In 1928, when political sanity still reigned over America, Franklin Roosevelt won the Democratic Party nomination for governor of New York on Oct. 2. A month later, he was elected, and the rest, as they say, is history.
However, in 2022, the state religion, “Government-ity,” has grabbed hold of a large swath of voters. Government-ity is the belief that only government can fix all the problems that ail society. It is a religion that demands daily devotion to the cause with no days off when the future of the entire human race is at stake. Therefore, clerical candidates must make their case for months on end in hopes of being elected.
Here in Minnesota, this Tuesday is the first holy day of Minnesota’s new political year. The two main sects, DFLers and Republicans, now consider each other to be heretics. Thus, they will gather separately to pray for deliverance in November. The ritual begins at 7 p.m., and the primary purpose of these so-called “precinct caucuses” is to elect delegates to subsequent religious gatherings, also known as conventions, to endorse certain members of the church hierarchy to serve in the legislature, Congress and statewide office. We don’t even know yet where the diocesan boundaries for the first two will be set through redistricting, but have faith that Government-ity will come up with something soon. We will have no one-month wonders like FDR.
This year, most of the action will take place within the Republican sect. That’s because the DFL holds all four of the statewide offices up for election, and all four incumbents, Gov. Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Secretary of State Steve Simon and State Auditor Julie Blaha are expected to seek re-election.
Redistricting will cause some turbulence for both parties. As another religion’s Book of Proverbs says, “Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind.” Several legislators will suddenly find themselves pitted against members of their own sect. Sixteen have already announced their retirements and seven others are seeking different offices. Once the new diocesan boundaries are set, more will decide that they need to move on to something else rather than “trouble his (or her) own house.”
As usual, this will be an election like no other. The rise of violent crime in the Twin Cities and the decision by a few county attorneys to prosecute only “serious” crimes could result in more competition for that job throughout Minnesota. Similarly, some attorneys may see a reason to challenge sitting judges for lenient sentencing practices. And school board elections may become more intense as parents, frustrated by mask and vaccine requirements, concerned about revisionist history in the social studies curriculum and upset by the flip-flops between classroom and remote learning, decide to run. It should be noted, however, that county, judicial and school board elections are non-partisan, so will not be a cause for sermonizing Tuesday.
For some reason, Republicans seem to think this is the year that they will finally find deliverance. While it is true that the non-presidential party usually does well in the off-year election, Minnesota Republicans last had full control of both the executive and legislative branches of state government in 1970. Since then, the DFL had full control for 14 years, and power was split for the remainder.
Six Republicans are seeking their party’s endorsement for Minnesota Pre-Eminence, a.k.a. governor. The current Pre-Eminence, Walz, remains the favorite. A KSTP/Survey USA poll released Dec. 9 found Walz leading all Republican challengers by double digits. However, it remains early, and Walz himself did not top 50% in any of the match-ups.
The challenge for the Republican hopefuls is to separate themselves from Donald Trump, who lost twice in Minnesota, without offending the thousands of Trump acolytes who genuflect at the mere mention of the former president’s name. They are all conservative, and show little difference on the issues. The question for Republicans is who will give them the best chance of beating Walz?
Former state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka of Nisswa is the best known. Judging by how many potshots DFLers have taken at each candidate, he is probably the one DFLers would least like to run against. He has won most of the party’s straw polls.
State Sen. Michelle Benson, a CPA from Ham Lake, recently won a GOP poll taken in Wright County. That is significant, because the prevailing wisdom is that this year’s election will be won or lost in the suburbs.
Former State Sen. Scott Jensen, a Chaska physician, served 10 years on the Waconia School Board and one term in the Senate. He has been perhaps the most outspoken in opposing the government’s pandemic policies.
Dr. Neil Shah, a St. Anthony dermatologist and political newcomer, is said to have the backing of Action4Liberty, a group that is more conservative than most Republican legislators.
Kendall Qualls ran unsuccessfully for 3rd District Congress in 2020. He entered the race only this month. Still, there is some buzz about his candidacy.
Mike Murphy is the mayor of Lexington in Anoka County.
With violent crime becoming a major issue, former Hennepin County Sheriff Rick Stanek is said to be considering a run, but has not yet announced. He’s late to the prayer meeting, but then, so was FDR.
Tom West, now retired, is the former general manager of this paper. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.