Archive for the ‘Tom Bakk’ Category

Now that Tom Bakk and David Tomassoni have officially left the DFL, it’s time to figure out why they left the DFL. The tipping point, I believe, was this summer’s DFL primaries. In that primary, DFL candidates defeated pro-mining moderate Erik Simonson. Actually, the DFL candidate didn’t just defeat Simonson. She thrashed him, winning every precinct in the district while winning 73%-27%.

That told Sen. Bakk and Sen. Tomassoni that pro-mining DFL politicians weren’t welcome within the DFL. When Sen. Bakk won re-election with just 55.2% of the vote, the handwriting was on the wall. There wasn’t any escaping the fact that pro-mining DFL politicians were virtually extinct. Bakk usually wins with 65%-70% of the vote so winning with just 55% must’ve gotten his attention.

In his official statement, Sen. Bakk said “People are going to wonder why I’m doing this—and to be honest, there are several reasons. I’m very disappointed by the extreme partisanship going on nationally and right here in Minnesota. Both political parties are to blame. The constant negative and sharp rhetoric is undermining voters’ confidence in our public institutions. It doesn’t have to stay this way.”

“My constituents elected me to serve them to the best of my abilities. The Iron Range has provided the ore that has forged the steel that has made the bridges of America. If we expect to actually bridge the partisan divide, someone must take a proactive step to build such a bridge,” Tomassoni said in a statement.

The metro DFL isn’t interested in bridging divides. That sounds extreme but that’s verifiable fact. The metro DFL was interested in mining a decade ago. When I started paying attention to the state legislature in 2007, Tony Sertich was the House Majority Leader and the Chairman of the House Rules Committee. He was from Hibbing. In this year’s election Republican Rob Farnsworth lost by 40 votes in that district. In 2006, Sertich won with 75% of the vote. That’s a drop of 25 percentage points.

The DFL isn’t the blue collar party. That should bother them mightily because they’ll be in trouble if Republicans ever figure out the way to connect with suburban voters. That’s more of an eventuality than an if. The metro DFL isn’t interested in protecting people, including suburbanites. The sooner that reality sinks in, the sooner the DFL will become the minority party.

Now that Tom Bakk and David Tomassoni have made it official that they’re leaving the DFL, I can finally write about the move. The article opened by saying “In a startling political development, two longtime Minnesota DFL senators announced Wednesday they are leaving the Minnesota Senate DFL Caucus to form a new ‘Independent Caucus.'”

The article continues, saying “Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook, a senator since 2003 and former DFL candidate for governor and former DFL Senate Majority leader, and Sen. Dave Tomassoni of Chisholm, a senator since 2001, say their move is designed to become more bipartisan and moderate.” This move isn’t unpredictable. When the DFL ran pro-mining Erik Simonson out in the primary by a 73%-27% margin, the DFL sent the unmistakable signal that pro-mining legislators weren’t welcome in the DFL anymore.

Shortly after that, 5 formerly Iron Range DFL mayors endorsed President Trump. Eventually 9 former DFL mayors endorsed him. In the general election, Sen. Bakk won with only 55% of the vote, the tightest race of his career. At that point, Bakk and Tomassoni didn’t have a reason to stick with the DFL. The DFL rejected the Iron Range’s way of life, which meant their cities couldn’t support themselves anymore.

Imagine being told that being a loyal soldier for 20 years just wasn’t enough, that your constituents’ way of life had to be shut down. Tom Bakk and David Tomassoni don’t have to imagine that. That’s what just happened to them. This segment captured things perfectly:

Now it appears there was much more to that move because both Bakk and Tomassoni will get committee chairmanships. Those positions can only be appointed by Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka.

In an update Wednesday morning, Gazelka stated, “Being a graduate of high school in Virginia, MN, I have a natural connection to the Range. I’ve worked across the aisle with Senators Bakk and Tomassoni for 10 years. I welcome their announcement and the stronger alignment we will have as a result. We share the same vision of a prosperous Iron Range and will continue to work with them to fight for jobs on the Range.”

