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Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz won their party’s non-binding straw polls at Tuesday night’s precinct caucuses. Unfortunately for both men, that won’t get nearly as much publicity as the breaking news from earlier in the day. The other noteworthy news from Tuesday night’s straw polls is that Keith Downey underperformed, losing to Commissioner Johnson by a 45.4% – 14.6% margin. Perhaps, more embarrassing for Downey is the fact that he lost to “Undecided” by a 15.6% – 14.6% margin.

After such a lackluster performance in the straw poll, the Downey campaign must ask themselves if there’s a legitimate pathway to the endorsement. At this point, nothing seems to suggest that there is a path to the endorsement.

Full disclosure: I’m still undecided so I don’t have a dog in this fight at this point. At some point, I’m sure that will change. It’s just that it hasn’t changed yet.

On the DFL side, it appears as though Paul Thissen, Tina Liebling and Chris Coleman have difficult paths to the DFL endorsement, with Walz, Rebecca Otto and Erin Murphy having the strongest finishes:

Here’s the unofficial results of the GOP straw poll:

Turnout at Republican precinct caucuses were significantly smaller than at DFL, which can’t please Republicans. Still, tonight was the night when initial assessments were made. This isn’t the night when final decisions are made.

If Walz is the DFL-endorsed candidate, it isn’t likely that he’ll have much of an enthusiasm gap in his favor. The Bernie Sanders wing of the DFL is dominant. That’s where the enthusiasm comes from. That isn’t where Tim Walz is from. Further, like I said earlier this week, Walz alienated NRA voters and the Iron Range. OF the 3 DFL finalists, all have difficult paths to the governor’s mansion. Erin Murphy is little known outside the Twin Cities. Further, she’s hated in rural Minnesota. Rebecca Otto is hated on the Range, especially after fundraising off of her decision to vote against approving mining exploration leases.

Keith Downey made a mistake taking on Matt Dean on health care. While Keith Downey was the chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, Matt Dean was fighting important health care battles on the front lines in Minnesota. Matt Dean wasn’t sitting on the sidelines. He was fighting and winning health care battles. Let’s remember that this happened when the DFL held overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. Yes, Tim Pawlenty was still governor but the DFL were only 3 votes short in the House to override Gov. Pawlenty’s veto at any time.

When Downey first attacked Rep. Dean, Dean replied immediately and forcefully. The Strib noticed, writing “In a sign of Dean’s emergence as a potential front-runner, his rival Keith Downey launched the first major attack of the Republican contest last week by hitting Dean on health care, a signature issue of his campaign and time in the Legislature. Downey described Dean as a “typical politician” in one Facebook post and challenged him to a one-on-one debate. Dean responded with a bit of passive-aggressive venom familiar to many Minnesotans: “I’m confident Republicans will endorse a candidate who has the care, credibility and integrity to know his facts before blindly launching into a political attack to grab a cheap headline,” he wrote.”

The one-on-one debate challenge is an old trick. With a full field like this, it isn’t effective to criticize an opponent. Hitting an opponent with half a dozen other candidates might hurt him but not help yourself. Also, a one-on-one debate gives the appearance of slimming the field. Downey certainly hasn’t cleared the field. For that matter, nobody has cleared the field. The stunt that Downey is playing is that a one-on-one match-up gives the illusion that he’s the frontrunner. That’s a pretty nifty trick for a guy who just accused Matt Dean of being a “typical politician.”

This isn’t an endorsement of Matt Dean, though I’d feel pretty comfortable if he was the GOP’s endorsed candidate. I’d feel pretty comfortable with a couple other candidates, too. The purpose of this post is to highlight Matt Dean’s conservative policy accomplishments on health care. You know that you’re on the right track when Joe Davis of ABM insists that “Dean and Republicans have been paying lip service to health care while working to take away Minnesotans’ ability to care for themselves and their families.”

