Tag Archives: Rebecca Otto

Minnesota Candidate Proposes Cost-Cutting Single Payer Health Insurance Plan

And why not? Minnesota tends to lead when it comes to finding ways for government to do good.

Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto is running for Governor in Minnesota, and moments ago she announced the details of her much anticipated “Healthy Minnesota Plan.”

Here’s the link for the details.

Obamacare was good, better than what was there before, but it came out of the gate as a compromise between the usual opposing forces in Washington. Many of you not in Minnesota may not know this, but Continue reading Minnesota Candidate Proposes Cost-Cutting Single Payer Health Insurance Plan

Climate and energy are becoming focal points in state political races

Just a pointer to my colleague John Abraham’s current post in The Guardian:

The latest example, Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto has a strong clean energy proposal

As soon as Donald Trump won the presidential election, people in the US and around the world knew it was terrible news for the environment. Not wanting to believe that he would try to follow through on our worst fears, we held out hope.

Those hopes for a sane US federal government were misplaced. But they are replaced by a new hope – an emerging climate leadership at the state level and a continuation of economic forces that favor clean/renewable energy over dirty fossil fuels. In fact, it appears that some states are relishing the national and international leadership roles that they have undertaken. Support for sensible climate and energy policies is now a topic to run on in elections.

This change has manifested itself in American politics. One such plan stems from my home state, but it exemplifies work in other regions. I live in the state of Minnesota where we are gearing up for a gubernatorial election, which is where this plan comes from.

My state is well known as somewhat progressive, both socially and economically. The progressive policies resulted in a very strong 2007 renewable energy standard, which helped to reduce carbon pollution and create 15,000 jobs.

As an aside, it is really painful for me to…

Click here to find out about John’s pain!

States Can Lead the Way on Climate Change

True that. In the US, energy policy and regulation happens much more at the state level than the federal level, and our federal government went belly up last January anyway. Some states will not lead, they will go backwards, but others will lead, and show the way.

So, here I want to highlight this new item in Scientific American by Rebecca Otto.

States Can Lead the Way on Climate Change
The Trump administration’s threats to abandon Obama’s Clean Power Plan and exit the Paris accords don’t necessarily mean all is lost

The word “corporation” does not appear in our Constitution or Bill of Rights. But as Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse notes in his book Captured, corporations had already grown so powerful by 1816 that Thomas Jefferson urged Americans to “crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
Today the conflict between the unfettered greed of unregulated capitalism and the right of the people to regulate industry with self-governance has reached extreme proportions. Corporations now have more power than many nations and feel justified in manipulating democracy to improve their bottom lines instead of the common good.
Nowhere is this problem more pronounced than…

Then where? THEN WHERE??? Go read the original piece!

Rebecca Otto’s Clean Energy Plan for Minnesota

Earlier today, Minnesota Gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto released her energy transition plan. It an ambitious plan that puts together several elements widely considered necessary to make any such plan work, then puts them on steroids to make it work faster. To my knowledge, this is the first major plan to be proposed since the recent dual revelations that a) the world is going to have to act faster than we had previously assumed* and b) the US Federal government will not be helping.

Here’s the elevator speech version: Minnesota residents get around five thousand dollars cash (over several years), monetary incentives to upgrade all their energy using devices from furnaces to cars, some 80,000 new, high paying jobs, and in the end, the state is essentially fossil fuel free.

About half of that fossil fuel free goal comes directly from Continue reading Rebecca Otto’s Clean Energy Plan for Minnesota

Rebecca Otto’s Clean Energy Plan for Minnesota

Earlier today, Minnesota Gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto released her energy transition plan. It an ambitious plan that puts together several elements widely considered necessary to make any such plan work, then puts them on steroids to make it work faster. To my knowledge, this is the first major plan to be proposed since the recent dual revelations that a) the world is going to have to act faster than we had previously assumed* and b) the US Federal government will not be helping.

Here’s the elevator speech version: Minnesota residents get around five thousand dollars cash (over several years), monetary incentives to upgrade all their energy using devices from furnaces to cars, some 80,000 new, high paying jobs, and in the end, the state is essentially fossil fuel free.

About half of that fossil fuel free goal comes directly from the plan itself, the other half from the economy and markets passing various tipping points that this plan will hasten. The time scale for the plan is roughly 10 years, but giving the plan a careful reading I suspect some goals will be reached much more quickly. This means that once the plan takes off, Minnesotans will have an incentive to hold their elected officials accountable for holding the course for at least a decade.

The central theme of the plan is to use a revenue-neutral carbon price, which is widely seen by experts as the best approach for cleaning up our energy supply. The simple version of the carbon price works like this: Releasing carbon is saddled with a cost, way up (or early) in the supply chain. So you don’t pay a gas tax or any kind of energy tax, but somewhere up the line the big players are being charged for producing energy reliant on the release of fossil carbon. They, of course, have the option of producing electricity from wind and solar.

The campaign notes, “Rebecca’s Minnesota-Powered Plan doesn’t raise taxes a single penny. It levies a carbon price on fossil fuel companies, and pays 100% of the revenue back to Minnesota residents, so we can take charge of our own energy.”

That money is then distributed to any citizen who wants it (of course they will all want it), evenly, across the board. So, in theory, your cost of living is a little higher if dirty energy producers are in your own personal supply chain, but lower if they are not, and in any event, you are paid off to not care. The point is, if you personally eschew fossil carbon releasing products or energy sources, you get the payoff and someone else is paying for it. That would apply to both individuals and companies, because companies can often make those choices. For example, a school bus company would be more likely to replace an old dirty bus with an electric bus rather than a propane bus. (Just yesterday, an electric bus set a record, going over 1,000 miles on a single charge! Electricity is some pretty powerful magic.)

The Otto plan has a twist. While 75% of the carbon price is distributed evenly and directly to all citizens, 25% is distributed as refundable tax credits intended to cover 30% of the cost of clean energy improvements that use Minnesota companies. This may include solar panels, heat pumps for heating and cooling, insulation, new lighting, etc. New or used electric cars count. So it all goes back to the people, but some of it is directed to support the energy transition for individuals and families.

(A “refundable credit” is a tax credit that you still get even if you did not pay enough taxes to use it, so people of any income will be able to access the clean energy benefits.)

The conservatively estimated potential cash gain for a typical Minnesota family is laid out in this table from the Otto campaign:

That is for one year. As the plan matures, a decade down the line, we can assume the carbon price component will diminish, but the household payback for being off fossil fuels will increase, and, guess what? The plant gets to live and your children don’t have to live in as much of a dystopian future!

The clean energy technologies that will need to be deployed mostly already exist, and most of them can be processed and supplied right here in Minnesota. Indeed installing PV panels and car chargers, or efficient heat pump based furnaces, etc. is the kind of job that can not be outsourced to some other country, because your house is here so the work gets done here! It is estimated that some 80,000 long term high paying jobs will be generated from this infrastructure redo. That will in turn increase revenues to the state and quite likely, will spell surpluses, some of which are likely to be tax rebates or other sorts of payoffs to the citizens of the state.

