Check out the gun show in 5B

Looks like another day of the House 5B special election focused on attacks instead of issues. The state GOP sent out a nasty mailer attacking DFL nominee Carly Melin. The Duluth News Tribune reports that DFLers today compared it to the sorts of veiled references to violence seen prior to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords last month.

Here’s the front:

 The back:

Melin issued the following statement in response:

“I’m proud to be running a positive race. As someone who hunts and has a firearms certificate since I was 14–and who’s Dad teaches firearms classes–it is outrageous to question my stance on gun ownership. But this piece goes beyond that. It sends a chilling message to any young person who gets involved in public service and runs for office. (Neither) I, nor any candidate for public office, should be subject to such an assault. After the President and leaders of Congress called on Americans to tone down the attacks, stop the malicious assaults, and come together to heal our country after the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and the death of six people in Tuscon, I would have thought that Republican Leader Tony Sutton would have had an ounce of decency and common sense. He should resign. This race should be about jobs, our kids, and our future. I’m going to talk about the issues. I would hope my opponent would finally, in these last seven days of the campaign, do the same.”

The piece is in poor taste, but is also targeted toward the sorts of voters who wouldn’t see it that way. The front is just innocuous enough, (all we’re doing is hunting, see) and purportedly unrelated to the haymakers thrown on the back. It’s a classic mischievous hit piece, effective as it is disgusting. In fact, that’s exactly how Tony Sutton played it in the DNT article. Hey, man. Just a hunting piece. How dare you bring up Tuscon. He had this ready to go when they made the piece in the first place. The residency “question” also continues, even though there is not and likely will not be any actual formal residency complaint. It’s not evil, it’s meta-evil.

My friend Sally at Bluestem Prairie has a marvelous post about Tony Sutton and his tactics in this race. Her thoughts:

The piece misses the mark in a multiple ways. Former Hibbing native Sutton and his writers draw a blank on one of the most compelling narratives for Range and Greater Minnesota communities. One of our biggest exports are our most talented young people. Families love and nurture them, schools educate them–and then they head off to college if their ambitions exceed the opportunities offered by the local community college.

Carly Melin is the exception to that general rule. She finished law school, passed the bar, and got a job back home. By trashing her, the GOP indirectly bashes the hopes of many families who’d love to see their kids come home, as well as the longing of many young people to return home after college and grad school.

I’ll add to what Sally said. This piece is designed for a new landscape, the one Republicans would like to see on the Range. After generations of education-focused, upwardly mobile working class voters on the Iron Range, the GOP would like to focus on those who do not strive for education, who resent those who seek education, and who want to be left alone in all imaginable ways. Mostly, this was designed to irk DFLers and Melin and bait them into comments that could be construed as anti-hunting. Because with a $6 billion deficit and declining schools and services it’s all about hunting for Iron Range voters, according to the state GOP.

Melin will continue to face problems so long as she is stuck arguing within the GOP-framed version of this campaign. Being young and not owning property should not disqualify one from running for office but, to the degree the debate is held on this Republican territory, the GOP will win votes on this attack. If the debate suddenly shifts toward the actual legislative session and what is actually going on there, 5B voters will be surprised to learn that Melin shares the opinions most expressed in the November election and is capable of presenting the Range’s business with professionalism.

It is here that I nod to the fact that there are principled conservatives who live on the Range, including friends of mine and people I respect. I know you are there. I think Paul Jacobson is such a conservative. I’d have hoped this campaign would have involved these folks and not the state party in the Twin Cities.

More accurately, this piece demonstrates the GOP strategy in this strange little election. Get as many of the 5,000-plus people who voted for Jacobson in November to vote as possible. Meantime, depress or discourage the 10,000-plus people who voted for Tony Sertich in the same election. There were only about 4,000 voters in the Feb. 1 DFL primary, though I know some were waiting until after the primary to get involved. Assuming the most outrageously good turnout by Republicans and the lowest plausible turnout by Democrats and you can imagine a close election.

This GOP hit piece could backfire as well. It might keep some independent DFL leaners and non-political types home on Feb. 15, but it outraged Democrats (based on what I’ve heard so far) and they might find new enthusiasm for the race. But that’s conjecture. This is still a direct mail scrum, where turnout operations will matter most of all.

Votes will be cast in less than a week now. There is precious little time. The debate tomorrow hosted by students at HCC may well be the only opportunity for citizens to see an issues-focused, substantive discussion about the differences between the candidates. Hope to see you there.


  1. The whole “vote no” approach used in this mailer was worthless, IMO. I can only vote “for” a candidate, and this mailer really doesn’t tell my why I should vote for Jacobson.

  2. This mailer turns my stomach… as a gun owner, as an independent voter, as someone who values truth and honest discourse, and as a young person on the Range who doesn’t currently have title to any real estate. It pisses me off on every level, and is a reminder why a lot of good people stay out of politics.

  3. I would like to hear from Melin & Jacobson on many issues that affect us up here on the Range. Too many of our elected officials have gone to St Paul and vote corrupt party lines. If we get their stance on issues on the record it’ll be harder for them to flip/flop. Gun control is one of the issues I’d like to hear where they stand. I don’t want to see either party get into mud slinging and am not a fan of the mailer sent out by Tony Sutton. I also don’t think Gabrielle Giffords shooting should have anything to do with gun control laws.

  4. You know in the 2010 legislative race in my district, 12B, I got mailers from both party HQs that were much worse than that. Frankly it isn’t the perfect flyer but I don’t see it as a big deal and invoking Tucson is jumping the shark.

  5. I don’t live in 5B, but that ad is mild compared with some others I’ve seen from both parties where I’ve lived before. We can all wish that parties would be more “civil”, but they wouldn’t be doing things like this if they didn’t work. While the ad may or may not be full of half truths, the comments in the newspaper equating these to the Giffords situation in Arizona are downright absurd and insulting to one’s intelligence.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.