Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Clowntime Is Over

We've all had 24 hours to get mad about the override of Governor Pawlenty's veto that forced the transportation bill down the throats of Minnesotans. Anger is understandable and even cathartic. Now it's time for focus.

Much of the anger has been directed at the six GOP representatives who went native and who are now hiding behind Margaret Anderson Kelliher's petticoats and/or the Chamber of Commerce. While that anger is richly justified, there are other people who need attention. I'd like to call your attention to two of them.

Kate Knuth. Paul Gardner.

These two first-term DFLers currently represent adjoining districts in northern Ramsey County, 50B and 53A. Both replaced Republicans, with Knuth winning the seat vacated by Char Samuelson and Gardner barely beating the redoubtable Phil Krinkie. Both represent districts that have a strong Republican presence. Gardner won his seat by only 51 votes. Knuth won by a larger margin, but she is highly vulnerable. Both should be held directly responsible for the hoovering of our wallets, just as much as the Tingelstads, Erhardts and (en)Abelers of the world.

Knuth is my representative. She is very young and was a ridiculous candidate. She had no relevant experience and had been little more than a perpetual graduate student. She listed her experience as a drum major for the Irondale High School marching band as a qualification for her candidacy. No, really, she did. But she had advantages. She has a father who is a registered lobbyist and she had a lot of DFL money and muscle behind her. Between the lassitude of the Republicans in the district and the motivation of the pros behind her, she managed to beat a far more qualified opponent for the open seat. She will face strong opposition in the fall and those of us in 50B fully expect to beat her.

Our neighbors in 53A, an affluent district that includes Shoreview and North Oaks, for some reason took Representative Krinkie for granted. Mr. Gardner sold himself as a moderate who would get things done in St. Paul. He's no moderate, but he certainly did get something done -- an enormous tax increase that will provide essentially zero benefit for his district. He should also face strong opposition.

Here are some questions that Knuth and Gardner need to answer.

1) There will be money galore for light rail because of this bill. Neither line will run anywhere near your respective districts. Both lines will also require massive subsidies, likely in perpetuity. What benefit will light rail provide for your constituents?

2) Your districts are the home of three of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the Twin Cities: the intersection of 35W and 694; the intersection of 694 and U.S. 10; and the intersection of U.S. 10 and County Highway 96. How will this new transportation bill, with much of the money dedicated to the train, alleviate these issues?

3) Related to that, because of the incredible traffic delays that develop on 35W during the evening rush hour, the main roads on either side of 35W (Old Highway 8 and Cleveland Avenue) are carrying thousands of cars during the rush hour, causing myriad problems for residential neighborhoods in both New Brighton and Arden Hills. How does this bill help these issues?

The answer to all three questions is the same: not at all. Which leads to the final question:

4) Why would you support something that will hurt your constituents financially and provide no offsetting benefit? And related to that, why should anyone in 50B or 53A support your re-election?

Clowntime is over now. We have work to do. The work in 50B starts on Saturday with the BPOU convention. Similar work has begun elsewhere in Minnesota and will take place throughout the state in the coming weeks. Time to field strong candidates and time to go to work.
Cross-posted at True North.


Right Hook said...

An excellent post with some well thought out questions that really need to be answered.

As far as Knuth is concerned, last year she held "town hall meetings" about once a month starting around March at the FSC in New Brighton and at a coffee establishment known as a DFL hangout that shall go nameless (but is located about half a mile South on Silver Lake Road from the establishment where one goes for good coffee).

It will be interesting to see if KK is willing to face the public this year in light of the recent tax hike votes. If so, I encourage all Conservatives to show up for at least a couple sessions and ask tough questions like the ones Mark poses. Be polite, but firm. KK does not do well when made to think on her feet, and it is good for those in attendance to see it.

These meetings were packed with a lot of doting supporters, including Mommy and Daddy Knuth, but to KKs credit she did take spontaneous questions from the audience. Be forwarned that Mommy acts as a quasi seargeant-at-arms and will abruptly call her wunderkind's attention to the urgent need to answer another question from a decidedly more friendly source (one not wearing boots) if her little girl is forced to tap dance around too difficult a question.

In fact, at one of these meetings KK actually deferred a question on education that caused her to act like Shirley Temple on speed to Mommy, citing Mommy's many years of experience as a public school teacher as the excuse to quit hoofing.

Don't be intimidated by KK's highly touted Oxford education because the truth is she is not all that bright. The deer-in-the-headlights look on KK's face was priceless at one of these meetings when one of my colleagues asked her a question that involved a working knowledge of basic economics. Mark, you may need to leave a good portion of your vocabulary at home and keep things simple enough for her to attempt to keep up.

Just be ready for the evil eye Mommy Knuth will give you if you ask her daughter a question she would rather not answer. Daddy has also been known to take down names on his clip board.

Anonymous said...

Great article. My brother in-law is in Knuth's district. He went to the caucus and was elected as a deligate. I don't know how far he will go but he is a great conservative. He is ticked off and fired up. He will be working hard this election and since I live in Como Park and thus have no chance, I'll be up their helping too. This article convinced me these are the two district's I will spent my time on.

Anonymous said...

Not just in Minnesota, but nationwide, it is time that good Conservatives and others who loathe high taxes remind the skulls of mush who tend to vote for whomever is cool of one important difference between Republicans and Democrats: DEMORCRATS WILL RAISE TAXES. They may get cute and re-name the process (repealling the Bush Tax Cuts), but a stink flower with any other name will smell as putrid: Raising taxes is raising taxes.

Furthermore, Democrats know what is better for Society than society itself. Light rail is obviously good for you, whether it comes to your neighborhood, or whether you ride it or not. This is the local topic in Minnesota, but it clearly goes much further.

I'd like to see national money spent on campaigns that name no candidates but simply say: "If you want to pay higher taxes, vote Democrat" A simple message with a simple theme; a theme that should resonate.

Clown time is indeed over, and it's time to attack.