A quick word about the Coal-Car Myth. Some will read about this plan and say, “yeah, but … if I drive an electric car and stuff, that electricity is even worser because it is made with dirty coal and stuff.” (Yes, I make the Coal-Car Mythers sound a bit dull because, at this point, you’d have to be a bit dull to still be thinking this). First, know this: There are circumstances under which burning coal to make electricity to charge a car will be more efficient than running a gasoline car. To conceptualize this, imagine two engineering teams in a competition. One is to make an energy plant using coal, the other is to use an energy plant using only 6 cylinder Ford motors. The winner builds the plant that is more efficient. The team using the thousands of internal combustion engines will lose. Second, know this: It is simply not the case that all of our electricity comes from coal, and every week there is less and less of it coming from coal. Electric cars have the promise, by the way, of outlasting internal combustion cars on average. So, over perhaps half the lifespan of a given electric car, what might have been a tiny increase in efficiency for a small number of electric cars (the rest start out way more than tiny) will become a great efficiency. It is time to switch to electric cars in Minnesota.

You can expect opposition to this plan from the likes of the Koch brothers, who are currently spending just shy of a billion dollars a year, that we know of, to keep fossil fuel systems on line and stop the clean energy transition. I asked Rebecca Otto what she expected in terms of push back. She told me, “Investing in clean energy means investing in our communities and taking charge of our own energy, instead of subsidizing big oil. Hence, big oil will be the stumbling block, as this will affect their bottom line over time.”

I asked Rebecca why this is something that needs to be handled by the states, rather than at the national level. She told me, “The crippling dysfunction in Washington is persistent and we need to act now. Oil companies are spending billions of dollars to rig the system against clean energy solutions. We need to break their stranglehold on our democracy and put people, not oil companies back in charge.”

She also noted that “we also have a moral imperative to do something and the federal government has become paralyzed by big oil propaganda and political spending. The states could become laboratories to begin to tackle climate change. And whoever does is going to reap the economic benefits from the job creation. These jobs pay 42% higher than the state’s average wage.”

Economists say the carbon price is the best way to make the energy transition happen. Regular Minnesotans benefit the most, the Minnesota economy benefits, and the environment benefits. This is a good plan. I endorse it.

This plan, which you should read all about here, has also been endorsed by the famous and widely respected meteorologist Paul Douglas, by Bill McKibben of 350.org, St Thomas scientist and energy expert John Abraham, and by climate scientist Michael Mann.

I’ve got more to say about this plan and related topics, so stay tuned.

Here’s a video of Rebecca Otto discussing energy from the roof of her solar paneled home, with her windmill generating electricity in the background. Apparently, she walks the walk!

Other posts on the plan:

Powering Minnesota to prosperity through energy leadership


*You may have seen recent research suggesting that we have more time than previously estimated to get our duck in a row with clean energy. That research was misrepresented in the press. A statement made by one of the authors clarifies: “..to likely meet the Paris goal, emission reductions would need to begin immediately and reach zero in less than 40 years’ time.”

Michael Mann Endorses Rebecca Otto for Governor of Minnesota

State Auditor Rebecca Otto is running for Governor of Minnesota. She will seek the DFL (Democratic Party) Endorsement. There are several other candidates either declared or likely to run, but Otto stands head and shoulders above all the others, especially in three areas:

1) Honesty and integrity in government.

Otto has been recognized nationally by the auditors around the country, and this is for good reason. In fact, she’s recognized internationally. The Minnesota Auditor’s office, under Otto, is one of those places the US State Department sends people from other countries to figure out how they should set up their own Democracy. (I’m not sure if the State Department will still be doing that ….)

2) Eschewing the false balance and finding real common ground between desperate parties.

This is Rebecca Otto’s super power. I’ve seen her do this right before my eyes.

The whole state saw her do it in Minnesota. There is a large mining region here, and mining companies want to start a new phase, extracting copper. Have you heard of the Environmental Movement? The US Environmental Movement has multiple roots, including my own home town Hudson River, with the sloop Clearwater and all that. But it also started in Minnesota, with the mining companies up on “The Range” (a place in Minnesota) where the miners were killing Lake Superior with their effluent. There has always been a fight on The Range between those who want more jobs and those who do not want to kill the Great Lakes and other natural wonders.

A couple of years ago, Rebecca cast a principled vote on a committee the Auditor serves on, the only vote among her fellow Democrats, to put environmental considerations on equal footing with jobs and other issues. She didn’t want to see the big mining companies leave The Range in the same sort of mess, with respect to local costs of cleanup, lost jobs, etc., as they have in the past, and like mining companies tend to do. That move got all the Republicans and some of the Range Democrats mad at Otto, and they have been viciously attacking her ever since, because they want all those Range votes for themselves.

Meanwhile, Rebecca went to The Range, talked to people, helped all the parties find common ground, and on voting day, she outperformed the Democratic Governor, and the Congressional candidate in counties and precincts she should, according to common wisdom, should have lost. Twice.

(See this analysis of the elections.)

3) Rebecca Otto is a true Climate Hawk

And this is why climate scientist Michael Mann endorsed her. Among other things, Mann said:

… Otto is a shining example of the kind of integrity and leadership we hope for in our elected leaders but too rarely see: someone who puts their money where their mouth is. I’m proud to support Rebecca Otto for Governor of Minnesota, and urge everyone who is concerned about climate change and clean energy to join me in supporting her. … As the Minnesota State Auditor, Rebecca issued a nationally award-winning report on how local governments can reduce energy costs dramatically by switching to clean, carbon-free energy sources…

Go HERE to read the entire endorsement.

I asked Professor Mann why a climate scientist working in Pennsylvania would worry about a governor’s race in Minnesota. “In climate change, we face a threat that knows no boundaries—continental boundaries, national boundaries, or state boundaries,” het told me. “We must support politicians everywhere who are willing to act on climate. Rebecca Otto has demonstrated that she places great priority on science-based policymaking on climate change and I am happy to support her candidacy.”

Make sure, when you visit that site, you watch Rebecca’s one minute video. See those solar panels she’s sitting in front of? I helped install them!

Various comments and current news

For some reason, Facebook is not posting reliably and I will not abide writing paragraphs that the Internet sucks into oblivion!

So, I have a few thoughts I’ll put here and try to link to.

Rebecca Otto for Governor

Let’s start with Rebecca Otto, who just gave a great talk at the DFL (that’s what we Minnesotans call “Democrats”) Environmental Caucus meeting. Rebecca is running for Governor, and we need her to win.

I’ve written a bit about that (see: Rebecca Otto: by far the strongest and most progressive candidate for Minnesota Governor in 2018), and some time over the next week or so I’ll officially endorse her. (Yes, of course, bloggers can officially do whatever they want!)

