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Wednesday night, the League of Women Voters’ St. Cloud Chapter hosted a candidate forum at the St. Cloud City Council Chambers. While a number of topics were discussed, this post will focus on the empty answers of Dan Wolgamott, the DFL-endorsed candidate running against Tama Theis.

First, it’s important to mention that all of the questions were from the audience. Now that that’s addressed, let’s get to one of the patterns that emerged from Wolgamott. A half hour into the debate, it became obvious that Wolgamott was pretending to be all things to all people. In responding to a person’s question, he’d thank them for the question before telling them that the issue was a priority for him that he felt personally attached to for one reason or another.

Apparently, everything is a priority with Wolgamott. Apparently, Mr. Wolgamott hasn’t figured it out that, if everything’s a priority, nothing is a priority.

Another facet of the Wolgamott be-all-things-to-everybody strategy was how government involvement was critical to the success of everything. He criticized Tama Theis for not voting for the K-12 Education bill, something that I’ll return to in a bit. He said that businesses were important before quickly returning to advocating for more government ‘investments.’

Wolgamott said that it was a shame they didn’t build Northstar all the way to St. Cloud. He declared that he’d vote to raise taxes to fund “a comprehensive transportation system.” He’s for more money for St. Cloud schools.

In short, Wolgamott’s agenda could be described as the ‘No-DFL-Special-Interest-Group-Left-Behind’ agenda.

Tama Theis’s response to Wolgamott’s criticism about not voting for the K-12 bill was that the bill stripped out the student accountability requirements and that it stripped out the basic skills test for teachers. Theis continued, saying that she serves on the House Higher Ed Committee. She said that one of the things they struggle with on that committee is the fact that many students are accepted into college that aren’t prepared for college.

She then said that the goal shouldn’t be to graduate more students from high school but to prepare them for college.

That answer shut down Mr. Wolgamott’s trip through Wonderland in a hurry.

After watching this video from this morning’s Secretary of State debate, it’s difficult to determine whether Steve Simon is dishonest or unqualified for the job:

Here’s part of what was said that makes me think that Rep. Simon is a Sharpton-like race-baiter:

STEVE SIMON: I really don’t support this idea of a sort of Lexus lane for voting or the so-called “Express Lane Voting. First of all, it seems intended to be a separate but equal system. All I have to go on are Dan’s own words when he characterized on a TEA Party TV show in the spring when he said “If you don’t want to show an ID, be my guest. You can go over to the side and wait 2 hours in the cold. That’s fine.”

Rep. Simon’s reciting the separate but equal line was an intentional race-baiting statement. It’s intent was to frighten African-Americans. That’s partisanship at its disgusting worst. Politicians that play on people’s fears aren’t public servants; they’re politicians.

People that play hardball politics do it to win political fights. They aren’t particularly cunning. They just push hard to win. Politicians that play on people’s fears, fears that were created by decades of oppression prey on the vulnerable.

That’s what fascists do.

Next, Rep. Simon was reading from his script the entire time. If he’s upset with Rep. Severson’s remarks, he shouldn’t need to bury his head in a script for 10 seconds. FYI- 10 seconds is long enough to say 45 words. It’s apparent that Rep. Simon’s hissy fit is 75% schtick meant to frighten minorities into voting, 25% Rep. Simon being a less-than-impressive candidate. A top tier candidate, at this late stage of the campaign, would rattle facts off without hesitation and with confidence that he knows his facts.

Though it’s clear Rep. Simon isn’t a top tier candidate, that doesn’t mean Republicans shouldn’t work hard right through the last minute of Election Day. Candidates that get the most votes, whether they’re qualified or not qualified, still win.

At this point in the campaign, the right attitude is to outwork the DFL every minute through the closing of the polls.

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Jim Knoblach didn’t waste time correcting the St. Cloud Times’ misstatements about him. Here’s what Jim said:

I was puzzled by one line in the recent St. Cloud Times endorsement editorial. It said I sometimes provided “minimal support for measures that directly benefited his district.”

