Kevin Dahle, Our New State Senator


  1. Bill Ostrem said:

    Wow. I thought Cox was a shoo-in. What explains the fairly large margin of victory for Dahle?

    January 3, 2008
  2. I was surprised, too, Bill — I expected Cox to win, though by a modest margin.

    My impression was that he was shooting further right with his campaign than he has with his House campaigns; at least that’s what I’ve gotten from the mailings I’ve received and the some of his comments during the Locally Grown debate. Maybe the district — Northfield especially — was simply not interested in some of those positions.

    I could be wrong there, but I honestly don’t know what else it could be. He’s well-liked and has better name recognition than Kevin Dahle.

    But now, to put a smile on. It’s been a while since a candidate I supported won. 😀

    January 3, 2008
  3. Marin Amundson-Graham said:

    Yea, Kevin! What resounding support for what you stand for now and what you’ve always represented as an educator, friend, and concerned citizen. I look forward, as does all of our family, to your voice in our State government. Best to you, Beth, and your family as you begin this new journey.

    January 3, 2008
  4. My friends and I were just talking about that; we suggested that perhaps it was that very mentality that Cox was a shoo-in that created apathy among the conservative vote and gave the vote to the DFL. Who knows: this whole scenario seemed really unlikely with the large margin of victory for Kevin.

    January 3, 2008
  5. amy sieve said:

    ohmygod! It’s been SO long since a candidate I’ve voted for won!!!! Way to go, Senator Dahle! This makes may day, my week, my month, my year!!!

    January 3, 2008
  6. Paul Fried said:

    I s’pose there won’t be a recount.

    They’re kind of exciting, you know. And they give Northfield some good, non-controversial publicity (which is better than the controversial kind: teen drug-use stats, city hall, etc.).

    Mabye we can shoot for a closer one next time?

    January 3, 2008
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    I took the photo on the left of Kevin Dahle at about 8:30 PM at Froggy Bottoms, and on the right of Ray Cox and Tom Neuville at about 8:45 PM at Ray’s house:
    Kevin Dahle Tom Neuville, Ray Cox

    January 3, 2008
  8. Paul Fried said:

    Gabriel wrote,
    “…this whole scenario seemed really unlikely with the large margin of victory for Kevin.”

    Judging by lawn-signs alone, you’d have thought Ray was going to have a slam-dunk.

    Republican conspiracy-theorists may wonder:
    Did some DFL-leaning election judges see to it that all the most disfunctional ballot-counting machines were placed in the Republican-leaning precincts?

    Just like the Republicans did in Ohio?

    Maybe the ‘publicans should contest this, call for a recount and investigation?

    January 4, 2008
  9. Sam Wold said:

    Congrats once again to Kevin!! He does an amazing job at the HS and will do an amazing job in St. Paul. I think Gabe hit the nail on the head when he mentioned apathy among the Republican voters. I also believe that Cox’s platform stressing his experience was one that did not satisfy voters as many are upset over the past years. Yes he has experience, but look what has happened while he was in office. The nail in the coffin had to be Pawlenty coming down to show his support-thanks Tim!

    January 4, 2008
  10. John Thomas said:

    It is a FINE morning. Congratulations Mr. Dahle.

    Now that the DFL has a 2/3 majority in the senate, lets get some things done! 😎

    January 4, 2008
  11. Will Thomas said:

    I think folks just got tired of Cox’s “in your face” / arrogant/vote for me or else campaigning. He touted himself as a “green candidate” but filled our mailboxes with 2 or 3 glossy ads PER DAY! Dahle is in – WATCH YOUR WALLET! I’m sure that the proposed .10 per gallon gas tax just got another vote not to mention numerous other new taxes/entitlement spending. Hopefully, the I-R’s will come up with a better candidate the next time(s) around so that Bly and Dahle can return to their teaching duties.

    January 4, 2008
  12. Patrick Enders said:

    Congratulations to Kevin Dahle, and best wishes for a very successful term as state senator!

    I really liked what he had to say at the candidate debate, and I was proud to vote for him, but I have to admit that all the Pro-Cox talk (from Democrats!) here, and all those lawn signs, made me feel that I was only making a symbolic gesture with my vote.

    Northfield continues to be a very surprising town.

    January 4, 2008
  13. Felicity Enders said:

    What wonderful news! I expected the rest of the district to overwhelm any Democratic Northfield bump. Any maps available of voting results? And when was the last time this seat was held by a Democrat?

    January 4, 2008
  14. Rob Hardy said:

    Loads of Carleton students voting on the first day of classes, walking right past the large red pick-up with plastered with Ray Cox signs parked all day practically across the street from the polling place.

    January 4, 2008
  15. Anne Bretts said:

    I think there are several reasons for the DFL win.
    I think Democrats in general are more excited, more angry at Bush and more united in defeating Republicans in any race. Having the election on Iowa caucus night, when wall-to-wall media coverage of a record-breaking number of Democrats turned out, certainly gave DFL-ers a shot of adrenaline and a reminder to vote.
    I think Pawlenty’s timing of the special election seemed such a blatant political move that many people were insulted and enraged. Ray having his campaign materials ready when the announcement was made fueled the feeling of a conspiracy, and God knows people here love to feel they’re fighting evil conspiracies. And my guess is that already eager college voters took it as a personal challenge.
    I think many people weren’t voting against Cox, but were determined to control Pawlenty by giving taking away the Republican super-majority.
    I think Ray as an individual is a wonderful guy, but there was a sense of Pawlenty trying to shove him down everyone’s throats.
    I’m sure Ray never will live down the construction work he did at the newspaper just before an earlier election. It may have meant nothing, but the timing of the job added to the feeling Ray was being forced on the public by an organized power structure.

    January 4, 2008
  16. Patrick Enders said:

    Congratulations to Kevin Dahle, and best wishes for a wise and successful term as state senator!

    Northfield continues to be a very surprising place.

    January 4, 2008
  17. Felicity Enders said:

    Interesting. A review of the precinct by precinct voting shows that it wasn’t just students who put Dahle over the top. Dahle won by large margins in every precinct in Northfield, as well as taking Dundas and Bridgewater.

    January 4, 2008
  18. Curt Benson said:

    I was watching the Sec of State’s website last night and as of 10:15 all of the precincts except for Northfield’s had reported in. (BTW, what’s up with that?) Cox was ahead by several hundred votes. Northfield’s votes made the difference, obviously.

    Over Christmas break, I talked with several Northfield High School grads, now in college, and a couple of current NHS students. They unanimously agreed that Dahle is a great teacher, and a great guy. My son, Nick, thinks that probably half of NHS grads have had Dahle for a teacher. That translates to a lot of face-to-face parent/teacher conferences.

    I speculate that years of great work in the classroom translated into votes for Mr. Dahle. Ultimately, that work trumped door knocking/lawns signs/mailings, etc.

    January 4, 2008
  19. Christine Stanton said:

    Well said, Anne! I believe there is an anti-Republican sentiment nationwide because of Bush.

    The many, annoying phone calls from the Republican party urging people to vote in this election I do not believe helped their cause either. No one likes to feel pressured or manipulated.

    I also believe that many in Northfield have experienced the negative effects of school budget cuts. Though Dahle is only one voice (though now aligned with a Democratic majority in the state senate), voters could be sure he will make our schools a priority.

    It was not only college students voting for Dahle.

    January 4, 2008
  20. Gilly Wigley said:

    I think a big part of Kevin’s votes were from the 18-19 year old high schoolers, and college age students hanging around Northfield still, whom all had him as a teacher at the nhs. I never went to the hs, so I only know him from drivers ed. In which I learned more about the Andy Griffith show than driving laws…. Is he still the president of that club, does anyone know?

    January 4, 2008
  21. Felicity Enders said:

    Hey Triumvirate – the next election is suddenly coming up very quickly. I’m certainly interested in hearing what my fellow citizens think. It’s not a strictly Northfield issue, but it will certainly affect Northfielders. What about a board for that one?

    January 4, 2008
  22. kiffi summa said:

    The Nf stats were amazing. They also showed one of the problems NF faces which is the needed redistricting of the wards/precincts.

    It is very difficult to construct the wards so that they fulfill the legal requirements for their “equality”; the three considerations are: equal numbers of residents/voters, contiguity, and “communities of interest”.
    When NF was last redistricted there was extreme gerrymandering of the 4th Ward. At a council work session, it was stated that by constructing the boundaries as they exist today, two seated councilpersons would be able to retain their seats. (No “conspiracy; just a council vote)

    The result is that the 2 precincts of ward 4 are fairly equal in numbers, BUT have NO contiguity (witness the line running down highway 3 with not a single residence along it) and if you look at the voting patterns, they do not seem to be “communities of interest”.

    That said, I think the “communities of interest” requirement is one that is very problematic; it could be interpreted as being a very possibly prejudicial assumption in the determination of that evaluation. (Sorry, didn’t say that well, but I think you get the point). But looking at the votes from precinct 1 of ward 4, compared to those of precinct 2 , you can see a
    huge difference in the voting preferences. Does that show…. ? Well, what does that show?

    Statisticians, please weigh in here.. Bruce, are you out there? Am I remembering correctly that you, Felicity, are a statistician?

    I think this is a fascinating question , and has real ramifications for the 4th Ward ever electing a candidate which represents both precincts satisfactorily

    January 4, 2008
  23. Steve Cade said:

    Kevin won because he is a great educator, articulate, kind and well respected. If you saw the debate it was obvious that Kevin was well schooled on the issues.

    Didn’t Cox lose against Bly, in the most recent election cycle? In that race he had alot of signs and letters to the editor as well. But as Edwards said last night– the people decide, it doesn’t matter how much people spend or out spend. The people decide! Plus, from my perspective, these Republicans who try to say they are “moderate” and then vote with the party almost always, aren’t sneaking through. (Watch Coleman try to act like he is a moderate..)

    We the people!

    Wellstone would be proud! Finally, grass roots politics seems to be taking hold. Sitting in Prof. Wellstones “Grass roots organizing” class in 1985 I thought much of it was a dream or thoughts of dreamers. But the internet really seems to be bringing many of those ideas and strategies to fruition.

    Congratulations Kevin!

    January 4, 2008
  24. Paul Zorn said:

    Did student votes in Northfield determine the election?

    Not likely, in my opinion.

    A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that in the Northfield wards with significant campus overlap (W1P1, W1P2, W3P1, W4P1) the total vote went about 400 for Ray and 1475 for Kevin. That’s a big margin — but not even close to the 1600-vote margin for the total election. These wards also include many, many non-student voters.

    So, almost certainly, the result would have been the same even if *no* student had voted.

    My best guess is that the election result occurred not because of nasty bloggers, questionable endorsements, push-polling, glossy ads, or other campaigning peculiarities. Seems to me we had two good, credible, well-liked, and locally well-known candidates. But they have different party affiliations, and in present political circumstances and in this district, Republicans have to swim against the current.

