Tag Archives: Election 2014

Democratic Loss in the Senate Was Not Exceptional or Unexpected

I noted earlier that the Democratic losses in the House were less than expected given what usually happens during the midterms. It is harder to make such a statement with the Senate because of the lower numbers, with fewer than a tenth of the total number of elections at stake when compared to the house. But, there is a pattern that makes the loss of a few seats in the Senate not unexpected. As is the case with the House race, the null model — what is expected despite any other political factors — is that this particular year for Senate races would favor Republicans when a Democrat is in office.

President Obama mentioned this just before the election, as I recall, but the press ignored it, possibly because it is a little hard to explain.

There are 100 Senators, each elected for a 6 year term, and some are up for election every two years. The Senate is divided into three classes, about one third of the Senate in each, distributing them evenly across these two year intervals. This year, Class 2 was up for election.

Apparently a sample of 100 Senators divided into three parts does not produce even and identical results. The following table indicates the average percent of the vote among Democratic and Republican voters that went to Obama-Biden for the states represented by each Senate Class. The values are similar, but not identical. The mean for Class 2 is slightly lower, as is the maximum.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 9.50.42 PM

This graph shows the data in more detail. Class 2 is not an Obama-Biden friendly set of states, as a sample, because it lacks a peak representing a small number of strongly supportive states. Class 3 has other problems; it has a few very unsupportive states. Clearly, when it comes down to just a few races (which is what happens when there is a close Senate) Class 1 is likely to be friendliest to a Democratic executive (both high maximum and lack of low support) while Class 2 and 3 are less friendly, with Class 2 possibly being the least friendly (we can assume the low value states would be Republican anyway; it is probably the upper part of the curve that matters more).
Obama-Biden_Friendliness_for_each_Senate_Class

The total number of Senate seats lost was low, and the chance of losing some were relatively high. So, as is the case with the House losses, what happened this year was more or less expected, and not exceptional. This was not an historic loss.

President Obama Scores Victory in US House 2014 Election

Yes, I know, that headline sounds wrong. But I worded it carefully and I assure you it is far more correct than many other headlines we are seeing, about the “historic loss in Congress” with the 2014 election.

The truth is, the party in the White House tends to lose house seats with every midterm election. Over the last half century there have been only two exceptions to that. Also, the second midterm for an 8 year presidency tends to do a bit worse than the first.

In addition to that for the most part, a president’s popularity rating drops from the first day of the first term through the subsequent years in office. George Bush’s popularity rating probably had the largest and steepest drop. Bill Clinton managed to increase is popularity rating (and his 1998 midterm was one of the only exceptions to the rule of loss as well).

The following graph shows the relationship between presidential approval rating and House loss (data from Gallup). There are two things to note.

First, despite the misleading headlines, President Obama’s approval rating was not abysmal compared to the spread across presidents. On the low side, yes, but not the lowest by any stretch of the imagination. Second, and even more interesting, the number of House seats lost during this midterm is far less than predicted using all the other races as a guide.

2014_election_Obama_House

By political standards, that’s actually a victory.

What about the Senate? See this.

Harry Potter and the 2014 Election

The Potter Metaphor

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first in a series of books that are metaphorical of the central theme of politics and society in the Western world. Voldemort represents purity of race and racism, the good Witches and Wizards of Hogwarts represent the struggle of self aware consensus around the idea of fairness. The key protagonists — Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley, together with a few others — succeed because of the diversity in ability they collectively represent.

One of the key moments in J. K. Rowling’s book is the solution of the potions challenge on the way to the hidden room containing the Sorcerer’s stone. There are several challenges and problems, and each one is met by a different protagonist. Harry has the ability to make Hagrid reveal his poorly kept secrets, so among other things the three students find out how to control Fuffy, the giant three-headed hound. He is also a skilled Seeker, and can thus grab the flying key. Hermione is the one that notices the trap door. Ron for all his failings is a master at Wizard Chess. The theme here is obvious. The three students often fail to understand each other and often do not see eye to eye, but by combining their different strengths and working together, they accomplish what no individual Witch or Wizard could do. The part about the potions challenge is a notably extreme case of this.

Voldemort and his death eaters, and the Slytherin such as Draco Malfoy and his father, as well as Snape, resent the half breeds and muggle-born. They wish to see those who are not pure removed from their society, by any means. The historical fact that Voldemort himself is a halfbreed, a thinly veiled reference to Hitler’s Jewish connections, is beside the point. But it is the muggle-born Hermione who solves the potions puzzle using a Muggle capacity rarely found in Wizards. Wizards, we are told by Rowling, have magical minds, not logical minds. Among the Muggles we find those like Hermione, who probably spent hours with brain teaser books as an eight year old, who are capable of solving complex logical problems, problems that seem impossible but in fact have only one solution. When Hermione and Harry reach the potions challenge, where drinking all of the liquids but one will cause a horrible outcome, but that one potion will open the next door, her Muggle mind comes into play. Harry does not understand how Hermione has solved the problem, but he trusts her with his life.

