Most of yesterday I spent shepherding my poor sick spouse to the Doctor or tippy-towing around trying not to wake her up. She has a mystery disease she probably picked up from our little bundle of joy the newest member of the family.
I managed to fill out a couple candidate information sheets sent to me by the unions which held a candidate screening committee meeting last night at the Labor Temple. I grabbed my darlin a burger and shake (her first meal of the day) then drove down the hill to take part.
I had a lovely time. I’ve no illusions that I will get the endorsement of the unions until I win the primary. That honor will almost surely go to the sitting house member Roger Reinert who is attempting to step up to fill Sam Solon’s shoes. I’m ahead of him there. I used to substitute teach for Sam regularly in the 1980’s when he went off to St. Paul. So, I filled Sam’s shoes albeit in the classroom. Mary Murphy’s too. I first met the current hard ass, City Councilor Todd Fedora in Murphy’s class. He stood out even then but as a good humored kid not a hard ass. I think I preferred his first incarnation a tad better.
The legislative candidates were all put up front of a crowd of about 75. Of the GOP candidates only Keith McDonald showed up. I found my place next to the podium where questions would be tossed out for us to nibble on for a minute apiece. Roger Reinert came a hair after I did and offered his hand to me for a firm shake commenting on it being nice to meet me as we’d never spoken before. He was dressed casually in blue jeans as befitted the occasion. Me too.
I got a little extra share of attention – an extra minute to tell a little more about myself and so did Keith MacDonald who is running for one of the House Seats. The reason given for the extra minute was that because Keith and I were not incumbents the people interviewing us were less familiar with us as this was our first screening so we were being given just a little more time to introduce ourselves. I had to smile at that.
I gladly took my minute but explained I was doing so under false pretenses as I had always sought union endorsements in my previous races and that this appearance was the fourteenth time I had done so. I added that up until last night I had always shown up as a Republican and had always left disappointed. I can’t recall to which questions I tossed out particular tidbits but at some point during the night I mentioned my father being a union president (Mankato State College Faculty union – approximately 750 members)
The audience seemed to enjoy the story of my many endorsement disappointments as much as I enjoyed telling it. It was the last time I was particularly light hearted. The rest of the questions engaged my passionate streak something that was probably appreciated by many in the audience. I didn’t seem much passion from the other candidates except when Mary Murphy told a story about a “for profit” prison built with state funds in Southern Minnesota that was sitting empty.
I told the crowd that while I didn’t always agree with unions and suspected that even the audience members didn’t always agree with every thing their unions pushed, I knew that over the long course of history unions had spoken up for the folks on the bottom of the heap. I mentioned that when I grew up in the fifties and sixties I lived under the shadow of the New Deal and strong union backed legislation that brought lots of Americans into the middle class. I said I was not happy with the direction of the GOP which had been taken over by the Dixiecrats and adopted an ethos that saw nothing wrong with pay day loans and the biggest rich/poor divide in our history. I may not have gotten the endorsement but I was the most passionate speaker they had by far. I told them in answer to a question about why they should support me that I knew the Republican world well after forty years in the Party. I added that they would need smart people in the legislature to stay ahead of the Republicans and that I knew that a lot of Democrats were quaking in their boots about the rise of the Tea Parties and the spate of bad economic news. I told them I was there man. As I left a couple folks congratulated me on my presentation.
Keith MacDonald and I were the only two candidates present who said we couldn’t support the card check off system in place of a secret ballot election to decide whether workers at a company would form a union. I explained that for my part after three years fighting for a vote on the Red Plan I could hardly turn my back on the right to vote. Roger Reinert answered, “yes,” to that proposal. That should be popular with the Chamber of Commerce.
I also noted during one of my answers that the Red Plan, no matter what it was doing for other unions, had hit members of the teacher’s union particularly hard and that they were paying the price for construction jobs. I also noted that a lot of those jobs were going to people outside Duluth. Then during a question where all the candidates were head nodding about how important it was to avoid the regressive income tax I pointed out that the people of Duluth were paying half a billion dollars of regressive tax for the Red Plan to keep a lot of people outside Duluth employed. I told them that I couldn’t guarantee that I would vote to restore the $300 million worth of bonding construction that Pawlenty vetoed but that I sure would like to have the state pay retroactively for some of our Red Plan construction since we’re the only city in the State of Minnesota where such a plan could be imposed without a public vote.
I crammed a lot into my eight minutes. I didn’t punt like Councilman Gauthier who said we could cut wasteful spending to solve the Minnesota Financial Crises. Tom Huntley, my opponent in my last campaign as a Republican, told them that even if we restored all the taxes it would only raise 2 billion of an expected 6 billion shortfall. That’s a pretty sobering reality and we can’t tax our way out of it. Cuts will come, like it or not.