    January 4, 2008
  25. William Siemers said:


    ward 4 precinct 1; 75% Dahle
    ward 4 precinct 2: 65% Dahle

    That doesn’t seem like a huge difference in voter preference.

    Seems like all the ‘suburban’ areas of Northfield went for Dahle at strong levels. And he carried the liberal bastions of Shieldsville, Northfield township, Erin township, Bridgewater township, Dundas and tied in Wheeling township. Something going on here that’s for sure.

    January 4, 2008
  26. Now THIS is how an election should look in this district. It’s consistent with the index, and as the prior commentor noticed: “My best guess is that the election result occurred not because of nasty bloggers, questionable endorsements, push-polling, glossy ads, or other campaigning peculiarities.” I’d say it had a lot to do with the ABSENCE of these things (except for all of Ray’s glossy ads, and it’ll be interesting to see how much personal money he put into his campaign because in a prior House campaign, he’d loaned his campaign over $8k, which is $3k over the House limit, and wasn’t called on it). There wasn’t the Republican push-polling this time, there were no Sviggum-directed dirty press conferences in the dump and no baseless threats of felony prosecution for serving pie, instead it was a CAMPAIGN. Dahle had to make a name for himself and get the word out about his and his party’s positions, Ray had the disadvantage of having a prior voting record that spoke volumes about how he’d perform. This is a satisfying result. Now the big question is whether the DFL will act, or whether they’ll cave as they have in Washington. Given the House last session, and given the lack of leadership and the participation of the DFL in wrongheaded policy, hand in hand with our chameleon-“green” governor, particularly on energy issues, I’m not too hopeful, but will be there prodding anyway. It’s a world where DFL House Energy Chair called me in to tell me “we need more coal” and where Sen. Ellen Anderson champions Energy Omnious bill after Energy Omnious bill that facilitates transmission lines and more coal, oh, and maybe a little wind. It’s going to take a big consistent push to turn this battleship around. Maybe this is a sign???

    January 4, 2008
  27. BruceWMorlan said:

    Paul’s right. The much worried about student vote was only incidental to the margin. It is interesting that only 41 of ~300 votes at Carleton were for Ray, which in my mind is indicative of the fact that Northfield is sooooo out of touch with the rural voters (the margin was reasonably close without the Northfield vote). I’ve long been claiming that Bridgewater’s undertaking of planning and zoning represented a long simmering frustration with a remote urban-oriented county’s poor managing of the rural needs, now it looks like I can add Northfield to that list of remote and disconnected entities (don’t even get me started on how remote and disconnected the state and federal arms are). Oh well.

    Curt asked why Northfield was the last set of precincts to report in. At the Cox residence we knew the results in the Northfield area long before they were posted. Apparently Northfield does not want anyone to forget that Northfield rules this part of the country, and we rural types ought to be more attentive to our place, that is, we better just sit down and shut up. By waiting until all other results were in, then almost casually, but certainly arrogantly, showing up with their votes and essentially saying to the rest of us “oh, why did you even bother, you little peasants”, the city continues its tradition. (Cautionary caveat, I’ve just read Mari Sandoz’s “Life of Crazy Horse” and I totally empathize with his struggle to protect a way of life that simply was not important to the hordes from the east.)

    January 4, 2008
  28. Patrick Enders said:

    I’m not a statistician, but yes, I am married to one.
    District gerrymandering is a fine tradition dating back nearly to the beginning of modern democracy.

    One common goal for the group in control of the gerrymander is to build districts in which your side can expect to win lots of districts with 52% or so of the votes, while concentrating as many of your opponents’ voters as possible into districts where they will win a smaller number of seats, but will win each of those seats by (ideally) margins of 90% to 10%.

    Unfortunately, concentrating groups of voters is sometimes cynically defended as creating “communities of interest.”

    Redistricting is an incredibly complex area both of politics and of statistical science. There’s a whole branch of statistics devoted to understanding geographic data (like voter rolls) that can and undoubtedly is used to draw districting maps. There is also a large body of law on the matter of districting that says what can and can’t be done. But all of that is well outside my areas of expertise.

    However, it’s very hard to know what’s the right way to draw districts. No matter how you draw then, some interests will have their influence increased, and others will have their influence diminished. My personal first instinct would be to turn it over to a computer with simple arbitrary rules, and let the chips fall where they may. I would think the rules for such a plan would favor geographic contiguity and compactness and little else. However, such districts would potentially shift radically with each census, as populations move and neighborhoods are built. Also, what does “compact” mean? Do you want to consider geographic obstacles like rivers, or man-made ones, like highways, when considering where to divide districts? “The other side of the tracks” may well separate “communities of interest” from each other.

    My point is, redistricting is one of the most important, and least well-delineated, processes in our democracy. Thus far, the principle in this country has been based on letting the majority rule. If one party takes it too far one way, at some later date, it is hoped that the other party will get a chance to rewrite it.

    The 2000 census redistricting is a case in point. The Republicans controlled that process in a majority of states, and they carefully constructed a minimum number of “very safe” Democratic districts, and a maximum number of Republican “pretty safe” seats. It was great for 2004, and it was part of the foundation of the promised “permanent Republican majority” that we heard a lot about just a few years ago. Unfortunately for them, a small-but-generalized shift away from the Republican party in the last few years turned a lot of those “pretty safe” Republican seats into a large number of “up for grabs” or even Democratic-leaning districts. And thus, the Republicans lost a lot of House seats in 2006, and are widely expected to lose even more in 2008.

    The art and science of drawing district lines would be a great topic for Politics and a Pint, if anyone’s up to the task. I, for one, have no idea what the right answer is.

    January 4, 2008
  29. Paul Zorn said:


    Were you serious (in posting #29) about attributing the relatively late appearance of Northfield voting results to arrogance, elitism, dissing the “peasants”, etc.?

    Perhaps such “city” attitudes exist (as do, presumably, “country” attitudes about godless, libertine liberals here in Rice County’s Gomorrah), but I need a little more evidence than the order of posting of election results. Could it instead have something to do with the larger voting numbers in Northfield precincts? Or a malice-less glitch of some type?

    William of Ockham (the 14th century Razor guy, but not a slasher) must be turning in his grave.

    January 4, 2008
  30. Yes, Paul and Bruce are right above, the students weren’t a big part of this win, though of course like every voter, they contributed to itl Special elections are atypical, and only those who feel strongly about the single race at issue will turn out.

    I’ve just run through the results, by County and by Pct., and what stands out is Ray lost every precinct in Northfield, even those that were traditionally “Ray’s” in past races, that applies to Northfield, but also take a look at the townships in 25B, Shieldsville, Wheeling and Bridgewater. Bridgewater was a Ray stronghold, and he lost big-time. He didn’t do at all well in 25B, which points to dissatisfaction, probably from varying perspectives, in his performance as Representative. Norgaard’s votes could have made a difference if they all would have been Ray voters, but as Ralph Nader notes, third parties take from both R’s and D’s. And it’s good Norgaard was in the mix, though he probably didn’t have the resources to mount a fast and furious campaign. The third voice brings in issues and perspectives that aren’t usually present, keeps everyone on their toes, and perhaps a little more honest.

    Seems a pretty good campaign and election all the way around. The campaign finance reports, when they appear, will make it even more interesting.

    January 4, 2008
  31. Curt Benson said:

    The conspiracy theory types who believe that the election was timed to minimize student votes might want to consider another element: Maybe the black helicopter boys “out geniused” themselves on this one. There were a lot of college students still home on break on election day. These were local kids, personally educated by Dahle. A lot of colleges don’t start up again for a couple of weeks. Were they a factor???

    Just a whimsical remark of course…..

    January 4, 2008
  32. Tracy Davis said:

    Along the whimisical remarks line, Carol, you’ll appreciate this one. Several months ago I googled “Occam’s razor” and the Google context-specific ads came up with this.


    I keep in on my desktop and call it “Occam’s Norelco.” (Click the photo for an actual definition for “Occam’s Razor”)

    January 4, 2008
  33. Curt – That ‘s a point, not just whimsical! I’d guess that it is a factor here, particularly the legions of Northfield parents who have dealt with Dahle as he dealt with their kids, the votes reflecting their impression of his character and values!

    January 4, 2008
  34. Elliot Dallavalle said:

    I concur with many of the comments about Pawlenty’s support for Cox. This was a calculated election by the Republicans thinking Cox was a slam-dunk in this district hence nominating Neville for the judgeship. It certainly backfired on them. But let’s give Northfielders credit for seeing thru this smokescreen and recognizing that Pawlenty only wanted Cox in the Senate to thwart any attempt of a veto. Cox championed himself as a bi-partisan, independent representative but everyone recognized he was solidly in Pawlenty’s back pocket. The correct and “only” choice was Kevin Dahle, and he will represent us well. Congrats!

    January 4, 2008
  35. kiffi summa said:

    Thank you, Patrick , for a lot of in-depth thoughts about the creation of voting districts; it IS a fascinating subject, to my mind… and I know it was to the mathematicians that helped the League of Women Voters with the redistricting of Rice County court case, a few years ago.
    I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on the “communities of interest” issue; I consider that very problematic, and would be interested to know a historic perspective of how that qualification originated.

    You’re oh , so right, about this being a good subject for Norm’s Politics and a Pint…. why don’t you propose it to him, and offer to lead the discussion?

    January 4, 2008
  36. Holly Cairns said:

    I think you are right, Paul Z., the election was won by Dahle and his volunteers, and not by bloggers, etc. 🙂

    I think today’s political issues are driving the dem vote.

    Carol, this election showed that Cox lost the last election, too, and that Dems are even more determined.

    Also, along the lines of the landslide: Northfielders vote, and rural people most likely didn’t have a personal connection with any of the candidates, and this was a SpecElect. Traditionally, only certain people vote.

    I noticed that Ward 2-2 voted heavily Dem. That is true with tradition, and good to see. My parent’s lived in 2-2 and it heavy Dem, and then it was Rep. for a while. Last House election it went Dem, if I am not mistaken. SO, it says something about the new builds out past Jefferson.

    January 4, 2008
  37. Bruce,

    Yikes. Is that your ax grinding, or are you just unhappy to see this result?

    Isn’t it safer to assume that Northfield’s results were last to report because of the much higher vote count? Opposed to, say, Dennison, where 4 votes were cast? This might be especially true if city election officials decided to submit results as a group – one time, rather than individually by precinct. I don’t know if that’s their process, but it seems to me to be one way they might operate.

    I think your characterization of Northfield as “arrogantly” telling rural voters to “sit down and shut up” denigrates all voters and election officials of Northfield, and reflects only your bias, not reality. You’re usually so much more reasonable and thoughtful than that.

    As for Northfield being “sooooo out of touch with the rural voters”, isn’t that also accurately expressed as rural voters being sooooo out of touch with Northfield? Or does your ax only cut one way?