Right. It’s instinctive for Republicans to take ABM’s statements as Gospel fact. It isn’t like we’ve ever caught them lying, right? Oh wait. I’m certain we’ve caught them being dishonest. The truth is that trusting ABM’s or the DFL’s statements, especially on health care, is like trusting an arsonist to put out fires.

It isn’t a secret that Keith Downey hasn’t been a competent state party chairman. This evening, though, Republicans got verification that he might cost Republicans some legislative seats because he didn’t get the basics right. He may also disenfranchise Minnesota’s Trump supporters.

Ken Martin, the chairman of the DFL, filed a lawsuit saying that “On May 20 and May 21, 2016, the State Republican Party held its 2016 State Convention (“State Convention”) in Duluth, Minnesota. The State Convention was attended by at least three delegates from each of Minnesota’s congressional districts, as well as a number of ‘at-large’ delegates. During the convention, delegates to the State Convention nominated delegates to attend the 2016 Republican National Convention, as well as ten presidential electors for the November 8, 2016, general election. During the State Convention, however, delegates did not nominate ten alternate presidential electors as required by Minn. Stat. § 208.03.”

Martin, in his filing, continued, saying “On August 3, 2016, the Secretary of State’s Office informed the Chair of the State Republican Party, Keith Downey (“Downey”), that the State Republican Party had not submitted names of alternate presidential electors to the Secretary of State’s Office. At no time thereafter did the State Republican Party hold a ‘convention’ called and held under the supervision of the State Republican Central Committee during which delegates nominated alternate presidential electors. Instead, the State Republican Party’s leadership ignored state law. Specifically, on August 24, 2016, the State Republican Party Executive Committee met to select and approve alternate presidential electors itself. This process, however, did not occur at a State Convention.”

Whether Republicans followed the rules or not in naming their alternate delegates is something that I’ll let the courts decide. That being said, how can people have confidence in a chairman who can’t get the basics done? Didn’t Chairman Downey have a list of things that had to get done at the convention? If he didn’t, why didn’t he? It’s his responsibility to make sure that the essential things got finished.

There’s no excuse for Chairman Downey not to make sure that the Republican Party of Minnesota didn’t meet its responsibilities as required by state statutes. Saying the equivalent of ‘I forgot’ doesn’t cut it. If you can’t finish the basics, you shouldn’t be part of leadership.

Fundamentally, a state party chair has just two jobs—first, getting state constitutional officers elected and second, making sure the party’s presidential candidate is on the state ballot. Chairman Downey has yet to accomplish the first and has now endangered the second.

Finally, and on a different subject, the worst kept secret is that Chairman Downey wants to run for governor in 2018. In light of this failure, I’d respectfully ask Chairman Downey to announce immediately that he isn’t going to run for governor. After this lawsuit, the ads virtually write themselves, with the wording going something like ‘if he can’t run a political party, how can he run an entire state?’ come to mind.

While I’m critical of what Chairman Downey failed to do, I don’t have any ill will towards him. He was a skilled legislator. Perhaps he could contribute that way.

Let’s be clear about something from the start. Today’s DFL activists are thugs without character. They’re people who should be locked up for years. Last week, there was a fundraiser in Minneapolis for GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. DFL protesters didn’t bother trying to act like decent human beings. They acted like thugs. In fact, some of them allegedly committed crimes. That’s right. Some DFL thugs allegedly committed crimes.

Betsey Hodges needs to answer for her decisions. Ken Martin needs to be asked why DFL protesters are thugs, not protesters. Minneapolis police need to explain who told them to not protect people attending the Trump fundraiser. At this point, none of those things have happened.

Apparently, Mayor Hodges didn’t beef up security for the Trump event. Why she didn’t anticipate a violent reception is beyond explanation This is the Twin Cities, after all, the place where Black Lives Matter protesters started the night by blocking traffic on I-94 before escalating that to throwing cement blocks and rebar at police officers.