This hurts the DFL immensely because it didn’t happen in a vacuum. These defections follow Collin Peterson getting thrashed by Michelle Fischbach in CD-7. When it comes to CD-7, Peterson was the DFL’s entire bench. The DFL isn’t getting Peterson’s seat back in the next decade, at minimum. It’s becoming clear that the DFL is the urban party. Further, the DFL can’t escape the fact that they’re the extremist party.

The DFL mayor of Minneapolis let his city get destroyed by rioters. The DFL Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. Last week, that same City Council voted 7-6 to spend $500,000 through the end of the year on extra policing to protect against the violent crime that, predictably, skyrocketed after the dismantling vote. That outcome was predictable because officers retired, left or took medical leave after the riots.

The DFL has lots of things to figure out before the next election. If they don’t figure things out, 1 of 2 things will happen. Either Tim Walz will fight with a unified GOP legislature or a Republican governor will work with a unified GOP legislature to restore sanity to the state.

After the Democrats’ big spanking in the 2020 election, centrist Democrats have a major decision ahead of them, especially in Minnesota. In Minneapolis, DFL city councilmembers voted initially to dismantle the police. This past week, that same bunch voted 7-6 to approve an additional $500,000 in funding to make Minneapolis streets safer.

That it was that close of a vote shouts at centrist Democrats. This election isn’t just a time for reflection. It’s a time to wonder if this Democratic Party is interested in centrists. Here in Minnesota, 15-term Congressman and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson got thrashed by Michelle Fischbach. In State Senate District 3, former State Senate Majority Leader and State Senate Minority Leader (he’s been both) Tom Bakk won re-election with just 55% of the vote. In the past, he’s usually won with 70% of the vote. Are you noticing a trend developing? Then there’s this:

The 2 factions within the DFL on the Minneapolis City Council is more fractious than the Hatfields and McCoys. It turns out that re-imagining policing in substantive terms requires thinking. Already, this fiasco has ended the political career of one DFL politician, Lisa Bender, at least for now:

Bender, who represents five Uptown-area neighborhoods on the 13-member council, was first elected in 2013 and became council president in 2018. Her note to supporters didn’t give a reason for not seeking a third term. She wrote that she made the decision “well before multiple crises hit our city.”

Yeah, right. I’m not buying what she’s selling.

Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, noted that Biden won in a half-dozen state Senate districts that DFL candidates lost. He thinks the ill-formed rollout of the council’s proposal to reshape policing was part of the reason. Senate Republicans maintain a one-vote majority in the chamber.

“Everybody’s words and the way they message, that matters,” said Hayden, who lost a primary race in August to Democratic Socialist opponent Omar Fateh. “If we’re going win legislative races, we’re going to have to figure out how to appeal to some of these folks, because clearly they switched their ballot from the top of the ticket to the bottom.”

Sen. Hayden is one of the most progressive members of the Senate. This summer, he lost in a primary because he isn’t progressive enough. Up north, pro-mining DFL State Senator Erik Simonson from Duluth got thrashed by a 73%-27% margin in the DFL primary. Shortly thereafter, 9 DFL Iron Range mayors endorsed President Trump and Jason Lewis for US Senate. There are other rumblings coming from the Range, too. Will centrist Democrats stick with the DFL? They shouldn’t because they’re outsiders from the Ilhan Omar wing of the DFL.

After reading this article, I wasn’t surprised to find Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka’s tweet:


The article that Sen. Gazelka linked to is hostile to the Iron Range way of life. It essentially says that the metro DFL wants Iron Rangers to live in poverty:

Last weekend, the DFL party officially adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium banning copper-nickel mining projects in Minnesota, according to the DFL Environmental Caucus’s Facebook page. The move is the latest sign that the policies endorsed by the party are moving further toward the agenda’s of urban environmentalists and further away from the rural roots of the party that support farmers and laborers.