Minnesota’s Democratic Governor Vs. The Trumpublicants

Speaking of governors, here is something you should know. In Minnesota, where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the Republicans are children, we are having a contentious time in the State government. The voters gave both houses of the legislature to the Republicans (riding on Putin’s coat tails?) but our Governor is Mark Dayton. Dayton, a DFLer, has been Governor for a while, and before that, he was in the Senate. Before that, if I recall correctly, he was a department store, but that was before I moved here.

Anyway, the fight is getting nasty and both sides are punching hard. Dayton’s latest move was to line-item-veto the budget item that funds the legislature. That was the funniest thing I’ve seen in politics since Kennedy turned up the heat in the debate studio to make Nixon sweat heavily. Dayton did this, and a few other things, to force the Republicans to negotiate on some key issues where the people of the state really want a certain thing (like no tax breaks on the wealthiest, some improvements in the education budget, etc.) but the Republicans refuse.

Here’s the thing. Dayton’s approval rating right now, in the middle of this big fight, is very high, and his disapproval rating is very low, and this applies across the state (though higher in DFL areas, obviously).

The lesson in the madness: Standing up to Republican tantrums is popular these days. Democrats: Do more of that, grow a spine. If you don’t know what a brave Democrat looks like, go look at Mark Dayton.

Cheap Malcolm Nance Book

You know Malcolm Nance, author of The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election. He’s on the Rachel Maddow show all the time. One of his other books, Hacking ISIS: How to Destroy the Cyber Jihad, is RIGHT NOW (and I assume for a limited time?) available for $1.99 in Kindle version. Just noticed that, so I thought I’d pass it on.

Will trump stump Comey?

This is the paragraph that was sucked into the Internet Void: The New York Times is reporting that Trump has no intention of interfering with this week’s testimony by fired FBI Director Comey. But the New York Times also says one never really knows what Trump will do. And, what the heck does the New York Times know anyway?

There are other, more subtle and less reliable, suggestions that Trump may in fact invoke some sort of executive privilege rule and shut down Comey.

The reason I mention this is to encourage RESIST activist groups like Indivisible, and individuals who are willing to go to the street to protest, to be ready for this. If it happens, an appropriate and good outcome would be swarming the streets.

Why? Because Trump shutting down Comey is not only the next step in this very important process, but it could be THE moment of truth for our democracy. Which is a subtle way of saying, the actual end of our democracy. When the President shuts down the Congress investigating possible treason by the President, that is the end. You do understand that, right?

Or, maybe that won’t happen, but we need to be ready.

Thank you very much that is all.

Rebecca Otto: by far the strongest and most progressive candidate for Minnesota Governor in 2018

Here’s why: All the available data strongly indicates that Otto will beat all the other contenders across state in the upcoming Governor’s race.

Democrats have two major problems to face in 2018 and beyond. First, how do we win elections? Second, how do we remain true to our progressive and liberal roots?

For Democrats, 2018 is a must-win election, and Minnesotans have a lot at stake. Will the state remain the shining star of the North, or will it go the way of Wisconsin, and sink into a Republican dark age of union busting, environment polluting, professor bashing, service slashing, and economic activity destruction?

Of all the candidates running or suspected of running for Governor in 2018, Rebecca Otto is the only one who can most clearly win and at the same time preserve and advance core, human based, Democratic ideals, in my opinion.

The following text was added on December 17th

One of the arguments I make here is that party “insiders” should avoid jumping out of the gate to “endorse” candidates early on in a process like this. I put “insider” i quotes because it has no definition. I put “endorse” in quotes because it has a precise definition (one regulated by the Federal Election Commission in some cases) but is used widely to mean “like,” “give the thumbs up to,” “Publicly Support” and that sort of thing. At the time I wrote this piece I did not specify what I meant by party people supporting a given candidate, Tim Walz, too early, but it has recently come to my attention that my arguments is being seen as invalid because in fact there were no such endorsements.

And that is true. Technically, there were none.

Except, that there were. To give an overall gestalt of what I mean, consider this item form MinnPost from last April, written during the time of the flurry of excitement that Time Walz was running for governor.

One step at a time
For now, many DFL insiders consider Walz the de facto frontrunner in the governor’s race. That may or may not change should he be joined by another candidate, such as 8th District Rep. Rick Nolan or Attorney General Lori Swanson.

But Walz is moving to lock up support from influential Democrats around the state. Before Walz made his bid official, 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson reportedly announced his endorsement at a party dinner in his district. (Peterson confirmed on Tuesday he’ll be backing Walz.)

“The congressman has a good amount of steam at this point,” Broton said, “at this point, you could probably classify him as being the front-runner. But Democrats are fickle people.”

On April 19th, the Pioneer Press reported and endorsement that wasn’t an endorsement by a man who is arguably Minnesota’s top democrat, since he is from Minnesota, represents a congressional district in Minnesota, and is Deputy Chair of the national party, Representative Keith Ellison.

Rep. Keith Ellison expects Rep. Tim Walz will be Minnesota’s next governor

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison predicted Wednesday that his fellow Minnesota Democrat, Congressman Tim Walz, will be Minnesota’s next governor.

“I’m not advocating; I’m simply predicting,” Ellison said of Walz during an appearance at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The event was co-moderated by political science professor Larry Jacobs and Pioneer Press Capitol Bureau Chief Rachel Stassen-Berger.

Knowledge is knowing that is technically not an endorsement. But a wise person refrains from putting tomato in the fruit salad.

The Star Tribune reported, about the same time, the following:

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, officially in the governor’s race, won the endorsement of former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Walz needs help in the Twin Cities, where he is less known, so this was a key endorsement if Rybak is active.

RT Rybak was mayor of Minneapolis, and after leaving that position, became a director at large for the national party. I’m told this is not an official endorsement. Yet …

Anyway, long after I wrote this post, partly in response to the above endorsements and similar, Congressman Walz, anointed, found himself between a rock and a hard place as more than one tragic mass shooting caused the big giant spot light that seeks out NRA supported candidates and shines all over him. Walz’s pro-gun (and anti-environmental) positions may indeed help him out state in a general election, but he is essentially done within the party, in my humble opinion.

End of the added text.

The smart move for the DFL in 2018 is to turn to a candidate that has won several times statewide and has strong name recognition, positive feeling among the voters engendered by her commitment to widely held values, and a strong base of support. State Auditor Rebecca Otto is the only candidate with that resumé. Otto has racked up several historic victories, including the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years, and is positioned to do it again in 2018. Her statewide electoral prowess far outstrips her nearest competitor, Tim Walz, who is largely unknown outside of his first district, and is untested statewide. Beyond that, Otto stands for strong for Democratic values, while Walz has shown himself to be a DINO-style Democrat. Walz enjoys a very high rating from the NRA, for example, and in February of 2013 was one of only six Democrats in Congress to vote to expand gun sales to the severely mentally ill, over the objections of senior generals including David Petraeus, Michael Hayden and Stanley McChrystal.