During my time in the Legislature, I successfully authored more than $100 million in bonding projects for the St. Cloud area. This is far more than any representative in local history. St. Cloud State University and St. Cloud Technical & Community College each received tens of millions of dollars from my efforts. Other projects like Quarry Park, the Beaver Islands Trail and various transportation projects also benefited.

Unlike past years, the Times Editorial Board never gave me the courtesy of an interview before announcing its endorsement. I was thus unable to respond to whatever concerns it had on this subject. Many other local candidates were granted interviews.

I hope in the future the Times gives the courtesy of an interview to all local candidates for endorsements.

Jim Knoblach is a House 14B candidate from St. Cloud.

Jim Knoblach is running for the state legislature, though you wouldn’t know it based on the Times’ reporting. The average citizen wouldn’t have known that Jim Knoblach wasn’t even asked if he’d like to be interviewed for the Times endorsement. I wrote here that the Times decided that they were endorsing Jim’s opponent long before they conducted a single candidate interview.

This year’s Times endorsements were utterly unprofessional. The Times endorsed Joe Perske to replace Michele Bachmann in Congress. Fortunately, he’ll get beaten like a drum next Tuesday. Here’s one of the Times’ rationalizations for endorsing him:

Voters need to elect the person who can begin to restore district credibility while improving the return district residents get on the tax dollars they send to Washington.

Here’s another:

While Emmer is the likely favorite because of the district’s conservative demographics, voters need to seriously consider whether his political persona will help the district. He’s similarly conservative to Bachmann and he is known as a political bully, which makes his House strategy is “building relationships” a tough sell.

Summarizing, the Times endorsed Joe Perske because they think he’d bring home the pork the district is losing out on and because Tom Emmer is a political bully.

At this point, it’s difficult picturing the Times Editorial Board as anything more than gossip columnists. They aren’t professional. They didn’t do their due diligence. They didn’t even treat one of the major party candidates with respect. That isn’t just shameful. It’s disgusting.

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Thanks to articles that Michael Brodkorb posted at Minnesota Democrats Exposed in 2008, I’ve known about Al Franken’s disgusting behavior for years. I suspect, however, that there’s a bunch of voters that haven’t heard about Sen. Franken’s disgusting background. Let’s dig into it a little. Here’s what Al Franken said in the 1970s:

He recalled writing a skit called “Seamen on Broadway” that was rejected from the Hasty Pudding show “by some preppie so they could take some other preppie’s skit.” Franken started to smile again, but his tone was serious, too serious. “It’s not preppies, cause I’m a preppie myself. I just don’t like homosexuals. If you ask me, they’re all homosexuals in the Pudding. Hey, I was glad when that Pudding homosexual got killed in Philadelphia.” The smile became so broad it pushed his eyes shut. He couldn’t stand it any longer. “Put that in, put that in,” Franken laughed, leaning over the desk. “I’d love to see that in The Crimson.”

That’s the ‘before’ Franken. The ‘after’ Franken is ultra politically correct…except when he isn’t:

As New York magazine reported in 1995, from a writing session that the reporter sat in on:

Franken: “And, ‘I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then, when Lesley’s passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her.’ Or, ‘That’s why you never see Lesley until February.’ Or, ‘When she passes out, I put her in various positions and take pictures of her.’”

Franken’s progressive allies will undoubtedly defend Franken with excuses like ‘Lighten up. He’s a comedian. It’s just humor.” Or they might say that he’s changed since his cocaine-using days with SNL:

Franken’s own words/direct quote from pages 108-109:

“There was not as much cocaine as you would think on the premises. Yeah, a number of people got in trouble. But cocaine was used mainly just to stay up. There was a very undisciplined way of writing the show, which was staying up all night on Tuesday. We didn’t have the kind of hours that normal people have. And so there was a lot of waiting ’til Tuesday night, and then going all night, and at two or three or four in the morning, doing some coke to stay up, as opposed to doing a whole bunch, and doing nitrous oxide, and laughing at stuff.