Even someone as airheaded as Betsey Hodges should’ve figured it out that violence was imminent. This didn’t require a rocket scientist. Betsey Hodges should’ve figured this out. Check out this video:

There’s no need for Keith Downey to demand an apology of anyone. There’s no need to halfheartedly criticize Ken Martin. What’s required is a chairman who would’ve told reporters that Ken Martin is the chairman of a political party that’s composed mostly of two-bit thugs and lowlifes. What’s required is a chairman that will call Betsey Hodges incompetent to run a Kool-Aid stand, much less a large city.

Chairman Downey, there’s a time for politeness. This wasn’t one of those times. Friday night was a time for you to empty both barrels at Betsey Hodges for not protecting citizens visiting her city. Friday night was a night to expose the DFL as the party that panders to the violent thugs of the Black Lives Matter movement of thugs.

It’s been years since the regular session of the Minnesota Legislature was this ‘colorful’. It didn’t take long for the fireworks to start, which leads into the regular session’s losers list:

  1. Mark Dayton — Dayton announced that he was unbound now that he’d run his last campaign. It didn’t take long before we learned that that meant he’d start lobbing grenades at whoever got him upset. Tom Bakk ambushed him on the commissioners pay raises. Sen. Bakk, here’s your grenade. Republicans proposed a new way to fund fixing Minnesota’s potholed roads. Here’s your grenade. Gov. Dayton also misread the Republicans and Kurt Daudt. He thought he could bully them into compliance. Though his bullying was ever-present, it didn’t move Republicans because their agenda was popular with Minnesotans. Gov. Dayton never figured that out. He’s still whining about it after the special session.
  2. Tom Bakk — Sen. Bakk ambushed Gov. Dayton on the commissioners pay raises but he didn’t do it until they became unpopular with Minnesotans. Sen. Bakk’s ambush smacked more of political opportunism than voicing displeasure with a bad policy. That was especially true when a reporter actually pointed out that Sen. Bakk voted for the pay raises. Sen. Bakk got stung hard when Gov. Dayton accused him of stabbing him in the back. Later, Gov. Dayton said that he trusted Speaker Daudt more than he trusted Sen. Bakk. FYI- That wound never healed. I don’t know that it ever will.
  3. Metrocrats — They came in with high expectations. Tina Flint-Smith was the new Lt. Governor. They had a bold progressive spending agenda. By the time the session was over, Rep. Thissen’s face was more likely to be seen on milk cartons than at negotiating sessions.
  4. Move MN — They fought for a gas tax increase. They lobbied both caucuses hard, sometimes sneakily. In the end, they got their lunch handed to them.
  5. Brian McDaniel — Brian McDaniel isn’t a household name to most Minnesotans but he’s known by political nerds like me. McDaniel is Republican lobbyist who lobbied for the aforementioned gas tax increase. What’s worst is that he didn’t disclose that he was lobbying for Move MN when he went on Almanac or At Issue. That’s definitely unethical.
  6. Keith Downey — His ‘Send it all back’ tax refund campaign was a disaster. He knew that a $2,000,000,000 tax cut didn’t have a chance of passing. Period. When he appeared in the ad himself, he made himself the face of opposition to the House Republicans’ agenda. The Twin Cities media had a field day playing up that dispute.

I’m sure there were other losers during the regular session but that’s my list. If you want to add to this list or if you want to disagree with me, knock yourself out.

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MNGOP Chairman Keith Downey’s op-ed mentions a statistic that needs to be expanded upon:

Most importantly, Schultz never once mentioned the most basic budget facts: State spending on autopilot is scheduled to grow 21 percent over four years, from $34 billion to $41 billion, without spending a dime of the surplus or raising any new taxes. And Democrats have proposed a budget that spends almost the entire surplus — and raises taxes, for an $8 billion, 24 percent increase in spending over four years, from $34 billion to well over $42 billion.

The DFL automatically calculates inflation into their budgets. That’s because, in their way of thinking, that every penny ever appropriated needs to be spent forevermore. It presumes that that money is being spent efficiently and that there isn’t a better way of providing the same service less expensively.