    January 4, 2008
  38. kiffi summa said:

    Wm. S. post # 27… I’ll have to go back and look at the precinct tallies; maybe I remembered them incorrectly as it was early this AM, after a late night , and I hadn’t even finished my FIRST cup of tea….

    I was recalling about a 50% point spread , Dahle over Cox in Ward 4 pct. 1; and about a 30+ % point spread in Ward 4 pct. 2……. that seemed a significant difference …. Maybe I was wrong?

    January 4, 2008
  39. Christine Stanton said:

    I have to admit that my son’s comments about Kevin Dahle influenced my voting decision. He said that Mr. Dahle was one of the best teachers in the school, not because he was “easy,” but because he “made you learn.”

    At conferences I sometimes questioned his dry sense of humor, but I also knew he was dedicated to teaching and doing his job well. He was not there to impress the parents but to teach the kids.

    In that way, I have faith that Dahle will have the same dedication to his job as senator. Yes, his character and values were an important part of my decision as they are for all I choose to vote for.

    I am a little miffed at the name calling that has gone on in the blogs on this site. I hear that votes for Dahle were from either citizens who have no investment in this community (ie. St. Olaf and Carleton students and students home from college) or are out of touch with the “rural types.” I have to say that I do not fall into either of those categories, and neither do I consider myself a liberal.

    Frankly, it is actually interesting to me that many of the rural communities voted Republican being the Democratic party is traditionally known as the farm labor party. It is also very interesting that areas that supported Cox in the past did not do so this time around.

    January 4, 2008
  40. Holly Cairns said:

    Now, if Dems could just get 2/3rds in the House, too. Veto override!

    January 4, 2008
  41. BruceWMorlan said:

    Paul, my suggestion that Northfield plays with the timing of its presenting of its votes was based on a pre-event prediction that Northfield’s votes would appear about 15 minutes after the last of the non-Northfield groups were on-line. Although the observed sample size is 1, the prior was based on several past elections. When the prediction proved accurate (with respect to timing, +/- 5 minutes), the posterior probability on the belief that Northfield deliberately delays its report was increased (standard Bayesian analysis).

    Brendon, normally your conclusion is exactly the one I would normally push (being the sort who likes to assume the best intentions of others are the explanation), but in this case the voting information was apparently available long before the Northfield results showed up. In the days of paper counts, your observation would have been easy to justify. But, before I get all conspiracy-theoried up, I should consider the possibility that Northfield is simply trying to ensure that other polling stations aren’t able to use the partial results to determine whether they need to gin up a few more votes. For my part, I don’t understand why the state web site, the media, or anyone else ought to be able to report partial results. Doing so (after the polls close) serves no newsworthy purpose and only makes it easier for someone to game of the system. One person’s reasonable decision (to hold results until everyone else is done) is another person’s conspiracy theory.

    Thanks for the complement though, you are both right, I am usually more reserved in my comments, and I expect to be so again soon. I did have a personal stake in that I have had many good conversations with Ray about how to make the sorts of environmentally friendly planning commission moves that I feel are important for this area and that I see the cities (including Northfield) ignoring, and I will miss those conversations.

    January 4, 2008
  42. BruceWMorlan said:

    Sorry, [bury]that axe[/bury]

    January 4, 2008
  43. Bruce,

    As usual, your analysis is well-informed. I simply thought your conclusions (comment #29) were rather personal and global given the evidence before you.

    After all, the actual, final reporting of the results probably comes down to the decision or efficiency of one election official (my guess), and ascribing arrogance and dismissiveness to all of Northfield seemed like quite a reach for anyone, especially a statistician, to make.

    I hope Ray stays involved in politics. His is a valuable voice. It would be good for you to start having some of conversation with Kevin Dahle, too.

    And is it “ax” or “axe”? Such a short word, but I go back and forth on the spelling.

    All my best,

    January 4, 2008
  44. Oops, that should be “your conversations” in my post #46…

    January 4, 2008
  45. Holly Cairns said:

    Yes, good idea, Brenden. It’s always good to talk with your Representative or Senator.

    January 4, 2008
  46. Barbara Gentling said:

    I think the short campaign season had a significant impact. IMHO, it was a change I liked & would like to see more often.

    Also, I have been disgusted with all the campaign materials sent by/for Ray in the past. Too too much.

    Also, I HATE Pawlenty! I went through a lawsuit where he was the opposing lawyer and an absolute BASTARD. I won, but will never forget or forgive his strategies and behaviors. He will lie, cheat, and steal to win. He is above nothing! His “coming to Northfield” to support
    Ray sent me running to Kevin.

    My girls, home for Christmas, had only good things to
    say about Kevin—and that says much as they are none
    too positive about Northfield HS.

    Congratulations Kevin!

    January 4, 2008
  47. Well put, Barbara! I’ve taken to calling Pawlenty the Green Chameleon Governor ( ) and Ray tried to wear that mantel as well, using smooth words very different from his voting record. The voting records don’t lie.

    January 4, 2008
  48. Britt Ackerman said:

    I felt very, very guilty about forgetting to vote before going to work yesterday. Then, I realized that I couldn’t have voted if I had wanted to, as we moved to the Dakota county side of Northfield, and are out of the Senate District. But in my heart I still voted for Dahle.

    January 4, 2008
  49. Paul Fried said:

    The results of this election are significant. As others have pointed out, the college student vote would not have been needed to decide the election in favor of Kevin. He would have won without that.

    Others have noted that the reason Ray lost was because of what is happening in Washington, but when Steve Sviggum’s seat came up for special election, that wasn’t so long ago, and it went Republican. I’m sure there are voters in Sviggum’s old district who are dissatisfied with Washington.

    I don’t think this is just a matter of looking at stats, and assuming that a certain percent who voted for Jessica Peterson came out to vote for Kevin, while more who voted for Neuville decided to stay home.

    Ray’s a nice guy, of course. Just before he announced that he’d run again against David Bly, I was playing at Nordic Jam at the Contented Cow, and Ray was kind enough to buy all the musicians a drink (beer, wine, lemonade). I appreciated and drank the beer, and because he had not yet announced, it was technically legal. But I wondered why a guy who was about to declare that he’d run again, and who had complained about his opponent serving pie at a public campaign function in a city park, would risk the appearance of impropriety and hypocrisy.

    Both major parties have their established base. There are some who will always vote for Ray, others who will always vote for whoever the DFL puts forward. But too much attention and strategy emphasizes turning out the base, and not enough on those voters in the middle who might be on the fence.

    Rob Hardy’s comment about the truck with the Cox signs across from the polling place, and other comments here about lawn signs prepared in advance, and Barbara’s comments in post 50, are all telling. Ray is a nice guy in person, and very willing to respond to E-mails, etc. But if the law says you can’t campaign a certain number of feet from a polling place, Northfielders get the sense that he’s the kind of candidate who would have a truck with signs one inch outside that boundary (or a foot inside it, if he doesn’t get caught).

    It’s not just about discontent with Bush and Washington, and it’s not just about college students, or the base of one party or another. Northfield voters know Ray and see him operate more closely and intimately than people do in the other parts of the district, and I think the message that this sends is that Ray might have won this election if he had conducted himself differently in a variety of ways already mentioned, and also, if his voting record revealed him to be the moderate he claims to be.

    Instead, Ray consistently blames it all on others: Liberal Northfield, college students, anti-Bush sentiment, so hard to be a fiscal conservative, etc.

    Ray’s public face is green, conservation, help lower your taxes. But scratch the surface, and he is, in fact, less a listener and a public servant than he is about pro-business ideology, and he’s an aggressive campaigner to the point of alienating voters. And I think this will continue, and if he runs again, the margin by which he’ll lose will only widen.

    January 4, 2008
  50. Paul Fried said:

    Carol, where do you find out all that information regarding candidate contributions and spending? Is there a state web site you know of and could provide a quick link?

    January 4, 2008
  51. Paul – of course I’ve got it bookmarked — was just digging around for lobbyist information on District Energy in St. Paul, there are more lobbyists in energy than any other area in state politics.
    For Candidate lists:
    Candidate reports:
    and then go to “2008 Reports”
    There are the Pre-General Election reports now available, and also a handful of 48 hour notices, which are required when big money comes in. Take a look and see if you can figure out what the initials stand for. If you can’t, check out the PAC list:
    and the PAC reports:
    Oh, PAC = Political Action Committee

    January 4, 2008
  52. Felicity Enders said:

    Hi Kiffi,

    Regarding your post #24, I’ve been trying to dig around, because I do think homogeneity of the wards is important for the council members to represent their constituents consistently (try saying that one fast!). I disagree with Patrick’s post #31 a bit on this – everything I can find suggests that while precincts send delegates in the caucuses, wards ONLY determine local elections, and state house and senate and national house election districts combine multiple wards (anyone know if I’ve got it wrong??). However, for voting purposes, precincts must add to wards which must add to congressional districts, etc (as I understand it, anyway).

    The requirement for contiguity likely arises from the need to combine precincts to get wards. However, the “communities of interest” requirement for precincts within wards looks to me like it’s intended to mean that a single person can represent the ward more accurately (exactly your comment). In looking at the voting map, there are numerous questionable calls but to my eye the most egregious by far are the two precincts that make up ward 4. I don’t understand how Jon can be expected to represent everyone’s various needs adequately. I would be particularly concerned if the number of people in the two precincts differed dramatically.

    I had a geeky moment this evening, and I took a look at some data from the last census to get a better sense of differences across Northfield. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t enough information to see differences. At the level of “block groups” used to define regions for census data, Northfield looks reasonably similar with respect to age and gender, taking the college dip in median age into account. The rental population varies a bit, as expected, but doesn’t really get at the differences within the two precincts in ward 4. Dare I say the person who probably knows those differences best is Jon Denison?

    I would be very interested in discussing districting at P&P. Maybe someone from the League of Women Voters could come explain some of the nitty gritty details?

    January 4, 2008
  53. Holly Cairns said:

    Oh, Paul, I guess you were asking Carol. My bad! That’s the url you were looking for.

    January 4, 2008
  54. victor summa said:

    Felicity – you ask and pose a number of questions re: voting district makeup.

    The precinct is the building block of elections and vote management – counting votes, campaign planing and basic election organization.

    WARDS only exist in cities and but made up of precincts – depending on population numbers. Voters go to their Precinct Polling place – and precincts report the outcome of the count. Wards have elected representatives

    Planing the precincts is based principally on population – attempting to get near equality in numbers, but only within a city. Other precincts in Rice County but not in Northfield Faribault, etc, have their own numbers issues. As communities grow {or diminish in population] the numbers game will determine the representation. States are concerned that changing population, some might lose some US Representatives – i.e. voice in Congress.

    As Patrick and Kiffi point out, other concerns in laying out the voting districts are: Continuity in societal ways, geographic contiguity…. avoid long slim connecting channels of geographic convenience to link populated areas, and Compactness, also a top desire — but other than numbers, these other concerns are often difficult to accomplish.