“People used to ask me about this and I’d always say, ‘No, there was no coke. It’s impossible to do the kind of show we were doing and do drugs.’ And so that was just a funny lie that I liked to tell. Kind of the opposite was true, unfortunately, for some people, it was impossible to do the show without the drugs. Comedians and comedy writers and people in show business in general aren’t the most disciplined people, so the idea of putting the writing off until you had to, and then staying up all night, was an attractive one. And then having this drug that kept you awake in an enjoyable way was kind of tempting too. But I only did cocaine to stay awake to make sure nobody else did too much cocaine. That was the only reason I ever did it. Heh-heh.”

Sen. Franken is anything but a serious politician. He’s a deeply flawed person. He isn’t a comedian. He’s got a temper. What he doesn’t have is dignity or character.

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In Part I of this series, I highlighted the Times’ sloppiness with basic facts. In this post, I hope to highlight the wishful thinking found in the Times’ article. Here’s the first bit of wishful thinking in the Times’ article:

In addition to leading the Legislature to shore up transportation funding, Dayton should give serious consideration to tax reforms aimed at making Minnesota’s business climate more competitive with other Upper Midwest states.

That’s pure fantasy. The last 2 years, we were afflicted with a DFL legislature and a DFL governor. They could’ve done anything they wanted to do. They chose not to implement “tax reforms aimed at making Minnesota’s business climate more competitive with other Upper Midwest states.” Instead, the DFL legislature and Gov. Dayton worked together to pass tax increases on “the rich” because, in their own words, “the rich” weren’t “paying their fair share.”

With the Times explicitly stating that they want Gov. Dayton to continue and with the Times implicitly stating that they’d prefer keeping a DFL legislature, why would anyone think that the DFL would repeal the tax policies the DFL governor and the DFL legislature just implemented?

This statement is frightening:

The past four years leave little doubt that under his leadership, the state’s budget situation has stabilized.

While government is fat and happy, families that don’t live in southeastern Minnesota are getting hit with skyrocketing health insurance premiums and unaffordable deductibles. The Times’ preference that government funding is stable while families struggle is perplexing. Government’s first priority should be to put in place policies that get government out of the way so businesses can do what they do best: create prosperity. Gov. Dayton’s administration and the DFL have specialized in telling families they know what’s best for them.

When the DFL legislature passed the bill forcing unionization on child care providers and Gov. Dayton signed it into law, Gov. Dayton and the DFL told those small business ladies that they knew what was best for them. When the DFL legislature passed the legislation enabling the creation of MNsure and Gov. Dayton enthusiastically signed it into law, Gov. Dayton and the DFL told Minnesota families that Minnesota families weren’t smart enough to make informed decisions on what they needed for health insurance.

The Times’ endorsements this year have emphatically stated, albeit implicitly at times, that they believe government knows best. It’s apparent that the Times thinks its readers aren’t that bright:

Plus, while he’s certainly been aided by DFL majorities, he’s also demonstrated an ability to compromise. Look no further than scuttling proposals involving major sales tax reform along with repealing the minor ones that did pass in 2012.

The only reason why the DFL repealed the tax increases they enthusiastically passed is because not repealing them would’ve led to a political bloodbath this election. Their decision didn’t have anything to do with compromising. It had everything to do with saving their political hides after they’d overreached.

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I know it’s a high expectation to hope that a Democrat politician to tell the truth about Obamacare but Sunday morning’s free-for-all featuring Al Franken and Mike McFadden was too much. Here’s the video of that part of the debate:

One of the first things Sen. Franken said was that 95% of all Minnesotans are now insured, which is misleading but statistically true. It’s misleading because 93% of Minnesotans were insured in 2012. Another 60% of Minnesotans were eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, either through medical assistance, which is Medicaid in Minnesota, or through MinnesotaCare. Based on a population of 5,300,000, that means 97.2% of Minnesotans would’ve been insured or eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance. It’s worth noting that it wouldn’t have required spending $160,000,000 on a failed website, too. It would’ve only required an advertising campaign that would’ve cost less than $5,000,000 to highlight these programs.