Democrats insist that they are the party that insists on following the science. That’s a lie. They’ve said that it’s impossible to safely mine precious metals. I wrote this post in 2013. Here’s the major takeaway of the post:

In 1936, Kennecott constructed evaporation ponds to store and evaporate mine water originating from the Bingham Canyon watershed. Over time, additional ponds were constructed to increase capacity, and the area became known as the South Jordan Evaporation Ponds (SJEP). The ponds were used for mine water until 1965 and for periodic storage of runoff water until 1987. SJEP use was discontinued in 1987.

Studies in the early 1990s concluded that there were elevated levels of heavy metals in the soil where the holding ponds had been located. Kennecott took responsibility for the impacts and agreed to reclaim and remediate the SJEP area. The removal work was undertaken pursuant to an EPA Administrative Order on Consent (AOC).

A massive clean-up operation began in 1994 involving the removal of pond sediment and six additional inches of underlying native soil. The material removed from Daybreak was permanently relocated to the Kennecott Blue Water Repository as part of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) clean up. At this time, some sediment, with a low concentration of lead and arsenic but an elevated sulfate concentration were consolidated onsite and capped with topsoil and re-vegetated. In 2001, the EPA issued a Record of Decision stating that the removal action adequately satisfied the remedial objectives and EPA determined that no further action was required. An Operation and Maintenance Plan (O&M Plan) was established to address
further management of the consolidation site.

Pursuant to agreements between the EPA, UDEQ and Kennecott, Kennecott began removing the remaining sediments at the consolidation site under the guideline of the O&M Plan. In 2006, Kennecott, the EPA and the UDEQ entered into an agreement solidifying the unrestricted residential and commercial use clean-up standards for the entire site.

In early 2007, the consolidated pond sediment removal project was completed. In 2008, the EPA and UDEQ issued a Consent Decree for the ground water cleanup efforts.

In other words, the DFL is the party of science except if it gets in the way of their political agenda. That isn’t intellectually consistent. The DFL knows about this. Kennecott’s example has been thrown in their face multiple times.

Not only does the party platform now officially oppose copper-nickel mining, something mining supporters have long suspected, but it also calls for increasing the use of wind and solar, which require enormous amounts of copper, nickel, and cobalt. The platform also opposes nuclear power, which along with hydroelectric power are the only sources of reliable carbon-free electricity.

How do you rely on wind and solar energy without the raw materials to make wind turbines or solar panels? Does the DFL think that these materials just miraculously appear at the manufacturing plant when they’re needed?

Iron Rangers appear to be figuring things out. They’re realizing that this is what’s happening:

It’s time for Tom Bakk and the rest of the Iron Range DFL delegation to flip the metro DFL the bird. The metro DFL doesn’t care about Iron Rangers’ families. Republicans share their priorities. Susan Kent and Ryan Winkler don’t.

Harold Hamilton’s weekly commentary contains some bad news for the DFL. This past Tuesday, while I was paying attention to the national news, DFL primary voters delivered a harsh message to the DFL. First, Hamilton highlights the fact that the “labor wing” of the DFL is persona non grata within the DFL. Hamilton wrote “Start with State Senate District 7, where incumbent Erik Simonson suffered a savage beatdown at the hands of newcomer Jen McEwen. Simonson, a moderate, supported mining and pipelines and frequently crossed party lines. In short, he was an old-school blue-collar Democrat.”

Hamilton continued, writing “Simonson had the backing of nearly the entire constellation of DFL opinion leaders, including Governor Walz and a raft of independent spending on his behalf from unions and other special interest groups. Despite this dynamic, Simonson was crushed 74-23%, losing every single precinct in the district.”

Couple this thorough thrashing with Susan Kent’s defeat of Tom Bakk to become the Senate DFL Leader and it’s exceptionally clear that the Iron Range DFL delegation are welcome only to maintain the chance of putting together a majority. The DFL doesn’t want the Iron Range delegation’s mining agenda.

