Tag Archives: Lakeville

A Tale of Two Cities: The Plight of Local Politics

A tale of two cities…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was…”          -Charles Dickens

With just days until the 2014 election, Minnesota candidates were just required to submit their campaign financial data to the state to make it public record.  In my district, 58, Lakeville/Farmington and most of the rest of Southern Dakota County, the campaigns on the A and B sides are vastly different.

On the 58A side, which is most of Lakeville, Amy Willingham and Jon Koznick are competing against each other to win the open seat vacated by Rep. Mary Liz Holberg.  The two candidates are very evenly matched in donations, with Koznick edging out Willingham $41,964.77 to $41,558.29.  Together they have collected over $83,000!  That is a huge number in our area.  To put that in perspective, in 2012, Mary Liz Holberg and Colin Lee raised $26,433 collectively, and if you add in the 58th district senate race between Dave Thompson and Andrew Brobston, the total for all four candidates was $68,291.  Willingham and Koznick, have spent more than those four candidates raised in 2012.

On the other side of the district in 58B, the numbers are nowhere similar.  Incumbent Rep. Pat Garofalo has raised $13,038 this year, of course he started the year with over $52,000 in the bank, so he didn’t have to raise much, and Marla Vagts raised $7,065.  Together they raised just over $20,000, and one quarter of that was from the state public subsidy.

In summary, A side = $83,000. B side = $20,000.

It is understandable, that the A side would be higher, it is an open and contested seat, but there is another side to look at on the A side.  Both Willingham and Koznick have received over $5,000 each in individual identified donations from outside the district, and combined, have received over $10,000 from PACs and lobbyists.  In addition, together they have over $35,000 in unidentified donations, which probably increases those outside the district contributions.

Of course that is not surprising.  There are so many groups trying to influence elections, I expect it.  But that does not make it right.  Koznick and Willingham have raised more money from outside the district, than Garofalo and Vagts have raised total.  There is a fundamental problem with our election system when other people outside the district have as big of an impact on the election as the local voters – if not a bigger impact on the election.

When I hear people say government doesn’t work, well get a clue!  Where do you think it starts?  Right here, right now, on November 4th, and the 6-10 months leading up to that day.  If we want government to work, our election system needs to change to be about local voters, and local voters only!

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DFL58 Picnic and Fundraiser Friday 5:30-8:00 pm at Antlers Park in Lakeville

Last year, a small group of DFLers in our area, held the inaugural DFL58 Picnic in the Park Fundraiser. It was a small event with about 45 people in attendance, grilled hot dogs, potluck salads and desserts, and a silent auction that altogether raised over $700 for DFL candidates.

As a district that is traditionally a safe Republican district, we want our towns and townships to be at a minimum competitive for President Obama, Senator Klobuchar, and our great candidate for Congress, Mike Obermueller. Imagine how easily statewide DFL candidates could win if suburbs like Lakeville were simply more competitive for Democrats. And we want our great local candidates to win!

Our goal this year is to get more local DFLers to the picnic. Rep. Erin Murphy will be there, along with all three DFL58 candidates, Andrew Brobston, Colin Lee and Jim Arlt. Mike Obermueller is a maybe, and we found out earlier this week Amy Klobuchar is maybe for attending.

I hope you consider attending too. Your participation is vital to erasing years of losses, hopelessness and apathy in our district. Our goal is to excite DFLers and create a movement of change. Join us.

PDF version if you would like to print a copy to distribute to your neighbors: 2012 Picnic Flyer

Here are samples of a few of the silent auction items:

Auction Packages • Minnesota Author 5 Book Collection • John F. Kennedy Bust • 1968 Humphrey Pin Collection • Barack Obama Collection – Christmas Ornament, The Audacity of Hope Book and 3 stickers • Al Franken Collection – Al Franken Autographed 2012 State DFL Convention Program, a 2008 Bumper Sticker, Franni Franken’s Apple Pie Recipe and book on tape • Book: Cathy Wurzer’s Tales of the Road – Highway 61 • Book: Lincoln’s Meloncholy by Joshua Wolf Shenck • Mark Dayton Autographed 125 Years of StartTribune History Book • 1968 Minnesota Twins Card Collection • The Donkey Collection – Stuffed Donkey, pin and sticker • Tom Bakk Capitol Nike Golf Ball Sleeve • Pottery • Congressional Autograph Collection – Ellison, McCullom, Obermueller, Walz • 2008 Yard Sign Collection – Edwards ’08, Obama ’08, and Clinton ’08, “Like Bush’s Economy, Hire McCain” Sign • Large Obama ’08 poster w/cool image of Barack • Global Warming Book • Presidential Campaign Coffee Table Book • Paul Wellstone Sign

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…

Caucus 101 – A how to guide to participate in the 2012 DFL caucus

Tuesday February 7, is caucus night.  To get you prepared, I’ve updated a post I made before the 2010 caucuses.  I’ll be at Farmington High School convening the Farmington caucuses, I hope to see you there. 