Another of Franken’s chanting points was that Mike McFadden wants to totally repeal Obama, “which means people with pre-existing conditions” wouldn’t get covered. That’s BS on multiple levels. First, it’s impossible to believe that people with PECs wouldn’t get coverage if 97.2% of Minnesotans were insured or eligible to be insured. I know Minnesota is a healthy state but I’m betting that more than 2.8% of Minnesotans have PECs.

Then there’s the myth that Republicans were unwilling to vote for legislation that would’ve guaranteed insurance for people with PECs. If a bill would’ve been written that guaranteed that people with PECs couldn’t be denied insurance, 95%-99% of House and Senate Republicans would’ve voted for it.

If we were to start over and do health insurance reform right, there’s no question that covering people with PECs would be in the bill.

Next, Franken was questioned about health insurance premiums going up. Predictably, he said that “some people’s rates are going up but some people’s rates are going down”, suggesting that there was just as much a chance of a person’s rates going down as there was of them skyrocketing. That’s extremely dishonest and Sen. Franken knows it. Almost 75% of people will see their premiums go up dramatically while less than 25% of Minnesotans will see their premiums shrink marginally.

Franken said this after McFadden talked about a woman he met in Rochester who told him that her premiums are going up 50% and that her deductibles were increasing by 220%.That’s why McFadden called the ACA a “train wreck.” That’s why Minnesotans are increasingly calling it the Unaffordable Care Act. McFadden added that this woman “had a look of fear and anger” on her face.

One thing that came through clearly was Franken’s dishonesty. His faux outrage was contemptible. Major industry organizations like MAHU, aka Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters, have testified under oath to the MNsure board that health insurance premiums are skyrocketing.

If Sen. Franken wants to ignore the truth, then that’s proof that he’ll say anything to get elected. That immediately disqualifies him from elected office. It’s one thing to make statements with statistically accurate information that’s misleading. That happens during a campaign. Franken started by telling outright lies. Those lies were quickly discredited statistically. That didn’t cause him to stop the lies. He’s just continued repeating his refuted lies.

The simple solution to this is to elect Mike McFadden. He’s got a pro-prosperity plan to get Minnesota heading in the right direction. He’s got a plan to do health care reform right. Finally, he’s honest so we won’t have to worry whether he’ll lie to us.

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Proving that they’re most interested in pumping up the DFL, the St. Cloud Times didn’t even bother interviewing Jim Knoblach, the GOP-endorsed candidate for HD-14B. Meanwhile, they positively gushed about “impressive DFL challenger Emily Jensen.” Ms. Jensen is still a student at St. Ben’s while running for Jeff Howe’s seat.

Saying that the Times lack of professionalism is showing is understatement. This afternoon, I confirmed with Jim Knoblach wasn’t contacted by the Times. Consequently, he wasn’t interviewed about the Times’ endorsement. Here’s what they wrote about the candidates for HD-14B:

Two very strong candidates, DFLer Dorholt and former GOP Rep. Jim Knoblach, are vying in a marquee race to represent a diverse district that covers mostly the eastern half of the St. Cloud metro area. Through his personal, business and community experiences, Dorholt is best positioned to represent a district that’s home to a diverse mix of young people, new residents, and deep-rooted homeowners and businesses.

Reflective of that constituency, Dorholt has been part of a DFL legislative majority that has enacted many changes benefiting most of those constituents. Look no further than the minimum wage hike, expanded health coverage, and investing more in B-12 education while curbing the costs of higher education.