In House District 59B, Rep. Raymond Dehn was beaten by newcomer Esther Agbaje. Let’s be clear about Rep. Dehn’s liberal, woke street cred. Dehn is a proud ex-con, having done time for a 1976 felony burglary, presumably to feed an admitted cocaine addiction. More importantly, Dehn can rightly proclaim that he was for defunding the police before “defunding the police” became a cause célèbre. Dehn was excoriated for his suggestion to disarm the Minneapolis Police Department, even though he was more than prescient as a liberal standard-bearer. The problem for Ray Dehn, clearly, was that he was the wrong race and color for the Group Identity Mob.

Then there’s this:

In another section of Minneapolis, Senator Jeff Hayden lost his primary to Omar Fateh, a Democrat of a different stripe. Fateh proudly ran against Hayden as a Democrat Socialist. Again, Jeff Hayden wouldn’t be mistaken for a moderate anywhere. He has earned high marks from progressive groups everywhere.

Finally, over in Saint Paul, longtime legislative fixture John Lesch was unceremoniously dumped in the most surprising result of the night, save for Simonson’s beat down.

The thought that Jeff Hayden. Ray Dehn and John Lesch aren’t sufficiently leftist enough in this DFL says everything. When Jeff Hayden isn’t sufficiently left for the activists, that means that major changes are about to happen.

I’m sticking with my prediction that Jeremiah Ellison will be the next mayor of Minneapolis. I’ll further predict that he’ll run the city into the ground. The DFL is at a tipping point. If they don’t return to their blue collar roots, they’ll essentially be an urban party for a generation.

Now that he’s been dumped by the DFL, people must wonder what’s next for Sen. Tom Bakk. I’ve thought about that subject myself and I’ve reached the conclusion that Sen. Bakk would look fantastic with MNGOP after his name. What’s left within the DFL that fits Sen. Bakk?

It can’t be disputed that:

  1. today’s DFL has decided that Iron Rangers aren’t welcome within the DFL;
  2. today’s DFL is the metrocentric party;
  3. today’s DFL hates pipelines, mining and blue collar workers;
  4. today’s DFL is the gun grabber caucus;
  5. today’s DFL is the party of socialists.

Sen. Bakk, I haven’t always agreed with you but you’ve worked to make PolyMet and Twin Metals a reality. Susan Kent and John Marty won’t help make those things a reality. Paul Gazelka, Kurt Daudt and other Republicans would enthusiastically team with you on those initiatives.

It’s clear that today’s DFL isn’t interested in rural Minnesota. Sen. Bakk, you know this is BS:

“What I know about the DFL Party is that whether in the Senate or in the House or statewide offices, we’re the only party that represents Minnesotans from the Canadian border to Iowa and from the Dakotas to Wisconsin,” Hortman said.

That’s BS on steroids. When’s the last time a metro DFL politician voted for building a pipeline? That’s right, Sen Bakk. It’s been a decade+. Sen Bakk, when’s the last time a metro DFL politician enthusiastically supported precious metals mining? That’s right, Sen Bakk. They’ve never supported precious metal mining. They haven’t even half-heartedly supported precious metal mining.

Sen. Bakk, you have a chance to establish a different legacy for yourself. There’s an opportunity for you to send a signal that you’re an Iron Ranger first, last and always. Think of the message of statesmanship first that fighting for the people, not a political party, would send. That legacy is a powerful thing, something that would permit you to say that people, not party, matter most to you.

Sen. Bakk, it’s time for you to put your constituents, not the DFL, first. Your constituents want to build things, work hard and be rewarded for doing the right thing. Sen. Bakk, you have the opportunity to send a message to metro DFL politicians that the Range fights for Rangers.

Sen. Bakk, carpe diem. Carpe diem.

