Minneapolis 2014 Sample Ballot

The election is Tuesday. As usual, I put my reasoning for my votes online for people who don’t have the resources or time to do their own, though I’m skipping those races with only one choice. If my reasoning doesn’t match yours, at least you have some background. If you want to provide additional background in the comments, feel free. If you want information on local races I haven’t touched on, or just another opinion, I recommend Naomi Kritzer’s coverage of the candidates.

You can find your polling place here.

U.S. Senator: Al Franken

Al Franken is one of the politicians I bring up when people are being cynical about voting. I don’t always agree with him, but I appreciate having such a dedicated, well-educated person representing me. When Franken ran for office for the first time six years ago, a lot of people were dismissive of him as a “comedian”. That evaporated as soon as he took office. This year, he’s being opposed as an effective progressive voice in the Senate. Given that’s exactly what I want, I’m voting for Franken.

Even if Franken weren’t outstanding, his opponents are not inspiring. In running Mike McFadden, the Republicans seem to have treated Franken as an incumbent they had little hope of unseating. His first listed policy position is that he’s against Obamacare, which might fly while running for the House but not the Senate. Most of the rest of his listed policy positions are platitudes, and McFadden has failed to flesh them out in debates, continuing to be vague. Maybe I was spoiled by Franken starting his term with specific actions he wanted to accomplish, but this is what I want.

Heather Johnson is running under the Libertarian Party. I will give her credit for being one of the Libertarians who opposes abortion but does not want to legislate against it. She’s against the War on Drugs and for prison reform. She also, however, suggests term limits and short election seasons as her preferred means of campaign finance reform and has a health care policy so confused it appears to be doing away with health insurance altogether.

Steve Carlson, the Independence Party candidate for governor, has a webpage. I’ll give him that. It’s still got the URL from his 2010 Congressional run. I can’t find a policy section on it. Most of what I can see is backlit videos of him complaining about things, including the idea that he’s not running a serious campaign. But he has a webpage.

Jack Shepard doesn’t live in the U.S. He appears to think that if he gets elected, he’ll be able to come back without being arrested for an outstanding warrant. Stephen Williams is a farmer who appears to think that moving payroll taxes to sales taxes is reducing the tax burden on employees. He is, however, in favor of single-payer health care.

U.S. Representative District 5: Keith Ellison

Keith Ellison is another person I mention to combat voter cynicism. People across the country envy me my progressive representative (co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus) who stays involved in the local community and talks to local politicians about their larger concerns. He’s a spokesperson on international affairs, particularly those affecting countries with large Muslim populations, where he condemns Islamism without condemning the populations most affected by it. I see no reason to change and very good reasons to stick with Ellison.

Doug Daggett is the most impressive candidate the Republicans have run against Ellison. He’s well-educated. He’s taken the time to come up with real policy positions and proposals. However, he’s focused on trying to fix problems that are caused by income inequality by making things better for businesses and their owners. We have an incredibly strong economy currently in Minnesota. Our problem is that the money generated by businesses here is not going to the people who are doing the work.

Lee Bauer is much closer to what I expect in a candidate running against Ellison. No political experience. No sense of what can be done at the level of government he’s running for. Naive proposals like “Why should people have to have health insurance if they don’t want it?” (I paraphrase, but closely.)

 Governor and Lieutenant Governor: Mark Dayton and Tina Smith

Full disclosure: I once terrified Jeff Johnson‘s wife by passing out in front of her while we were talking (bad medication reaction). I think she’s a dear. I do not want her husband in office. He is a definitional ideology-over-pragmatism politician. He’s far less interested in the outcomes of the policies he proposes than he is in whether he thinks those policies are “correct” by some political definition. It isn’t just social issues like abortion either. Several years ago, I noted this with respect to drug treatment. Now, he’s been campaigning to make Minnesota more like Wisconsin, where Republican Scott Walker has been in power for four years. Minnesota has one of the best economies in the nation and a good standard of living. Wisconsin…does not. I can’t imagine why I’d want that change.

Current governor Mark Dayton has plenty to recommend him beyond not being Scott Walker, however. He’s worked his butt off to turn our economy around and taken principled stands on issues like marriage equality before it was popular. I’d much rather keep working with him.