Challenger Knoblach served in the House from 1995-2006, including as chair of the powerful House Capital Investment and House Ways and Means Committees. In those roles, he proved himself to be a business-minded fiscal conservative, even when it sometimes meant minimal support for measures that directly benefited his district and the St. Cloud area.

Again, both candidates are well-qualified. Dorholt gets the nod, though, because his priorities better match the diverse needs of this district.

The Times didn’t just refuse to interview Jim Knoblach. When they published their endorsement, they threw in this cheap shot, too:

In those roles, he proved himself to be a business-minded fiscal conservative, even when it sometimes meant minimal support for measures that directly benefited his district and the St. Cloud area.

Never mind the fact that Dorholt did nothing to question St. Cloud State’s questionable financial decisions while he was the Vice-Chair of the House Higher Ed Committee. That isn’t setting the right priorities for his district. Dorholt’s willingness to ignore what’s happening at SCSU while he’s vice-chair of the House Higher Ed Committee stinks of irresponsibility.

Further, Dorholt’s vote for sales taxes on warehousing services and farm equipment repairs weren’t in the interests of his district or St. Cloud. Dorholt’s vote for the Senate Office Building definitely wasn’t a vote for this district’s priorities. His silence during this year’s session on fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges and the DFL legislature’s refusal to fix Minnesota’s potholes was disgraceful.

Simply put, Zach Dorholt didn’t show leadership during this session despite his being a vice-chair of an important committee.

Finally, the Times calls this “a marquee race.” If that’s true, why didn’t they even bother interviewing one of the candidates? From what I’ve seen, and I can only base this on the Times’ actions, the Times decided long ago who they were endorsing. That’s likely why they didn’t bother interviewing Jim Knoblach, the most qualified candidate for the job.

The Times has a history of doing this type of thing. In 2008, the Times endorsed Rob Jacobs when he ran for Dan Severson’s seat. That year, Jacobs said he wasn’t an expert on transportation issues or health care. The Times endorsed him anyway. 2008 was a strong year for the DFL. Dan Severson defeated Jacobs by 10 points.

The Times has a bigger readership. I just wish that they were professionals.

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The biggest takeaway from the Strib’s latest Minnesota Poll article is that Jeff Johnson has cut Gov. Dayton’s lead in half:

Gov. Mark Dayton maintains a lead over Republican Jeff Johnson in a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, but Johnson gained some ground while Dayton’s support stayed flat.

The poll taken Oct. 20-22 shows Dayton leading Johnson, 45 percent to 38 percent, with Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet at 5 percent. In September, the poll showed Dayton at 45, Johnson at 33 and Nicollet at 1 percent. With Election Day just over a week away, the DFL governor has shown a consistent polling advantage.

More Minnesotans also now say they have made up their minds about the race, with 10 percent still undecided, compared to 20 percent five weeks ago. They would have to break in large numbers for Johnson if he is to overcome Dayton’s lead.

Jeff Johnson is still fighting an uphill fight. Still, he’s got to be happy that he’s closing the gap while he’s getting better name recognition.

Johnson’s campaign has leveled charges of incompetence against Dayton, and spokesman Jeff Bakken said the Star Tribune poll shows Johnson has room to catch up and pass Dayton amid a national political climate that Republicans see as favorable. “All the momentum in this race is on Jeff’s side, and the result is going to come down to turnout,” Bakken said. “And in the midterm election in this political environment, we like Jeff’s odds.”

The DFL’s GOTV operation is generally thought of as being superior to the GOP’s GOTV operation. This election will tell the tale of whether those reputations are deserved or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if the GOP’s GOTV operation performed better than expected.

Today marks the start of the final sprint to the finish line. Thanks to these poll results, it’s likely to be an interesting finish.

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In September, Mark Dayton insisted that PreferredOne’s leaving MNsure was competition in action:

Gov. Mark Dayton says a key provider’s decision to drop out of the state-run health exchange is competition in action.