On the environment and climate change, Walz again voted with Republicans on anti-environmental bills progressives strongly opposed. He voted with Republicans in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline. He introduced a bill, siding with Eric Paulsen, to expand offshore oil drilling. Walz refused to provide voters with positions on several other key issues covered by the 2016 Vote Smart Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests. Historically, candidates have failed to complete the test in part due to “fear of negative attack ads,” according to that group. In contrast, Rebecca Otto opposes unrestricted gun sales and supports common-sense, reasonable measures to prevent mass shootings by mentally ill individuals. Otto is also the acknowledged statewide leader on environmental issues, and cast multiple courageous votes against multinational corporate interests, in an effort to protect the environment even while being harshly attacked by industry advocates. Indeed, she and her husband live in a solar home they built with their own hands.

So why are some party elites pushing Walz over the far more progressive, experienced, and courageous, and environmental Rebecca Otto? Because they think we need a DINO to win, and appear to have lost touch with the party rank and file, just as they did in 2016. Walz is a talented but glad-handing politician, and older DFLers, the kind that promoted Hillary Clinton despite the rank and file’s strong preference for Bernie Sanders, find an old white traditional male politician to be a safer, steadier choice when the stakes of losing run high. But that is EXACTLY the kind of thinking that loses elections, because it disenfranchises party activists, it is reactionary instead of visionary, and it selects candidates from on high who are less able to capture the imagination of voters as something new and different. Considering that Democrats have never won the Governor’s seat two administrations in a row, that lack of contrast and imagination is a major concern in contemplating a Walz candidacy.

In their fear, the party elders who have endorsed Walz are willing to overlook Walz’s anti-progressive, anti-environmental voting history, thinking a DINO is what voters want. But they’re wrong. Hillary Clinton was anointed by the same party elites, and she underperformed Barack Obama in Minnesota by 180,000 votes. Hillary Clinton had many good qualities, but last cycle, Minnesotans showed they were ready to embrace bold, progressive leadership, the kind of leadership that they believe, based on track record, won’t sell them out on key issues when the going gets tough. They want a candidate who runs outside strict party affiliation, who thinks independently, and who takes stands for ordinary people instead of the wealthy elite or big corporations even if it means the corporations will mount attacks. They want the kind of principled, fearless leadership shown by Bernie Sanders and Rebecca Otto, not the calculating, fearful, history of Tim Walz.

But what about Trump? Didn’t Greater Minnesota go heavily for Trump? Didn’t the Minnesota Senate go Republican and the House go even more Republican? Considering all this, don’t we need a more conservative and calculating Democrat from Greater Minnesota to bridge the so-called “urban-rural divide”? That’s what some party elites argued when pushing Tim Walz. But Rebecca Otto is the only candidate who resides at the intersections of urban, suburban, exurban, and rural, on a small farm outside the Twin Cities. This means everyone can claim her as theirs.

But more importantly, the “urban-rural divide” appears to be a Republican myth that Democrats should not buy into. The evidence shows that Donald Trump received almost the identical number of votes in Minnesota as Mitt Romney did in 2012, so the notion that Donald Trump surged in Minnesota is false. Rather, Hillary Clinton underperformed Barack Obama’s 2012 Minnesota numbers by nearly 180,000 votes. The congressional districts that went the most heavily for Donald Trump in the general election (7, 6, 8, and 1) also largely went the most heavily for Bernie Sanders in the primary.

Clinton’s underperformance meant that 180,000 Democrats stayed home not just from her race, but from all races. That meant there were fewer Democrats out voting while Republicans were out in their usual numbers, so despite the DFL spending record dollars, Democrats lost every close race. Some portion of this has to be laid at the feet of party elites who, for all her advantages, interfered in the process by backing Clinton too early and loudly, lining the machine up behind her as “the front runner” and disenfranchising Sanders voters who, the above numbers show, stayed home. Some of these same elites are making the same costly mistake in 2018 by backing Walz.

The results of the 2016 election can more accurately be interpreted as an anti-establishment vote and not reflective of an urban-rural divide — and that is a reading which favors Rebecca Otto as the DFL candidate for governor.

Unlike Walz, Otto has always run largely without the support of the party kingmakers and big money players, focusing her energies on rank-and-file grassroots activists, in the style of Bernie Sanders and Paul Welstone. In so doing, she has always outperformed the DFL candidate for Governor, racking up historic victories in election after election. This approach also led her to an historic victory in the 2014 primary, when a self-financed candidate outspent her 4 to 1, and she beat him 81%–19%.

Rebecca Otto does very well on the Iron Range, and understanding why that is so leads to a full appreciation of her standing with Minnesota voters. Otto voted to protect the BWCA and Lake Superior watersheds from copper-nickel mining until we get better financial assurances from multinational mining companies. Many assumed this would hurt her on the Range and cost her the election as governor, but the facts show just the opposite. Indeed, the “done on the range” argument is from the Republican, not Democratic, playbook.

Otto vastly outperformed both Governor Mark Dayton and Congressman Rick Nolan in every county on the Iron Range and across the entire 8th Congressional District in 2014, improving her margins after her vote. To see if Otto’s brave and thoughtful stand on nonferrous mining cost her any votes, we can compare her margin of victory in the 2010 and 2014 races in the Iron Range counties. (Note: The margin of victory is recognized as the best way to compare across counties, etc., because of differences in ballots across different precincts or elections. These data are from the Secretary of State’s office.)

Otto grew her margin in every Iron Range county in 2014 by an impressive average gain of 9.51 points, for a 72% bigger margin across the Iron Range as a whole. Remember, this happened after the controversy on the range, in which Rebecca Otto took what many thought would be the less popular stand, knowing it was the right thing to do. This happened after Otto explained her position and helped people see, through an examination of long term goals and shared values, that her position was the right one for the people of the state in general and the Iron Range in particular. This is a reality that her Republican (and other) detractors on the range do not like to hear about and tend to react rather poorly to, in my experience.

The most important thing DFLers need to realize is that Rebecca Otto was the only Democrat to actually vote for Democratic values on this issue, while others were afraid to. Otto can rightly borrow Paul Wellstone’s phrase, “I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party,” when others cannot. If Democrats don’t stop compromising on their key values they will continue to lose like they did in 2016 because there will be no reason for DFLers to vote for them. I believe voters are well aware of this, this and appreciate Rebecca Otto for it.

Was it a fluke? Maybe Otto just had an easier race in 2014. Let’s look at Governor Dayton’s Iron Range performance and see if there is any difference.

Here again, Otto’s 2014 margin of victory on the Iron Range was 1.54 points higher than Gov. Mark Dayton’s and 4.41% higher than Dayton’s across the 8th CD as a whole. While Otto performed better in every county in 2014 than in 2010, Dayton lost points in 5 of 7 Iron Range counties and across the 8th CD as a whole.

When comparing Otto’s margin to Nolan’s margin, Otto’s outperformance becomes even more striking. Here, Otto completely trounced Nolan’s performance in his own congressional district, to a truly stunning degree.

Otto outperformed Nolan by 12.15 points on the very Iron Range that was supposed to cost her re-election. And Otto’s margins were even better on the Iron Range than they were in the 8th CD as a whole, where she outperformed the Congressman’s margin by a stunning 10 points. Otto’s strong popularity is why Nolan asked her to headline or speak at events. Often, she was the only statewide elected official or party officer there for him at these events.

