The election in New Brighton is tomorrow. I honestly have no idea what will happen. For the better part of a dozen years, the dynamic in the New Brighton City Council has been Gina Bauman vs. the Machine. For a few years, I wrote for a blog called Truth vs. the Machine. The underlying premise of that blog was to detail how Republican candidates had to fight against the political machine that is the DFL. The guy who ran the blog, Gary Miller, has long since left conservative politics and is now something of a anarcho-capitalist, which historically are not two great tastes that taste great together, but back then he was on to an important notion -- the left is machine-like, especially in Minnesota.
The way the dynamic plays out in New Brighton has been fairly predictable. The key player in New Brighton isn't anyone in elected office, but rather the city manager, Dean Lotter. Lotter, like most city managers, wants to ensure he has all the money he wants to pursue whatever agenda he deems necessary, so his goal is to find citizens who will serve in municipal government as rubber stamps. There's nothing particularly unusual about this dynamic; you see it in a lot of suburban enclaves. For the past dozen years, Gina has refused the ceremonial role and has been digging into how things are run. She asks tough questions and often challenges the prerogatives of the city government and its employees. Not surprisingly, these folks dislike Bauman for it.
The other politicians who serve on the city council are lefties for the most part. The mayor, Val Johnson, is very nice as long as you agree with her, but if you don't, she gets nasty and personal in a hurry. I posted the video of her outburst at a recent city council work session last week, but a repeat seems in order:
While Val Johnson isn't running against Bauman directly, that's the actual dynamic involved. The other members of the council include Brian Strub, who shares a similar mindset to Johnson (with more emotional control). He is not running for reelection. The machine has its candidates, Graeme Allen and Emily Dunsworth, who if elected would ensure that Dean Lotter's life would be much easier. Bauman is running as part of a de facto opposition slate, along with Susan Erickson and Sharon Doffing, who is Johnson's actual opponent. If elected, Doffing and Erickson would shake things up. The other two members of the city council, Mary Burg and Paul Jacobsen, aren't up for election in this cycle, but both have grown comfortable being Lotter's pal.
If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, the machine is set to prevail this time. While Mayor Johnson's behavior has raised a few eyebrows, most of her supporters see the world the way she does and don't mind it much if she calls people racists without justification. It adds a little flavor to the stew and makes them feel better about living in Trumpland. Bauman has fought this machine for over a decade and deserves a chance to continue the fight. I hope she gets it. And further, I hope she gets some reinforcements in Erickson and Doffing. The city is a better place if we don't let it run on autopilot.