    Northfield was redistricted following the 2000 census… this at the behest of the Charter Commission. The thought being as N’fld grows, there is a need for more Wards. That seemed logical – but when working on the redistricting, I decided the idea was flawed – more wards do not necessarily allow for community to be segmented with the best outcomes as envisioned by the guidelines. So it is we have the bizarre Ward 4 layout.

    Why this is particularly problematic for Northfield (This is Kiffi’s view – which I largely agree with) is the nature of the two neighborhoods.

    Upper 4 … precinct 1 (Greenvale south to Hwy 19 – LIncoln east to Hwy 3) is composed of older homes – mostly single family, part of what might be termed “old Northfield” . Precinct 2, W 4 lies south of Jefferson Parkway and east of Hwy 3 – and extends east to about 246. These are newer homes, suburban in many ways… and many apartments. The principle difference [might be] the life styles and values of the two neighborhoods.

    To be frank… while this is not set in concrete, a major difference might be the attitude imbedded in the ‘98 / ‘99 struggle over Target. There are values differences in the two districts than might be more prevalent in Ward 4 than other wards – or so it seems.

    Another problem [perceived ] is the St. Olaf Precinct. As the number worked out, there are approximately 2500 residents in the dorms [regardless of their voting patterns – hometown or Northfield] all 2500 count in the census numbers for that geographic area. Ward 3 P 1 is St. Olaf.

    Ward 3 – P2 is everything else in W 3 except that part of W 3 which lies in Dakota County – There is no reasonable way to split St. Olaf in to two precincts. If added to 3-2, the numbers are too big – 3-3 [Dakota County] simply further confuses the lines.

    Northfield including both colleges after the 2000 census had about 16,500 [now closer to 18,000] Each of the four wards then, if made up of equal numbers would be about 4000.

    You can see the imbalance that St. Olaf’s population creates. Carleton College being smaller can include its student numbers in with the general population in Ward 1 P2 [I think] with more ease.

    Sometimes in major cities – one building will constitute a precinct.

    In Counties – a Township is one precinct – most Rice County Twpshps have far fewer residents than a precinct in Faribault or Northfield.

    County voting venues are along districts made up for the most part of complete Townships having three of the five including parts of the two major cities – including some complete precincts – You may not split a precinct.

    Rice County, at last census, had about 56,000 residents. The five districts were divided at about 11,000 per district, and weird lines around Northfield and Faribault had to be be drawn – these district lines had to maintain precinct lines.

    Okeh! This is far too confusing – getting far too long – and yes… you may be right, a good discussion for P and P at the Cow. but with MAPS and numbers.

    I want to end with this. My thought {I haven’t put this to a test] is that Northfield made a mistake when they split into four wards – because of the geographic limitations … The colleges, the rivers, the big park area and the obvious residential expansion sites: south east and north west [the latter in Dakota county]. I think a new plan might better go back to three Wards – [easier to divide sensibly] and have two Councilors for each ward elected in alternate biennium years. This is of course a crackpot theory – and one you and your young friends will have to sort out by the year 2010.

    I am very impressed with both your and Patrick’s remarks on this . Shows some real investigative interest. Good!


    January 5, 2008
  55. kiffi summa said:

    Well, there’s not much to add to that!

    Victor is truly informed on that issue, having worked ( along with the various math people) on the LWV committee that, unfortunately, ended with a lawsuit against Rice County in order to get it redistricted more fairly.

    I am on the LWV board and we have had NF’s need for redistricting on several recent agendas, but it’s hard to get through an agenda when there’s so many “irregularities” going on in the city process, and large discussions ensue over those gov’t processes. Practically, since we are at 2008, redistricting would not likely happen until 2010-11, when all census numbers are in.

    The “communities of interest” requirement really bothers me, and I have posited that it might be better to have ALL at-large councilors rather than Ward representatives; that way they are all, hopefully, committed to the same goals of what is best for the common good, and the city.

    January 5, 2008
  56. Felicity Enders said:

    Interesting! I have to say, looking at the map, I really like Victor’s solution of 3 wards each with two councilors. I see them as one ward on the west side of the river, and two wards on the east side probably split at Woodley. Unfortunately, that would require changing a couple of existing precincts, which might make it more difficult to achieve.

    Kiffi, I think it’s important that the councilors represent a specific geographic area, because there are definitely competing interests going on. Election from a ward should guarantee that the councilor puts more weight on the needs of that group. That’s particularly important given the expansion Victor mentioned.

    I’m very glad LWV is considering the districting question. I think waiting for the 2010 census to come out to have a general plan in place would be a mistake, because there are so many local variables to consider. If a general plan is ready to go, then it can be tweaked following the census results.

    January 5, 2008
  57. Ray Coudret said:

    If there is anything to learn from this election, it would be that lawn signs don’t really show the position of the people. Seeing the volunteers in the campaign office every day told me that something good was going on.

    When people would ask me for lawn signs, I would tell them that we were “out” of lawn signs because we hardly had any in the first place. We poured all of our resources into directly contacting voters. This reply would inevitably be followed by an incredulous look to which I would respond, “lawn signs can’t vote, so don’t worry about who has the most lawn signs. Everything will be fine if we just keep telling people about Kevin.”

    In the end, the election came down to three very basic ideas; (a) a great candidate (thanks Kevin!); (b) a well articulated message that, “people matter and we need to make decisions at the state legislature that reflect the impact on people’s lives”; and (c) HARD WORK! Every person that supported Kevin made calls, talked to others, knocked on doors and told their friends, “Kevin Dahle is not just a good person, he will work for you and your family in St. Paul”. This is grassroots politics at it’s finest. Thanks to every person who helped to make this happen.

    January 5, 2008
  58. Kiffi summa said:

    Felicity: Yes, I agree that Victor’s solution of three wards, each with two reps elected in alternate elections IS the better solution, but what I haven’t had time to work out is how the local reaction to the college vote ( Which is usually a negative reaction to the college vote) would impact the three ward solution and then how to create an argument that would make locals quit feeling that college students shouldn’t vote here.

    I personally am totally in favor of the college students voting here if they choose to. I think the argument that says”they’re going to be here four years, or less, and then go; why should they impact our local politics” is a very specious argument. I believe most college students are not certain to go back to where they grew up for the rest of their adult lives; furthermore, how can any civic minded person conscientously discourage a new voter from participation? Aren’t we always trying to get higher voting %ages?

    Anyway, I think its a really interesting subject, and I know who I’ll be calling when the planning time comes around.

    p.s. you’re also right about getting plan in place , so it’s ready for final “tweaking” after the census.

    January 5, 2008
  59. Paul Fried said:

    Holly and Carol:
    Thanks, both of you, for the links.

    Ray Coudret:
    Thanks for your insights.

    Did you ever figure out the 8P.M. time on the article in the News? I assumed that Ariel started writing/posting her article around the time that most of the other precints had reported, but perhaps waited with a window open for a post of her story to the News, and waited, and waited, till Northfield’s precincts were in. But maybe she had some contacts that gave her a scoop before they were posted to the Secretary of State’s website.

    In general:
    I wonder if some of this had to do, not just with discontent with Washington, but with discontent with trickle-down. Whenever I hear Ray (and heard Tom) talk about business and taxes, it always seemed they were trickle-down to the core: give businesses what they need to thrive, and then everyone will prosper, just trust us, etc. But look at all the fraud and profiteering related to the war in Iraq. Maybe people are more decided about (and against) trickle-down, and maybe that played a part–besides Kevin’s good networking as a good teacher, and the other factors already mentioned.

    January 5, 2008
  60. Anne Bretts said:

    Paul, my guess is that the default time is the time the story file is opened. You can store it and open it again and unless you deliberately change it when you finish, it posts with the original time. That’s how it has worked at other sites I know.

    January 5, 2008
  61. Curt Benson said:

    I was checking out both the NFN’s site and the Sec of State’s site on election night. The News didn’t call the election at 8 pm. Their story was updated several times in conjunction with the results from the Sec of State.

    January 6, 2008
  62. FYI – When you want to check out what has been posted previously, what’s changed and when, just go to the site and click on “Wayback Machine.” If you don’t have this on your toolbar, well, go here, and scroll down a bit to the part where it says “click here and move to toolbar” and it will attach and give you many hours of pleasurable sleuthing!

    January 6, 2008
  63. Robert Hall said:

    If you need a reason for the large margin in the recent vote count, look to the two colleges. The results hardly reflect a representative democracy. This coming spring the students will leave our city, while the residents of this city and the rest of the state will have to live with the outcome of the past election. I would submit the students who are not residents are mostly clueless about the needs of Northfield and our state. They are allowed to vote on issues which they will not suffer the outcome. The students are nothing more than imported voters. Hardly representative.

    Robert Hall

    January 9, 2008
  64. Patrick Enders said:

    As has been posted previously, even if you subtracted out every vote cast by the students at the two colleges in town, Keven Dahle would still have been elected our new state senator.

    That being said, our Constitution clearly affords every adult citizen of the United States the right to vote.

    January 9, 2008
  65. Robert Hall – please review the election results on the Secretary of State website. I don’t get why you and others persist in this “it’s the students” argument. It’s against evidence — it’s not true. Ray Cox didn’t take a single precinct in Northfield, and those are the voters who know him best. Ray Cox lost in townships that had been prior strongholds. And you’re also forgetting all of Ray’s student vote in 2002 and in 2004! If you subtracted student vote from the 2006 mix, Ray would have had even fewer votes than he did. Enough of the false excuses about why Ray Cox lost … sigh… The election is over.

    January 9, 2008
  66. Robert Hall,

    I’ll go Patrick one better…

    Even if you subtracted every vote for Kevin Dahle, and kept Ray’s votes, from the two “college” precincts (the Carleton precinct, at least, has many non-students in it as well, which is why I put college in quotes), Dahle still would have won.

    Yes, the students contributed to the “large margin”, but Dahle only needed to win by one vote. Size of margin doesn’t alter the outcome.

    I have commented extensively on this issue on Not wanting to rehash the discussion or make this response extremely long, here’s a link to just one of several comments I made in defense of college student voting:

    You can scroll through several other comments made by me and other folks there.

    I will say here, however, in my experience with Carleton students – I am an alum and a current employee – I have found them to be very well-informed as voters – at least as well-informed as many non-students who vote. I’m sure the same can be said of Olaf students.

    Regardless, being “clueless” (as you stated) does not preclude one from voting, unless you would argue for literacy tests again, as adopted by Southern states in response to the 15th Amendment.

