Margaret Anderson Kelliher and the Range: why we need each other

Since the heady days of the 2008 primary season I’ve been gradually weaning off doing endorsements on this blog. Who cares, right? I’m just some guy and no doubt I’ve got an agenda all my own. So I’m not going to call this an endorsement, though you’re free to call it that if you want. I’m going to tell you who I’m voting for in tomorrow’s primary election and why. I’ve got a reason for doing this and I will try to explain. Naturally, I’m a member of the Democratic Farmer Labor party of Minnesota, so if this is not your stripe then just rejoin me next week when I post about fire rings (seriously, I am tracking a cool story about FIRE RINGS!).

I’ll be voting for Margaret Anderson Kelliher on Tuesday because she represents a pragmatic, 21st century approach to Minnesota’s problems and, importantly, the fate of places like the Iron Range. I encourage my fellow Iron Rangers to join me, but Rangers always do what they want. Most people who read this blog are from Duluth and the Twin Cities, and you’ll do what you want, too. The point is, Margaret has her strengths and weaknesses, but I do believe she’s not gotten a credit for what got her here, or what she is capable of doing as governor.

Yes, I was a delegate and participated in the DFL convention that endorsed Margaret. I think the endorsement is important in keeping money from ruling the DFL primary, but that’s not the only reason to support Margaret. She is somebody who forms coalitions, something that’s becoming a lost art in politics. She formed the only difficult coalition I’m aware of in the last eight years of the legislature with her transportation funding override of Gov. Pawlenty. While she’s suffered numerous political and PR defeats at the hands of Pawlenty in her role as Speaker, she’s also won a few, and governors have much, much more power than Speakers to game the debate. I’d like to see what she can do from the bully pulpit.

I like Mark Dayton and it’s very possible he could win, too. Dayton appeals to many Iron Rangers because he represents the last vestige of the Perpich era, the last time the Range seemed to control its own destiny. He is very honest about his desire to implement progressive taxation as a budget fix, something I agree with. But in Dayton’s rhetoric is one tiny underlying message that troubles me: “You don’t have to change.” The Iron Range needs change, not just political change, but a change in attitude to compete with a world that does not care about winning Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District. The district will fall when the world sucks its economic means out from under it, something that will happen unless people here do something about it. A Margaret Anderson Kelliher administration will not be an old boys club or one that avoids making hard decisions — not just on raising taxes, but on making cuts as well. Whether it’s Iron Range Resources reform, innovative job creation or a meeting in the middle of environmental and mining interests, Kelliher represents the best way forward. I’m not a typical Iron Ranger, but I do know the Iron Range. Take this however you want.

Minnesota is not a DFL or Republican state, despite what you hear from pundits. From its very inception, Minnesota has been an independent minded state built on ideas and ideals. We’ve watched that slip away, partly through economic attrition in places like the Range, and also through the overt, ideological political gamesmanship of future presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Margaret has been building a general election campaign since she won the endorsement and, despite the polls today, seems better prepared to duel it out with Tom Emmer when he starts unleashing his potentially bruising general election plan. Dayton could do well also, I grant you, but on Tuesday I’ll be backing Margaret.

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