This Saturday is the DFL convention for Senate District 65. We’ll show up early at Central High School so that we have plenty of time to greet old friends and comrades we’ve worked both for and against through various elections and issues. With the temperature poking up over freezing, it may prove to be a hard day to keep us all focused on the politics. But March has more happening than a little warmth and a few state tournaments – it’s the real start of political season.
We recently learned that the hole in our Minnesota’s budget is a billion bucks for this two-year period and five billion more for the next. The disaster will almost certainly be passed on to whoever becomes Governor, and that’s about all we have to work towards deciding at our Senate District convention.
The problem is even more than the numbers, however. The Citizen’s League outlines how most of the budget is on auto-pilot, meaning that it was approved for a multi-year period long ago. Thanks to a deal brokered by our now-Governor Pawlenty, we account for inflation on the income side but not the expenditures side.
These are only the structural problems. The process of crafting a budget requires tremendous leadership as the numbers get tighter, and I have to fault our own DFL team for not stepping up and uniting behind their leaders but only getting crankier. The Governor has taken large hunks out of aid to local governments, creating property tax hikes and destroying the progressivity of our once proud system.
As we approach who we will want to represent the DFL in the Governor’s race, it’s worth noting that the only living DFLer who once occupied that office is Wendell Anderson, back in 1977. His “Minnesota Miracle”, which made so much of what we take for granted in this state, has completely unraveled.
How do you choose a Governor to fix the horrible mess that Pawlenty has left behind as he makes his case to become President of the US? I think the first thing we have to do is not dwell on the outgoing Gov’s chutzpah at thinking he’s remotely qualified to lead anything after his performance here and focus on our own future. After all, Pawlenty clearly has already checked out of the office – so let’s just leave it behind.
I’m going to caucus for Margaret Anderson Kelliher, our Speaker of the House, because we need proven skills and strong leadership. I was upset at the performance of the last Legislative session, certainly, but Kelliher was the one solid rock that made it possible for us to accomplish anything.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t be happy with just about anyone on our ballot. It seems that it’s likely to come down to a contest between Kelliher and Minneapolis Mayor Rybak for endorsement, and either one is likely to make an excellent Governor. John Marty has an outside chance, and I know he’s a very good person, too.
I simply have to go with Kelliher because she understands firsthand how terribly screwed up things have gotten in great detail. She’s an excellent leader who understands how to build alliances and use power effectively, too. Her focus on job creation makes it clear that she understands the great pain that the mismanagement has caused across the state, too. She has the skills and the grounding to be an excellent leader through very difficult times that certainly lie ahead of us.
The convention on Saturday will be intense in many ways. My daughter will be there with us to see how it all happens, which is more than an education for her on the Iowa Walking Subcaucus System. It’s a reminder to all of us that we’re about to pass a great legacy on to a new generation after having shredded and nearly destroyed it. But we are DFLers, and as long as there are warm hearts, strong arms, and clear minds we can make it work again. Those are the stakes in this election.
I’m not always one to stay with the leadership, but Kelliher still looks to me like our best chance to gather up the energy that made Minnesota great and do it up all over again. I’m excited about moving on and getting it accomplished.
As always, I’d love to know what you think. If you’re a Minnesotan, who do you support and why? If you live in another state, what’s up at your end? If you’re in another nation, well … I’ll try to have something more interesting for you on Friday, OK?