    Although states determine voting rights, they must follow the strictures of several Constitutional amendments and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    January 9, 2008
  67. Robert Hall said:

    It’s not a matter of who won or lost. Campus students are imported votes. They do not represent nor do they suffer the consequences of their vote. The residents and taxpayers foot the bill. The state of Minnesota may allow them to vote as residents to be sure, however they are not held responsible for their vote either informed or uninformed. At the end of the school year the students take a powder and head for their real home. Our college age childeren voted by absentee ballot. We thought it correct for them not be involved in community politics where they are not held responsible for their vote.

    January 9, 2008
  68. Holly Cairns said:

    Good points, Bob. I would argue that people who live in an area 9 months out of the year, and attend school in that area, are very much effected by a vote.

    College students have a voice, and as long as they don’t vote in two places (whether it be in two cities or two states), they should be considered regular, ordinary constituents.

    Placing limitations on voters is a sneaky, demeaning, nasty activity that has been done many times in our history. Let’s say “NO” to any idea such a poll tax, a literacy test, a required absentee ballot, and etc.

    Let’s also count every eligible voter as a whole person, and let’s not discriminate based on color of skin or for any other adjective.

    C’mon, where were you when the vote was close and Ray Cox won? I didn’t hear your argument about the college vote, then.

    January 9, 2008
  69. Rob Hardy said:

    I recently had a long conversation with two Carleton students about the recent election and the new rental ordinance. I think that learning to live in a community with other adults is, or should be, an important part of a college student’s education. They should learn to be responsible neighbors and responsible citizens of the community in which they are living for four years. Both St. Olaf and Carleton have “civic engagement” programs to address, as the Carleton website puts it, the feeling of “estrangement from the world at large” that often results from living in the “bubble” of college. As “townies,” we shouldn’t make that feeling of estrangement worse by resenting the efforts of students to become engaged in our community. We should encourage more engagement, and help students to be better neighbors and to feel more invested in Northfield. We can be a part of their education, and we can all reap the benefits of creating better citizens.

    January 9, 2008
  70. My 18-year-old daughter returned to her college home, Grinnell, Iowa on January 3rd to participate in the Iowa caucuses because she had become passionately interested in the presidential campaign and wanted to caucus for her chosen candidate, Barak Obama. She will likely vote there in the fall as well.

    She could have voted here in Northfield (and would have voted for Kevin Dahle) before heading down to Iowa to caucus, and it may have even been legal for her to do so. However, after she and I consulted with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office and the Iowa Democratic party, we agreed that it would be unethical (although probably legal) to do both, and she did NOT vote here for Dahle. I fully supported her decision to caucus in Iowa, and am thrilled that she has become politically engaged as a college student.

    College students should be encouraged in every possible way to participate in the political process in whatever way they choose.

    I don’t hear anyone complaining about folks who move to Northfield for a year or two (let’s say as a corporate transfer, commuting to Eden Prairie to work), vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate in a local election, but then move on to wherever their job takes them next. Many St. Olaf and Carleton students have more of a local stake than such a voter; all have a valid right to vote nonetheless.

    January 9, 2008
  71. Robert Hall said:

    I don’t believe two students are representive of nearly four thousand students. How are students who live on the campus of a non profit institution that pays no local or state taxes, does not provide funding for our streets, street repair or parks but is entitled to their use affected by my vote as a taxpayer and property owner?

    January 9, 2008
  72. Holly Cairns said:

    Well, they are effected by the vote in general. It’s collaborative. Also, those St. O and C students drive on the roads, buy things, and live and work right here with us 9 months out of the year.

    They may not pay property tax, but if they work around here, they pay tax. If they buy things, they pay tax.

    As to the “private college” aspect– why don’t St. Olaf and Carleton pay property tax? In light of the recent daycare property tax ruling that I heard about, I believe Carleton and St. Olaf should have to pay property tax. I know, they donate… but… explain it to me.

    January 9, 2008
  73. Rob Hardy said:

    I would much rather have constructive conversations with students, and encourage them to think of themselves as neighbors and citizens who have a stake in this community, than find reasons to resent them. I’ve known quite a few Carleton students. I think they tend to vote Democratic not because they want to spend someone else’s tax dollars, but because they can imagine other people’s lives: the plight of the poor, the plight of those who face prejudice and discrimination, the plight of those without adequate health care, the plight of those who have to try to learn and teach in underfunded schools. They vote with their imaginations, not their tax dollars. I’m okay with that. I’m a local taxpayer, but I think politics should be more about imagination and less about taxes.

    January 9, 2008
  74. First, Mr. Hall, I would be very surprised if “nearly four thousand students” are registered from the two campuses. That’s almost certainly a sizable overstatement. Many never register or vote here.

    Second, since I’m assuming you didn’t read through the comments I referenced before, I’ll just cut and paste here. This was a response to an anonymous commenter on who was making much the same argument you are making here:

    “What other tests should we place on voters? Do we demand proof at the polling place that the issue they are voting on will effect them in some way?

    Regarding the tax issue you raise in particular, what about students who are renting? What about students whose parents own or rent in town? What about nursing home residents? Should they be denied the right to vote if they wish to vote?

    While voting is never going to be perfect, we have state and federal laws that protect the right because we are a society… we are together.

    This carping on college student voting, which was also a big issue during the Target debate in town, is, at best, partisan and self-interested, and, at worst, a dangerous step toward disenfranchising larger and larger groups of voters based on an ever-growing, impossibly byzantine web of disqualifying factors.

    Additionally, the strain on the civic process of voting – monitoring those who can and cannot vote on particular questions – would be nearly impossible to control and horrendously expensive to enact. Costs that would be passed on to taxpayers.

    Then there are those state and federal laws to change or circumvent.

    The system is not perfect; nor can it be, but it’s endlessly better than the system that would result if we followed your argument much further.”

    January 9, 2008
  75. Sorry, should have noted that the quoted passage was one of MY responses to an anonymous commenter on

    I made several, and others weighed in with great points on this issue as well.

    January 9, 2008
  76. Jerry Bilek said:

    The colleges may not pay property taxes, they do give the city money:

    they also provide plenty of income taxes and the students also pay sales taxes. Probably more than they would in their home cities. 3/4 of their time is here, they should be legally allowed to vote here unless you want to take away their rights.

    As a College student in Madison WI, I always voted in Madison. It was my new home. I visited my parents home on holidays, but I lived, worked and spent my income in Madison. I have not been back to my home city since I graduated from high school other than visits. I would have felt silly voting there for people I did not know and issues that did not affect me.

    January 9, 2008
  77. Robert Hall said:

    I would hope a voting college student would vote on reality and not their imagination. We already have enough people voting with their imaginations. We just sent another one to St. Paul. The colleges give the city money, but at their discression and not by any state statute formula. I never said that college students didn’t have the right to vote, but vote where they are a ligitimate resident and are held accountable for their voting choices. How many students do you believe have valid Mn. drivers license? If you are a resident of this state you can not drive on an out of state drivers license. College students are not an intergal part of this city. They live on the paramiter.

    January 9, 2008
  78. Paul Zorn said:

    I don’t hear anyone else saying that college students’ voting in Northfield is or should be *illegal*.

    Whether it’s moral or ethical or a Good Thing for students to vote on issues that don’t directly affect them is a different question. Seems to me a student might reasonably decide not to vote on a local school bonding question, for instance. But some other student might feel passionately, pro or con, about education funding issues, and therefore want to vote. Why not?

    In any case, similar questions arise for all voters, not just college students. It would be nice, as Mr Hall says, if all voters were well informed and accountable. But I see no reason to worry more in these respects about college students than about others. Research on what voters (of any age) actually know about the issues is not exactly heartening.

    January 9, 2008
  79. Ray Coudret said:

    Whereas the sentiments expressed in comment #70 are felt by a minority of other folks in town, I am surprised that you do not take a more global perspective on the term “representative. The actual college student may not be here in four years, but that person will be replaced by another student with similar interests. This means that the students who voted in 1990, were in effect representative of the students who followed them in 1992.

    Furthermore, a quick look at the historical voting records from these precincts would reveal that the students who were here in 1990 voted at similar rates and percentages as those who voted in 1992.

    With that stated, I must also point out the the student voting issue has been heard and upheld at the Supreme Court level.

    Even more importantly, these students are a vital part of our community
    –They spend a LOT of money downtown
    –They provide jobs for many in our city and in District 25)
    –These schools are responsible for the first public radio station
    –first college football game
    –visits by dignitaries
    –scientists, teachers, authors and the like who are products of these schools)
    –These students volunteer in our hospitals
    –These students volunteer for our schools
    –Volunteer efforts throughout the district through efforts such as Habitat for Humanity and the Buckthorn eradication
    –Relay for Life cancer fundraiser

    AND… I don’t know if you noticed but many of the people who live in our community proudly wear the dual moniker of “Towny” along with “Ole”, or “Carl”.

    Yes. I do believe that these students should vote here. They, along with every other person in town, are an inseperable part of what makes Northfield, with all of it’s flaws, an incredible place to live.

    With all of that said. I believe this is a healthy conversation to engage in although I do respectfully disagree with Mr. Hall in his original assertion. As Mr. Etter pointed out, the margin doesn’t matter. That was one impressive victory due to a heck of a lot of work by many, many people.

    January 9, 2008
  80. Ray Coudret said:

    Mr. Hall,

    Did you just rip on our new Senator when you said, “we just sent one to St. Paul”? You don’t have any idea about who he is and you don’t know him, yet you write something like that. I thought that type of writing was not allowed on this blog.

    Are you really interested in a civil discourse or are you just grinding an old axe?

    Try to imagine Northfield without the colleges. How much property tax would we lose if all of those professors, custodians, office workers and the like were gone? Where do those dollars come from? They come directly from the students tuition and/or from the alumni who donate back to the college to help with student aid or building projects.

    There are economists that have estimated that every dollar spent in a community is actually spent seven times. Take the total salary for each college and multiply by seven and you will find an approximation of the impact and economic importance of these schools and these student citizens. Every one of those dollars comes from the students who pay tuition.

    How can a person assert that these students don’t have an impact on their community? How can you say they aren’t citizens of Northfield?

    What about people who leave during the winter months and go to warmer climates, are they allowed to vote? A few of those people will die in the next four years; shouldn’t their votes be disallowed just in case?

    Am I allowed to vote here? I went on vacation for several weekends last year to Fargo. Maybe I should vote there.

    What if I vote for a Republican or a Libertarian? Does that change the status?

    Where is the criteria?

    Oh, that’s right. The criteria has been set. It was even heard at the supreme court. Adults can vote in the precinct in which they reside. The students reside here. They sleep, eat, and study. They contribute many millions of dollars to the community… They vote here.

    But I digress.

    P.S. Please don’t reply by ripping on others.

    Oh, and by the way… I looked up the “word” “paramiter”…I might have a bad dictionary but…

    January 9, 2008
  81. Gabriel Rholl said:

    Mr. Hall, you said: “How many students do you believe have valid Mn. drivers license?”

