tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election thoughts

Tim Pawlenty’s re-election to governor renews my faith in Minnesotans. Generally, when an incumbent runs, we Minnesotan’s re-elect the person unless they have been found guilty of some major malfeasance.

Pawlenty has generally done a good job. When he took office nearly four years ago, the budget was $4.5 billion in the red and he managed to get us back in the black. I have many liberal friends who hate Pawlenty; they say he slashed budgets without regard for the people who rely on state funds. Those criticisms, of course, would have been leveled against any Republican incumbent; they certainly are not reserved for Pawlenty.

Governing is a tricky endeavor, requiring the careful weighing of several interests. No matter what you do, there are going to be groups of people who hate you. I have had the opportunity to be in several meetings with Gov. Pawlenty and I have gotten the impression he considers all sides; he is cordial and level-headed.

That demeanor is in stark contrast to Mike Hatch, who ran against him and lost. Hatch has coveted the governorship since the late 1980s when he was the state’s commissioner of commerce. I have had the opportunity to personally see Hatch in action and I have never been impressed. I saw him lose his temper at one meeting; he shouted at the group and walked out of the room. I am glad we did not elect this blatant opportunist.

Pawlenty, in fact, has been a pleasant break from a string of hot-head governors. Rudy Perpich, Arnie Carlson, and Jesse Ventura were all emotionally volatile and apt to lash out at reporters and colleagues with seemingly no provocation. Hatch would have brought that behavior back to the spot light had he been elected.

I found the election results for Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional district to be interesting. Keith Ellison won with about 135,000 votes, which is about 85,000 fewer than Marty Sabo got when he won two years ago. Granted, that was a presidential election year when the turnout is usually greater, but even if you go back to 2002, Sabo won with 171,000 votes. Ellison challengers Alan Fine and Tammy Lee each got about 50,000 votes. Even if you throw in the votes that went to the Green Party candidate, the challengers don’t combine enough votes to come in ahead of Ellison. It proves what local newspaper columnist James Lileks said of Minnesota’s Fifth: “The Democrats could put up a canned ham and it would win.”

Andrew Favorite, a buddy of mine, ran against Ellison in the primary for the Democratic Party endorsement in September. Andy finished well back in the pack; I don’t think many people took his candidacy seriously. But I applaud him. Andy is one of these guys who just got fed up with all the non-sense going on in Washington and decided to exercise his civic rights and run for office. Getting elected, of course, takes more than conviction. If Andy runs again for anything and takes the time to build a serious campaign, I’d vote for him again. (In Minnesota, Republicans can vote in the Democratic primary, and vice versa.)

Two other lesser-known candidates caught my eye this election cycle. Erik Thompson is from a small town in western Minnesota called Milan. He was a candidate in the Fifth District for the Congressional seat but mid-summer switched to being a candidate in the Seventh District, which includes his hometown. He is a peace activist who was running on a platform solely centered on the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. He lost in the Democratic primary in September to Collin Peterson, who won re-election yesterday. Thompson and I would be polar opposites on the philosophical spectrum, but I admire his conviction.

The other interesting candidate was Ben Powers of the Constitution Party who ran for U.S. Senate against Democrat Amy Klobuchar, who won, and Republican Mark Kennedy. Powers is brutally honest with his ultra-conservative views, but again, I am impressed by someone who speaks his mind no matter what others might think.

I was shocked by the news out of our neighboring state to the south. U.S. Rep. Jim Leach lost to Dave Loebsack. Leach was in his 15th term and is probably one of the smartest people in Congress. (He is the guy behind the internet gambling bill I wrote about in September.) Leach apparently got caught up in the title wave that washed several Republicans out of office this election. That is somewhat ironic given that Leach was one of the few Republicans to vote against the Bush Administration’s plan to go to war in Iraq in 2002.

Of course, I was disappointed the voters of South Dakota struck down the state’s anti-abortion law. But I have to believe that perhaps the timing for such a law just wasn’t right. If pro-life advocates have any hope of ever seeing Roe vs. Wade over-turned, we are going to need at least one more new Supreme Court justice. If the South Dakota law had stood and gone to the current court, it probably would have been struck down. I will continue to grieve every child lost to abortion.

Now that the mid-term election is passed, the 2008 presidential election begins. There will be special attention on Minnesota as that election unfolds with the Republican National Convention set for Saint Paul in 2008. Republican Norm Coleman, Minnesota’s other U.S. Senator, is likely to find himself in a race against Al Franken, who really hasn’t been very funny since his Saturday Night Live days. In fact, I'm not even sure he was funny then.

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