That’s assuming that each agency’s and department’s staffing must increase. The DFL wouldn’t think of eliminating the Met Council or the MnSCU Central Office. In the DFL’s mind, they’re pictures of efficiency and importance. In reality, they’re neither. They’re portraits of inefficiency, cronyism and corruption.

When MNsure was created, the legislature created an oversight committee. It met a couple times, then went silent for months while MNsure imploded. The committee didn’t meet again until after April Todd-Malmlov resigned after taking a 2-week vacation to Costa Rica while MNsure imploded.

The DFL doesn’t believe in oversight. They never have because they don’t think money is ever misspent. Either that or the DFL legislators that think there’s a need for change get bullied by the DFL machine into giving up their reform ideas.

That’s what happened with Gene Pelowski. Everyone knows Rep. Pelowski hates MnSCU. He initially talked a great reform/accountability game while he chaired the House Higher Ed Committee. That changed when it came time to put a budget together. Suddenly, Chairman Pelowski, the reformer, turned a blind eye towards MnSCU. He didn’t even know that Dr. Rosenstone had signed a contract extension that raised his pay by almost $50,000 a year.

If Minnesotans want to continue getting fleeced, all they have to do is keep voting for budget by autopilot. As a bonus, they’ll get a legislature that doesn’t believe in oversight or accountability.

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There hasn’t been much of a dispute as to whether the DFL is attached at the lip with the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, aka ABM. After watching Almanac’s opening interview tonight, the debate is over on that. Ken Martin and the DFL are definitely attached at the lip to ABM.

During the opening part of the interview between Keith Downey and Ken Martin, Martin said that “the Parties’ priorities” were visible, that the DFL wanted to give free all-day Pre-K to 4-year-olds while the Republicans’ first bill called for “tax cuts for the rich, the powerful and corporations.” When I heard that, I immediately remembered this e-letter from ABM:

Once again, Republicans chose big corporations over real commitments to working families, schools, roads, bridges, and colleges.

ABM could sue Martin for plagiarism if he didn’t still get his marching orders from them. While it’s true that he’s technically the DFL Party Chair, he’s still working for ABM.

What’s stunning is the DFL’s intellectual dishonesty. I’ve read millions of articles about the DFL’s proposed middle class tax cuts and the Republicans’ proposed tax cuts. In all that time, I’ve yet to see the DFL’s imaginary tax cuts described as anything but targeted at the middle class. (The fact that the DFL’s proposed tax cuts never seem to materialize is seemingly irrelevant.) I’ve yet to hear the Republicans’ proposed tax cuts as anything but helping “the rich, the powerful and corporations.”

Let this post remind conservatives that the DFL a) isn’t tethered to the truth, b) is the same entity as ABM and c) won’t tell the truth about Republicans even if their lives depended on it. Ken Martin’s interviews are consistently filled with, putting it gently, inaccuracies. Put a bit more directly, I wouldn’t trust Ken Martin as far as I could throw him if I had 2 broken arms and a bad back and I was weak to begin with.

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Brian Bakst’s AP article contains this quote, which proves Gov. Dayton will lie if that’s what he thinks he needs to get elected:

Dayton sees it as “an indication of how desperate the Republicans are to find something to complain about because they know the economy is improving and growing rapidly.”

Gov. Dayton’s statement is, at minimum, fiction. At most, it’s an outright lie. If Minnesota’s economy is “growing rapidly”, as Gov. Dayton insists, why haven’t revenues met projections 5 of the last 6 months? If Minnesota’s economy is “growing rapidly,” why did revenues fall 6.6% short of projections last month?

There’s little doubt in my mind that Gov. Dayton will continue repeating that fiction the rest of the campaign. He isn’t worried that the media will question his statement. Brian Bakst certainly didn’t question Gov. Dayton’s statement. I haven’t seen other reporters question the Alliance for a Better Minnesota’s latest video that insists that Minnesota is working, either.

