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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One Response to “Keith Downey vs. Ken Martin”

  • walter hanson says:

    Gary:

    While it sounds like Keith has done a good job here Ken should be reminded the district as constructed in the past has had to have those southern counties added in part because people needing jobs (you know those lack of mining jobs) moved to places like the Twins Cities or North Dakota with their families to get those jobs.

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

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