    Well, not me, for one. Does that mean I shouldn’t vote? After all, I choose not to have a license, mostly because I can get anywhere in Northfield in 15 minutes on a bike. Why should I have to have a card that represents the right to drive in order to vote? They’re not the same thing and ought not to be confused with each other.

    As to your other concern about students voting with their imagination alone, consider this: I’ve lived in Northfield for 19 years. I went to the schools, and I’ve spent too much money downtown. I’ve been working here for 4 years, (Thanks, Co-Op!) and I pay income and sales taxes just like anyone else. I too have been affected by property tax hikes because my parents have had to deal with them.

    I voted for the recent school tax levy because I remembered watching average class sizes go from around 15-20 to 30-40 students per class from 9th grade to 12th grade. I also was made to pay escalating fees for activities: To participate in the school’s theater program went from somewhere around $30 for the first activity and $15 for subsequent activities my freshman year to $50 for every single one by my senior year. It wasn’t fair and I wasn’t very happy about it. Anything that could be done to fix that, in my mind, should have been done, because that fee raise prevented kids who don’t have as much money as others from participating in activities. Many colleges look at a student’s extra-curricular activity history and take it into account when considering acceptance.

    Obviously I’m being stereotyped a bit because I happen to be “a college student;” a class that tends to be idealist. That’s not really fair at all, because I am a realist; I vote on the grounds of what I’ve seen in this community. So before you go stereotyping all college students as lazy free-loaders (which isn’t true) that like to screw with elections just because they’re idealistic (also not true), stop and think for a moment about it.

    January 9, 2008
  82. Ray Coudret said:


    Great points and well spoken. You have obviously had a fine education. Are you allowed to Blog in Northfield since you are “just a college student”? Shouldn’t you be dreaming or rigging elections with Maya, Kat and all of the rest of those nefarious individuals on the hill? ;0)

    January 9, 2008
  83. Griff Wigley said:

    Tim O’Brien’s Blog House column in today’s Strib ends with this comment:

    Delicious irony After DFLer Kevin Dahle defeated Republican Ray Cox in the Senate District 25 special election last week, blogger Michael Brodkorb wrote, “Negative politics works … . According to sources close to the race, the DFL didn’t spend any money on promoting a positive message about Dahle.” Considering the level of issues analysis and thoughtful debate found on Brodkorb’s blog, Minnesota Democrats Exposed (10), he’d better count on negative politics working. Otherwise, he’d be out of a job.

     Michael Brodkorb has blogged about it.

    January 10, 2008
  84. Holly Cairns said:

    Yes, it seems Tim O’Brien is noting that Brodkorb is always using negative advertising, which anyone who googled Kevin Dahle or Ray Cox during the election could already tell.

    Brodkorb wrote about the Dahle/Cox race many times:

    if that link doesn’t work, go to and find the search box on the left hand side, and put in Dahle or Cox.

    But, let’s talk about what consititues negative advertisement. I think it is an unfair attack on someone’s character, or is misleading, or is false. I don’t think voting record is negative advertising.

    Here are the ads, again, as linked to from

    While we’re at it, the Republicans really do a lot of “negative ads” or attacks on character, all the time. They do this by using separate PACs and then saying “this ad was not endorsed by any candidate.” NOTE to DFLers: They don’t have the Republican Party itself doing the advertisements. What can be learned from this? If it’s messy, refer it to those that like messy.

    I wonder what Brodkorb said at people’s doors as he campaigned for Ray.

    January 10, 2008
  85. Bruce Morlan said:

    Holly, when Ray Cox and David Bly competed last, I was just this ->||<- close to getting the two of them to agree to a paired campaign, where they would both blog to a common site, responding to each other’s comments and points in a sort of long running on-line debate. They both liked the idea of talking directly to each other while the rest of us listened in. Neither of them was personally in favor of negative ads or the “nearly negative” ads that only told part of the story (e.g., “X voted against apple pie” without noting that these were alar-coated sour apples foisted by the apple union on unsuspecting students). Unfortunately, I have to work for a living, so the idea never made it past the “sure, we’ll play nice” and I have apologized to both of them for not making it happen.

    Imagine how refreshing it would be if you could actually sit on the sidelines while the candidates carried on this long term conversation on issues. Imagine how refreshing it would be if they drifted to a good common solution on some topics and on other drifted to basic principles as the foundation for their disagreement. Of course, the candidates would still have to deal with the fact that outsiders will weigh in as well, but who would bother to listen to an ad when facts and opinions were out there for everyone to read?

    If we (the voters) let elections degenerate to nothing more than yard signs and name recognition, then we deserve the bad results that come of electing people based on such shallow inputs.

    January 10, 2008
  86. John George said:

    Ray- You said, “There are economists that have estimated that every dollar spent in a community is actually spent seven times. Take the total salary for each college and multiply by seven and you will find an approximation of the impact and economic importance of these schools and these student citizens. Every one of those dollars comes from the students who pay tuition.” I’m not sure you properly applied the formula you stated. I thought the meaning was that each dollar went through seven different people. I agree with your point that the college students certainly add to the economic well being of Northfield, but I think the economic meaning of the statement is that each dollar they spend affects seven people rather than being multiplied seven times. If I’m wrong in my understanding, please let me know.

    As far as students’ voting rights, I thought a person only had to live in a precinct for three months to be eligible to vote? Is this correct? These students certaily live here more than three months. And they certainly have a right to vote in the national elections.

    As far as age and political convictions, I really like what Winston Churchil is credited with saying. ” If you are not a liberal when you are young, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative when you grow old, you have no sense.” If this is not his quote, please let me know. And, I don’t mean to be offensive to anyone of you readers. I just think it is a funny saying. A person can change their mind on things.

    I think there are as many issues that drive the way people vote as there are people. In our system, at least, it is done peacefully and wihout recrimination. And when it comes down to it, we seem to vasilate back and forth between the political parties’ leaderships without the whole country going under (although some pundits would like to make it seem the country is going under.) I personally do not put much hope in either major party. I’m thankful that God is still on the throne.

    January 10, 2008
  87. Patrick Enders said:

    I like your point: people may change their minds over time, as their understanding of the world evolves. And that can be a very good thing.

    However, I’d suggest that you not use Winston Churchill’s quote to support your sensible point of view, because it has negative connotations that I don’t think you intend.

    “If you are not a liberal when you are young, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative when you grow old, you have no sense.”

    I think the word might’ve been brain, not sense, but I’ll leave it to others to look that up.

    I’m old enough now that I can laugh at that quote, but it really got my dander up when I was young. It doesn’t just say that a person can change their mind, but that they must eventually change their mind to a conservative point of view, or else they have no brain.

    I heard that phrase a lot from old (and young) conservatives when I was young and liberal. It was usually followed by a statement that when I finally grew up, got a job, and paid taxes, then I’d give up my naive, idealistic ways.

    The problem with it is this: it’s a dialogue killer. There is no adequate response to it. When it is said to a young liberal person, they can only say, “No I won’t.” To which the inevitable conservative response is, “You’ll see.” Then we all have to wait 20 years before we can talk again.

    So after 20 years I can finally declare: it isn’t true. I’ve grown up, and I’m still not conservative. I’m also willing to make a case that I have I reasonably well-functioning brain. So let’s get back to a more useful conversation:

    I think there are as many issues that drive the way people vote as there are people. In our system, at least, it is done peacefully and without recrimination. And when it comes down to it, we seem to vacillate back and forth between the political parties’ leaderships without the whole country going under (although some pundits would like to make it seem the country is going under.)

    Here’s a guy I can have a conversation with. I’ll take John George over Churchill any day.

    January 11, 2008
  88. Patrick Enders said:

    I really like your blog idea. Think you could get something like that running for the next election cycle, and we could challenge the candidates to make use of it?

    January 11, 2008
  89. John George said:

    Patrick- Thanks for the compliment. I love to discuss these things. When I debate someone from a different point of view, it helps me sharpen my own reasoning and see where I am not correct in my own thinking. That is one thing I love about this blog. I get an opportunity to connect with people that I do not get to rub elbows with in everyday life. How about coffee sometime? I’m usually around Monday & Tuesday.

    Oh, and I’m glad I’m not Churchill. Great as he was for his time, he stll had his shortcomings, too. In those days, intolerance was tolerated. (Was that an oxymoron?)

    January 11, 2008
  90. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Patrick and Bruce,

    Kevin Dahle does already reach out to constituents via blog. I’d be surprised if he’d be able to find the time to author yet another one…

    If you want to ask him about a certain issue, you can still reach him via e-mail, blog, telephone, etc. I think he’s shown us how hard he works to listen to constituents.

    He’ll be busy at the capitol, you know. By the way, I find it amazing that people can post so much on this blog. My job requires keeping up with the scene (the weblog, etc. scene) but many others with different jobs must be really good at managing their time.

    It is fun, though– this weblog age. Candidates and incumbents can tell us what’s going on in a much more conversational way, and much more often.

    January 11, 2008
  91. Holly Cairns said:

    Oh, Bruce, you were talking about the House seat. I can’t speak for Rep. Bly, but I notice he hardly has time to sleep once session convenes.

    He also tries hard to reach out to constituents via blog, though, and I think he does a good job.

    January 11, 2008
  92. BruceWMorlan said:

    Usually when economists talk about the multiplier of money spent they use it to mean that for every $1 brought into a local environment by an outsider (tourism, federal or state spending, etc.) there is an echo as the people who receive the money in turn spend it on other items. The major exceptions are companies whose profits leave the local environment (e.g., Target vs. Jacobsens). In the military we claimed up to a 7x multiplier for the wages given to the troops since they usually were shopping locally (BX not-withstanding, since WalMart was usually cheaper than the supposed great deals at the BX (base exchange, aka PX (post exchange))). So Ray’s use of the statistic was in line with what most economists seem to mean. Of course, in some way the two are equivalent (the “7” represents the number of transactions, although in theory two of those might be buying a brew at the local pub).

    January 11, 2008
  93. BruceWMorlan said:

    Patrick, Holly. I cannot promise anything yet, but I can say that David Bly was on board once, so he might be again, IF I can find time to build the site. In the meantime, I may need virtual candidates to help test it, in which case I’d want one virtual candidate to role-play Bly and one to role-play “”. We could meet at the Contented Cow every couple of weeks during the half hour before Politics and a Pint to strategize and work out how to get this set up. I’d need political wonks who were willing to echo their chosen candidates positions and who were more interested in process than in convincing others of their positions. It might help if they were willing to learn a little about WordPress, or I have a MySQL/PhP site we could use.

    January 11, 2008
  94. BruceWMorlan said:

    Using virtual candidates would let Bly focus on being a representative during the session.