I wrote the following guide to what happens at the DFL caucuses after writing a post about people being scared away from the caucuses because of their 2008 experience. Plus, I think a lot of people are more comfortable if they know what is going to happen at an event, I know it makes me more comfortable. But I also think the year we had the most attendees at the DFL caucuses in 2008, is not representative of how caucuses usually run, so people should not think they will be as hectic, or as unorganized as 2008.  Here is a little how to caucus guide. If you are like me and need a little reassurance to be comfortable, maybe you will show up this year…

Caucus 101 – A how to guide to participate in the 2012 DFL caucus

The 2012 DFL precinct caucuses are meetings organized by the DFL to begin the process of selecting candidates for the 2012 elections. In 2012, elections will be held for President, U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, State Senator, State House of Representative and other local officials. The DFL caucuses are also the first step in shaping the DFL platform and policy positions that the DFL will push for the next two years.

Step 1: Find out what house district and precinct you are in.
Caucuses are usually organized by precinct within senate or county districts. The names of those districts will be changing to “organizing units” this year, so keep that in mind.  The Minnesota Secretary of State website has a polling place finder, which should provide you with information about the political districts you reside in. Follow the steps by entering your zip code, followed by your address, to find out your district information. Besides telling you where you vote, it also tells you your congressional district, Minnesota senate district, house district and precinct, along with a few other districts. Your precinct is often a combination of your town with the letter “P” and a number or for smaller towns, the name of the town. Example: Farmington P-4 is precinct 4 in Farmington.

Step 2: Find your caucus location.
After you know your house district and precinct, you can find out where your precinct caucus is. Since caucuses are organized by local DFL parties, the Secretary of State is dependent on receiving the location information from local party officials. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s office just launched an online caucus finder, but if it is not available, you can find your caucus location by contacting your local DFL Senate District official. For instance Senate District 36 (SD36) is planning the caucuses in the SD36 area. The local leaders or the website in SD36 will provide you the information for your meeting location.

Step 3: Show up.
Once you know where to go, it is as simple as showing up. Arrive a little early to sign in. Registration begins at 6:30 p.m., and the caucus is convened at 7:00. At many caucuses, multiple precincts meet in one location. Generally, you go directly to your precinct to sign in, but people or signs should direct you. There is generally a fair amount of literature to review. There is always DFL party literature, and often candidate literature. It is not uncommon for local officials or candidates to make an appearance too.

Step 4: Engage with others in your precinct as you wait to begin.
The caucus is a great place to meet neighbors who share your political view. But caucuses also are the first step in developing resolutions to be included in the DFL platform. Talk about ideas and engage others. The caucus is the first step to offer a resolution on an issue important to you. Before the close of the caucus, attendees in your precinct will vote on the issue, and if the resolution is passed, will forward the resolution on to the next level of discussion. The Resolution Form is on page 34 of the “2012-2013 Offical Call,” the DFL’s booklet that includes, among other things, rules for DFL meetings, including the caucuses. Click here and go to page 34 to open the resolution form.

Step 5: The caucus begins.
The caucus begins with a few introductions and a couple required announcements. To begin the process, the caucus attendees elect a caucus chair, a secretary to record notes and tellers to count ballots. These positions are occasionally opened up to volunteers, then consented to by the body with a vote. Caucuses are run using parliamentary procedures to nominate and elect officials. Do not be embarrassed to ask questions if you are unfamiliar with how to phrase something — others, including the conveners and even the chair are often in the same boat.

