Category Archives: 2010 MN Elections

Why don’t Dave Thompson and the GOP understand the conflict of interest?

Tom Scheck and Catharine Richert of MPR published an article titled “Chairman’s spending decisions on insiders helped lead to GOP debt.”  The article features my own State Senator, and the candidate who defeated me, Stat Senator Dave Thompson of Lakeville.

Scheck and Richert document the unethical and nepotistic spending frenzy carried out by Tony Sutton and the GOP that helped lead to the Republican Party’s current $2,000,000 debt.  Yes, that is two million dollars in irresponsible debt owed by the party that claims the mantra of fiscally responsibility.  And do not get me started on what happened in 2001 when the Republicans rented out an amusement park for 500 people with a pyrotechnics show, paid $9K, and refused to pay $22K because the amount was not properly approved… Like I said do not get me started.

The entire story by Scheck and Richert is very interesting, but the section titled “PARTY INSIDERS AND CANDIDATES ON THE PAYROLL” was the most interesting to me.

First of all, my name is in that section of the article, so somebody brought it to my attention.  But my name is not what makes it interesting.  The interesting part is that the section discusses the unethical employment practice, unethical at least in the eyes of many, including the DFL which has a policy preventing it, of the Party hiring candidates running for office to fill party jobs, including candidate Dave Thompson.

State Senator Dave Thompson was paid $70,000 for “communications consulting.”  While we were running against each other, I knew he was working for Lee Byberg who was running for Congress up in the 7th district, but I knew nothing of his work for the Republican Party that he was being handsomely paid for.  No wonder he drives a Mercedes.

Obviously his work did not affect me, or my run, but how did it affect his run?  He defeated Farmington City Councilmember Christy Jo Fogerty, and Lakeville School Board Member Bob Erickson.  Did he get any extra Party help because he was being paid by the Republican Party?  Was there anything else unethical in how the voting was conducted?  Did Sutton and the Republican machine arrange his win?

Do I believe any of that?  No, but the most important thing when it comes to this sort of thing, outside of basic ethics and morals, is not to allow anything that could create a shadow of a doubt to outsiders.

Dave Thompson who was being paid by the Republican Party told the MPR reports: “I guess I never saw that as being any kind of conflict, and still don’t to this day.”  Not a conflict?  Hello… 

It is entirely a conflict.  State law forbids a candidate from paying himself for work for a reason.  Just because state law does not prohibit political parties from hiring candidates doesn’t mean it is ethical.  And it does not mean it shouldn’t be against the law.  The MPR story quoted Mike Dean of Common Cause Minnesota who said:

“…he believes the Republican Party of Minnesota is circumventing that law. ‘This practice doesn’t meet a smell test in terms of what is ethical,’ Dean said. ‘There should be a clear bright line that says candidates for office should not be paid by other candidates for office or political parties.’”

The big concern is that the party, or other candidates in conjunction with the party, could work to provide the candidate a means of livelihood while they campaign.  When I ran against Sen. Thompson, I worked until 5, drove home to Farmington in traffic, got home around 6, ate dinner with my family, then went out and door knocked for a couple hours, maybe visiting 10-20 houses before it got too late or too dark.  If I could have door knocked areas during the day because I was being paid by Lee Byberg, the Republican Party, or even another candidate with a surplus of funds for “contracted services,” maybe a few more votes could be had.

If the DFL thinks it is unethical, and if other groups think it is unethical, but the Republican Party doesn’t think it is unethical, or Dave Thompson doesn’t think it is a conflict, what is wrong with them?

The party of fiscal responsibility?  What a hypocritical group of jokers.  If anything has come out of recent elections, The Republican Party is the party of special interests and conflicts of interests.  The next thing you know they will try nominating for President a former Speaker of the House who wanted to prosecute a President for having an affair, while that Speaker of the House was having an affair…

2012 State Senate Campaign Message – I will not be running‏

The following email was sent out to the my 2010 Steve Quist for Senate campaign email list today:

It won’t be long and we will begin to hear a more consistent drone from Republican candidates who plan to challenge Barack Obama and Amy Klobuchar in 2012.  While few of us are looking forward to the upcoming federal cycle that will likely be brought to you by X, Y and Z corporations, it isn’t too early to begin thinking about the local races.

Many people forget that the Minnesota Senate which is generally a four year term is only a two year term in years that end with zero.  That means in 2012, the DFL will not only be challenging Pat Garofalo and Mary Liz Holberg, if they both choose to run again, but we also must challenge newly elected State Senator Dave Thompson for his senate seat. 