    January 11, 2008
  95. Griff Wigley said:

    Bob Hall, a sharp-eyed reader alerted me that your comment #70 above is remarkably similar to a letter to editor in this week’s Star Tribune. You wrote:

    If you need a reason for the large margin in the recent vote count, look to the two colleges. The results hardly reflect a representative democracy. This coming spring the students will leave our city, while the residents of this city and the rest of the state will have to live with the outcome of the past election. I would submit the students who are not residents are mostly clueless about the needs of Northfield and our state. They are allowed to vote on issues which they will not suffer the outcome. The students are nothing more than imported voters. Hardly representative.

    Craig Vanderah of Prior Lake’s letter in the Strib:

    Is this representative democracy? In the spring, the students will pack their bags, while long-term residents and the rest of the state live with the consequences of giving the DFL Senate a veto-proof majority. I guess if you don’t like how your local population tends to vote you can just import more voters.

    Can you explain?

    January 11, 2008
  96. Tracy Davis said:

    Twins separated at birth? That seems to explain a lot of things around here.

    January 11, 2008
  97. Paul Fried said:

    Was Robert Hall or Craig Vanderah once a speechwriter for Joe Bidden?

    Or are they just writing papers, for a fee, for some of my composition students?

    (Thanks for noticing the similarity, Griff….)

    January 11, 2008
  98. Some of the R’s are awfully good at plagiarism and astroturfing… remember when Ray Cox cut and pasted from the Gov’s website, changed maybe three words in several paragraphs, and got it printed in the Nfld News as a Guest Column under his byline?

    Paul – do you mean Joe “Unbidden” Biden, whose legend-in-his-own mind status kept him from giving up his unwanted bid for Presidency? Here in Delaware, people know him… when he finally gave it up last week, Alan’s comment on him, sworn to recently before Kiffi and Victor:

    “Biden is plenty smart and experienced, but he’s got no humility or sense of proportion. I remember being in his office several years ago, with a group asking him to oppose the invasion of Iraq (he didn’t). He looked at me and said ‘you’re not that f****ng important.’ And that’s the truth; to a guy as arrogant and entrenched as Biden, none of us peons are that f****ng important.”

    Shows why these guys need speechwriters!

    January 12, 2008
  99. Ray Coudret said:

    An interesting letter. My intended post from last night would have been better then, but I’ll say it now. Ray is out of the race. It would be nice if people could quit dragging him through the mud. Whether or not you disagree with his ideology, you can’t deny that he is a good family person, and successful businessman who has served our community for a long time.

    It is interesting to note the juxtaposition of the story about Ray withdrawing, along with Laura Brod’s well-written response to people criticizing her record as they sit up against Doug Jone’s letter of half-hearted congratulations combined with a mind-numbing smear of the same person he purports to congratulate.

    Thanks for your service Ray, Kevin and Laura. And a bronx cheer to you and the like, Mr. Jones.

    PS this will be posted on the Northfield News site as well.

    January 12, 2008
  100. Mark Breitinger said:

    I’m a former employee of Ray Cox, and still retain the utmost respect for him and gratitude for his record of public service. Not all of my experiences of him — personal and public — have been positive, but I believe he is basically a decent and honorable man who has excelled as a representative (although not to all tastes).

    However, this flap about Northfield’s “nasty and brutish” politics (apparently Jaci’s words, since they don’t appear in a direct quote from Ray anywhere in the article), reflected and amplified by the main editorial, just makes me shake my head in wonder. Its tone is reminiscent of the “garbage politics” photo op staged at the Rice County Dump by Steve Sviggum a few years ago (a shameless display where Ray almost lost my vote just for participating with a straight face). At the time, I was amazed by the bald-faced hypocrisy (and lack of a sense of irony) exhibited in that stunt, which was, predictably, the banner story in the News that week.

    I followed this last election closely, and like many voters assumed Ray was a shoo-in for the seat. I saw no negative campaigning by Ray or Kevin Dahle or their supporters, certainly nothing I’d characterize as “nasty and brutish” — just the usual partisan bickering. Of course, bloggers I’m not aware of could’ve gotten mean and personal, which in itself would not be surprising. But why don’t the articles in the News point out these wrongdoers, so that we can all experience their “vitriol” and engage this “rude minority”? I’m all for a more civilized political discourse — have been ever since Newt Gingrich and his gang of neo-conservative thugs ushered us into these Dark Ages.

    C’mon. Most of us know for a fact that Ray’s skin is far, far thicker than this.

    Here’s the irony: directly underneath this petulant and unnecessary editorial is a letter from Doug Jones that is indeed nasty and brutish — another in a long series of nasty, brutish letters from this particular correspondent. I quote: “It falls to me to HAVE TO congratulate Senator-elect Kevin Dahle… We join the editor and publisher of the Northfield News in promising to follow your public career closely. Despite your claim to act in a bi-partisan way, that is made dubious by the recent history of the DFL party… We note your forthright, IF INCREDIBLE, public promises to the voters… We also know that the DFL agenda today is only the PURSUIT OF POWER…” (emphasis is mine)
    Is it just me, or does this letter come across as dismissive of the election result, personally insulting to Kevin Dahle, crude in its depiction of the DFL’s accomplishments, and vaguely threatening? It’s certainly got a “nasty” tone — or maybe I only think that because I disagree with it. Regardless of the election outcome and the many conspiracy theories which have been expounded, it seemed to me to be a fair (and fairly fought) contest that just happened to bring in some surprising results.

    I, too, am saddened by Ray’s departure from the political arena. His performance has been exemplary, and he deserves to retire from the spotlight with honor, not jibes. (I also suspect he’ll be back — maybe he’d do us all a favor and run for Mayor.) And Ray, this whole sore loser thing? You’re above it.

    While I’m here, I’ll join the chorus and post my own conspiracy theory: Isn’t it possible that the GOP is just breaking out the violins to lay groundwork for 2008? To inspire a voter backlash against all you nasty, brutish, rude, vitriolic DFLers? Watch your back.

    Mark Breitinger

    January 12, 2008
  101. Great comment, Mark. (comment #108) Well-written and thoughtful.

    There are always cruel and crude participants in any political contest. Some people just get really ramped up about it and let the anger / fear / bitterness out. I’ve been one of those people in the past. I try to be more measured now.

    While we should all monitor our own comments – if for no other reason than you are far more likely to win true converts to your position with friendly persuasion than with vitriol – I see no reason to chastise the many for the belligerence of a few.

    I, too, noted the sad irony of the News publishing an editorial like that and then publishing another piece of run-of-the-mill, negative doggerel from Doug Jones.

    Thank you, Ray, for your years of service. I appreciated your diligent attention to the needs of people in this area. It takes a ton of courage to stand up and be counted like that and take all the shots that come along with it. I hope you don’t stay away too long.

    January 12, 2008
  102. Ray Coudret said:


    Well stated. This is an interesting point since the only “negative” words uttered by either candidate were printed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, on December 29, and this is a direct quote:

    –Cox says that Dahle’s role as public employee and teachers union leader turns voters off. “People say he negotiated Northfield’s schools right into the toilet — a high contract settlement. People know about that.”–

    The contract he referred to was 1.5% above the state average and was NEGOTIATED by both the District and the Ed Association, but the quote makes it seem as if Kevin held up the school at gunpoint and demanded bags of gold, causing the entire District to crumble which is why all the kids are dressed in rags and reading old cereal boxes instead of Beowulf.

    I am and was part of the negotiations team and can say without a doubt that this agreement was sandwiched between several others that were below the state average, (the next one by quite a bit). In addition this same team, under the leadership of Mr. Dahle, agreed to an extremely low settlement the following negotiation due to the 0% funding increases from the state. This is something that a former school board member would be fully aware of (especially one who was part of many of those negotiations).

    As a teacher I can tell you that I heard more people talk about that one quote than any other thing that was said by ANY other person or group during that month.

    You can’t say, “I’m the positive one. I’m the positive one. People say you ran the school district into the toilet. I’m the positive one.”

    That’s just like saying, “You didn’t hear it from me, put some people say…”

    In the end, Ray Cox is a good person and has served, but the people who voted wanted someone else with a different ideological perspective to represent them. It is a shame that Mr. Jones doesn’t get that.

    Finally Mark, I second your last statement and add a “friendly amendment”. The IR themes for 2008 vs. David Bly: Clean Politics and Imported Voters.

    We shall see.

    January 12, 2008
  103. Patrick Enders said:

    How about coffee sometime? I’m usually around Monday & Tuesday.

    John (George),
    I’ll be glad to chat over a hot drink. I’m off work on Tuesdays; drop me a line at pjenders [at]

    January 13, 2008
  104. BruceWMorlan said:

    I know that I and some others in the area are pushing the Republican party away from its fringe by arguing it is the party of freedom first, meaning that we go in with strong support of the usual suspects, going against the tide of the ultraconservatives. Some of the talk in the party was that Ray did not get full support of the western half because he was too moderate. My co-conspirators and I argue that rather than chase these one-button topic voters, we want the party to return to being more centrist and more about freedoms, liberties and property rights.

    For example, we argue that property rights extend beyond the fence if the neighbor is doing something to interfere with your quality of life, but rather than working for a simple “there oughta be a law” solution, we want to work for fair compensation. Just because you can afford a bulldozer does not mean we have to let you tear up the countryside with it. On the other hand, if we want to protect a stand of trees, we ought to be willing to pay the owner something to leave it in place.

    January 14, 2008
  105. Patrick Enders said:

    If more of the Republican party was like Ray Cox, I could again contemplate voting for Republicans like Ray Cox once in a while.

    Best of luck, sincerely, in regaining control of your party.

    January 14, 2008
  106. BruceWMorlan said:

    Thanks Patrick, but I hesitate to call it “my party” yet. Someone once said that they would rather teach economics to Democrats than compassion to Republicans. I guess I’ve tried teaching economics to Democrats and compassion to Republicans and find that I get a better result with the latter. Since most of my issues (environmental at least) are already totally endorsed by Dems, I get more “bank for my buck” converting and working with Reps.

    January 14, 2008
  107. Patrick Enders said:

    Interesting how political movement often only occurs after one party adopts/co-opts the issues of the other. I’ve always been amused that Richard Nixon enacted some of our most important environmental legislation, while Bill Clinton needed to get on board before welfare reform could be passed.

    January 14, 2008
  108. BruceWMorlan said:

    Patrick, I think that the phenomena you describe is presented along with an explanation to the effect … “Only Nixon could open China, because his anti-communist credentials protected from accusations of being soft on communism”. A similar idea applies to Clinton. Personally, I think that good ideas deserve to be implemented regardless of which party gets the credit.

    January 14, 2008
  109. Paul Zorn said:


    I don’t think you’d get much argument on the principle that “good ideas deserve to be implemented regardless of which party gets the credit”. Do you hear much advocacy for the opposite view?