The evidence is absolutely clear and abundant that Rebecca Otto’s courageous stand on nonferrous mining earned her votes on the Iron Range. Suggestions to the contrary are not backed up by the facts.

What about Otto’s appeal in urban and suburban areas? The candidate with the best chance of winning the Governor’s race can appeal to voters in both Greater Minnesota, and in urban and suburban areas. So, let’s look at Otto’s performance in the state’s most liberal, urban, and populous area, Congressional District 5, home of Minneapolis. We’ll use its high-profile Congressman Keith Ellison as our benchmark.

Rebecca Otto and Keith Ellison both began their terms in 2003 as State Representatives. In 2006 when Otto was elected State Auditor, Ellison won the DFL endorsement for a rare open seat in Congress, making him the shoe-in in the general election because of the CD5 DFL index.

The following compares Rebecca Otto’s CD5 performance to the Ellison benchmark in each house district in the congressional district:
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It turns out that Rebecca Otto is also an exceptionally strong performer in urban/suburban areas, outperforming Congressman Ellison’s margins in 14 of 20 house districts, and across the 5th CD as a whole. Note that Ellison’s performance in his own district is stellar, so Otto’s comparable but better performance is stellar-plus.

Rebecca’s urban and suburban support is not limited to CD5. In CD4, Rebecca outperformed the benchmark Congresswoman McCollum’s margin in 13 of 21 House districts in, and across the congressional district as a whole.
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Because of her strong performance and experience in urban, suburban, exurban and rural areas, Rebecca Otto outperformed the margins of every gubernatorial candidate she has been on the ballot with — Tim Pawlenty, Mike Hatch, and Mark Dayton — in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

Rebecca Otto also unseated an incumbent, and she did it by the largest margin in 112 years, in a race for a seat that had been occupied by Republicans for 134 of its 149 years. This was an enormous and historic upset — on a level that Walz can only dream of.

Otto then made history a second time when she won a tough re-election against the same opponent while being heavily targeted by the Republican Party, and without help from the DFL Party, becoming the only Democrat to be re-elected to the Auditor’s post in Minnesota history. Otto is now in her third term, and made it a third time with her absolutely crushing defeat of Matt Entenza in the 2014 DFL primary.

There is only one candidate with both the electoral experience and the track record of standing up for what’s right without fear or favor, and it is Rebecca Otto. Rebecca is authentic, warm, humble, yet tough, willing to fight for what is right, and these aspects of her character are already widely known. She is widely recognized by State Auditors around the country, winning every major award and serving as president of the national organization of State Auditors. She has Republican support as well as Democratic. In fact, it was former Governor and State Auditor Arne Carlson who first asked her to run for State Auditor. She has strong executive experience at the state level, and she knows how to manage the legislature. On all these measures, Governor Otto would be one of the most qualified new governors on her first day in the State House.

This is a year in which voters are looking for a truly progressive candidate, and it is right that they do so. Voters want a candidate who actually contrasts with Republicans instead of voting like one of them, a candidate who has powerful statewide executive and electoral experience and yet has demonstrated that she won’t sell out progressive values. Rebecca Otto is exactly that candidate.

In a year when so much is at stake, it is time to give voters a strong contrasting choice instead of a Democrat In Name Only practicing familiar old-style politics. It is a year when Minnesota is finally ready to elect a populist female governor, and we have such a candidate with the state executive and electoral experience to make that a reality. With only stunning and historic victories behind her, Gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto is in ready to make history yet again.

Rebecca Otto: by far the strongest and most progressive candidate for Minnesota Governor in 2018

Here’s why: All the available data strongly indicates that Otto will beat all the other contenders across state in the upcoming Governor’s race.

Democrats have two major problems to face in 2018 and beyond. First, how do we win elections? Second, how do we remain true to our progressive and liberal roots?

For Democrats, 2018 is a must-win election, and Minnesotans have a lot at stake. Will the state remain the shining star of the North, or will it go the way of Wisconsin, and sink into a Republican dark age of union busting, environment polluting, professor bashing, service slashing, and economic activity destruction?

Of all the candidates running or suspected of running for Governor in 2018, Rebecca Otto is the only one who can most clearly win and at the same time preserve and advance core, human based, Democratic ideals, in my opinion.

The smart move for the DFL in 2018 is to turn to a candidate that has won several times statewide and has strong name recognition, positive feeling among the voters engendered by her commitment to widely held values, and a strong base of support. State Auditor Rebecca Otto is the only candidate with that resumé. Otto has racked up several historic victories, including the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years, and is positioned to do it again in 2018. Her statewide electoral prowess far outstrips her nearest competitor, Tim Walz, who is largely unknown outside of his first district, and is untested statewide. Beyond that, Otto stands for strong for Democratic values, while Walz has shown himself to be a DINO-style Democrat. Walz enjoys a very high rating from the NRA, for example, and in February of 2013 was one of only six Democrats in Congress to vote to expand gun sales to the severely mentally ill, over the objections of senior generals including David Petraeus, Michael Hayden and Stanley McChrystal.

On the environment and climate change, Walz again voted with Republicans on anti-environmental bills progressives strongly opposed. He voted with Republicans in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline. He introduced a bill, siding with Eric Paulsen, to expand offshore oil drilling. Walz refused to provide voters with positions on several other key issues covered by the 2016 Vote Smart Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests. Historically, candidates have failed to complete the test in part due to “fear of negative attack ads,” according to that group. In contrast, Rebecca Otto opposes unrestricted gun sales and supports common-sense, reasonable measures to prevent mass shootings by mentally ill individuals. Otto is also the acknowledged statewide leader on environmental issues, and cast multiple courageous votes against multinational corporate interests, in an effort to protect the environment even while being harshly attacked by industry advocates. Indeed, she and her husband live in a solar home they built with their own hands.

So why are some party elites pushing Walz over the far more progressive, experienced, and courageous, and environmental Rebecca Otto? Because they think we need a DINO to win, and appear to have lost touch with the party rank and file, just as they did in 2016. Walz is a talented but glad-handing politician, and older DFLers, the kind that promoted Hillary Clinton despite the rank and file’s strong preference for Bernie Sanders, find an old white traditional male politician to be a safer, steadier choice when the stakes of losing run high. But that is EXACTLY the kind of thinking that loses elections, because it disenfranchises party activists, it is reactionary instead of visionary, and it selects candidates from on high who are less able to capture the imagination of voters as something new and different. Considering that Democrats have never won the Governor’s seat two administrations in a row, that lack of contrast and imagination is a major concern in contemplating a Walz candidacy.

