We're back from celebrating graduation ceremonies for Benster and Fearless Maria. These were joyful events and we're all proud of their accomplishments. It was also good to get away from writing about politics for a few days.
As we left town for Benster's graduation, the nominating conventions for the DFL and the Republicans took place. As it happens, a party endorsement doesn't mean much these days, as we're clearly headed for primaries in most races. And it's going to be a circus. I'm going to run the races down, but it's going to take multiple posts. We'll start with the governor's race:
Governor: On the Republican side, no surprises. Jeff Johnson, who is a very nice man, won the endorsement over what turned out to be token opposition. His actual opponent is former governor Tim Pawlenty, who is back in the game after making his pile in the lobbying biz. No one in the party really likes Pawlenty, but he's won statewide office twice, a claim no other active Republican can make, and he's got more financial backing than King Canute. I've met Jeff Johnson and, as I said, he's a very nice man. But Mark Dayton kicked his butt in 2014 and there's no evidence Johnson is any more formidable now than he was four years ago. Advantage: Tim Pawlenty.
Meanwhile, the DFL race is going to be entertaining as hell. Somehow Tim Walz, who had all the advantages going in, lost the endorsement to Erin Murphy, a gun grabbing state rep who was Majority Leader of the House at one point. She picked another gun-grabbing Erin, the publicity-hungry state rep Erin Maye Quade, as her running mate. Meanwhile, Walz, who gave up his seat in Congress to run for governor, finds himself in a tough spot, because the outstate support he was counting on may not be forthcoming, since he had to go all-in with the gun grabbers to seek the nomination. And to make it even more amusing, Attorney General Lori Swanson threw her hat into the ring after she lost her AG endorsement to something called Matt Pelikan. Swanson has the charisma of lint, but she's a cagey operator and made a smart pick for a running mate in Rick Nolan, the crusty old congressman who is retiring from CD-8. There's a significant advantage in having the endorsement for Murphy/Quade, but they will be a hard sell anywhere outside of the 494/694 loop. From what I can tell, Walz is screwed -- he's not going to get enough votes from the activists to get through. If the DFL were smart, they'd probably pick Swanson, but I'm guessing they'll be erring with the Erins. Advantage: Erin Murphy.
I expect we'll be hearing a lot about guns in the general election. The gun grabbers have been highly visible in the run-up to the election, but there are a lot of Second Amendment stalwarts in this state, as former DFL candidates such as Mike Hatch discovered to their pain. I also expect we'll hear a lot about the bizarre and petulant performance of outgoing governor Mark Dayton in the election. Dayton is not on the ballot, but his crazytown performance in office over the last two years is going to be a problem for the DFL, especially outside the 494/694 loop. There will be significant appetite not to reward the DFL for their perfidy, but Pawlenty has a lot of baggage. It's going to get interesting, and certainly it's going to be expensive.