Let’s be blunt about this. Gov. Dayton hasn’t hesitated in insisting that Minnesota’s economy is doing well. ABM hasn’t hesitated in insisting that life under Gov. Dayton is a return to the DFL’s glory days. The Twin Cities media hasn’t questioned the voracity of Gov. Dayton’s statements or ABM’s lies.

ABM won’t say anything about the fact that DEED just announced the fact that Minnesota’s economy just lost 7,800 in the last jobs report. DEED reported that Minnesota’s economy shrunk by 4,200 jobs in July and that they’d overestimated the number of jobs created in June by 3,600.

Gov. Dayton certainly won’t talk about the verifie fact that Minnesota’s economy has create a pathetic 2,900 jobs thus far this year. Why would he when he knows that ABM will lie for him and the Twin Cities media won’t question him?

If Republicans don’t start questioning the media, Gov. Dayton and ABM, they’ll lose this highly winnable election. When I say Republicans, that’s everyone from Keith Downey to Jeff Johnson and Bill Quisle to legislative candidates like Dale Lueck and Jim Knoblach to the activists working to win over voters, then getting them to vote for Republicans.

“The Republicans are right in saying the economy still looks dismal relative to reasonable expectations,” Chari said. “The Democrats are also right in saying there’s only a limited amount in what a governor of a relatively small state can do when faced with headwinds this strong.”

Actually, this graphic says that a governor’s policies can have a rather dramatic impact on the economy:

That graphic is proof that job creation tanked after the Dayton-DFL tax increase went into effect. That graphic verifies as fact that Minnesota’s economy has created few jobs this year. While jobs were created by the hundreds when Republicans had the majority in the House and Senate, jobs are being create by the dozens since the Dayton-DFL tax increases took effect. In fact, Minnesota had negative job growth last month.

It isn’t surprising that Gov. Dayton and the Alliance for a Better Minnesota is telling whoppers about the state of the state’s economy. It’s up to Jeff Johnson and the Republican Party of Minnesota to swat down Gov. Dayton’s and ABM’s myths.

The statistics are there. All we have to do is tell the truth.

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Friday night, Keith Downey, the chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, faced off against Ken Martin, the chairman of the DFL. For the most part, it was nondescript, with the first questions focusing on each party’s strategy with absentee ballots. It turned feisty, though, when Cathy Wurzer talked about the Cook Report changing its rating of the Eighth District congressional race to toss-up:

WURZER: How worried are Democrats about that race?
MARTIN: I wouldn’t say we’re worried but we aren’t taking anything for granted. In a midterm, crazy things can happen and we’re working very hard in the Eighth Congressional District. We’ve got a great candidate in Congressman Nolan who has actually done the hard work of governing and getting things done on behalf of his constituents and I think that alone will help him win re-election.
WURZER: Are you surprised that experts — so-called experts — think that this is a toss-up in what we’ve long thought of as a pretty deep blue district?
MARTIN: No, I’m not surprised. Over time, the district has changed, no doubt about it. The addition of those southern counties has made it more competitive. There’s been a change in some of the demographics in the district sso I’m not surprised that pundits are saying that. I am surprised that they think it’s competitive because I think the candidate they have is really out of touch with the voters in that district. You have a guy in Stewart Mills who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. He’s never had to fill out a job application in his life and I don’t think that the blue collar workers of the Eighth District are going to take well to someone like Stewart Mills.

I’m not surprised that Ken Martin immediately attacked Stewart Mills as an out-of-touch rich guy. I also wasn’t surprised by Keith Downey’s response:

DOWNEY: Well, take away the personal insults and I think Stewart Mills is actually a fantastic candidate for the Eighth and you combine that with the fact that people are figuring out that people on the Iron Range are waking up to the reality that Democrats are committed to pretty much shutting down mining entirely up on the Iron Range. You look at the values that Stewart Mills holds and his lifelong residency in the district. I think he’s a great fit in that district.