It is very unfortunate that this scene was left out of the movie version of the story, even though it is alluded to after the fact. As far as I can tell, the scene was never shot (correct me if I am wrong). To me, this is a key message in Rowling’s book. The fact that it was not transferred into the movie version, and that commentary on the book vs. movie differences tend note it but do not lament it, is a bit disappointing.

Death Eaters, Good Witches and Wizards, Republicans, and Democrats

Ask yourself, what is the message of Voldemort and the Death Eaters, other than racial purity and a high degree of intolerance? There is only one, revealed by Voldemort himself, and others including the Sorting Hat, in a few places throughout the story. The only thing that really counts is power. There is no good and evil. Just power.

That is a simple message, easy to understand. You don’t have to be smart, or learned, or thoughtful, to get this point. It may be untrue, but if you say it enough times, and live by it, it becomes true to the faithful. Professor Quirinus Quirrell is a prescient example of how this can play out, that character written almost as though Rowlings had a crystal ball allowing her to see the future of politics in the four largest Anglophone countries. Quirrell is like a working class Tea Party faithful. It does not matter how much pain he will suffer to serve his master, he will remain faithful, and he will keep repeating the message, and in this way, he will continue to believe the message.

Now ask yourself, what is the central theme for the the rest of the Witches and Wizards? There really isn’t one. I’ve alluded to consensus, and there is that. Fairness too, a theme we see played out, naturally, in the sports related manifestation of the greater metaphor, on the Quidditch field. But really, they are all over the place. They vary greatly in approach, what they think is important, what they are good at, and what they like to do. They are like Democrats.

Rowling’s three main protagonists, Harry, Hermione, and Ron, have differences that could and occasionally did interfere with their camaraderie. They couldn’t be much more different in background, proclivities, and abilities. Harry is rich, Ron is poor. Harry and Ron are not particularly intellectual, Hermione is an egghead. Harry throws himself into danger, the others are more cautious. And so on. Often, they annoy each other. This is seen in the early days of their relationship and comes to a head later in the series more than once. But when a task that requires multiple approaches is set before them, they manage to succeed by using these differences. Their power does not come merely from fetishizing power, it comes from piecing together a battery that is stronger as a whole than the sum of its parts. Again, they are like Democrats.

The 2014 Election

During the 2014 election, and this has happened before, many Democrats ran against their leader, President Obama. A Republican strategy would have been different. Keep the message clear; our leader is the greatest ever and we are all on the same page.

A large scale, if imperfect, overhaul of the country’s health care insurance system was badly needed and totally undoable, yet President Obama did it. Democrats fell into the trap of over acknowledging the imperfection, and many with other important agendas (like addressing climate change) decried the health care reform effort as a distraction. Well, the Affordable Care Act certainly is imperfect, and climate change action may have suffered from the distraction, but Republicans would not have used these points a razor to cut their own wrists. Democrats did. Democrats acted like Harry, Hermione and Ron over-bickering and failing to get through the challenges set to keep them from the Sorcerer’s Stone. Had the three young wizards acted like Democrats usually act, Voldemort would have succeeded in his plan to seize power before the second book was written. Had Democrats, in the 2014 election cycle, acted like Rowling’s characters actually did (fictionally) act, this may not have been a midterm washout.

What Democrats Need To Do

Democrats need to be more thoughtful about when they go about the important business of eating their own young. American politics has a two-stage configuration, conveniently divided by Primary Day. Before Primary Day we fight within parties, and after Primary Day we fight between parties. Or at least, that is the theory. But that is not how Democrats often do it. With a simple message that is usually not muddled at any stage during this process, Republicans can be in lockstep as they advance their political agenda (gaining power). Democrats see this as a deficit. There is no real conversation in the Republican party. A small number of loudmouths yell out the marching orders and everyone marches. The few who do not are fallen upon and devoured quickly. Democrats recognize that this approach does not solve problems. Republicans recognize that this approach wins elections.

What Democrats need to do is to take a page — one page — from the Republican playbook. They need to recognize what it takes to win elections, and go win some. This does not mean failing to have the conversation, failing to try to solve problems. It can be accomplished, rather, by doing a better job at dividing up the process into its proper stages. Democrats have compensated for their failure to come together the day after Primary Day by getting very good at the technical aspects of getting out the vote, that sort of thing. But Democrats who don’t think the Republicans won’t figure this out and get just as good at it are deluded. Having a great database and a great call center to get out the vote is necessary but not sufficient over the long term. Democrats have refined the medium, now they must refine the message.

Today is the day after election day, and we see Democrats already fighting about what went wrong. That is probably helpful, that is an important conversation to have. Democrats need to shift quickly into fighting about the solutions to our nation’s and our world’s real problems (at the local level too) and pretty quickly start fighting about who to put up for election next term. Fight and bicker and whinge but try to keep the conversation productive. Then, on Primary Day, put on the marching boots and the big girl and boy pants and all head in the same direction and act like a team. No, don’t act like a team, be a team. If your favorite candidate and your favorite issue failed to emerge as everyone else’s favorite, acknowledge that you are not the only person on the planet, suck it up, and get on board. It only seems like our election cycles go on forever. In truth, it is only a few months between Primary Day and Election Day. Everything you do that is off course during those months is self harm. Stop doing that.

