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A trip to the Walz-Flanagan campaign website exposes the DFL’s lack of an economic message. Their campaign website doesn’t have an issues page, which is telling. On its homepage, it has a tiny portion of the page dedicated to explain why they’re running. That portion of the page says “running for Governor and Lieutenant Governor to make our vision of One Minnesota a reality. We are united in this vision: A Minnesota where every child has the opportunity to succeed and hope for the future, a Minnesota where the people whose lives are most impacted by public policy choices have a seat at the table, a Minnesota with fair wages, fully funded public schools, and affordable healthcare as a right, not a privilege and a Minnesota where we protect our environment, invest in renewable energy and jobs, and maintain our roads, bridges, and transit across the state. We want to bring this vision to the governor’s office and support the Minnesota we know and love.”

In other words, they’re running for Gov. Dayton’s third term. They’re running without explaining what economic goals they’ll fight for.

A quick view of Paul Thissen’s website doesn’t lay out a vision for Minnesota’s economy, either. It talks about how the Supreme Court should protect labor unions. It talks briefly how we should implement single-payer health care statewide. Thissen talks about legalizing marijuana, too. There isn’t anything in that pile of words that sounds like he has a clue about capitalism. Then again, his legislative record hasn’t shown him to have a clue about creating high-paying middle class jobs so we shouldn’t be surprised.

Erin Murphy’s campaign website has a ‘Why I’m Running‘ page but it doesn’t have an issues page, much less an explanation of what economic policies she’d implement.

Of the 4 DFL gubernatorial candidates’ websites that I visited, only Rebecca Otto talked about the economy. Even then, she only spoke about raising the minimum wage:

Across her statewide listening tour Rebecca met hard-working people who are under-compensated, making it hard to make ends meet. This is hurting our families, our communities, and our way of life. Rebecca Otto supports increasing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation. She will also be releasing an economic plan that will help increase wages across the state.

There’s nothing on any of these candidates’ websites that talks about infrastructure, especially pipelines. Why is that? Is it because the DFL’s special interest masters won’t let them support legitimate projects that create middle class wages? Is it because the DFL doesn’t think that fossil fuels will play an important part in our economy?

Finally, it’s apparent that the DFL doesn’t understand capitalism whatsoever. This morning on At Issue with Tom Hauser, Katharine Tinucci said that cutting the corporate tax rate won’t create jobs because “the rich” won’t invest the money. What an idiot. What wealthy people want most is more money. The best way to get wealthier is by investing that money.

Isn’t it apparent that the DFL doesn’t understand human nature?

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The unmistakable commonality running through this article is that most of the DFL gubernatorial candidates are distancing themselves from Gov. Dayton while singing Gov. Dayton’s praises.

For instance, Rebecca Otto said “Every leader is different. Every leader brings strengths and every leader has challenges.” Tina Liebling replied “I’m certainly not running to be a clone of Gov. Dayton, although I think he’s done a lot of good things. My campaign is not one of, let’s just continue on the road we’re on, because I think we need to make some change.” Paul Thissen isn’t running from Gov. Dayton, saying “I don’t think it would be bad to have another four years of Mark Dayton. Mark Dayton has been authentic and he’s been true to his word and I think he’s been a very good governor.”

What’s apparent is that they’re all distancing themselves from Gov. Dayton, which isn’t surprising. It’s understatement to say that Minnesota is changing and not in the DFL’s direction. The biggest problem with the DFL’s candidates is that they’re moving in the opposite direction of the state.

Minnesota is getting more red each cycle. The DFL is heading further left each cycle. It isn’t surprising that each of these DFL candidates is working hard to win over Bernie Sanders’ delegates. The DFL candidates are fighting for the ‘true believer’ vote.

The candidate that wins most of the Sanders delegates likely will win the DFL endorsement. Which one of these candidates accomplishes that is anyone’s guess:

If this election cycle is like the 2016 election, then this will be a change election. It’s my opinion that leftward change isn’t the type of change Minnesotans are looking for.

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Anyone that thinks rural Minnesota isn’t changing its voting habits needs to read Bill Hanna’s article in the Mesabi Daily News. Included in the article is this information:

But the days of blind Range voting allegiance to the DFL Party are history. Consider this: State Sen. David Tomassoni’s district is in the heart of DFL country. Yet, it was carried by Republican Donald Trump not Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

That reflects a troubling trend for the DFL and rural Minnesota, according to Tomassoni. There were 21 rural DFL senators in the Legislature in 2009. Now there are seven, he said. “The map is going ‘Red’ (Republican) and keeps creeping towards us,” Tomassoni said. “Meanwhile, rural Minnesota keeps losing ground.”