Hannah Nicollet is running under the Independence Party, but she might as well be running under the Libertarian Party. Her positions are very much like those of Senate Candidate Heather Johnson, but with significantly more depth of understanding of how government works. (Not perfect, mind you.) I’m not looking for a Libertarian candidate (I think their policies are disastrous in the main), but if you are, you could do much worse than voting for Nicollet. By contrast, the actual Libertarian Party candidate Chris Holbrook is running the kind of big promises, few specifics campaigns I usually expect from Libertarians.

I have voted for Grassroots Party candidates before, but I won’t be doing it as long as they represent themselves on the ballot as “Grassroots – Legalize Cannabis” even though I agree that prohibition has been harmful. Daniel Wright is a perfect example of the reason why. Policy positions that have nothing to do with marijuana are expressed in terms of it and hemp. You simply need more than one plant genus to run a government.

The only candidate who seems to be actively running an independent campaign is Merrill Anderson, running as the Veterans Party, but he recently told people to vote for Jeff Johnson.

Secretary of State: Steve Simon

At first glance, there’s a good bit of overlap between proposals coming from Democrat Steve Simon and Republican Dan Severson. They both want to make it easier for businesses to register and do their necessary business with the Secretary of State. They both want to make it easier to vote when you’re not in your home precinct on election day. The differences, however, heavily favor Simon.

Simon wants to expand access to voting by expanding access to absentee voting, something anyone can take advantage of, something we already understand how to make work. Severson wants to do it by setting up voter ID cards that can be swiped anywhere in the state in technology that doesn’t currently exist. It’s a significantly more expensive proposal that relies on unknowns and may come with a cost to the voter that will cause inequalities in access.

Severson also touts two endorsements prominently on his page: the National Rifle Association and Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. Neither of these organizations have anything to do with the duties of the Secretary of State. That he hasn’t managed to gather endorsements that apply to the job he wants is not a good sign.

As for the other candidates, Bob Helland of the Independence Party is running on principles and technology. Even aside from the fact that his white-text-on-black-background site both makes my eyes swim and blocks the script I use to fix the problem, I can’t tell what he wants to do aside from be “different”. Bob Odden, the Libertarian Party candidate, wants to fight non-existent voter fraud and make it harder for voters to identify incumbent judges, all while carrying a gun in the capitol. No, really.

State Auditor: Rebecca Otto

Three of the candidates for Secretary of State–Democrat Rebecca Otto, Republican Randy Gilbert, and Independence Party’s Pat Dean–are running on experience. In my book, when that happens, the one who won the National Excellence in Accountability Award from the National State Auditors Association wins in my book. That would be Otto.

Seriously, the only thing anyone’s had to say against Otto this election season, or at least the only thing that wasn’t determined false, is that she recommended that we be sure we don’t get stuck with a big bill to clean up an abandoned mine before we let new mines open. So now she’s supposedly an extreme partisan anti-mining shill. If you’re reduced to fighting your opponent this way, maybe you shouldn’t be running?

There are two other candidates on the ballot for this office. Keegan Iversen of the Libertarian Party is running on promises to do a bunch of things that the Secretary of State’s office doesn’t have the power to do. Grassroots – Legalize Cannabis candidate Judith Schwartzbacker isn’t running a campaign at all.

Attorney General: Lori Swanson

This is one of those races where most of the candidates aren’t running for it. Republican Scott Newman is running to get that damned Democrat out of office. There are a few general statements about what he stands for, no information about his priorities if he were to be elected, and several paragraphs about things incumbent Lori Swanson has done that he doesn’t like.

Independence Party candidate Brandan Borgos manages to give the impression that he’s running for the office in order to find out what it does. He talks in several places about increasing transparency, but when it comes to talking about what the Attorney General does, he provides a one-paragraph quote, then goes on to talk about himself and his party. It’s not confidence inspiring.

Mary O’Connor of the Libertarian Party, has a skeleton of a website that doesn’t even list any qualifications for the office. Dan R. Vacek of Legal Marijuana Now has a splash page where the only mention of his name is the photo credit. Sharon Anderson is a perpetual candidate who hasn’t even bothered with a website. I don’t think she ever does.

Andy Dawkins, running as the Green Party candidate, is the strongest challenger to Swanson. He gives enough specifics in his policies for people to determine whether they agree with him or not (I’m mixed). While he overreaches what I think he can do in the office, he does tie several of his priorities to specific things he could do.