Step 6: Elect precinct officers.
Caucus attendees elect officers who will be responsible for organizing political activities within the precinct. Each precinct elects a precinct chair and two precinct associate chairs. Within the DFL, at least one male and one female must be elected. For example, if a woman is elected chair, at least one associate chair should be a man, and vice versa. Precinct chair responsibilities can be very different from district to district. A key responsibility is to attend local DFL committee meetings and to help organize and increase the presence of the party through voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts. Additionally, in some districts, the precinct chair is expected to raise a certain amount of money in a district. In others, it might be as simple as calling people in the precinct to remind them of a meeting or an election. Literature describing the duties will be at your precinct location.

Step 7: Elect senate district delegates.
Each precinct has a predetermined number of delegates to elect to the county or senate district convention. The caucus attendees will elect representatives to be delegates. In many districts, there are often more delegate and alternate openings than there are people willing or able to attend the convention. You don’t need to launch a massive campaign to be elected to the next level. It is important to make sure your precinct chair checks the “delegate” box on the attendance forms to ensure you are included in the rolls for the convention. Keep something in mind. After the caucuses a list of the convention attendees is often acquired by candidates. Expect calls from candidates.

Step 8: Vote in straw polls.
Depending on the elections, attendees of the caucus may be given a straw poll ballot to indicate their preference among various candidates. I’m not sure we will have any reason for a straw poll, but if there is one for President for example, cast your vote before 8:00.

Step 9: Finish up.
If there are pending resolutions, finish considering the resolutions. The chair will announce the results of straw polls and finish up with any closing announcements.

Step 10: Adjourn.
Finally, the caucus chair will ask for a motion to adjourn the caucus.
After the caucus there are tasks that need to be completed. Cleaning up the area is the simplest duty to help with. Reporting results and entering attendance data into the DFL database is also an important task.

Step 11: The Convention.
Usually about a month after the caucuses, each Organizing Unit holds a convention.  It is at that convention that we elect delegates to the state convention in Rochester, elect local DFL organizing unit leaders, and endorse local candidates.  If you are lucky enough to be elected to attend the Organizing Unit Convention, please make every effort to attend, get involved with committees, be active, and take charge.  It is very rewarding.

Note: While many of these steps fit caucuses statewide, I did write this specifically with experience in the south metro. Feel free to forward this or repost it. Please credit MNDem.com if you do.

Occupy Farmington? Me? An Occupier? Maybe…

Am an Occupier?  I’m not physically protesting anywhere.  I’m not camping anywhere.  I am not resisting anything.  But, I am fed up with the widening gap between the rich and the poor.  I’m fed up that the same people who ruined the economy are donating huge sums of money to political campaign slush fund PACs and special interest groups so they can have the opportunity to ruin the economy again.  I am fed up by the fact that those same people are doing everything they can to keep from paying their fair share while maintaining their own interests at the expense of the interests of those who can’t fight them.  And I am fed up that politicians in Washington and in state legislatures across this country, including Minnesota, are doing very little to fix or combat any of it.  I’m definitely one of the 99%.

Does that make me one of those Occupy protesters?  Maybe not, but my Representative Pat Garofalo made a Twitter joke that made me think about being one.
 
@PatGarofalo tweeted:  “So disappointed that #OccupyFarmington skipped out on my tax townhall with Commissioner Frans. 🙂 Great meeting about vision of state.” (Tweeted around 8:30 pm, 1/11/12)

I responded with my own tweet:

@Quist_Galaxie tweeted: “@PatGarofalo, I am probably about it for #OccupyFarmington, but I had church last night.  Sorry to disappoint.” (Tweeted around 9:30 am 1/12/12)

I know Rep. Garofalo was making a joke, he makes a lot of jokes.  And it’s good to have a sense of humor about politics, so I applaud him for that.  But his joke got me wondering about my community of Farmington.  How many people would join an Occupy Farmington event?  I thought that maybe I would be it.  Just me. 

My tweet was also a bit of joking, but it had truth in it too.  My political district that includes Farmington and Lakeville, is among the strongest Republican districts in the state.  Strong Republican voters, but I don’t really think a lot of people pay very much attention to politics, and very few are involved.  Sen. Dave Thomspon held a town hall meeting last year that was attended by just a few people.  As a candidate myself, very little of my help came from people I didn’t already know in my district, little money, and fewer volunteers.  I’m guessing it is not much different for the Republicans, it is probably a lot of the same people doing everything.

It is difficult to stay energized, and difficult to maintain interest.  The same people can’t keep doing things, burn out is inevitable.  I had big ideas, and got a lot of positive response from a lot of people, but it didn’t really amount to much.  So Occupy Farmington?  Yeah, maybe it is just me.