According to this article, the DFL’s leadership might become further metrocentric. To those that think that wasn’t possible, that’s understandable. Of the 7-person DFL Senate leadership team, 1 person is from northwest Minnesota (Kent Eken) and another person (Tom Bakk) is from northeast Minnesota. The other 5 people (Susan Kent, who is challenging Bakk for Minority Leader, Jeffrey Hayden, Carolyn Laine, John Hoffman and Ann Rest) are from the Twin Cities. By comparison, the 9-person GOP leadership team represents the entire state.

In particular, Bakk’s positions on northeastern Minnesota mining issues have run afoul of environmentalists who are an important part of the DFL coalition. Kent’s challenge came to light days after Bakk came under fire from environmentalists for telling a group of business and political leaders in Ely that the controversial Twin Metals copper-nickel mine proposal on the Iron Range will not be stopped by a state environmental review. “Now it might take a decade or more,” Bakk said, “but the process isn’t intended to stop projects.”

Bakk’s opposition to stronger gun laws also put him at odds with colleagues from Minneapolis, St. Paul and their suburbs, deepening a long-simmering intraparty rift. Bakk has long been a fixture in the politics of northern Minnesota, a region that was once a DFL stronghold and which has drifted increasingly toward the Republican Party in recent elections.

In other words, Sen. Bakk is too moderate for DFL Metrocrats. DFL Metrocrats passionately hate mining. In fact, the only thing that DFL Metrocrats hate more than mining is the Second Amendment. Apparently, Tom Bakk isn’t leftist enough for the DFL Metrocrats’ liking.

The brewing leadership fight has played out largely out of public view, with several DFL senators declining to comment publicly for this story. It comes as Senate Democrats prepare for a 2020 election cycle in which they will attempt to overturn Republicans’ current 35-32 majority.

With the DFL’s divisions, the DFL should be worried in 2020. DFL turnout in 2018 was almost as high as it is for a presidential election. In 2020, Republican turnout will be higher than it was in 2018. It’ll be difficult for the DFL turnout to be much higher.

This begs the question of whether the DFL can gain seats in either the House or Senate. I wouldn’t bet on it, especially if the DFL essentially tells the Iron Range that they aren’t welcome in the DFL anymore.

Perhaps, it’s more fitting to title this article “The Swamp lives in Minnesota. After writing about the IRRRB’s corruption in this post a month ago, I can’t say that I’m surprised by this information:

This week, it was revealed that the [IRRRB] paid a long-time staffer $166,000 to retire early and then hired him back as a consultant just one month later for up to $43,000 per year. The retirement payoff consisted in $66,000 in unused vacation and sick days as well as nearly $100,000 in cash!

If I didn’t know better, I’d think that the DFL, starting with Tom Bakk and Tim Walz, have turned a blind eye to the IRRRB’s corruption. How can anyone watch what’s happening there think that the DFL is interested in good governance? Further, what type of law permits a government employee to retire early, cash a huge check ($166,000 is a big chunk of money), then allow the ‘retired’ employee to get rehired as a ‘consultant’? That’s stupidity and then some.

If an employee wants to retire early, they should be forced to sign an agreement that forbids them from being hired as a consultant anywhere. At minimum, if the ‘retired’ employee is rehired as a consultant, then their pension should be immediately stopped and they should be penalized.

That shouldn’t apply just to IRRRB employees, either. That should apply to all government employees, whether they’re school board employees, municipal employees or all the way up through state employees. In fact, the cleanest way to deal with this is to prohibit people from retiring early. If a person wants to retire at age 55, let them foot the bill for their retirement until they get to age 62.

The IRRRB needs a major overhaul. It’s been corrupt essentially since its creation.

From where I’m sitting, it’s pretty clear that the DFL got smoked in this year’s budget negotiations. First, the DFL didn’t get its 20-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase. Next, the DFL didn’t get its $12,000,000,000 overall tax increase. Third, the DFL had to settle for a cut in the HCAF, aka Sick Tax, rate. Included in this agreement is a drop from 2% to 1.8% on the Sick Tax rate. Further, the final budget will spend approximately $48,000,000,000 instead of the $51,000,000,000 that Gov. Walz and the DFL wanted.