Still, Lori Swanson is the candidate with the experience–and the awards–that says she knows how to use the office effectively and well.

Hennepin County Commissioner District 4: Peter McLaughlin

Like incumbent Peter McLaughlin or not (he’s not bad, not great), his only challenger is Captain Jack Sparrow. Don’t. Just don’t. Start recruiting someone who isn’t a gimmick to run a real campaign against McLaughlin next time instead.

Hennepin County Sheriff: Eddie Frizell

This race comes down, essentially, to a choice between working with communities affected by crime and working on communities affected by crime. There are lots of things I could write about this particular race, but I think Naomi nailed the background you need to make a choice between incumbent Rich Stanek and Minneapolis officer Eddie Frizell. Don’t want to read that much? Then know this: The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputies Association, the group representing the people who work for Stanek, voted 75% to support Frizell and only 9% to support Stanek.

Minneapolis City Question 1: Yes

Here’s the text of this question:

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to increase the filing fees for candidates seeking City elected offices from the current fee of $20 for each office to $500 for the office of Mayor, $250 for the office of Council Member, $100 for the office of Board of Estimate and Taxation Member, and $100 for the office of Park & Recreation Commissioner and, as an alternative to payment of a filing fee, allow a candidate to submit a petition of voter signatures as provided in state law?

As someone who looks into every candidate for these offices, I’m tired of time and votes going to candidates who are willing to pay $20 then do nothing else but clutter up a ballot. If this amendment didn’t include the possibility of raising signatures rather than funds, I’d vote against it, but I’m all for this as a measure to make voters’ jobs easier.

Minneapolis City Question 2: Yes

Here’s the text of this question:

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to remove the requirement that businesses holding on-sale wine licenses in the City must serve food with every order of wine or beer and to remove mandatory food to wine and beer sales ratios?

Here’s some background on the issue. Basically, Minneapolis has a large foodie scene. That scene includes an awful lot of craft beer. Craft beer costs more than the old tap standards, making it a larger portion of any tab. That provided a need and opportunity to come up with new rules–outside the charter so they could be made more flexible. There’s no real opposition to this question.

School Board Member at Large (SSD #1): Rebecca Gagnon and Iris Altamirano

The one candidate in this race I would not vote for is Don Samuels. He and the organizations that endorse and have been campaigning for him want to move away from public schools toward more privatized schools. He points toward charter schools that have succeeded without noting (or perhaps understanding) that these schools often succeed by exercising their greater ability to remove or discourage students who need more help. Minneapolis schools have problems, but they’re good schools. We shouldn’t be dismantling them for systems that have hurt vulnerable students elsewhere.

Rebecca Gagnon, on the other hand, has supported an initiative to make sure school board decisions are equitable to all students and is pushing to keep students in school, reducing suspensions.

Iris Altamirano comes from a community-organizing background. She’s one of the few candidates I would trust to say the board needs to get parents and communities involved in education and not have that be a dogwhistle for saying poor people should take more personal responsibility.

Ira Jourdain comes from a community-service background. He’s improved his website significantly since the primary, when a comment on my blog gave me more information about his priorities than it did. At this point, he’s a very close third for me in my rankings. I think he’d bring a lot to the position and would absolutely not be upset if he were elected.

Associate Justice – Supreme Court 2: Wilhemina (Mimi) Wright

Wright is the incumbent and has no red flags I can find. Her opponent does not appear to be actively running for the post.

Associate Justice – Supreme Court 3: David Lillehaug

David Lillehaug is the incumbent, determinedly non-partisan, and generally well-respected. His opponent, Michelle MacDonald, made a speech at the Minnesota Republican convention that started with judges holding bibles. It was an applause line.

Animated gif of tenth Doctor opening a closet to find a Cyberman inside. Caption: "Nope".

And that was my reaction even before I read all this. Wow. No. If you absolutely hate Lillehaug and can’t vote for him, write in Mickey Mouse or something.

Judge – 4th District Court 16: James Moore

James Moore is an incumbent with an impressive list of endorsements. Bruce Michael Rivers, his opponent, has a criminal defense practice but appears otherwise uninterested in telling us why he should be a judge.