Then, win.

Then, start up again with the bickering and consternation, conversing and cajoling, until the next cycle. Rinse, repeat. The Democratic Party represents a larger share of the American Public than does the Republican Party, yet it is not in the majority. This is not because Republicans win more. It is because Democrats lose more. Stop doing that.

Is the GOP Energy Committee Chair Going Down in Michigan's 6th?

Fred Upton is the incumbent Republican Congressional Representative for southwest Michigan’s 6th district. Upton is considered to be one of Michigan’s most powerful Republicans. He is the Chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which is an important position in relation to climate change. He has been in the House since being elected in 1986. Most of his elections since then, including after redistricting (when he went from the 4th to the 6th district) were easy wins. In 2012 he was “primaried” by the righter-wing, but still won handily (Wikipedia editors, note that Upton’s Wiki entry seems to have that race still in progress as of this writing).

Although he could be categorized as a moderate Republican, there really is no such thing any more. Since the Tea Party Takeover of the GOP, Upton seems to have voted the new party line most of the time.

This politically motivated adherence to lunacy is reflected in his stance on environmental issues. From Wikipedia:

Upton’s website once stated: "I strongly believe that everything must be on the table as we seek to reduce carbon emissions."

In April 2009, he maintained that "climate change is a serious problem that necessitates serious solutions. Everything must be on the table."

However, "Upton has gradually retreated from his moderate stance on climate change and carbon emissions."

In late 2010, he co-authored a Wall Street Journal editorial saying he was "not convinced" that "carbon is a problem in need of regulation," and urging Congress to overturn Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency.

Regarding the regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act being upheld in Federal Appeals court, Upton said that Congress’s refusal to approve greenhouse gas limits constituted a decision and that lawmakers should act now to reverse the United States Environmental Protection Agency emissions rules. Carbon regulation “threatens to drive energy prices higher, destroy jobs and hamstring our economic recovery,” per Upton.

Due to his environmental policies, the Los Angeles Times wrote in 2011 that Upton "represents one of the biggest threats to planet Earth on planet Earth."

In 2007 Upton was a co-sponsor of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which among other things mandated phased-in energy efficiency standards for most light bulbs. At the time, Upton noted that the legislation, ultimately signed into law by President George W. Bush, would "help preserve energy resources and reduce harmful emissions, all while saving American families billions of dollars on their electric bills."…

But in 2010, after Glenn Beck called Upton "all socialist" for supporting the bill, Upton led a failed effort to stop Obama from enforcing the new energy standards.

(See the original entry for sources.)

So, he’s won every re-election campaign by double digits, started out as a Reasonable Republican on climate change but then, following instructions from Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck, shifted to the right. Though he has occasionally demonstrated a wide stance on the topic, it appears he can be easily slapped into place.

This year, Upton is being challenged by Paul Clements. Clements is a professor at Western Michigan University. He has done well with fundraising, including quite a bit from outside the district. It is said that he is running an excellent campaign.

A quick look at Real Clear Politics shows nothing on this race. That is an indicator that it was assumed to be settled. Publicly available polling (or, for that matter, useful private polling) in House races rarely happens when the presumed distance between the major candidates is double digit.

But now there is a poll, and it indicates a possible upset.

Clement’s campaign released a poll showing Clements within about 4 points of Upton (43-47%, with 10% undecided). The margin of error includes the spread, so it is a statistically dead heat.

According to the pollsters,

The race in Michigan Congressional District 6 has narrowed significantly in recent weeks, as voters have learned more about the negative aspects of Fred Upton’s tenure in Congress, and have been introduced to a viable alternative in Democrat Paul Clements. Additionally, political gaffes by Upton have brought scrutiny to this long-term incumbent who has never faced a credible challenger in a district that Barack Obama won in 2008 and trailed Mitt Romney by only 1.4 percentage points in 2012. Paul Clements has momentum in the closing days of the campaign, in what has turned out to be the most competitive congressional race in Michigan, for a seat that many thought was safe for Republicans

Numerically, the gap has closed in part because undecided are deciding (see graph) and partly because both candidate’s numbers are moving.

It is possible that messages will be sent.

A near loss is predicted to encourage Upton to retire. An actual loss is a slap in the face to the Republican Party’s leadership, given Upton’s position on the Energy committee. People will then argue over whether this was Upton’s loss or Clements’ win.

What are the “gaffes” mentioned by the pollsters? This is not entirely clear.

Clements is being supported, or perhaps more accurately, Upton is being opposed, by the Silicon Valley Mayday Pac. It is claimed that Upton’s people have pressured the pac donors, with the suggestion that they will have some trouble from Washington if they keep contributing to the effort to oust Upton, if Upton survives. That sounds inappropriate and all, but it also sounds kind of typical. This sort of thing is one of the reasons, of course, that we need campaign finance reform.