It gets worse for the DFL:

Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul responded to a request for comment with a general statement that we can have both clean water and mining jobs. “When it comes to questions that pit water and jobs against each other, we must ensure that we have clear science-based processes that include strong financial assurances.” State and federal processes already do that.

The Range is changing annually. They’re fed up with the Metro DFL’s answers:

They often give a standard, “Yes, I support copper/nickel, if it can be done safely” answer, even though the projects continue to meet and exceed state and federal rules and regulations for permitting and operation.

There’s less wiggle room for the DFL than there was a decade ago. In 2014, I wrote this post about the difficulties then facing DFL Chairman Ken Martin:

Ken Martin got what he had hoped for at the DFL State Convention last weekend regarding the copper/nickel/precious metals mining issue on the Range: Nothing — no resolution for or against debated on the floor. The state DFL Party chairman had said for a couple months in interviews and conversations with the Mesabi Daily News that his goal was to not have the controversial issue turn into a convention firefight. He succeeded, despite passionate feelings on both sides.

He got away with that in 2014. That won’t fly at the 2018 DFL State Convention. Sen. Tomassoni summarizes things pretty succinctly with this statement:

But the state senator said the gubernatorial election is a critical one for the region. “People are really fed up with those in the Twin Cities area lecturing us and telling us how to live our lives. We have the cleanest water in the state and we’ve been mining for more than 130 years. Yet we are told ‘do this and don’t do that’ when it comes to mining that built this great state and country. Iron Rangers are pi_ _ _ _ off. They’ve had enough,” Tomassoni said.

They should be upset. The environmental activist wing of the DFL is still the dominant wing of the DFL. They aren’t a tolerant bunch. Proof of that is how DFL environmental activists shut down a hearing on a pipeline project in Duluth last week, then threatened to disrupt another hearing on the pipeline project in St. Cloud. As a result of that threat, authorities canceled the hearing.

It’s difficult finding comment from other DFL candidates on the issue or copper/nickel mining in general. But not so Otto. As a member of the state’s Executive Council, comprised of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and auditor, Otto voted against awarding leases for copper/nickel exploration in the region in 2013. The leases only allow companies to drill holes in the ground to extract mineral samples to judge the value of certain deposits.

She immediately used her vote against copper/nickel mining as a fundraising tool, especially in the Twin Cities area, and continues to tout her decision, which she has said was to protect Minnesotans’ welfare. She also contends she is not anti-mining.

The DFL’s credibility on mining issues is damaged. There used to be a blind allegiance to the DFL. Bit-by-bit, that’s being replaced with a ‘prove it’ attitude.

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One of the things that I can’t shake in reading this article is whether the Public Utilities Commission will destroy the DFL for the 2018 election. Bear with me while I make the case for why I think it hurts the DFL.

Right now, the Public Utilities Commission is holding hearings on whether to approve the replacement of Enbridge’s Line 3 Pipeline. The reason why this is potentially devastating is because “the state Public Utilities Commission is expected to decide whether to approve the Line 3 project next spring.” The only thing that might derail the building of the replacement pipeline is the Dayton administration. If this pipeline isn’t built soon, farmers, construction workers and small towns will be upset with the Dayton administration.

Farmers will be especially upset because rejecting this pipeline project will trigger more oil to be transported via oil trains. That limits rail capacity for getting farmers’ crops to market. Whoever the DFL candidate for governor is, they’ll be pressed on whether they’ll support building the pipeline. Anything except enthusiastically supporting the building of the pipeline will be greeted with anger by rural Minnesota.

That, in turn, will spike turnout in rural Minnesota because they can’t afford to have environmental do-gooders destroying farmers’ operations. Based on the information on the PUC’s commissioners page, it’s virtually certain that the PUC will vote against replacing the pipeline. Three of the commissioners are DFL environmental activists. The lone Republican is a former DFL politician who worked as a lobbyist for Conservation Minnesota.

Republican gubernatorial candidates should lay this situation out in rural Minnesota. When they’re campaigning, they should ask farmers if they can afford 4 more years of DFL environmental policies. I’m betting the response will be an overwhelming no!

Look at the results from rural Minnesota the last 2 elections. In 2014, Minnesota Republicans rode a wave from rural Minnesota to recapture the Minnesota House. In 2016, Minnesota Republicans rode anti-DFL sentiment in rural Minnesota to flip the Minnesota Senate.