Despite an abundance of stickers and donation envelopes in my basement, I will not be running against Mr. Thompson again in 2012.  That means we need to find DFL challengers for Dave Thompson so they can begin raising the cash needed to fight in a competitive race.  If you are interested, or know of somebody who might be interested, I’ve learned a lot in the last year, and would be willing to share my plans, a (too late) developed strategy and a big list of do’s and do not’s.

My decision not to run was difficult.  When I first decided to seek the 2010 endorsement, I had planned for it to be a one-time thing to ensure the DFL had a name on the ballot.  Once I started to campaign, I kind of liked it and decided maybe to consider a second attempt in 2012.  But, despite having a great time meeting people and talking to people, I never felt really comfortable being a candidate.  I think I am more suited to be a behind the scenes participant, than a front and center candidate.  Even as I became more comfortable and I considered the idea of running again in 2012, I still thought there is a better candidate somewhere in Senate District 36.

My original plan for 2012 was to announce I would not seek the DFL endorsement allowing the district to find another candidate to take my spot.  At the same time, my intention was to continue to raise a little cash until a new candidate stepped forward.  My thought was if another candidate stepped forward I could pass the cash on to the other candidate, or in case a new candidate didn’t step forward, I would have a little bundle to start the 2012 campaign with.  But on the advice of several local DFLers and fundraising people, I have been advised not to continue to raise cash or to keep the door open to a possible 2012 run, so I will end my fundraising and campaigning immediately.

I thank you for your donation of money, we ended 2012 in the black, with a little surplus thanks to recent donations, as well as your donation of time, prayers and well wishes.  I look forward to helping the 2012 candidates and continuing to be involved with Senate District 36, Congressional District 2 and working to move the DFL forward as a member of the DFL State Central Committee.  Aside from the state Senate seat, we are working on messaging in our district and will work to get that message out on a consistent basis throughout the election cycle.  I encourage you to think about how you can help.  We need letters to the editor, donations to Senate District 36, participation at DFL events and candidates to support for City Councils, School Boards, Township Councils, as well as State House and State Senate seats.  Please get in touch with me if you want to be involved, feel free to “friend” me on Facebook, follow me (MNDem) on Twitter or contact me through my personal email.

I look forward to seeing and talking to you in this exciting new year.

Thank you,
Steve Quist

Prepared and paid for by Steve Quist for Senate, 18208 Empire Trail, Farmington, MN 55024

The Big Problem In “Conservative” Senate Districts

I see a big problem here in Senate District 36, and I think it probably applies to other “conservative” senate districts.  People have bought into the myth that Democrats don’t live here.  People are letting that idea influence what they do and how they act when it comes to politics and social justice.  People are afraid to act as individuals or fearful of being “outed” as a liberal to their conservative neighbors. 

The problem with that is that we are letting the conservatives tighten their grip on our district.  Every time a conservative political leader in our community makes an outrageous partisan comment and we let it go unchecked, an independent voter accepts it as reasonable.  Every time a Republican sign goes up in a neighborhood and we don’t counter it with a Democratic sign, an independent voter takes that as an indication of who to vote for.  Every time a donation is made to a Republican candidate, and a donation is not made to the Democratic candidate, an independent voter is hit with unmatched propaganda.

But I am here to tell you that there are Democrats in our district.  13,686 people voted for me, the DFL candidate for Minnesota Senate in District 36.  That is a lot of people!  True, it wasn’t nearly enough to win, but what if we could have gotten our message out to a couple thousand more people?  What if all the Democrats had voted?  What if 10 more people had door knocked?  What if we could have afforded 100 more signs?  There are 50 more things we could have done, and what if it all happened in a year that wasn’t a “wave” election year?  There is no reason to believe we could not have swayed a few thousand independent voters, after all, all those voters are not Republicans.

Districts like Senate District 36 are not unwinnable, they are just challenging.  It might take years to challenge the political status quo, but we can change it.  To do it, we all need to take a role in the transformation.   We are Democrats, and a democracy works best when everybody participates.  So take an active role over the next two year, and let’s work to change the attitude in this district.

I know it can be a pain to volunteer for a couple hours.  I know that the never-ending phone calls at election time are annoying.  I know that money might be too tight to donate.  I know that neighbor down the block might quit talking to you because of your sign.  But accept it as part of the price we need to pay for better schools, more jobs, a little more social justice and a brighter future.