(As an aside, I find it interesting that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not been in this game. I agree with Mark Miller, the Democratic district chair, who is quoted as saying “[The 6th District is] the most Democratic seat in Michigan that’s held by a Republican. Why the DCCC has been unwilling to invest in this district is perplexing." But I digress.)

Do you want to get involved in this race, and possibly help affect the outcome? Check this out, a note I just got this from Climate Hawks Vote:

Something is happening on the ground in a small corner of Michigan. For weeks I’ve been hearing that people are fed up with Fred Upton and just tired of his allegiance to Big Oil. He’s ducking voters – he canceled a prescheduled debate with climate hawk Paul Clements to attend a prescheduled DC hearing, and canceled a NAACP appearance. DC papers are asking: is Michigan’s most powerful Republican really in political danger?

Climate Hawks Vote got into this race for the same reason we’re in every race: a powerful Republican (the chair of the House Energy & Commerce committee, no less!) denying science and blocking progress, a good climate hawk sending a message, and a potentially winnable race. How winnable? Every other climate/environmental group wrote it off as a longshot. But day after day, our Benton Harbor field organizer reports: "everyone’s voting for Clements." "Upton drifted too far right." "Time for a change."

So we’re going all in.

If you’re local – including South Bend, Indiana – come to our candidate forum Wednesday, October 29 at the Pilgrim Rest Church, 1105 East Main St., Benton Harbor, which we’re cosponsoring with the local NAACP chapter. Meet Paul Clements, because everyone who meets him ends up deciding to vote for him, and other candidates. Then #TurnOutForWhat – a voter rally! – on Friday, October 31 from 3:30 to 6 PM at the Citadel, 91 Hinkley St., Benton Harbor. (Sorry, no extra treats for dressing as a big spill in the Kalamazoo River.) Wear your walking shoes and your brightest smile to both. Can’t make either, but time this weekend? We’ve got doors to knock and people to call. Reply to this email, and we’ll find something for you to do.

Not so local? This is my last donation request of the 2014 campaign season. Money raised goes to pay organizers canvassing on the ground this weekend in Michigan. Talons-on-the-ground field operations won primaries in Hawaii and Arizona. I’m proud of the successful grassroots organization we’re building with your help. Thank you.

Calling It For Rebecca Otto

I’ve spoken to a lot of Minnesota DFLer’s (that’s what we call Democrats ’round these parts) about today’s Primary, especially in relation to the auditor’s race. Rebecca Otto, who, full disclosure, I don’t know at all but whose husband is a friend and colleague, is the incumbent. Rebecca has really put a shine on the Auditor’s office. I understand that the previous auditor, a Republican, pretty much sucked, so that might have made looking good a bit easier for Rebecca, but it can’t be true that all of the other auditors across the country also suck, and the various professional associations that deal with this sort of thing have awarded Rebecca with top level official accolades over and over. So, she is clearly about the best Auditor in the country, and in Minnesota, the best one to come along in a while.

Now, it turns out, that two or three of our Governors were formerly Auditors. I don’t know why Auditor would be a stepping stone to Governor, or even, if it really is. That might just be a fluke, like every president elected in a year that ends in zero getting killed or almost killed. The point is, it has become local political folklore that Auditor is a good jumping off point for Governor.

So, there’s this guy named Matt Entenza who has run for Governor before. He used to be in the State Legislature. Mostly though, his political career consists of spending huge piles of family money on running races that he loses. I’m pretty sure Matt wants to be be Governor, and he wants it so badly that he is virtually delusional about the prospects. Or, perhaps, he simply has a deep and unabiding disdain for Minnesota voters. He thought he could just spend a lot of his family money on a campaign and unseat a well liked and widely respected incumbent.

In Minnesota, we use the Native American system of choosing our candidates by party to run in the general election. No one fully understand the process but it involves a lot of standing around in a special room that you need permission to be in. People join in groups and hold up symbols of their political beliefs and the candidates they support, then move between groups, sometimes combining groups. A Caucus Chief occasionally tells all the people in this or that group that they must disband, and those individuals then join other groups. If a group gets big enough and they are fast enough they can form two groups. The exact number of groups that are formed and their exact configuration can determine who ultimately is chosen by the Caucus. At various points the Caucus is frozen, and tough looking guys working for the Caucus Chief make sure no one crosses certain lines that are sometimes marked on the floor with Duct Tape. It might be unfrozen and refrozen a couple of times, but eventually the Caucus Chief calls an end to it and each of the clusters of people elect a certain number of representatives who are supposed to vote a certain way on the first ballot at a district convention. But no one knows who these people are because the Caucus Chief works for a secret society that maintains all the rules of the caucus system, and runs it, but does not provide any information from it, so the supporters of the various candidates have to rush to one end of the room where those elected by the Caucus groups are required to go to state their name and how they will vote to a group of very old people who can’t hear a thing. The friends of the candidates try to glean the names of the elected ones, and the elected ones often try to interfere with this process, which seems ridiculous because the first thing you get if you are elected is the candidate buys you a cup of coffee later in the week at Caribou or Starbucks.

