Minnesota primaries are next Tuesday, August 9. You can find out where to vote and what your choices will be from the Secretary of State.
Every election, I share my candidate and issue research and my choices in each contest. Why? Because I have the time to do that research. Because some people trust my political judgment. Because even those who don’t will find it easier to make their decisions with the links here. Because I want people to have a model for how others make political decisions. Because every election, people are looking for this information.
This year’s ballot is pretty short. We don’t have state or city elections, and the presidential nominating process is over. It’s still important. Congressional representatives determine what our new president will be able to do. An immense amount happens in our state legislature. I hate that we vote for judges, but as long as we’re given that power, we have to use it well.
So here are my research, reasoning, and choices for my primary ballot. My choices are in bold. All the Republicans in my precinct are running unopposed, so I don’t have to decide which party’s ballot to vote on.
U.S. Representative District 5
- Keith Ellison–Someday I might get tired of voting for Ellison. It hasn’t happened yet. It isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. Ellison is one of the most progressive members of Congress. He’s one of the people who helped take policy on which Sanders was to the left of Clinton and get it inserted into this year’s Democratic platform, making it a hugely progressive platform on many issues. He’s one of the people I point to when someone wants to know why I’m not bitter and cynical about politics. Ellison is also a good representative for this district. We also tend to be absurdly progressive, and on those issues where we fall short, Ellison himself does not. He faces the same prejudice against Muslims my Somali neighbors do. He faces the same racism too many of the people here do. And he regularly meets with his constituents and takes their concerns and priorities back to D.C. He does what a Representative is supposed to do, and he does it well.
- Gregg A. Iverson–Iverson has now run for Minneapolis mayor and Minnesota Secretary of State. He’s done all this without ever creating so much as a campaign website. When given a candidate questionnaire for Representative, he didn’t even bother to answer all the questions. He’s not a serious candidate. Running for office is officially a hobby of his at this point.
- Lee Bauer–This is Bauer’s second run for this seat. In 2014, he ran under the Independence Party. The Independence Party is the former Perot and Ventura party. For a time, it was the refuge of former Republicans who couldn’t handle their party being taken over by religious fundamentalists.Bauer himself has no government experience and no involvement in activism, though he’d “like to be involved“. He’s for marriage equality, being gay himself, but against Black Lives Matter. He thinks CAIR (a relatively conservative anti-Muslim-defamation group) promotes divisiveness and wants to ban them as a group, suggesting his grasp of the First Amendment is shaky at best. His takes on other issues don’t rise above the level of bromides.
State Senator District 62
- Jeff Hayden–Hayden is not a bad senator, but I was hoping for a good challenger this year. I wasn’t impressed with the combination of lack of oversight of Community Action of Minneapolis and him personally benefiting (a very small amount) from the organization. Also, it would be good to have some Somali immigrant representation at the state senate level. I’m not the only one who felt that way, as the DFL did not endorse Hayden this year. Nonetheless, he appears to be the only person actively running, and as I said, he’s not terrible. The positions he holds are powerful ones, and I generally agree with him on the issues.
- Mohamoud Hassan–I was intrigued by Hassan, but he appears to have kept his promise not to run without the DFL endorsement, even though he’s on the ballot.
Associate Justice – Supreme Court 6
I hate, hate, hate that we vote for judges in this state. At best, I think we should vote to affirm or not affirm that a judge should stay in office. This particular race really demonstrates why. However, that option isn’t on the ballot, so….
- Natalie Hudson–Hudson is a highly competent judge running with the endorsement of a significant number of past state Supreme Court justices. (Current justices don’t endorse.) She has solid experience in civil law, legal professional associations, legal academia, and on the Court of Appeals. She’s basically everything a judge should be.
- Michelle L. MacDonald–It’s long, but you should read Naomi Kritzer’s background research on MacDonald from 2014. It’s…impressive. It is not a good impression. This year, even the Republicans don’t want to touch her. Also, MacDonald appears to have suspended her campaign website. I have no idea what’s going on with her, in many ways.
- Craig Foss–Foss isn’t terribly easy to track down. He doesn’t seem to be working to campaign for the job, which I’m somewhat sympathetic to. He also doesn’t seem to have sought endorsements, which I find critical in judicial races. You can find a questionnaire (pdf) he filled out without a lot of detail, and a profile of him in local news. He has a reasonable background as an attorney, but he’s entirely outclassed by Hudson.