What’s especially noteworthy is what wasn’t said. What didn’t get said is that Ken Martin didn’t dispute Chairman Downey’s statement that the DFL wants to shut down mining. The reason why that’s so noteworthy is because an attack unchallenged becomes the truth with voters.

Chairman Martin didn’t have any wiggle room because he’s still working hard at keeping the environmental activist wing of his party from bolting from the DFL’s coalition. Right now, the DFL’s coalition is fragile. Chairman Martin can’t afford it to start breaking apart.

That’s why Stewart Mills is a great candidate. He’s totally committed to making mining the Range’s economic growth engine for another generation. Rick Nolan isn’t.

Martin’s snotty remark that Stewart Mills has never filled out a job application in his life should be exploited by the Mills campaign. I’d recommend they turn that around and ask Nolan the last time he managed a company’s health insurange plan. I’d ask him the last time he opened another major retail store that’s committed to paying its employees more than the minimum wage.

I’d ask those questions because they’d expose Nolan to be the career politician he’s always been. I’d ask those questions to highlight the fact that Mills Fleet Farm is a popular store in the north country.

Friday night, Ken Martin and Keith Downey met on Almanac’s set. Martin hurled insults while looking defensive. Downey debated while looking confident about the position Republicans are in.

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If it’s Sunday morning, rest assured I’m taping At Issue. This week, DFL Party Chair Ken Martin was asked about the DFL filing a complaint with the Campaign Finance Disclosure Board. The DFL filed this nuisance complaint in an attempt to deflect complaints about 13 DFL senators willfully breaking campaign finance laws by coordinating their ad campaigns with outside groups.

Allegedly, the GOP spent some money but didn’t report spending the money in the right place on the report. At best, the GOP might’ve committed a minor infraction. What the DFL did was painfully illegal:

On Tuesday the Board levied the fine against the DFL after it was discovered that 13 DFL candidates coordinated their campaigns illegally, since properly reclassifying the expenditures means that the candidates illegally exceeded their campaign contribution and/or spending limits. A total of over $300,000 in illegal contributions were not reported by the campaigns.. The board also plans to fine each individual campaign directly, according to a press release from the Minnesota Republican Party.

These 13 DFL senators broke one of the most straightforward campaign finance laws on the books. I knew that candidates couldn’t coordinate their advertising campaigns with special interests’ ad campaigns. That law’s been on the books since the Nixon/Watergate era.

Putting this most succinctly, these DFL senate candidates wanted to win their races so badly that they didn’t hesitate in breaking Minnesota’s campaign finance laws. It isn’t a stretch to think that Alida Messinger would’ve been willing to write the check for the fines in exchange for a DFL-controlled state government.

DFL lawmakers disagreed with the board’s ruling said that they are glad to put the matter to rest.

“Ultimately, it is best to set this distraction aside and allow our members to focus on governing,” DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said.

It’s infuriating to hear Martin dismiss breaking one of Minnesota’s biggest campaign finance laws by essentially calling it a “distraction.” Then again, it shouldn’t surprise people, especially considering the fact that Martin played a major role in the biggest smear campaigns in Minnesota gubernatorial history. Let’s remember that Martin was an official with the Alliance for a Better Minnesota:

Martin is currently the director of “Win Minnesota“. If you read this blog, you know who they are: they are a PAC that launders the Dayton family’s political contributions to “Alliance For A Better Minnesota” and the “2010 Fund” and the other arms of the Dayton Campaign’s tightly-wound little money-laundering and distribution machine.

ABM was criticized by local reporters and national organizations for their lies. Martin was part of that. Now he’s running the DFL, where he’s dismissing outright cheating as a distraction.

Finally, Martin’s statement that we shouldn’t be ‘distracted’ by their cheating because they’ve got to govern is silly. Thus far, the DFL’s governance has been a disaster. Their tax increases hurt the middle class more than they hurt “the rich.” Their implementation of MNsure has been a total disaster. Gov. Dayton has made statements that question whether he knows what’s happening within his administration.

It’s time for Minnesota to head in a different direction.