In their fear, the party elders who have endorsed Walz are willing to overlook Walz’s anti-progressive, anti-environmental voting history, thinking a DINO is what voters want. But they’re wrong. Hillary Clinton was anointed by the same party elites, and she underperformed Barack Obama in Minnesota by 180,000 votes. Hillary Clinton had many good qualities, but last cycle, Minnesotans showed they were ready to embrace bold, progressive leadership, the kind of leadership that they believe, based on track record, won’t sell them out on key issues when the going gets tough. They want a candidate who runs outside strict party affiliation, who thinks independently, and who takes stands for ordinary people instead of the wealthy elite or big corporations even if it means the corporations will mount attacks. They want the kind of principled, fearless leadership shown by Bernie Sanders and Rebecca Otto, not the calculating, fearful, history of Tim Walz.

But what about Trump? Didn’t Greater Minnesota go heavily for Trump? Didn’t the Minnesota Senate go Republican and the House go even more Republican? Considering all this, don’t we need a more conservative and calculating Democrat from Greater Minnesota to bridge the so-called “urban-rural divide”? That’s what some party elites argued when pushing Tim Walz. But Rebecca Otto is the only candidate who resides at the intersections of urban, suburban, exurban, and rural, on a small farm outside the Twin Cities. This means everyone can claim her as theirs.

But more importantly, the “urban-rural divide” appears to be a Republican myth that Democrats should not buy into. The evidence shows that Donald Trump received almost the identical number of votes in Minnesota as Mitt Romney did in 2012, so the notion that Donald Trump surged in Minnesota is false. Rather, Hillary Clinton underperformed Barack Obama’s 2012 Minnesota numbers by nearly 180,000 votes. The congressional districts that went the most heavily for Donald Trump in the general election (7, 6, 8, and 1) also largely went the most heavily for Bernie Sanders in the primary.

Clinton’s underperformance meant that 180,000 Democrats stayed home not just from her race, but from all races. That meant there were fewer Democrats out voting while Republicans were out in their usual numbers, so despite the DFL spending record dollars, Democrats lost every close race. Some portion of this has to be laid at the feet of party elites who, for all her advantages, interfered in the process by backing Clinton too early and loudly, lining the machine up behind her as “the front runner” and disenfranchising Sanders voters who, the above numbers show, stayed home. Some of these same elites are making the same costly mistake in 2018 by backing Walz.

The results of the 2016 election can more accurately be interpreted as an anti-establishment vote and not reflective of an urban-rural divide — and that is a reading which favors Rebecca Otto as the DFL candidate for governor.

Unlike Walz, Otto has always run largely without the support of the party kingmakers and big money players, focusing her energies on rank-and-file grassroots activists, in the style of Bernie Sanders and Paul Wellstone. In so doing, she has always outperformed the DFL candidate for Governor, racking up historic victories in election after election. This approach also led her to an historic victory in the 2014 primary, when a self-financed candidate outspent her 4 to 1, and she beat him 81%–19%.

Rebecca Otto does very well on the Iron Range, and understanding why that is so leads to a full appreciation of her standing with Minnesota voters. Otto voted to protect the BWCA and Lake Superior watersheds from copper-nickel mining until we get better financial assurances from multinational mining companies. Many assumed this would hurt her on the Range and cost her the election as governor, but the facts show just the opposite. Indeed, the “done on the range” argument is from the Republican, not Democratic, playbook.

Otto vastly outperformed both Governor Mark Dayton and Congressman Rick Nolan in every county on the Iron Range and across the entire 8th Congressional District in 2014, improving her margins after her vote. To see if Otto’s brave and thoughtful stand on nonferrous mining cost her any votes, we can compare her margin of victory in the 2010 and 2014 races in the Iron Range counties. (Note: The margin of victory is recognized as the best way to compare across counties, etc., because of differences in ballots across different precincts or elections. These data are from the Secretary of State’s office.)

Otto grew her margin in every Iron Range county in 2014 by an impressive average gain of 9.51 points, for a 72% bigger margin across the Iron Range as a whole. Remember, this happened after the controversy on the range, in which Rebecca Otto took what many thought would be the less popular stand, knowing it was the right thing to do. This happened after Otto explained her position and helped people see, through an examination of long term goals and shared values, that her position was the right one for the people of the state in general and the Iron Range in particular. This is a reality that her Republican (and other) detractors on the range do not like to hear about and tend to react rather poorly to, in my experience.

The most important thing DFLers need to realize is that Rebecca Otto was the only Democrat to actually vote for Democratic values on this issue, while others were afraid to. Otto can rightly borrow Paul Wellstone’s phrase, “I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party,” when others cannot. If Democrats don’t stop compromising on their key values they will continue to lose like they did in 2016 because there will be no reason for DFLers to vote for them. I believe voters are well aware of this, this and appreciate Rebecca Otto for it.

Was it a fluke? Maybe Otto just had an easier race in 2014. Let’s look at Governor Dayton’s Iron Range performance and see if there is any difference.

Here again, Otto’s 2014 margin of victory on the Iron Range was 1.54 points higher than Gov. Mark Dayton’s and 4.41% higher than Dayton’s across the 8th CD as a whole. While Otto performed better in every county in 2014 than in 2010, Dayton lost points in 5 of 7 Iron Range counties and across the 8th CD as a whole.

When comparing Otto’s margin to Nolan’s margin, Otto’s outperformance becomes even more striking. Here, Otto completely trounced Nolan’s performance in his own congressional district, to a truly stunning degree.

Otto outperformed Nolan by 12.15 points on the very Iron Range that was supposed to cost her re-election. And Otto’s margins were even better on the Iron Range than they were in the 8th CD as a whole, where she outperformed the Congressman’s margin by a stunning 10 points. Otto’s strong popularity is why Nolan asked her to headline or speak at events. Often, she was the only statewide elected official or party officer there for him at these events.

The evidence is absolutely clear and abundant that Rebecca Otto’s courageous stand on nonferrous mining earned her votes on the Iron Range. Suggestions to the contrary are not backed up by the facts.

What about Otto’s appeal in urban and suburban areas? The candidate with the best chance of winning the Governor’s race can appeal to voters in both Greater Minnesota, and in urban and suburban areas. So, let’s look at Otto’s performance in the state’s most liberal, urban, and populous area, Congressional District 5, home of Minneapolis. We’ll use its high-profile Congressman Keith Ellison as our benchmark.

Rebecca Otto and Keith Ellison both began their terms in 2003 as State Representatives. In 2006 when Otto was elected State Auditor, Ellison won the DFL endorsement for a rare open seat in Congress, making him the shoe-in in the general election because of the CD5 DFL index.

The following compares Rebecca Otto’s CD5 performance to the Ellison benchmark in each house district in the congressional district:
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It turns out that Rebecca Otto is also an exceptionally strong performer in urban/suburban areas, outperforming Congressman Ellison’s margins in 14 of 20 house districts, and across the 5th CD as a whole. Note that Ellison’s performance in his own district is stellar, so Otto’s comparable but better performance is stellar-plus.