Judge – 4th District Court 43: Paul Scoggin

I’ll just repeat here what I said in the primary. Paul Scoggin has very impressive credentials as a prosecutor and as someone who has served to shape both law and judiciary practice. His list of endorsements is very long indeed, though it’s heavily weighted toward law enforcement, which worries me somewhat in a judge. Still, there are plenty of non-prosecutor endorsements as well.

Bridget Ann Sullivan has a strong background and good endorsements, but not the sort that compete well on this field.

Judge – 4th District Court 53: Bev Benson

I have concerns that I could be making an error here based on the fact that one candidate’s website is terrible. In judicial races where there isn’t an obvious and compelling difference in experience, my decision often comes down to endorsements. Bev Benson has all that I would expect her to have and more. Chris Ritts doesn’t have a page for endorsements on his site. He does, however, have a recommendation from former MN Supreme Court Chief Justice Sandy Keith listed on his front page. I’m worried I may be missing information that would make me change my mind, but ultimately, I can’t do anything with information I don’t have.

Judge – 4th District Court 61: Amy Dawson

I had some small reservations about Amy Dawson‘s advocacy work in the primary, but I considered her my second choice. Since my first choice didn’t make it through the primary, that leaves Dawson as my first choice.

What had ruled Beverly Aho out for me was her collection of almost entirely Republican endorsers, including Erik Paulsen, whose voting record is a close match for that of Michele Bachmann. Aho has since courted some Democratic and independent endorsements and received them, but I’m really not ready to change my previous decision, particularly as it would be yet one more law-and-order candidate I was voting for. I have a strong alternative here, and I’m taking it.

Minneapolis 2014 Sample Ballot
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8 thoughts on “Minneapolis 2014 Sample Ballot

  1. 3

    Wow, look at all the women running and in office. I get misty for my home state, Wellstone, Humphrey, McCarthy, Franken, Klobuchar….

    Here in TX all I can say is I don’t need jumper cables.

  2. 4

    Even though I voted absentee a while ago and in a different district, I was interested in your comments on the races we have in common. We don’t disagree on the statewide candidates or judges. The info you have which supplements what I knew when I voted has not changed my mind about any of the candidates, and only makes me wish more of this was available in one easy-to-find/read spot earlier. Thanks for this for those who still need it.

  3. 5

    oh stephanie you reaffirm my faith in the doctrines of Thomas Jefferson. You reject the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis party for its label alone; but the fact that you don’t even know the candidates’ names kind of erodes your credibility if you had any to start with. Chris Wright for Governor; David Daniels for Lt. Governor. You don’t think prohibition is important enough to run a protest campaign about? Are you OK with mass incarceration; with the “New Jim Crow” of redesigned racial caste in this country—under the rubric of “war on drugs,” do you suppose that public safety, civil liberties, energy independence, health care reform, expanded employment, agricultural renaissance, new sources of tax revenue—all issues DIRECTLY tied into the policy reform of ending prohibition–that these are just so much chopped liver? You may have missed Mike Mosedale’s profile of Chris Wright in the Oct. 6 of Capitol Report/Politics in Minnesota because if you’d read that you’d have realized that this candidate has depth and breadth and a good knowledge of public policy. You’d also have learned that the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis party bases its approach on the historic role of third parties, which isn’t so much to get people elected as to “test drive” controversial ideas until professional politicians pay attention—and that happens when the dissident candidates begin to attract votes. Subsequently, the professional office-seekers will swipe the minor party’s planks and bring about the desired reforms. So, thank you for your past willingness to vote Grassroots. But the party has always existed as a vehicle for promoting debate in favor of legalization. Putting that specific phrase onto the ballot is an experiment, designed to see whether there are more or fewer votes to be won with that clear message. Critics have said that many Grassroots votes have been “none of the above” votes and not votes in favor of legalization. In your case, apparently they were accurate. We’ll soon know how it works out.

  4. 6

    Actually, oliver, the reason I won’t vote for Grassroots candidates who only look at those issues in terms of marijuana legalization is because I care about them. Those problems are far more involved than changing one law will fix, and none of the Grassroots candidates I looked at had any plans on offer beyond that. If you read about the reasoning behind my choices, you’ll see that concern about these issues have influenced many of them.