Amazingly, this system works rather well, and eventually produces a set of “endorsed” candidates. Rebecca Otto, who is a successful well liked and widely respected incumbent, was endorsed by the party. Then moments before a special deadline, after the endorsement, this guy Matt Entenza, who really wants to be Governor, filed to run. So there was a primary challenge within the party.

Entenza lied and lied and lied. He lied about himself, he lied about Rebecca, he lied about what the Auditor’s job is, he lied about what he would do if elected (we know he lied because he’s not an idiot and he made claims that he would do things that the Auditor simply does not do).

So the Primary was today. They are still counting votes as I write this. And, as I said, I have spoken, especially today, to a lot of DFLer’s (Minnesota Democrats.)

Most of them strongly support Rebecca Otto and are annoyed at Entenza. I spoke today to one person who said he’d vote for Entenza, and I think maybe his wife was to. I spoke to an Entenza staffer — a paid employee of Matt Entenza’s campaign — who quit a couple of weeks ago “… because Entenza lied to me, he lied to us, we all told him to go to hell …” who is voting for Rebecca.

Last time I looked 17% of the vote was counted and Otto was ahead by over 80%. I’m calling it for Otto.

Minnesotans: Today is primary day

Don’t forget to go and vote in today’s primary!

I for one will be voting for Rebecca Otto for auditor. She is nationally recognized as one of the best Auditors ever in the country. Rebecca Otto is the DFL endorsed candidate. The person running against her in the primary, Matt Entenza, has run a highly questionable and dishonest campaign. See this for more details.

Matt Entenza's Claim Rejected By Three Judge Panel

The 2000 election was probably won by Al Gore. But George Bush was put into office anyway. Imagine what this world would be like had Gore been ensconced in the white house? The Tea Party would probably have emerged sooner and madder, but less organized; global climate change would have become a widely accepted issue to do something about within a couple of years, instead of much later (cuz, you know, that hasn’t even happened yet). We probably wouldn’t have had this war in Iraq. If Gore had continued Clinton’s policy dealing with Al Qaida and Osama Bin Laden (no relation) there probably wouldn’t have been a 9/11. I’m sure we’d have other problems, but none of those problems.

As you know, national elections are actually handled by states, and states are charmingly diverse in how they do that. For instance, the technology of elections, and what you have to do to prove you are eligible to vote at the polling place, vary across states. But after the 2000 election there was some movement to make the system work better, to implement chad-free technologies, and to update the procedure for determining eligibility.

Eventually, of course, the changes got politicized. Everyone knew that Democratic voters and Republican voters are different, not just in their politics or who they vote for, but in how they vote. The Lockstep Party, Republican, is more homogeneous and generally privileged. You want to vote, you stop in at the voting place on the way home from work and vote. You know where it is because it is the church you go to, you have a car so transport and weather are not issues, you have access to information which is all in English and that is your native language, so you know things like when election day is and so on and so forth: Democrats have that too, but being a big tent Democrats also have other folks. Recent immigrants who don’t understand the system, older folks who don’t have a car and have a hard time getting across town, people who don’t happen to go to the well established local church so they don’t even know where it is. Also, among Democrats are people with overt labels as to how they are likely to vote. You can’t wear as button on your shirt declaring your support for a candidate, but you can, say, be black, and therefore visibly less likely to vote for the Republican. This last bit allows people who control the polls to harass or turn away certain voters.

At some point in recent history, Republicans got aggressive with strategies that would make it hard for that diverse subset of Democrats to vote. Some of those strategies are just downright dirty and illegal. When I was working on Get Out the Vote for some Democratic Candidates a few years ago I found recent African immigrants, likely Democratic voters, who had been told by Republican operatives that “Republicans vote Tuesday, Democrats vote Wednesday. So go vote Wednesday.” Seriously.

But there are other, no less unethical but potentially legal, methods of keeping a small percentage of Democrats from voting, such as requiring certain kinds of ID that not everyone, especially Democrats, has.

But these techniques, known these days as “Voter ID Laws,” did not come on the scene until after the 2004 election. While there may have been a few earlier efforts, one of the first state level attempt to restrict voter access occurred in Georgia in 2005, a push by Karl Rove to look into voter fraud by immigrants in 2007, and ACORN’s war on voting the same year.

Prior to that, there wasn’t much going on at the state level along these lines. In 2003, in Minnesota, there was nothing. The legislature did take up the issue of voting, and made attempts at upgrading and improving voting systems, but this was not an attempt to disenfranchise voters. That didn’t happen in Minnesota until later, peaking with the 2012 Voter ID constitutional amendment, which was pushed by Republicans and opposed by DFLers (Democrats), and which was clearly defeated.

Now fast forward to the 2014 Minnesota State Auditor’s race.