As I wrote at the time, many of those races were blowouts. In northern Minnesota, Paul Utke defeated DFL Sen. Rod Skoe by a 57%-43% margin. Many of the races weren’t particularly close, in fact. I’d recommend GOP gubernatorial candidates highlight this graphic when campaigning in rural Minnesota:

That graphic will get everyone’s attention because it’s a display of how dysfunctional Minnesota’s permitting process is under DFL control. That won’t get better if Erin Murphy, Tim Walz or Paul Thissen gets elected governor.

This article provides some interesting insights into the Minnesota Supreme Court’s line-item ruling. It’s worth reading just for the plethora of quotes from lawmakers. One of the more interesting quotes was from former Speaker and former House Minority Leader Paul Thissen.

Rep. Thissen’s habit of never missing an opportunity to miss a golden opportunity is fun to watch. According to the article, “Echoing that point, former House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, called for transparent mediation. ‘We work for Minnesotans, and they deserve a process that is open to the public,’ Thissen said. ‘They deserve to know who is in the room, and they have the right to know what is being said.'”

Let’s dissect that quote. First, Rep. Thissen is right that the legislature works for the people. Rep. Thissen didn’t do that. In 2013, in payback to their public employee union special interests, the DFL passed a bill that Gov. Dayton signed that gave SEIU and AFSCME the right to organize in-home child care providers. The thing is that those in-home child care providers, led by Hollee Saville, showed up en masse at the Capitol that day. They lobbied against the bill. They told DFL legislators that they didn’t want to be part of a union. The DFL ignored them.

As I said, the bill passed. Then it was signed into law. When the organizing vote happened, the people that the DFL supposedly work for rejected the union by a vote of 1,014-392. Over 72% of voters rejected unionization. This wasn’t a nail-biter. It was more like Reagan vs. Mondale in 1984, Nixon vs. McGovern in 1972 or LBJ vs. Goldwater in 1964.

Q: Why didn’t then-Speaker Thissen listen to the people instead of the special interests?

Another part of the quote has Rep. Thissen saying “They deserve to know who is in the room, and they have the right to know what is being said.” I don’t remember then-Speaker Thissen insisting that negotiations between him, Sen. Bakk and Gov. Dayton be transparent. In fact, what we got from the DFL leadership was a statement saying that they’d agreed to raise taxes after negotiations had theoretically concluded. They we found out that one of those DFL leaders didn’t like the tax bill. That led to further negotiations and another statement.

At no point in 2013 did then-Speaker Thissen insist on transparent negotiations.

Watch this speech from Rep. Thissen:

In the speech, Rep. Thissen accuses Republicans of raising property taxes. That’s a lie. Republicans don’t propose raising taxes. That’s what the DFL did in 2013-14. During those years, property taxes in Princeton and St. Cloud skyrocketed.

Rep. Thissen talks a great game. Rep. Thissen’s problem is that his actions don’t match his statements. That’s why he’s one of the least-liked legislators in Minnesota. (If you don’t believe me, ask the GOP staffers Thissen attacked.)

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It’s still shameful that MNsure is still rewarding failure. According to this article, “In early January, enrollment was over 103,000 people, with the enrollment window still open at the time. This is still a far cry from where the program was expected to be however. In 2013, a consultant estimated that more than 400,000 people would be buying private coverage through MNsure by the end of 2016.”

In other words, the DFL overpromised and underachieved. Then they rewarded one of their cronies. According to the article, “MNsure CEO Allison O’Toole will receive a slight pay raise of $835. Her new salary will be $150,816 annually, whereas her previous salary sat at $149,981.” Then the article said that O’Toole “From 2011 to 2012, she served as the state director for Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office.”

What’s worst is that “O’Toole received the pay raise, and positive reviews, from the MNsure board of directors as part of a 40-minute long closed door meeting.” Nowhere in the article does it say that Paul Thissen and other DFL legislators criticized the closed-door meeting. Last year, Thissen and a handful of other Democrats criticized Republicans for holding closed-door budget negotiations, complaining about a lack of transparency and the people not getting their input.

Let’s return, though, to the part about overpromising and underperforming. Dayton’s administration predicted more than 400,000 “people would be buying private coverage through MNsure by the end of 2016.” At the end of 2016, though, only 103,000 had bought private insurance through MNsure. Gov. Dayton’s administration was off by only the population of Bloomington, Duluth and Rochester. Another way of putting it is that Gov. Dayton’s administration was off by the population of St. Paul.

