Why I’m voting for Ray Cox

coxforsenlogo-thumb I thought I’d go out on big limb here (heh) and reveal why I’m voting for Ray Cox tomorrow in the Senate District 25 special election.

First the disclaimers: I’m his blog coach and have been since 2002. He continues to pay me for technical work on both his company website, Northfield Construction Company (NCC), as well as his political blog, RayCox.net.  My wife Robbie and I have been friends with Ray and his wife Ellen since their kids and our kids were in diapers, and then later when our kids all went to Prairie Creek Community School from the day it opened.

My political leanings? I’ve voted for Democratic party candidates way more than Republican party candidates over the years, with some Independence and Green Party votes along the way as well. in the 90s, I worked for 8 years at the left/progressive/liberal/green publication, Utne Reader. Nationally, I don’t think I’ve ever voted for a Republican for president and thus far for 2008, I really like what I’ve read about Barack Obama.

My political support for Ray began during his years on the Northfield school board, after he was one of two board members to vote to authorize a charter school sponsorship for the proposed Cannon Valley Middle School way back in the early 90s.  I had no clue whether he was a Republican or Democrat then… it didn’t matter to me and of course, school board races are non-partisan. 

But during those years, my Democratic Party leanings began to waiver when I saw how the DFL, the educational associations, and the teachers unions came out so harshly against the education choice-related legislation (charter schools, open enrollment, post-secondary enrollment options) and the DFL legislators who supported them like then-DFL Senator Ember Reichgott Junge (co-author of Minnesota’s charter school law).

I voted for Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Peter Hutchinson in 2006 but I wasn’t unhappy that Tim Pawlenty won, in part because I thought Mike Hatch would be a disastrous leader and in part because DFL control of the Minnesota House, Senate and governor’s office would have made me very nervous.

The Strib’s endorsement of Ray for his “bipartisan working style and independent thinking” with specific examples said it well. But it’s also important that the Senate Dems NOT have a super majority to override Pawlenty’s vetoes on a party line vote. I disagree with Pawlenty on many issues but he’s not on the extreme right and I think much can be gained for the state long-term by having the DFL find common ground with him and vice versa.

Besides Ray’s moderate stance on many issues, he’s got an ability to converse as easily with the liberal constituents who dominate Northfield as he does with the conservative constituents who dominate many other parts of Senate District 25. I value that a lot because there’s wisdom in both camps and it takes a certain kind of leader to tap into it. It may be that Kevin Dahle has that ability, too, but I’d like to see him demonstrate it at the local level in other roles besides those related to K-12 education.

Ray Cox Ellen Cox, Ray Cox, Robbie Wigley

Lastly, I really like Ray’s local civic involvement. He’s generous with his time (example, left photo: duct taping at the 2006 Jesse James Bike Tour) and he and his wife Ellen are generous with their money (example, right photo: at the 2006 Laura Baker annual fundraising gala with my wife Robbie). Long term civic involvement is an important indicator of a candidate’s credibility for me. (I like it that Kevin Dahle has a history of civic engagement, too.)

So there you have it. Whad’ya say? Vote for Ray!


  1. BruceWMorlan said:

    I also will be voting for Ray, in part because I have had many conversations with him and have found him to be open to new ideas and available to his constituents. I have found some of his positions to be powerful statements that I frequently refer to when discussing growth, sustainability and planning. I want to give him the chance to become the future of the party in Minnesota, because he is such a good across-the-aisle type, believing in cooperation over confrontation, which makes him the type we need to bring this state together.

    January 3, 2008
  2. Paul Zorn said:

    I’m not going to out my vote here … but this conversation needs some balance.

    For me, this vote has *nothing* to do with character, family values, contributions to local organizations, etc. , not because these virtues are irrelevant to public office, but because, both candidates are exemplary on these scores (as Griff acknowledges).

    What really matters to me has to do with the candidates’ respective parties. Like it or not, politics is done mainly at the party level. Here, for me, there’s no contest: while the Democrats as a group certainly have their challenges, the Republicans are, for me, nowhere in the game. This is, obviously, just my opinion, and this isn’t the place either to defend the D’s or to diss the R’s.

    That said, what remains live for me as a committed Democrat is whether we’re ultimately better off with a moderate Republican, who might somewhat restrain (what I see as) the worst R impulses, or to elect a Democrat to swell the opposing choir. I think reasonable people (with D impulses like mine …) can differ on what’s best. I’ve made my choice.