The incumbent, Rebecca Otto, widely recognized as one of the best Auditors the state has ever had, is being challenged in the primary by Perennial Candidate Matt Entenza, who is widely seen as making a run at the Auditor’s seat because it is a potential stepping stone to the Governor’s office, and he really wants to be Governor, and apparently will do anything to achieve that. Years ago, back in 2003, before “Voter ID” was a thing, before the Republican War on Voting had taken off, the Minnesota legislature messed around with some voting laws, in an effort to bring the states procedures in line with a national voting act, sincerely trying to modernize and update our system. It was a Democratic run legislature. There were votes on two separate bills and their amendments, and later one of the bills went to the Senate, was returned later, and passed. The exact details of what happened are rather complicated and perhaps I will write something up on that at another time. It is worth noting that Otto’s votes were in line with those of liberal democrats like Michael Paymar, Jim Davnie, and Paul Thissen. The point is, a) there was no Voter ID effort at the time so b) Rebecca Otto did not support one. When you look in detail at Otto’s votes on the various bills and amendments, there is not “supporting Voter ID” like pattern or anything, really, of note. The final bill, which I believe Otto voted in favor of, did not have the showing of identification in it.

Entenza and Otto, both in the house at the time, voted differently, Otto in favor, Entenza opposed.

This was before, remember, the Republican War on Voting, which we saw more recently.

Later, when “Voter ID” became a thing being pushed by the GOP in Minnesota, pretty much all Democrats, including Rebecca Otto, opposed it. Otto in particular campaigned vigorously against it. Her position today is that she opposes what we call “Voter ID,” which is a post 2004, or even, post 2007, effort, engineered by Republicans, to limit access to the voting booth mainly by a subset of Democrats.

In June, Matt Entenza filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings of the State of Minnesota, that Rebecca Otto had lied in official campaign information in saying she is an opponent of Voter ID. Entenza adduced her 2003 vote as evidence that she was in favor of it. That was a lie by Entenza, a lie designed to look like an accusation of someone telling a lie.

The three judge panel that reviewed the case not only rejected Entenza’s claim, but also, noted that even if they put the complaint in the light most favorable to his claim they could not come close to accepting it as valid. This finding was correct. There was no “Voter ID” thing to have voted for or against in 2003; After Entenza made the claim that Otto had supported “Voter ID” in such a way as to make people think she supported the recent 2012 Republican plan, someone asked Otto on her Facebook page about it, and she responded in this private forum. That was not an official campaign document. And, at the time, everyone who knew anything was shaking their head wondering what the heck Entenza was talking about when he referred to Voter ID back in 2003. It simply wasn’t a thing. The judges agreed that the complaint was unfounded for these several reasons.

In other words, they said that Entenza was wrong, and they implied that his intention was not entirely honorable.

In response, Entenza’s campaign manager got himself a shovel and is digging in. Entenza will still campaign on this absurd ruse.


Additional Sources:

DFL auditor spat generates complaint

Panel rejects Entenza’s voter ID claim in state auditor race

Entenza voter ID complaint against Otto dismissed

The Questionable Attacks On State Auditor Rebecca Otto

Why I Will Vote For Rebecca Otto, and Not Matt Entenza

How do you say “Surprise” in Norwegian? The word is “Entenza.” I am not making that up.*

DFL activists and party leaders were both surprised and annoyed when perennial candidate Matt Entenza filed at the very last moment to run for Minnesota State Auditor against sitting Auditor Rebecca Otto in this year’s primary. He claimed he would fight corporate giveaways at the local level and scrutinize spending on education, addressing the state’s achievement gap. Also, he would be nice to out-state local governments and not favor the Metro, because he was born out-state. Entenza has a habit of running, flush with vast family resources, in DFL primaries and against the party endorsement process, and DFLers have a habit of not responding well. Nearly six million dollars of mainly family money got Entenza third place in a three way race for governor in the 2010 DFL primary.

DFL primary voters have to ask themselves three questions on August 12th. First, is Entenza bringing something to the auditor’s office that is valuable? Second, do we need to replace Otto; is she doing a poor job in her position? Third, is Entenza auditor material?

Entenza wishes to improve education in Minnesota. This is not actually the Auditor’s job. Also, Auditor Rebecca Otto has an advanced degree in education and a science B.A. and served as a teacher for five years. Otto chaired a successful $55 million levy campaign in a conservative district, and served on the Forest Lake School Board before serving in the State Legislature. She is not only pro education but a highly qualified contributor to that discussion. Entenza wants to make the Auditor more friendly to out-state Minnesota. Otto, however, has a reputation for fair dealing and respectful interaction with all of the municipalities with which she works state wide. Many, from folks on the street with whom I’ve spoken to the Governor, have questioned Entenza’s motive in running for Auditor in the way he has chosen, and a frequent conclusion often said with a wink and a nod is this: He wants to be governor, and sees the Auditor position as a stepping stone to that. The stepping stone hypothesis certainly explains his candidacy better than any of the things he’s said about why he is running.

