Last night I attended a local League of Women Voters campaign forum to which candidates running for the Minnesota Senate and House from my local district (SD 42) were invited. Full disclosure: all three DFL1 candidates are my friends, and I support them politically. They are, Senate candidate Bonnie Westlin, House Candidate Ned Carroll, and House Candidate (and my own house rep) Representative Ginny Klevorn.
The forum was held in the well-appointed digs of the City Council, up the hill at City Hall. I note that my friend Ned, running for House but currently a city council member (at large) got to sit in the Mayor’s seat. All three candidates were asked questions collected from the public over the last several days, and at the venue just prior to the start of the forum. All of the candidates gave straight forward, excellent, well thought out answers to all but one of the questions2
Sixty people attended, about eight or so questions were asked and answered, by all three candidates. Which, if you think about it, does not add up. Three positions, three candidates, means only one candidate per position!
That’s right, folks, the Republicans did not show up. The campaigns were informed on the night before the debate that two of the candidates would not would not attend, and rumors that the third candidate would also fail to show came along as the day progressed.
The point of these forums is to provide a non partisan setting for members of the electorate to have direct access to candidates, and for candidates to stand or stumble on their positions on the issues defined by the voting public, and moderated by a fair third party (the LWV). This is something, apparently, that Republicans don’t want, or perhaps, can’t handle.
This is part of a trend3. Across the country, “Candidates, mostly Republican, skip debates, bar press during midterm campaigns.” Not only debates, but press conferences are being shunned by Republicans. This is happening by routine when races are close. Republcian campaiging is a game of duck, duck, grey duck, but instead of actual ducks, ducking debates.
The controversial pullouts from presidential debates are well known and well documented. There are way way too many examples to cite here without running out of links. I only have so many links to give. And yes, skipping LWV forums is very much part of this anti-democracy trend. This has been going on since at least 2018, but is much more widespread this year.
I am fortunate to live in a district that has shifted, since I’ve lived here, from red to blue. Indeed, the very first local person I met when moving here4 was then-candidate Ginny Klevorn. I was in my newly purchased driveway moving stuff into my newly purchased house, and this lady I did not know came along and gave her pitch for her candidacy. Naturally, my internal dialog was “is this person a Democrat or a Republican, hard to assume in this red town.” I was eventually to learn that Ginny is a DFLer, and an excellent one, and over time we became good friends, but equally important, she became an excellent representative. I’ve always been able to talk to her about issues, make suggestions, or more often, learn the nuances of current policy debates. Ginny would go on to lose that first year to the incumbent Republican, as was normal and common in this district, but the next year she took the seat, and every cycle after that, she has won more and more decisively. These days, when a person tells me they would like to run for office (I’m on committees that seek out candidates, so this is a frequent conversation for me), one of the first things I tell them is, “Look at everything Ginny Klevorn does, copy her, and you’ll have the best possible campaign.”
I admit the Republicans in this district are justifiably fearful of their DFL rivals. They should be scared out of their socks. Last weekend’s Plymouth Parade demonstrated why. Each of our candidates had very large crowds of supporters marching with them, each in a different part of the parade. Meanwhile, the Republicans, MAGA extremists every one, had to gather together into one group just to look like they had any support at all. There were more lawn signs attached to the hokey trailer they were dragging than there were supporters.
My community is one of those places where for years, many citizens went along in life avoiding politics, just voting for the incumbent, until one day he who shall not be named (to avoid sullying this post) got elected and there was a great awakening. There are still Republicans in Plymouth, Minnesota, but they seem to know their worth5, and have retained a modest sense of shame. So they don’t show up for debates. I’ll be they won’t show up to vote either.
Please, vote. Also, here are the links you need to donate to my three candidates, which you should also do.
By the way, they are all strongly pro-choice, and we need more pro-choice legislators in Minnesota, in both houses. We lack a clear majority, so your donation will be extra meaningful.
1The Democratic Farmer Labor Party is the Minnesota version of the Democratic Party, founded in 1944 by a committee with Elmer Kelm, Elmer Benson, and led by the up and coming Hubert Humphrey. So it is mostly the Elmer Party and it glues together farmers, union folk, mostly urban progressives, Native folk, LGBTA and kin, poc, the Woke, a diversity of faith-based communities, non-libertarian suburban Conservatives, traditional Democrats, and so on and so forth.
2No one I spoke to after the forum considered it a valid question. It might have been the headline and sub-head of a Star Tribune editorial followed by a phrase amounting to: “yeah, so what about this, huh?” An unfortunate choice especially for the closing question of the evening.
3I thank my friend Audrey Britton, for sending me this Google search.
4I knew many people in Plymouth MN before living here, having married into a family of Plymouth folk, and having worked on several Congressional campaigns centered here, but this is the first local person I met AFTER moving in, a fine but important distinction.
5A small value.