In one of the least surprising tidbits of news, former Speaker Paul Thissen announced that he’s running for governor. This isn’t surprising. The only surprising part about it is that it took this long. According to WJON’s article, “Thissen plans to formally launch his campaign Thursday to replace Gov. Mark Dayton, who decided against a third term. He’s in his eighth two-year term representing southwest Minneapolis.”

The truth is that the DFL lost its majority in the 2014 election, then lost more seats in the House in 2016. What’s more interesting is that Rep. Thissen announced that he wasn’t running for House Minority Leader at the start of this session. That signaled to me that he was planning on running for governor.

Furthermore, it isn’t likely that the DFL will retake the House until they stop catering to the environmentalist wing of the DFL. Thissen has decided that it isn’t likely for him to become speaker again. Further, Thissen likely thinks his best chance of becoming governor is when he’s still a household name, which is today.

This paragraph is telling, too:

Thissen became speaker in 2013 when the DFL had a lock on state government with the Legislature and Dayton in control. But House DFLers lost their majority in 2014 and additional seats in 2016, leaving party leaders concerned about the 2018 election.

DFL party leaders have a legitimate right to be worried about the 2018 election.

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This morning, KSTP’s Tom Hauser interviewed incoming Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and incoming House Minority Leader Melisa Hortman. One of the first topics they discussed was MNsure. Sen. Gazelka quickly made the point that Minnesota’s system prior to the ACA was significantly superior to the system we’re currently dealing with. To her credit, Rep. Hortman quickly agreed with Sen. Gazelka. Later in the show, former DFL State Party Chair Brian Melendez complimented Sen. Gazelka and Rep. Hortman before stating his optimism that their exchange showed that a deal might be reached this session.

I’d like to think that there’s hope but I’m not optimistic about it. IMO, there are 2 people standing in the way of getting something positive done. One of the people that will likely try jamming things up is Paul Thissen. I’m certain that he’s running for governor. If he runs, I’m confident that he’ll run a scorched earth campaign, criticizing Republicans for not getting anything done.

While I’m confident that Rep. Thissen will play the obstructionist card frequently, I’m certain that Gov. Dayton will continue with his hissy fits. The opening paragraphs of David Montgomery’s article say it all:

There was so little trust left between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt by Friday that the two leaders wouldn’t agree to meet in private as they tried to salvage a package of bills to cut taxes, build roads and water projects and help people struggling with health insurance premiums.

Instead, the two sat down in front of television cameras to try to salvage a deal they’d been fighting over in various forms since May. The cameras didn’t help. After just 17 minutes of accusations and arguments, both Dayton and Daudt walked out of the room, unable to agree.

It’s obviously a very disappointing outcome,” Dayton said afterwards.

Gov. Dayton’s quote is a lie, at least from his perspective. Gov. Dayton hasn’t wanted to work in good faith with Republicans. He stated it matter-of-factly in multiple op-eds by asking voters to give him DFL majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate. (Instead, Minnesotans gave him GOP majorities in the House and Senate.)

Let’s be clear about this. Gov. Dayton is an obstructionist at heart. He’s shut down state government twice. The first time, it’s possible to argue it was the Republicans’ fault. It isn’t a strong argument but it’s an argument. The other time, though, it’s all on Gov. Dayton. Gov. Dayton vetoed bills from a bipartisan budget agreement negotiated by Speaker Daudt and then-Senate Majority Leader Bakk. (It’s worth noting that Rep. Thissen sabotaged both negotiated agreements.) It wouldn’t be surprising if Gov. Dayton shut down the government again this summer. He’s done it before. He apparently thinks that it’s the only way he’s relevant in the budget process. This is Gov. Dayton’s definition of good faith negotiating:

Daudt accused Dayton of breaking the early-December deal earlier this week, when he unveiled proposed language for all three potential special session bills. The proposed infrastructure bill, Daudt said, took away Republican priorities without harming any of Dayton’s own.

It’s time, after 6 long years of the Dayton administration, to call him what he is. Gov. Dayton is Minnesota’s Obstructionist-in-Chief.

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Paul Thissen’s op-ed is a total snow job. In that respect, it reminds me of Halloween, 1991. That’s the date of the infamous Halloween Blizzard.

Having Rep. Thissen say that “the next Legislature’s top priority must be to repair the divisions the last two years have created” is especially rich considering the fact that Thissen engaged in “a disturbing pattern of verbal abuse of Republican Staff.” This was reported in a letter from Reps. Peppin, Franson, O’Neill, Mack, Albright, Fabian and Nash. In their letter, they said “Throughout this session, we have witnessed a disturbing pattern of verbal abuse of Republican Staff by you on the floor of the House of Representatives.”