    January 3, 2008
  3. Well first off, I too have a disclosure — I worked with Griff on Ray’s site when we redeveloped last fall. Second, I’m a few months shy of 18, so I can’t vote anyway.

    That said, were I to vote, I would be voting for Dahle. I really thought Ray was the right guy until the debates, when I was shocked by the extremely conservative beliefs I didn’t realize he held. His comments on MNSCU — suggesting that it would be best to close small colleges and move as much online as possible — was appalling. He went on to frame school bonds as if the only things they were used to pay for were unecessary luxuries. His strong support of charter schools is impressive, but not impressive enough.

    And though I don’t know how substantiated the claims I heard were, I was definitely made uneasy by the call I got from Minnesotans Concerned for Life, which expressed their support for Ray and accused Kevin Dahle of having the support of a “radical pro-abortion group.”

    Vance Norgaard had some good ideas, but I really didn’t approve of his comments that college students shouldn’t be able to vote in elections like this, calling them “representation without taxation.” Would he sooner have “taxation without income”?

    January 3, 2008
  4. BruceWMorlan said:

    Paul Z. is very much correct when he echoes Griff’s note that the two candidates are both honorable and good people. So I guess I am voting in spite of the party rather than because of it. Have to start the turnaround somewhere. I think of this as an intervention.

    January 3, 2008
  5. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I wonder, Griff, why you are creating another discussion (there is one on candidates already) the day of the election. I guess we each see Ray in light of his votes in our areas of interest. Mine is ag and the environment.

    Ray may be more moderate than some other Republicans, but when push comes to shove he votes their way. In the Senate, Steve Dille (R-Dassel), a veterinarian, dominates ag policy on the Republican side. Ray will be expected to follow his lead on floor votes as Neuville did before him. I am not looking forward to that.

    It would mean a lot to have Kevin Dahle there, collaborating with farm groups that work for legislation to benefit the majority of farmers left on the land, not just the privileged few. From my perspective that is the difference between Republicans and Democrats, generally speaking.

    January 3, 2008
  6. Holly Cairns said:

    While we’re speaking about families values: What about this connection:

    Don’t we care that big, malicious bloggers are heading down to campaign for Ray? Doesn’t it indicate something about this race, and about Ray in general?

    Please read some of Brodkorb’s tabloidian mess, a blog called http://www.minnesotademocratsexposed.com all of which is pointed at the DFL. It’ll knock your socks off. You won’t believe it.

    January 3, 2008
  7. Lisa Guidry said:

    Holly you are entitled to your opinion, but many of us know & trust Ray Cox. I for one have always believed that actions speak louder than words.

    January 3, 2008
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    Stephanie, since Locally Grown is a 3 person blog, we each have the right to use a blog post to opinionate on whatever we want, just like the editors of a newspaper do with their editorial page opinions.

    Holly, I don’t follow that blog but there are nutjob bloggers on both sides, just like both parties have (in the past) engaged in some bad behavior. I honestly felt bad for David Bly in 2004 when the DFL mailed some nasty stuff about Ray’s school board voting record to area homes. It wasn’t David’s fault — he didn’t ask for it or approve it — and it wouldn’t have been fair to imply that that mailing would ‘indicate’ something about David in general.

    January 3, 2008
  9. Griff Wigley said:

    Sean, I think I remember Ray saying that only SOME MNSCU campuses could be closed for overall cost-savings that could benefit the rest of MNSCU campuses.

    Ray’s been quite supportive of MNSCU. See his blog posts:

    He’s supported bonding for them, tuition freezes for students, and the DREAM Act that would see many more students attending MNSCU campuses.

    I think he’s been rightfully calling for parts of MNSCU to work harder at trimming fat.

    January 3, 2008
  10. Griff, your memory is correct: his suggestion was to close smaller campuses and expand larger ones to serve a broader area. But that’s “fat” I’d rather not have trimmed. I like that he went against Pawlenty and supported the Dream Act, but I also believe Kevin Dahle would have supported it were he in Ray’s shoes.

    My apologies, though, I was incorrect earlier — it was Vance Norgaard who pushed online degrees, not Ray Cox.

    Holly, that website is quite ridiculous: “I’ve heard a rumor from someone in the district that Kevin Dahle may have sent an email to teachers at their official accounts regarding today’s election. Dahle is a teacher and the email may have been sent from his official account.” (Because apparently even the rumor isn’t sure it was sent from an official account). Disgusted though I am, I don’t know we should discredit Ray just for being endorsed by somebody we don’t approve of. Granted, I was bothered that he was supported by the antichoice lobby, but I think it’s different since it’s representative of a specific political position.