Rebecca’s urban and suburban support is not limited to CD5. In CD4, Rebecca outperformed the benchmark Congresswoman McCollum’s margin in 13 of 21 House districts in, and across the congressional district as a whole.
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Because of her strong performance and experience in urban, suburban, exurban and rural areas, Rebecca Otto outperformed the margins of every gubernatorial candidate she has been on the ballot with — Tim Pawlenty, Mike Hatch, and Mark Dayton — in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

Rebecca Otto also unseated an incumbent, and she did it by the largest margin in 112 years, in a race for a seat that had been occupied by Republicans for 134 of its 149 years. This was an enormous and historic upset — on a level that Walz can only dream of.

Otto then made history a second time when she won a tough re-election against the same opponent while being heavily targeted by the Republican Party, and without help from the DFL Party, becoming the only Democrat to be re-elected to the Auditor’s post in Minnesota history. Otto is now in her third term, and made it a third time with her absolutely crushing defeat of Matt Entenza in the 2014 DFL primary.

There is only one candidate with both the electoral experience and the track record of standing up for what’s right without fear or favor, and it is Rebecca Otto. Rebecca is authentic, warm, humble, yet tough, willing to fight for what is right, and these aspects of her character are already widely known. She is widely recognized by State Auditors around the country, winning every major award and serving as president of the national organization of State Auditors. She has Republican support as well as Democratic. In fact, it was former Governor and State Auditor Arne Carlson who first asked her to run for State Auditor. She has strong executive experience at the state level, and she knows how to manage the legislature. On all these measures, Governor Otto would be one of the most qualified new governors on her first day in the State House.

This is a year in which voters are looking for a truly progressive candidate, and it is right that they do so. Voters want a candidate who actually contrasts with Republicans instead of voting like one of them, a candidate who has powerful statewide executive and electoral experience and yet has demonstrated that she won’t sell out progressive values. Rebecca Otto is exactly that candidate.

In a year when so much is at stake, it is time to give voters a strong contrasting choice instead of a Democrat In Name Only practicing familiar old-style politics. It is a year when Minnesota is finally ready to elect a populist female governor, and we have such a candidate with the state executive and electoral experience to make that a reality. With only stunning and historic victories behind her, Gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto is in ready to make history yet again.

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

Is Matt Entenza really from outstate Minnesota? No, he is not.

[Updated: Letter to the Editor, Worthington Daily Globe.]

This is a followup on my earlier post (see “How do you say “Surprise” in Norwegian? The word is “Entenza.” I am not making that up” also reposted here) on Matt Entenza’s bid for the DFL (Democratic Party) Primary candidacy for Minnesota State Auditor.

Entenza claims he is from Greater Minnesota, and thus, would do a better job representing the interests of Greater Minnesotans. This implies that highly acclaimed sitting State Auditor and candidate for re-election Rebecca Otto is not doing well in this area. In fact, she is doing very well. She is recognized for her fair and non-partisan treatment of people and local governments across the state. The previous State Auditor used the position in a more political way, implying bias, and voters rejected that approach by the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years when Otto was first elected. It is now well-understood, here and nationally, that Otto is doing it right.

This is similar to the misleading language Entenza is using on pensions and social security. "Too often these days, we hear stories about how folks who worked hard and played by the rules their whole lives have their retirement at risk by poorly managed pension funds and Wall Street middle-men that charge exorbitant fees. Privatization of pensions is unacceptable. Minnesotans’ pensions should not be privatized and that Wall-Street middle men have no business near our pension plans.” This, again, implies that Otto has somehow been involved in privatizing pensions. She has not. In fact, a review of Otto’s website shows that she has been leading the charge against the move to privatize public pensions, and that the Public Employee Retirement Association is stronger than ever on her watch.

A similar thing happened in a recent news article about Otto leading a national conference of State Auditors, bringing the State Auditors from around the country to Saint Paul. A few accounting firms that work with local governments were some of the conference sponsors. Entenza said of this, via his campaign mouthpiece, that "The people being regulated should not be paying for lavish events for those doing the regulating. Attending parties and events thrown by firms the auditor is supposed to be watchdogging is not how Matt Entenza will run the office.” Again, this is a blatant attempt to mislead voters. The State Auditor does not watchdog or regulate private CPA firms in any way, and there were no lavish events at the conference. In fact, the conference was part of required continuing education classes that help auditors keep up with the latest laws, regulations and trends. So here, Entenza would have readers believe that all State Auditors from around the country are somehow having a conflict of interest. Really? He says he wouldn’t attend such conferences if elected. How then, one wonders, would his staff be able to do their jobs?

But let’s get back to the Greater Minnesota claim. While Entenza is making a cultural and geographical claim about himself (that he grew up in Greater Minnesota), Rebecca Otto is not. Her personal growing-up history is not part of her campaign, though her education and experience as an adult is, and her background is impressive. But when I looked into it further, I found out that Rebecca Otto and Matt Entenza are roughly similar in their geographical background, and that Entenza’s claim is apparently – surprise – (or, as Wikipedia would have it, "Entenza!”) bogus.

One of my favorite tales from Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor’s fictional-but-realish small town in Minnesota, is the one about the family that moved to California then returned later for the wedding of their daughter. The wandering Lake Wobegonites had changed from having lived for years in the Sunshine State. They wore sunglasses, even inside. They spoke of their lovely garden, but admitted they had a gardener. The good people of Lake Wobegon said nothing in response to this, but we know they were thinking “Gardener? Who has a gardener? That would be like having someone cut your food for you.” The joke here is based on the idea that Minnesotan life and culture, especially Greater Minnesota life and culture, is as different from California culture as any two samples of American life can be. These characterizations are, of course, humorously exaggerated imitations of American life, and to humorous effect. But it gets the point across; outsiders, represented by people from California, are suspicious. Never mind that Minnesota is a place of immigration. During the time that our Euro-American culture was forming, with the Minnesota Nice and the Upper Plains sensibility thing and all that – around the beginning of the 20th century – the vast majority of Minnesotans were not born here, or one or both parents who were not born here. The explosive economic growth just before the Bush Recession included a large number of people who moved here from the coastal regions, though we seem to focus on those who moved here from other countries. The point is, there may be a real but low level xenophobia in our state, which is a little quaint but often annoying, and not justified. I’m from New York State (which I know annoys a lot of you). In New York it is not uncommon to be represented in the US Senate by people who had to move there to run for office. This annoys some, but for most it is regarded as a good thing. New York State sometimes gets to be represented by very powerful people who have to work very little to get their voices heard. Robert Kennedy and Hillary Clinton are examples of this. Minnesota has its own history of people not born here still being claimed as strong, good looking, or above average. Elmer Anderson, the most beloved of governors, was not born here. One of our two most famous Charlies, Lindbergh, was born in Detroit. There are others. My point is this: As an outsider (though I’ve lived here as long as I lived in New York) I have noticed that “Candidate X is from this community s/he bids to represent” is a standard line in politics. Just so you know: Not everybody, across this country, does that. That’s a Minnesota thing. (And a few other places.)

Putting all this aside, one could still argue that the people of Minnesota are so provincial, especially those who live in Greater Minnesota, that they would prefer to be represented by someone exactly like themselves, historically and demographically. Matt Entenza is making the claim that he is “one of them” apparently for this reason. This seems a bit paternalistic.