I said then what I’ll repeat now: that “Thissen’s behavior wasn’t ‘over the line.’ They weren’t an aberration.” They represented a pattern of disgusting behavior. Remember that the letter said that they witnessed “a disturbing pattern of verbal abuse of Republican Staff by you on the floor of the House of Representatives.”

In his op-ed, Thissen writes “Why has this ugly divisiveness emerged? Certainly, it arose in part from political rhetoric that marginalizes and demeans Americans based on their race, religion, gender and geography. Voters should demand that all candidates, regardless of party, stand up to and denounce such hateful rhetoric. It has no place in our politics.” Later, he continued “A good first step in addressing this would be to pass meaningful campaign-finance reform to shine a light on the millions in secretive spending that distorts our politics and make sure those who use such intolerant language for political advantage can be held publicly accountable.”

I’ve got a better idea. Let’s start with throwing out legislators that verbally abuse the hard-working staff that make legislators’ lives better. If legislators can’t treat legislative staff with dignity and respect, they’re incapable of leading. That has nothing to do with campaign finance laws. It has everything to do with being a mean-spirited, disrespectful individual.

Thissen literally talks himself in a circle — inside of a single paragraph:

That means offering serious solutions to the realities that squeeze family budgets — child care costs, college tuition, retirement savings, prescription drugs and health care premiums. Finger-pointing and partisan bickering won’t cut it. As an example, House Democrats put forward the first concrete proposal to provide immediate relief for Minnesotans who are facing large premium increases on the individual market. Our plan caps premiums at 10 percent of annual income — a practical solution that will help families now. We invite House Republicans to set aside political expediency and join us in problem-solving so we can get the job done.

Thissen first states that “finger-pointing and partisan bickering won’t cut it”, then engages in finger-pointing and partisan bickering. Then Thissen tells Republicans to “set aside political expediency and join us in problem-solving” the MNsure/ACA crisis. The DFL proposed a one-year fix. Speaker Daudt and Chairman Davids have proposed a plan that would fix the things that are wrong with the ACA.

Republicans proposed a plan that would increase access to health care, not just reduce the price of people’s premiums. Republicans proposed a plan that will actually help people with pre-existing conditions get insurance without raising the cost of health insurance for healthy people. Republicans proposed a plan that will provide people outside the Twin Cities metro multiple choices of insurers.

Anyone that dishonest and that mean-spirited is disqualified to lead.

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The good news for Minnesotans is that the MNsure website is working again. The bad news for Minnesotans is that MNsure prices are still completely unaffordable. Despite Rep. Thissen’s statements that people’s premiums aren’t going up if they get the tax credits, the truth is that Minnesotans are faced with a multi-faceted health care crisis that’s largely caused by MNsure and the Affordable Care Act.

Gov. Dayton insists that MNsure enrollments are “back on track” after Tuesday morning’s difficulties, saying “Minnesotans should be reassured they’re going to get good customer service” before also saying “187,000 people have visited the website and 13,000 have enrolled in health insurance plans.”

Friday night on Almanac, Paul Thissen and Speaker Daudt were interviewed in the opening segment, with MNsure/ACA being the chief topic. Thissen’s schtick was mostly that the DFL had proposed rebates weeks ago that would eliminate the sticker shock of skyrocketing health insurance premiums. There were 2 clear inferences. The first inference was that Republicans hadn’t proposed anything to fix things. The other inference was that skyrocketing premiums were the only thing that needed fixing.

Thankfully, Speaker Daudt fixed that insinuation by Rep. Thissen, saying that people in rural Minnesota didn’t have easy access to health care. That’s something that the DFL rebates wouldn’t fix. Another thing that Speaker Daudt highlighted was the fact that the rebate wouldn’t lower families’ deductibles or out-of-pocket expenses.

The right way to think of MNsure/ACA health insurance policies is that they’re selling policies that combine Cadillac plan premiums and catastrophic policy deductibles. Back during the good old days, it was possible to buy a policy that had a high deductible but with a cheap premium. It was also possible to buy a plan that covered everything and gave people a wide network to choose from. The trade-off was a high monthly premium.

Thanks to the DFL’s stupidity, we now have to choose between policies with high premiums and high deductibles or policies with extremely high premiums and lower deductibles or expensive co-pays. What we have now is the worst of both worlds.

Joe Atkins, one of MNsure’s staunchest supporters, apparently hasn’t figured it out that the ACA is too expensive:

The good news is that the ACA has been exposed as a failure. The bad news is that we still haven’t defeated Hillary so we can replace the ACA with something that works.

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