Finally and perhaps most surprising of all, Gov. Walz and the DFL got talked into dropping the middle class tax rate from 7.05% to 6.8%. I’m betting that the DFL didn’t push that during negotiations. I’m betting that Sen. Gazelka pushed that tax cut.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders announced a state budget agreement at a Capitol news conference Sunday night. “This is a budget that invests in education, health care and community prosperity in a fiscally responsible manner,” Walz said just after 6:30 p.m. Sunday, joined by Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman at a Capitol news conference. “Today we proved that divided government can work for the betterment of the people we serve.”

Significantly, the deal does not include an increase in the state’s gas tax. The total budget will be a little over $48 billion. Other provisions of the deal include:

  1. a 2 percent increase each year of the biennium for the E-12 education funding formula
  2. an income tax rate cut in the second bracket
  3. continuation of the medical provider tax at 1.8 percent instead of 2 percent
  4. $500 million in bonding, with a large portion of that going to housing projects

I found this part of MPR’s article interesting:

The Senate on Saturday approved a Republican plan for preventing a state government shutdown if a stalemate persists, throwing down a challenge to House Democrats and Walz to either agree or take the blame for a shutdown when the current budget expires June 30. But Democrats had little to gain by taking a vote on the “lights on” proposal, given that Republicans would then have few incentives to keep negotiating.

The bill would fund government for up to two years at current projected levels assuming autopilot growth in the budget of about $1.9 billion. It just happens to be close to the Senate GOP’s original budget proposal, with none of the tax increases sought by Walz and House Democrats to put more into education, health care, transportation and other programs.

Democratic House Minority Leader Tom Bakk dismissed the gambit as throwing in the towel and accused Republicans of bargaining in bad faith.

Isn’t it interesting that, hours after Sen. Bakk “accused Republicans of bargaining in bad faith”, a budget deal was reached? I’d say that Sen. Bakk’s statement looks rather foolish at this point. Perhaps, Sen. Bakk felt stung by the fact that he wasn’t an integral part of these negotiations. Notice who isn’t part of this picture:

Whichever way you slice it, Gov. Walz and the DFL got smoked in his first negotiations.

Every year, newspapers across Minnesota write articles with headlines decrying the lack of transparency in final budget negotiations. This year, the first article I’ve seen on the subject was published by the Pi-Press.

The Pi-Press’s article offers the headline “Secret budget talks at Capitol leave nearly everyone frustrated and in the dark, again” as though this is newsworthy. It isn’t. It’s as newsworthy as reporting that the sun is expected to set in the west — again. The article opens by saying “It wasn’t supposed to end this way — but they say that every year.”

Then it continues, saying “Gov. Tim Walz, Republican Senate Leader Paul Gazelka and Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman have offered no real details of their plans and didn’t have a budget deal Saturday afternoon. If they get one soon, politicians and staff will have to scramble to finish their work and will likely need a marathon special session to approve thousands of pages worth of budget bills.”

Part of negotiating is trying to get the upper hand on the guys you’re fighting with. That guarantees grandstanding in the early stages of the negotiations. Thanks to former Gov. Dayton, the end-of-session isn’t considered the true end-of-session. It’s usually thought of as the point when negotiations get serious. Thanks to Gov. Dayton, we can pretty much predict that the DFL will be utterly obstinate.

The DFL is still insisting on raising Minnesotans’ taxes by a total of $12,000,000,000 over the next 4 years. They’re frantically publishing tweets like this:


Here’s another frantic, dishonest tweet, too:


Then there’s this:


It’s stunning that the DFL insists that they aren’t listening to special interest organizations:


What else would you call a lengthy list of special interest organizations? The truth hurts. Deal with it. It isn’t the GOP’s fault that the DFL is the party of snow flakes.