His claim to address government handouts must be a reference to the system of Tax Increment Financing. But TIF is not a government handout. It is a development tool that has positively affected the lives of many Minnesotans. More importantly, TIF, as well as education reform, are policy matters for the legislature and Governor. It seems that Entenza wants to have the job as Auditor so he can be that … the legislature and the Governor. But that is not actually how it works, and it makes me wonder if he really understands what the State Auditor does.

We should not be replacing Rebecca Otto. When she came on board, the Auditor’s office had been used as a political tool by the GOP and State-Local Government relations were poor. Otto has been studiously non-partisan and professional in her role, and this has been recognized at a national level. She has the National Excellence in Accountability Award, was elected President of the national State Auditors Association, and was named one of the 15 most influential auditors of all auditors at all levels of government across the entire country (and that is a lot of auditors). She is also the first DFL woman in this position and only one of 7 elected female state auditors in the country. We should be proud of that, not trying to undo it. DFLers know that when they have a top person in a position like this, who chooses to run for re-election, you don’t damage their position by staging an attempt at turnover. That’s not only bad party politics but it is also a negative contribution to governance. Entenza running against a woman who is arguably the top in her field is very difficult to account for.

Aside from the questions already raised about Entenza’s qualifications for the job, one also wonders if a person with a track record of seemingly inappropriate, or at least less than competent, fiscal behavior is the right person to take on the role of making sure everyone else behaves appropriately.

Entenza has been admonished, even fined, a number of times for campaign finance problems. “Neighbors for Matt Entenza Committee accepted excessive contributions from special sources resulting in an inadvertent violation of Minn. Stat. 10A. 27, subd. 11, in calendar year 2002” – Auditors are supposed to identify and address things like that, not do them. Money from lobbyists was inappropriately taken in 2005 as well. A prohibited contribution was also addressed by the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board in 2009. I’m not sure how serious these three transgressions are, and I imagine things like this happen in campaigns now and then despite people’s best intentions, but he’s running for State Auditor. He should not have such a record of being, essentially, in need of audit!

A fourth complaint dealt with by the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board related to Attorney General candidate Entenza’s hiring of an investigator to dig up dirt on the DFL-endorsed candidate for governor, Mike Hatch. Perhaps he already had his eye on the Governor’s office and was willing to step beyond the usual boundaries en route. That problem went away when the funding of this apparent opposition research was properly accounted for, though the ensuing scandal seems to have forced Entenza to withdraw from the race. Properly accounted for after the fact. Auditor. I think you get the point.

Entenza’s use of negative campaigning is not restricted to that event in 2006. He is doing this now. Rebecca Otto is an intelligent, thoughtful, progressive Democrat. Many years ago, prior to the co-opting of questions about election fraud were picked up by the GOP and used as a blunt object across the country in a state-by-state attempt to limit the franchise of progressive voters, the Minnesota Legislature addressed voting regulations. Not much came of that, and the only thing that was really being discussed was shoring up the power of election judges when they had questions about voters. As I understand it, Entenza and Otto shared the same position on proposed legislation, and this legislation was entirely different from the more recent Voter ID Amendment shoved into the election cycle two years ago by our largely dysfunctional Republican leadership. Entenza is now claiming that Rebecca Otto is, or was, or would be, or could be, supportive of a Voter ID bill or amendment, yet this is not even close to the truth. It is a dirty trick. A similar claim is being made about Otto and same sex marriage. In truth, Rebecca Otto campaigned vigorously on both issues when they emerged in 2012.

One might think that both of these ploys are weak and that DFL voters will see right though them, but that is not necessarily the case. A few days ago a young, newly minted DFL activist, a political science major at the University of Minnesota, asked me what campaigns would be good to work for to gain experience and to start to make connections. I suggested three different campaigns and specified the potential benefits of volunteering for each of them. One of the campaigns I suggested was Rebecca Otto for Auditor. Later that day she contacted me with a question. She had heard the Entenza campaign apparent fabrications of Otto’s position on Voter ID and was concerned. She had spent quite a few hours interning for campaigns against both the Marriage Amendment and the Voter ID Amendment – her first real experience in political activism. Entenza’s inappropriate and inaccurate characterization of his opponent, a fellow DFLer, tainted, as it was seemingly meant to, the reputation of one of our best elected officials. I found this disgraceful. This is, in fact, the reason I decided to write this commentary.

I agree with many of Entenza’s policy positions, and I wish he was in elected office somewhere in Minnesota. But I also wish he was not running in this primary because I think Rebecca Otto is an outstanding auditor and we don’t need this fighting inside the party. In particular, I don’t appreciate the implications that Otto is not doing her job well, which includes a certain amount of apparent fear-mongering on issues like social security, and I don’t like the use of the auditor’s position as a platform for implementing policies, even if those are good policies.

I’d like to give Matt Entenza some advice, spoken originally by a DFL progressive about his own campaign for office, on the day he withdrew knowing his candidacy could hurt the party and the state. He said, “Fighting for important issues is one thing. Fighting in politics is quite another. While I’m confident that I could win the race … staying in the race could hurt the Democratic Party and the progressive issues I care about so deeply.”

