Some jobs are just difficult. Managing the Tampa Bay Rays. Bringing coals to Newcastle. Doing PR work for John Birch Society. Marching into a bayonet.
A similarly difficult task is running for Congress as a Republican in the 4th CD. Regimes have changed more recently in Cuba and the PRC than they have in the 4th, which has been in DFL hands since 1948. The 4th, which is primarily Ramsey County, is almost impossible ground for Republicans due to the enormous DFL contingent in St. Paul itself.
Because it's so easy for the DFL to take the 4th for granted, it has over the years. The quality of representatives carrying the DFL banner in the 4th has declined over time, from Clean Gene McCarthy to Bruce Vento to the current officeholder, Betty McCollum.
If Betty were running for Congress in many of the other districts in the state, she'd have been hooted off the stage long ago. Betty managed to best a primary opponent in 2000 after Vento died and has held the seat without a serious challenge ever since. Since that time, about the only thing she's managed to do is regularly issue especially shrill denunciations of the president. Her list of legislative accomplishments is slight.
An example of Betty's legislative prowess and judgment came a few years back, while Arden Hills was negotiating with the federal government to gain control of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP). Arden Hills had a number of ideas ready to go and the feds were working with local officials to get things done, in the usual painful bureaucratic way. Enter Betty. Betty had a brainstorm -- why not use the land, which when developed has enormous potential, to build a giant post office processing facility for the Twin Cities?
There were a few problems with this idea -- it would have scuttled any plans that Arden Hills had; it would have inundated an already truck-clogged area with many more massive trucks; and, most importantly, the postal service didn't want to build in a location that is across town from the airport, preferring instead to expand their existing facilities in Eagan. In other words, Betty's plan had zero support from anyone who had an interest in the future of the TCAAP site. Eventually Sen. Coleman quietly got invovled and stopped McCollum from pursuing her ridiculous idea any further. Those of us who live in the area haven't heard much from Betty since, except for the shrill denunciations of Bush she sends periodically by franked mail. I guess we can count that as a benefit.
The upshot of all this is pretty simple -- if the Republican Party could field a qualified, intelligent candidate, he might have a shot at beating ol' Betty. And this time, the Republican Party has found just such a candidate. Ed Matthews is his name. Ed is a practicing attorney and has an extensive financial background as well. He's young, smart and understands the issues very well. I suspect that Betty will do everything possible to avoid sharing a stage with Mr. Matthews, because she would suffer greatly from any direct comparison. I met Ed briefly at the 50B BPOU and was very impressed. My guess is that you will be, too.
Cross-posted at True North.