    Also, you should probably know that running Grassroots Party candidates is useless these days in terms of “raising awareness”. Look at the polls on legalizations. Most people here support it. Look at the other third-party candidates in the big races. I can’t recall one of them who didn’t talk about legalizing marijuana as a way to say that they were more in touch with what people want. Everybody’s aware. Stop running pointless campaigns and start building lobbying coalitions. You’ve got the numbers to do anything but get elected to offices you’re not qualified for.

    And stop running around to people’s blogs to “defend” your party. You’re terrible at it. All you do is piss off people who agree with you.

  5. 7

    Oliver, by the way, decided to send me an email instead of commenting again. Here it is:

    Gosh, a fan! Maybe you think we should “go with the flow” and let white men get rich with corporatized legal cannabis while blacks and other minorities still feed the private prison system. And are left with post-conviction discrimination for the rest of their lives–in jobs, housing, education, etc.

    Now, if running our candidates is useless because other minor parties agree with us on the issue–why do you think they have adopted it? Because we have shown that at least a fraction of the public DOES respond to this issue with votes, and that is as you refuse to comprehend, our whole strategy. Get the debate going and keep it going until real reforms are accomplished. And your objection to that is just what?

    Suppose you actually listened to Chris Wright expound on those other issues you say you care about? Education–he suggests we learn from Finland, which has a successful public education system that isn’t restricted to the rich; health care?—supports single-payer, unequivocally; energy independence? Chris can describe the chemical steps involved in biomass gasification–a transition stage employing carbon-neutral feedstocks on the way to eventual renewable/solar generation; and getting back to health care, how well do you understand that denying therapeutic cannabis–as the govt has done so obstinately, as Dayton sure as hell did this year–inflicts real suffering on patients who need relief now and could get it except for the obstruction by Dayton and the cops. This is NOT an issue? Chris also points out as no other candidate has, the problem of false and inflated billing in health care, and the immense savings that would derive from rigorous auditing of costs and charges.

    I think you still frame anything to do with cannabis as trivial; you don’t see interconnections between human rights deprivations and the origins, enforcement, and assumptions of our institutionalized “new Jim Crow.” What about public safety–it is a critical issue for people in free-fire zones in poorer neighborhoods, especially minority communities. I happen to think we should do what we know will work–end prohibition, don’t just talk about secondary factors. Get to the root of it. When liquor prohibition was repealed, gun crimes declined for ten years consecutively until they were reduced to one-half of the 1933 rate. And as for economic growth==new jobs, new revenues, agricultural diverisification . . . you know what, you just can’t refute our contention that ending cannabis prohibition really benefits us in all these concrete ways! And I haven’t started yet on prohibition and civil liberties . . . after all, who care about civil liberties? I thought liberals did. having always been a liberal myself. But apparently one must make certain exceptions.

    “Everybody’s aware” you assert—but does awareness translate into actual reform?

    Build coalitions? As if we haven’t been working at exactly that for 30 years! Not all we do, or even most of it, consists of these apparently quixotic campaigns!

    But what can we bring to that construction project? Unless and until politicians see indisputable evidence of support from voters for cannabis legalization, you can’t expect them to face certain attack by championing the issue, can you? Look at gun control—a majority favors reform, but politicians genuflect to the NRA. They see no reason to risk their careers. Likewise for cannabis—politicians are still afraid of the power structure of institutionalized prohibition (police, prosecutors, liquor lobby, pharma, treatment industry, etc.)—the most progress has been made in states which allow ballot initiative measures, and Minnesota doesn’t let us do that. So our candidates are out there as proxies for plebiscites. Why is this so annoying to you? It’s the way the system is supposed to work, isn’t it?

    You rebuke me for trying for dialog–say I don’t do it well and alienate supporters–and I wish I could always say whatever magic phrases would satisfy and gratify and convince and persuade those whose point of view differs from mine. If you blog hasn’t room for dissent, or if I’m too wordy, then this email ought to convey at least this much—we are serious and sincere, and willing to exchange ideas while still standing our ground.
    — Oliver

  6. 8

    Stephanie, the reason I sent you that further comment by e-mail is simply that I felt it would be impolite to hog more space on your blog. It is your blog, after all. We have different points of view and are talking, or rather writing, right past each other. But you can’t fault me for trying to establish a conversation, can you?

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