That’s it for my precinct in Minneapolis, but as long as I’m here, let me weigh in on some of the other primary races around the state.
State Representative, District 60B
This is perhaps the toughest of the state’s primary races this year, both generally and for me personally. (I invited Representative Kahn to speak on a panel at an activist training conference I put on last year, and I quite enjoy her as a person.) In this district, voters will be choosing between a seasoned and effective politician who wants one more term to close out her career and two candidates with lots of organizing experience who are working to become the first Somali-American representatives to our state legislature.
The good news is that any of the three candidates would be good for the district. In fact, I’m not going to choose one of the three, since this isn’t my district. None of the candidates are hated by a significant constituency within the community. Who you votes for comes down to which of the good things they have to offer you prioritize first.
Phyllis Kahn has a very strong track record over her decades of service, and her seniority makes the district more powerful within the legislature. Of the two Somali candidates, Ilhan Omar has the broadest political experience. Mohamud Noor has elected experience on the school board and has concentrated more on working within the local Somali community. That community doesn’t appear to have a clear preference for any of the candidates, but Omar has significantly outpaced her rivals in fundraising.
This is a difficult but low-stakes decision for most voters in this district. So look for your pet issues on their pages. Listen to their statements. Then make your own decisions.
U.S. Representative District 4 (DFL)
- Betty McCollum–McCollum is a solidly liberal representative with a good bit of history under her belt. She’s generally been with her party and particularly with President Obama on the issues, though she’s slightly to the left of him on foreign policy issues. She’s an advocate for Native American issues, having proposed several pieces of legislation. I’d need a good reason to vote against her, and I don’t see one.
- Steve Carlson–It’s really a pity this guy has one of those Minnesotan names. He’s another former Independence Party candidates running in the DFL primary. His website is very special. If the All Lives Matter rap video in the post about how Independence Day is for remembering God doesn’t convince you he’s not a Democrat, try his support for “traditional marriage” or his certainty that homosexuals are oppressing religious people.
Third Judicial District, Seat 16
- Carmaine M. Sturino–In general, I require a good reason to remove an incumbent judge. There doesn’t seem to be one for Sturino. She was very recently appointed to the position. Her breadth of background is appropriate and greater than her challengers’. There have been no hints of any kind of misconduct.
- Timothy Guth–Guth has a decent background for a judge. He also has some solid ideas on drug treatment. I wouldn’t be upset to see him as a judge, but he simply hasn’t gone through the same vetting process that an incumbent like Sturino has. We just don’t have that much information about him.
- Daniel Moulton–Toward the top of Moulton’s Google search results is the information that his ability to practice law was suspended for 90 days as a disciplinary action. He’d failed to file or pay business taxes in a timely fashion for several years, and he wasn’t found credible in the reasons he gave. That’s just not who I want as a judge.
Third Judicial District, Seat 17
This race is one of the reasons I hate voting for judges. I would happily vote the incumbent out, but I don’t want to be the person choosing their successor. Nonetheless, here we go.
- David F. McLeod–McLeod has pretty much everything I want in a judge except a thorough background check that includes interviews with peers, clients, and the judges he’s worked with. I would prefer some defense experience, but his statements about issues involving how his court should run are reassuring. Of the two candidates running against the incumbent, he would be my pick.
- Terrence M. Walters–Walters is the incumbent. He’s also been disciplined both for how he runs his court as an administrator and for how he’s dealt with people who have appeared in front of him as a judge. He was required to complete anger management treatment, and I just don’t feel that’s something that needs to be worked out in a courtroom. On the other hand, Walters does have plenty of endorsements, while it’s unclear whether his challengers have sought any.
- Gerald Scott Weinrich–Weinrich seems like a plenty decent attorney, but it’s much, much harder to tell from his website whether he has the experience or judgment I want. He doesn’t seem bad, but he doesn’t seem like much of anything. That’s probably unfair to him, but again, this is one of the problems in electing judges.
If you’ve done research for a primary race in Minnesota that you think it would be helpful for others to know about, please leave a comment.