at mnpACT!.
My opinion of Bakk’s presentation was initially very positive. I continue to like him more every time I see him. He isn’t the most exciting guy, but he seems real and honest. He seems like the type of guy you could have a beer with and watch the game. We learned how important that is in 2004.
Tom started out by talking about being a first-time grandpa. It was nice to see the proud smile. Mentioning little things like that are important connecting tools. I don’t want to make assumptions about the people in attendance, but in the small group that was there, a majority of people seemed to be of grandparent age. I’m sure a couple of them could relate to the proud smile of the first grandchild.
Soon the smile of being a grandpa disappeared as he talked bluntly about Minnesota’s future. There was no sugar coating and no hopeful outlook. Bakk plainly spoke about a financial crisis on the horizon that we won’t solve using the ideas other candidates are proposing.
While it is refreshing to hear an honest response to the impending crisis, it was also a significant downer for the people listening. I heard a woman behind me say “makes me want to commit suicide.”
While it was a little depressing hearing about the state’s finances, he does have a plan. I’m not sure it is that different from other candidate’s plans. I think what is different is how blunt he is. It is a plan that involves significant cuts that will be “uncomfortable” with additional revenues raised through taxation. Bakk made it perfectly clear that a responsible candidate cannot take a “no new tax pledge” during a crisis like Minnesota is facing. All options need to be on the table to ensure future financial viability. And Bakk seems very well suited to taking in a GOP candidate who does take that “pledge.”
There was one issue that has been bothering me a little bit about that evening. I hesitate to mention it because I don’t recall the details, and I didn’t make a note about it. At one point Bakk was talking about his ideas versus the House’s ideas and specifically him versus Margaret Anderson Kelliher. If the race was between him and Kelliher, it wouldn’t bother me, but there are ten candidates. Unless he is going to illustrate differences between himself and all of the candidates, I think it is way too early to single one other candidate out, even if she may seem like a frontrunner.
In Bakk’s Thanksgiving email, he stated:
“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life is that nobody wins when you tear others down.”
Going forward we can’t tear other DFL candidates down. If I had to bet, I would bet at least four other candidates have a better shot at winning a primary than Tom Bakk. I like him a lot, but we do need to consider that he only has a one in ten shot of making it to the general election. Bakk needs to be the person we want to have a beer with, not the person disregarded by a group of people because he attacked their candidate.
Tom Bakk will be a force at the convention. I think he is going to have a lot more support than people here in the cities might think. He is tough and ready to take the lead. There are some very charismatic candidates out there. Tom Bakk may not be one of them, but he will compete based on his honest and blunt approach to what’s happening.