And, paternalistic or not, he isn’t. From here.

Matt Entenza claims he is from Worthington, a small town in Out State Minnesota. In fact, he was born in … wait for it … California. He grew up not in Minnesota at all, but in Santa Monica, and his family moved to Worthington when he was 15. He attended and completed high school there. He then moved out of state again, having lived in Greater Minnesota until he was about 18, we assume, so about three years. He did a year or so at Augustana College in South Dakota, which is not in Minnesota, an Evangelical Lutheran private college. He then transferred to a private college in Saint Paul, Macalester. After graduating from Macalaster he moved out of state again, actually out of the country, to follow Lois Quam during her Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford. The one in England. Later, he went to law school in Minneapolis. After that, he clerked for a Minneapolis-based judge. (Details from here.) He now lives in Saint Paul.

By Entenza’s standards I’m Congolese because I lived in the Congo for more time than he lived in Greater Minnesota.

I don’t think it matters that Matt Entenza is from California, but it does matter that he claims that he is from Greater Minnesota and that being from Greater Minnesota is important. Even more importantly, perhaps, is that he seems to assume that people from Greater Minnesota would buy this.

I respect Entenza’s background. Personally I think everybody who is in charge of anything in Minnesota should go live in coastal states for a couple of years. Being from New York, I am forever seeing things done here in Minnesota that I feel very strongly would be done differently if only people knew how the decisions they are making would play out with increase in population size and density. Boston, where I lived for several years, spent more money than has ever been spent ever anywhere at any time on a public works project to rebuild their main urban highway system, because the original system was put in place and evolved with insufficient forethought. We should be learning those lessons and avoiding those mistakes. Want proof of that? Spaghetti Junction, Crosstown X I35W and the KMart on Nicollet Avenue. On. Nicollet. Avenue. Say no more. Having people in important positions who have experience living elsewhere, and good educations (which you can get here but you can also get elsewhere) is a good thing. Good for you, Matt Entenza, for being a man of the world, who still respects and likes Minnesota. I’d vote for you in part for that reason if your other ducks were in the proverbial row.

But no, the ducks, they are askew. Entenza had to, essentially, alter his resume to say, or at least strongly imply, that he is is from Greater Minnesota, and thus, will relate to people from Greater Minnesota. He isn’t, he won’t, and making this claim is itself the kind of misleading, pandering that one would think is subject to audit.

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.

Nonferrous Mineral Mining in Minnesota: An Issue of Science Policy

This is mainly about copper mining in a part of Minnesota that has previously seen extensive iron mining. Most mineral rights across Minnesota are owned by the state, which then may lease rights to miners. Recently, 31 nonferrous mineral leases were approved by the Minnesota Executive Council, which consists of Governor Dayton, Secretary of State Ritchie, State Auditor Otto, Attorney General Swanson, and Lt. Governor Prettner-Solon. It was a four to one vote with Otto voting no.

The reason that Rebecca Otto voted no is that she felt the science based policy justifying these leases was not fully developed, and that there are potential significant long-term effect that had not bee fully accounted for. Matt Ehling wrote a piece for the Star Tribute, reposted on Otto’s state web site, which stated in part:

… During the comment period before to the vote, industry representatives framed the approval of the leases as just one part of a longer process. Lieutenant Governor Prettner-Solon offered similar sentiments, and stated that rigorous environmental oversight – along with public comment – would follow in the event that major exploration or mining project proposals were submitted.

Upon inquiry from Governor Dayton, Department of Natural Resource (DNR) Commissioner Tom Landwehr stated that such project proposals would constitute public information, but would generally not be made available to the public short of a Data Practices Act request. Governor Dayton then directed Commissioner Landwehr to affirmatively make any lease-related proposals available to the public.

The council’s lone “no” vote, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, stated that she had had “a revelation” early the morning of the meeting that informed her vote. “We have not done copper sulfide mining in this state yet,” said Otto. She expressed concerns about potential fiscal burdens associated with copper sulfide mining that might be placed on future generations. Secretary of State Ritchie expressed concerns about the process generally.

And in a Minnesota Public Radio interview with Cathy Wurzer, Otto explained:

My concern really boils down to the financial assurance that we’re going to require. Really what that is is it’s a damage deposit we’re going to require from the mining companies so that if something goes wrong, that they are on the hook for the cleanup costs.

They’re estimating 500 years of water treatment after operation at the PolyMet’s mine. My concern, then, is how do we calculate the cost for that to make sure we get an adequate damage deposit. Five hundred years.

That’s an awfully long time, so do we really know how to calculate these numbers right so that taxpayers aren’t left with the cleanup costs after these mines close? And do we know what form of financial assurances to get? These companies quite often have gone bankrupt, and are taxpayers going to be protected if there’s a bankruptcy? Severe weather events.

We’ve had more of those recently. Are we going to factor in the cost potentially of a severe weather event and what that could do?

So it’s really about being proactive and preventative and making sure these companies have real skin in the game in their financial assurances that they must provide so that they’re incented to get this right and don’t damage our water quality and leave cleanup costs to the taxpayers.

Mining equals jobs and is good for the economy. But mining is one of the most environmentally destructive activities we undertake as a species, especially in terms of local effects. Also, mining is one of those industries that in the past has often been carried out, it seems, without proper attention to “external” costs, meaning the costs not paid by the mining companies and thus not on the hypothetical spreadsheet of inputs and outputs. In that interview, Otto was asked, “Those who support copper-nickel mining say we have more to gain financially than to lose with more jobs, tax revenue. As someone who has argued for protecting taxpayers, does that argument hold water for you?: Her reply:

It could. There could be gains. There could be loss. I’ve looked at U.S. Government Accountability reports kind of looking at the track record of this type of mining around the country, and quite often the taxpayers are left on the hook.

The devil is in the details on this. Minnesota does not have experience with this type of mining, we have not calculated these numbers before. I don’t know that even with the mining we’ve got now we’ve gotten the financial assurances right, nor the right forms.

As a state there are things we don’t know all the time and we’ve made mistakes. In this day in age with some of the pressures we have with the economy and people retiring, we must get this right and spend the time. Otherwise what we could end up doing is privatizing the gain and socializing the pain.

What Otto is looking for is not a way to stop mining, but rather, a way to address the ultimate, true costs of the operation especially as they would be incurred by taxpayers statewide (that is what the State Auditor does!). Meanwhile, industry is naturally looking for ways to externalize costs and thus maximize profits. The problem is that we don’t know enough about the external costs, and it may be the case that the development of this economic activity is proceeding as though we do. This is an excellent example of well researched and developed science-based policy being very much needed, and at least one science-oriented elected official trying to see to it that this happens.

For Minnesotans, expect nonferrous mining to be an issue in several upcoming races. I hope that this does not become a slug-match between an unadulterated “pro-mining” stance and an unadulterated “anti-mining” stance because, surely, the science policy will be lost in such a fray. Let’s try to do this right, which means doing it intelligently.