    January 3, 2008
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Glad you checked on that, Sean. Thx.

    Paul, you summarized it well. And I think the Republicans for Obama folks are in same boat in some ways as the many “Democrats for Cox” out there.

    January 3, 2008
  12. Paul Fried said:

    I’ve publically voiced my policy disagreements with Ray on a number of occasions – on tax equity, for example – and Ray has been kind to reply to my E-mails, saying he’d support a 4th tier in the income tax (I won’t hold my breath) if he knew the money would be used in a good way…. I think he was fishing for my vote.

    I’ve also publically voiced my concern that Ray does not comply with state election laws. He posted signs at businesses in 2004 in violation of MS 211B, which says the only signs allowed at businesses (except non-incorporated mom-pop businesses) are “Get out the vote” signs. MN also prohibits corporate contributions.

    Ray posted the signs in 2004, then David Bly’s campaign complained to him. Instead of taking them down, Ray figured that if he leased advertising space to post signs, it would not be a campaign contribution, and he would, in that way, create a loophole in MS 211b. But 211b does not say the signs are OK if there’s a lease. It just says no signs at businesses.

    So by leasing signs, Ray was then breaking Northfield sign statutes, if not also state election law.

    In 2006, the law offices of Grundhoffer-Neuville-Ludesher also thumbed their noses at 211b and posted candidate signs. I told David L., and he didn’t see any reason for taking down the sign. Election law must be for other folks, not Republicans or Republican lawyers.

    Ray also posted signs at businesses in 2006 outside Northfield city limits. Must have figured that if I was raising a stink, it would be better to break the law out of town instead of in town. Anything goes, as long as you don’t get caught.

    This winter, on a drive from Northfield to teach in Mankato, I saw three of Ray’s signs at businesses: At Servicemaster in Dundas, at Streitz in Dundas, and at a law office in LeCenter. But again, none in Northfield.

    Ray competed for a low bid for the remodeling work for the Nfld News in 2004 just before he sought and received their endorsement, even though MS211b prohibits giving anything of monetary value, including discounts, in exchange for editorial favoritism.

    Can we trust a lawmaker who does not abide by the law? I think we can trust that he will do everything in his power to represent the interests of businesses, and he will believe that doing so will be in the best interest of everyone. If this means neglecting the concerns of citizens who are not business owners, I think we can trust that Ray will plow ahead.

    If Ray can represent the interests of charter schools at the expense of public schools with union teachers, he’ll work for charter schools. If charter schools and choice end up creating ghettos of public schools as the default choice for children of parents who are least active in their children’s education, Ray will make sure that assertive consumer parents get all the charter school choices they want. People claim that Ray is willing to talk to anyone and work with “both sides,” etc., but Ray will never be a fan of, or collaborate well with, unions.

    Disclaimer: I voted for Tom Neuville when I first moved to town. When I saw all Ray’s signs at businesses in 2004, it made me much more interested in volunteering for David Bly’s campaign in 2006. I think that when a state has election laws, it’s a law-and-order issue, and a good thing to abide by them.

    January 3, 2008
  13. It’s over. Never would have guessed Dahle would have won by 13% — I expected it to be as close the Cox/Bly race in 2006.

    January 3, 2008
  14. Paul Fried said:

    Before the Northfield precincts reported, I was watching Ray’s nearly 300-vote lead and wondering how it might go. Neuville didn’t win Northfield in 2006, but Ray at least tries to project an image of being more moderate than Tom, so I wondered if Ray might receive more Northfield support than Tom did, and if it might end close, as you say, Sean. But Northfield gave Kevin quite an advantage.

    The conventional wisdom was leaning toward the idea that Ray would do well in the west where Neuville did well, and perhaps assuming that Ray could do better in Northfield than Tom had done. I don’t have on hand any stats to compare between Tom’s performance in Nfld precincts, compared to Ray’s in this election, but this may indicate that Republicans should start to look for a new candidate to run against David Bly.

    Maybe Doug Jones? D’ya think he’d have across-the-aisle appeal?

    Or maybe the owner of College City Beverage, who endorsed Ray and slammed the college students (ironic, when you consider that college students are part of the economic foundation of Northfield…. sort of like biting the hand that feeds you, and inspires your company name?).

    Maybe Griff should run. He’s voted Democrat and Green, he says. You up to it, Griff?

    January 3, 2008

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