Take your own advice, Matt.


*Actually, I am making that up. Matt Entenza’s Wikipedia page claims this to be so, but Google Translate begs to differ. I don’t speak Norwegian. But it may be the case that Matt’s Wiki page needs … auditing.

Hope For Climate Change As A Key 2014 Issue

First, a word to my fellow Minnesotans. Go the the damn caucus tonight! For the rest of you, please become aware of the political process where you live and get involved. Science-oriented people, people who understand that climate change is real and important and that we need to develop a green energy economy (with our without nuclear, that’s a separate issue not an alternative) need to become more involved in the political process. Support candidates who understand these things and who will work towards saving us from driving of the cliff we are heading rapidly towards. Also, keep gender in mind; support excellent women candidates. Also, keep diversity in mind. Support diverse candidates. OK, you really can’t be a “diverse” person, but you know what I mean.

Climate change did play a measurable, observable role in some of the elections last year. I don’t think we can say that it was the deciding issue in any campaign, but there is almost never a single deciding issue. Rather, there is a short list of issues that matter in many campaigns, and quite possibly, for the first time ever climate change was on that short list for some contests. It is YOUR job (and mine) to make sure that climate change is on the short list for all campaigns ever from now on. We have to start by getting involved in the electoral process. In the 17 or so US states with a caucus system, this means becoming a delegate. Being a delegate means candidates go out of their way to find you, talk to you, find out what is important to you. Why the heck would you NOT want to do that? Eventually, you will be a member of what is effectively a small Electoral College who will decide who runs from your district. Your vote may end up being one of only dozens that determine candidates for your party at various levels.

For me, I’ll be working to retire the Republican representative from my district, Minnesota CD3. Erik Paulsen is probably more pro-environment than he votes, but he is a cookie-cutter Tea Bag Republican and votes the party line along with Michele Bachmann (I can see her district from my living room) and the rest of the over-the-top conservatives who run the Republican party, and thus, the House, at the moment. He needs to go.

I’ll be working to recruit a woman of color who has a background as a scientists (chemistry degree, worked in green technology early in her career) and for whom climate change and green energy are top issues, along with the usual social justice and economic issues. This is why I’l be supporting Sharon Sund if she runs. (If you want to help me help her to decide to run, even if you don’t live in Minnesota or, for that matter, the US, pleas go SIGN THIS PETITION!)

I’ll also be working with Shawn Otto and others to advance the Science Debate Project. I don’t know what we’d be doing this particular election cycle but we need to have the candidates for president in two years debate science in the public forum. In the mean time, everybody should be debating science in the public forum. And no, I don’t mean science vs. science denialism. I mean demonstrating an understanding of the science on one hand and making claims about policy that is actually based on the science on the other.

Sitting around and complaining about how science does not enter politics and when it does, it does so as a lifeless Tea-Drinking Zombie, is uninteresting and unproductive. It isn’t that hard for individuals to do something, and if enough pro-science individuals get involved, change can happen.

Go make change happen. Please.


Photo Credit: practicalowl via Compfight cc

Obomified with this on line resource.

I'd Like Sharon Sund To Run For Congress

This is an open letter to potential CD3 congressional candidate Sharon Sund. There is no declared candidate in this district at this time, but there is an increasing interest in recruiting Sharon to run against Erik Paulsen.
 
 

Sandra_SundDear Sharon,
 
Three years ago I decided to get involved in the Minnesota Third Congressional District election. I had been involved in previous races, supporting various DFL candidates through the caucus, primary, and election process. But this time I decided to explicitly seek out a candidate who was science oriented, who would make issues like climate change a campaign priority and not just an add-on, and volunteer my time. I was pleasantly shocked and amazed to quickly discover that you were seeking the DFL nomination and that you were explicitly pro science, and that you had a degree in an area of science and had worked as a scientist yourself.
 
You may remember that I contacted you to find out more, to verify what it said on your web site, and that we chatted. Not only did it become clear that you really were a science oriented candidate, but that you were also a progressive with experience organizing progressive campaigns (such as support of the Affordable Care Act) and an experienced fund raiser. In short order I volunteered for your campaign, and eventually became staff on that campaign, and at the same time, we became friends.
 
Working on that campaign was a great pleasure for me. One of the things I remember most is the internal policy of that campaign to always be honest, always play fair, always respect other members of the DFL. The idea was to win the nomination, but if not, to remember — and these words were often said by staffers, volunteers, and by you — that we are all Democrats. We did not gain the nomination at the convention, but the very first thing (after a bit of crying and hugging and such) after that was to concede gracefully, to shake the hands of the winner and his team, and to wish them well.
 
Now it is time to consider the next Congressional election. I am asking you to run again, to declare candidacy for Congress of the United States for Minnesota’s Third District. Here are some of the reasons I think you should do this.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST AND COMMENT!