The Star Tribune is reporting it’s nothing of the sort:

Sometime after the insurer PreferredOne submitted its proposed rates for the first year of the MNsure exchange, state regulators asked the company to consider lowering the numbers. Ultimately, the insurer responded with “a total rate decrease of 37 percent,” according to a July 2013 letter from an outside actuary to the company. Those final rates were the lowest in the Twin Cities, and across the country, in many cases, and helped Preferred­One to grab nearly 60 percent of the MNsure business.

Now, those subscribers face an average premium increase of 63 percent if they stay with PreferredOne, a yo-yo scenario that health policy experts say points to the challenge in setting prices under the federal health law. The big swing also suggests that the low prices were out of step with the reality of the business.

Dayton’s dishonest numbers, combined with his disdain for competition, have caused Minnesota insurance prices to skyrocket. Dayton’s dishonest health insurance numbers were always dishonest. Now it’s verifiable.

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Whenever a DFL politician talks about major construction projects, whether it’s the Sandpiper Pipeline project or the PolyMet Mining project, they always say these 6 extra words:

“We need to do this right.”

This time, the politician was Al Franken and the project he was talking about was PolyMet. Unfortunately, Sen. Franken loves using the environmental activists’ code words. Here’s a perfect example:

The Minnesota Democratic senator, who is in a re-election contest with Republican challenger Mike McFadden, spoke about the copper/nickel/precious metals venture during an interview at the Mesabi Daily News Monday morning. The senator said he believes “a vast majority of Minnesotans want to see those (PolyMet) jobs … no question about that.”

Franken said he has regularly been in touch with PolyMet officials. And he has also heard from critics of the project. “One thing I’m very aware of is that we haven’t done this before here,” the senator said. “But boy, can I understand how people are frustrated” about the nine years of environmental review. “Believe me that’s not lost on me.”

Franken said he aligns himself with the Iron Range Legislative Delegation on the issue — “Get it done based on the science.”

“Get it done based on the science” is code for ‘let’s let the environmental activist organizations drag this out with lawsuits, PR stunts and propaganda wars’. DFL politicians are experts at that. DFL politicians like Sen. Franken and Rep. Nolan are professionals when it comes to looking like they’re doing something while dragging their feet.

That’s what they’ve both done since getting to DC. Nolan voted for HR 761, then promised environmental activists that he wouldn’t vote for it again if it came back for final passage:

Northern Minnesota is known for its great fishing, so perhaps it’s fitting that tracking 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan’s position on a bill that deregulates the mining industry and fast tracks the permitting process for PolyMet is a bit like watching a fish flopping around on a dock: first he’s against it, then he’s for it and now he once again opposes it, this time promising to vote against the legislation if it “comes anywhere near close to becoming law.”

This weekend, Nolan told Tom Hauser that he voted to streamline the permitting process. Sen. Franken couldn’t say that because he hasn’t lifted a finger to make PolyMet a reality. Nor has he done anything to streamline the permitting process in the future.

Instead, Dayton, Franken and Nolan have worked hard to walk a perilous tightrope. Dayton, Franken and Nolan have to appear to be friends of the miners without overstepping the environmental activists’ boundaries.

The PolyMet supplemental draft environmental impact statement is currently in the comment review phase, which Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said earlier this month should be completed in early-2015.

If the project receives a certificate of adequacy from the SDEIS, permits can follow, with construction beginning. The venture is projected to create 360 permanent jobs, hundreds more spin-off positions and more than 2 million hours of construction.

“We’ve got an incredible deposit of minerals,” Franken said. “But if this had been done too soon and it was tainted and the watershed contaminated, it would be mitigated for decades or centuries. And what would that have meant for the second or third project?”

Throughout this process, environmentalists have portrayed mining companies as deadbeats that destroy the environment, then skip the country while taxpayers foot the cleanup bill. They’ve also portrayed mining companies as thugs who love destroying the environment in their lust for big profits. This is dishonest.

That isn’t what happens. These companies have a history of following the rules. They have a history of doing things right.

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