Take the next step and be a part of the transformation.  The Senate District 36 DFL is holding a meeting at the Lakeville Heritage Library, Thursday, December 9, 2010, at 6:30 PM.  Show up, be a part of the democracy and make a difference.

Why do the poor and middle-class have to tighten their belts when the rich caused this financial mess?

Republicans won in 2010 because they talked about fiscal issues.  After decades of hearing the Republican mantra of cut taxes and cut spending, voters bought it again.  It was fiscal this, tighten belts that, budget this, control spending that. 
I just don’t understand how people bought it.  Who is controlling the Republican Party?  Corporate special interests, the Chamber of Commerce, and CEOs.  The same people who wiped out our economy because of their own greed.  Voters are so brainwashed by the corporate media that they don’t pay attention that Republicans in the 80s pushed our debt over a trillion dollars, and Republicans in the 2000s eliminated our budget surplus and pushed the debt over 10 trillion dollars.
So when a Republican says government needs to tighten its belt, voters say yeah, and ignore the history and hypocrisy in that statement.  When a Republican candidate says we need to cut spending, without saying how, voters say yeah and ignore the fact that we cannot cut our way to greatness.
And while Republican politicians are demanding we tighten our belts and eliminate the deficit with spending cuts and tax cuts, corporate executives are licking their chops at the profits they can make now that their Chamber of Commerce funded politicians can fight for their “well-deserved” profits.   While the middle class pays, loses services, and struggles to get by, Republican political funders can plan for how to invest the tax giveaways the Republican politicians want to give them. 

Why do the poor and middle-class have to absorb the largest cuts to their schools, cities and counties, when the economic failures of our society and the causes of this budget deficit reside almost entirely in the actions of the richest and greediest Minnesotans and Americans who took advantage of our society to earn money they did not deserve.  Shouldn’t the group that caused the problem pay more to solve it? 
Why do Republican politicians think that a family making $50,000 and a family making $250,000 have the same challenges when it comes to what is cut?  How will a cut in education lead to anything other than less quality?  How will a cut in funding for road construction lead to anything other than more potholes and more costly repairs because of those potholes.  How will another cut in funding of social services lead to anything other than more failure, more crime, more abuse, and more deaths.  How will eliminating a chance at life do anything other than perpetuate generational poverty?
When FDR was elected in 1932, he was a hard core capitalist, but he saw the likelihood of class warfare on the horizon and made changes in his plans to work toward solving the causes of the nation’s problems.  FDR is the reason we are not a quasi-socialist state like most European countries.  So what will the Republicans do, push us to sharper class differences and to eventual class conflicts, or head the lessons of history and realize a slogan like “cut taxes-cut spending” can get you elected, but in the end it won’t create results the majority of voters are comfortable with.  Keep in mind that half the families in the state make under $57,000.  They will get almost no benefit from the Republican’s “cut taxes-cut spending” tax giveaway to the rich scheme, but they will feel those cuts much more.

I want to quit, I’m just not sure I can…

After two weeks of thinking, discussions and meetings, I am actually more frustrated about the future success of the Democratic Party, than I was the night of the losses.  I’m not worried about the Democratic Party losing more seats in 2012, in fact I think Obama will be swept back into office, and I think gains will be made both nationally and locally.  The frustration I feel centers on the fact that despite having superior numbers to Republicans, Democrats cannot seem to pull together the little things to take advantage of the dominance we should have to prevent problems like we just experienced. 

I tried to get involved — to make a difference.  I wanted to get into a leadership position in the local party and I wanted to get involved at the State convention and with the DFL Central Committee, and I have done all those things.  In fact, I went one step farther and was a candidate.  But I’m not sure it matters. 

It isn’t that I don’t feel like I am making a difference, I do, I’m just not sure the energy expenditure is worth the amount of difference I’m making.  Is small success in six to 10 years worth going to a meeting instead of having dinner with my wife and kids?

I know I am not the only one out there feeling this way.  I’ve contacted a few people I would like to get involved and have heard similar responses.

As a candidate, you put yourself completely out on the line, everything is out there, and what do you get?  Little support physically, less support financially, no clear messaging help, an unworkable and unsustainable top-down structure and downright bad advice in some instances.

I have been to three post election meetings.  At each meeting, we have discussed messaging, involvement and action steps.  I’m just not sure the pieces are in place to really tackle the problems.

I would like to quit, but I’m not sure I can…