    On a related point, but in a contrarian mood …

    I’d like to praise the now-unpopular view that sometimes we need more, not less, party solidarity and party discipline . I do *not* mean that D’s should always diss R’s, or vice versa. What I do mean is that we are, for better or worse, deeply invested in a two-party system which, although hardly perfect, has some virtues, too. As it is, party affiliation often degenerates into posturing on contentious issues, many of them social rather than legitimately governmental, rather than on conscientiously developing a coherent plan for governing. This may be inevitable when party solidarity and discipline are so weak that politicians feel no real accountability to any platform or realistic plan of government. With more party cohesion and better discipline (stopping somewhere short of exile to Siberia, perhaps) parties might be better able to propose, and carry out, real policies.

    Solidarity forever …

    January 14, 2008
  110. John George said:

    Paul- I think that is a good observation on your part. Over the last little while, I have heard people complaining about Senator Coleman voting with the Republicans. Well, duh! He was elected on a Republican platform. Do we really think he should then vote Democrat? Should we expect Amy Klobuchar to start supporting Republican tax cuts? I would hope not. I know this is simplistic and I do think there are good ideas that come from both sides of the aisle. But to talk down about someone because he/she votes with the party that they identify with seems unrealistic.

    You also said, “…As it is, party affiliation often degenerates into posturing on contentious issues, many of them social rather than legitimately governmental, rather than on conscientiously developing a coherent plan for governing.” I think that is an excellent observation. I agree wholeheartedly. I think we started down a slippery slope when we started legislating moral issues. I’m not sure how to reverse the slide.

    January 14, 2008
  111. Paul Fried said:

    Some of the Republican split, sadly, is playing out in district 25. I visited Michael Brodkorb’s blog, MN Dem’s exposed after it was brought up here, and I noticed that some Republicans there have been calling Ray Cox a “RINO” (Republican-In-Name-Only), and voicing their resentment that Neuville hand-picked Ray, supposedly.

    But there was, after all, a primary race with multiple Republican candidates, and I don’ t think Ray’s environmentalism such as his work with power companies on an agreement to limit mercury emissions from coal plants makes him a leftist liberal. As Bruce says with Nixon and China, Ray was good to work on that.

    And I think the characterization of Ray as a RINO or as hand-picked by Neuville and Pawlenty is very unfair. The Republican party could have pressured Ray’s Republican opponents to drop before the primary, citing evidence from a poll on electability or something, or with a call from the Governor. They didn’t, and it was probably a good thing (if you’re a Libertarian-Constitutional-Conservative-Free-Speech-Republican).

    The split shows up in other ways. Bruce, you mention freedom’s/liberties and property rights. Many would agree with you. But some Republicans like Schwarzenegger and Giuliani support freedom/liberties to the point of supporting abortion rights for women, and oops, there’s that wedge issue.

    Other Republicans are part of the “Christian Right,” and not only against abortion, but in favor of “family values” to the point that they see the hypocrisy in Newt Gingrich having an affair while his wife was ill, while leading the movement to impeach Clinton (not for having an affair, but for lying under oath about it…).

    Some pro-business Republicans advocate taking an economically cautious approach to global warming, fearing that “the cure could be worse than the disease,” etc. (Neuville often seems/seemed to be in this camp.) But some of the “Christian Right” are coming to see it as an issue of “good stewardship/poor stewardship of God’s Creation,” and are not blind to the way that the “sin of (human and corporate) greed” might be corrupting the debate. So you have some of the Christian Right “Going Green for God,” and pulling away, or at least being critical.

    In his book, “Letters to a Young Conservative,” Republican Dinesh D’Souza claims that conservatism is, in part, about universal moral truths — and not just about freedoms, business, and property rights. When Republican’s easy alliances with corporate America seem to enable the sin/vice of greed, conservatives who are in it for the “universal moral truths” may be jumping ship and looking for independent candidates.

    Some of the obvious split had to do with electing Bush, and then the efforts of many Republicans to support him even as his approval ratings were sinking to previously unimagined numbers. Some Republicans have written books about Bush and the Neocons “hijacking” the party.

    Some Republicans who are constitutionally conservative (including some prominent members of the John Birch society) have supported the impeachment of Bush, and supported Ron Paul’s “American Freedom Agenda” legislation to restore the checks and balances, and habeas corpus, and to stop wiretapping. And many of these find strong voices of agreement from at least some voices on the left. Imagine that.

    And then there’s the “Log Cabin” Republicans….

    Much has been said about apparent contradictions in the Democratic party — Hillary and Obama, and all their corporate donations, a recent topic — but there’s plenty potential for split among the Republicans, and of course, the general reasons for the split on a national level affect us in district 25.

    As for solidarity, sure, sometimes it’s great. But when a recent poll shows something like 50% of Republicans are tired of Bush, and something like 13% of Republicans would like to see Bush and Cheney impeached — then maybe it’s a sign that the party needs to huddle and listen to the complaints and suggestions of its members for a while and get a new sense of direction.

    Solidarity, Bush-Cheney-Rove style, sometimes meant arm-twisting the previous Republican majority’s votes, sometimes with threats and campaign contribution bribes, as Michigan’s Rep. Nick Smith claimed about his vote for the medicare prescription drug bill (he later withdrew the accusation). This kind of solidarity is very unlike the “off to Siberia” kind, but still very problematic, very corrupt, very American at the same time.

    Easy to see why some Republicans might be disturbed (and others not, and therefore split?) if one claims this is only “business as usual” in Washington. Easy to see why some might view Pawlenty’s timing of the election, and then the loss, with similar frustration. Some on Brodkorb’s blog complained that Pqwlenty was too busy getting ready to be someone’s VP candidate, and not spending enough time campaigning to avoid the veto-proof majority. “We need a REAL conservative!” they cry. They’re watching their party being torn apart. It must be painful.

    January 15, 2008
  112. BruceWMorlan said:

    Paul (Z), you wrote:

    I don’t think you’d get much argument on the principle that “good ideas deserve to be implemented regardless of which party gets the credit”. Do you hear much advocacy for the opposite view?

    but then you go on to applaud party solidarity, which to me translates to Not Invented Here (NIH) syndrome, meaning that a good idea, not invented by “us” is not supportable. People who will reach across the political divide to find good solutions are the most valuable component of a republic, without them the demigogs will drag us down to tribal warfare levels. The word compromise is not an evil term in a republic, it’s how we get things done in the face of irreconcilable differences. (Of course, carried to an extreme we get those pork-laden spending bills that spread the wealth to the powerful.)

    Paul (F), you raised the Republicans who use the freedom argument to defend abortion rights. Sorry to be a RINO, but I figure that wherever it says in the Constitution that the state cannot force me to donate even blood, let alone a kidney (most of us have a spare) or part of my liver (you can donate a lobe and still do quite well), well, that’s where a woman’s right to choose is guaranteed. Of course, that takes me out of the extreme Republican cloister and into RINO territory. If the system weren’t so stacked against a third party I suspect there would be a Rhino party. The question is whether a moderate leaning Republican party can siphon off the moderate Democrats and get those bi-partisan victories for those RINOs that hold so much promise.

    January 15, 2008
  113. Paul Fried said:

    Bruce: Interesting comments. I don’t want to speak for Paul Z or his intended meanings, but perhaps solidarity can translate to “we have more in common than we have differences, so let’s limit the in-fighting” instead of NIH syndrome.

    But I like your observations about NIH. It is a current political doctrine in some circles that, in order to appear a strong leader and claim the spotlight, borrowing ideas from opponents (within or outside the party) is anathema: If your opponent has a good idea, the conventional goes, you must fashion for yourself a distinct version of the good idea or risk appearing to be a weak leader.

    I would love to see politicians learn to buck the traditional wisdom on that point. But it means competing with the rugged individualist myth of leadership….

    On RINOs, at least one Republican at MDE described Ray Cox as one, but his stated position was pro-life. You describe yourself as a RINO, but pro-women’s rights. Maybe “RINO” is too much of a catch-all criticism applied whenever one feels another does not fit one’s own niche in the party, applied by one as the “true” definition.

    On teaching compassion to conservatives or economics to liberals, I’m wondering what you think of Warren Buffett’s thoughts on taxes — preserving the estate tax, raising the taxable base for Social Security above $90k, and his claim that corporate taxes were at a near low relative to profits (comments made in 2005 in a Lou Dobbs interview). He said that if there’s a class war, his side was winning and shouldn’t be.

    I often get the impression that some conservatives need to learn economics too. Some of them claim the New Deal was communism, when it seems it only made sense: Get people to work, help them become productive, tax-paying citizens, and then they’ll become consumers, and businesses benefit too, not just in the short-term, but in the long-term.

    So build bridges, fix roads, reduce class size by hiring more teachers, build wind turbines for public utilities), then all the previously un/underemployed become taxpaying consumers. When only the top-earning 10% or 2% are getting ahead, and when the rest are falling behind, they’ll struggle to make payments for basics, and they won’t be good consumers, so corporate America won’t profit.

    For this reason, I think much of the resistance to single-payer health-care, or tax increases on the rich, go against the economic interests of the rich. They should be investing in sustaining a healthy pool of willing consumers, not putting stress on that pool and hurting their own future prospects.

    Because of the sub-prime crunch, construction is now down, new home construction slowing, and with home values dropping in some markets, consumers have less home equity for remodeling, or are less inclined to go there. It would seem to be a great time for government to step in and say, let’s stimulate the economy in a slow sector by investing in infrastructure: fix roads, build needed buildings at public universities, fund school repairs, etc.

    Instead, we’re going to argue about who should get a tax rebate, or break, and if the breaks should be permanant.

    I’m disappointed with Bush’s economics, and Pawlenty’s too. As Republican economics go, I think MN did better under Arne Carlson.

    January 16, 2008
  114. Paul Zorn said:


    In #121 you say that ” … party solidarity … to me translates to Not Invented Here (NIH) syndrome, meaning that a good idea, not invented by “us” is not supportable.”

    If that’s what party solidarity (PS) means to you, then I’m not surprised you’re against it — who wouldn’t be? But that’s not what PS means to me.

    To me, PS starts from the principle that (for better or worse, as I acknowledged earlier, though I think it’s mainly for the better) in our system, political parties are the main vehicles to form coalitions, accomplish political action, campaign for election, pass legislation, etc. In order for parties to work effectively toward such goals, they need to have some measure of cohesion and willingness to compromise on goals — PS, if you will. Sure, NIH-type behavior sometimes happens within parties, but I don’t see it as a necessary offshoot of PS any more than shooting yourself in the foot is a necessary result of military service. On the contrary, a well-functioning, PS-rich party with a serious commitment to governing rather than posturing should be more, not less, open to adapting (importing, stealing, whatever … ) good ideas from any source.

    You also wrote:

    People who will reach across the political divide to find good solutions are the most valuable component of a republic, without them the demigogs will drag us down to tribal warfare levels.

    With this I fully agree, and I like the reference to “demigogs”, which I picture as the monstrous offspring of demagogues and demigods.

    January 16, 2008
  115. Paul Fried said:

    Paul (Z): Good definition of PS. Some years ago, Margaret Atwood (author of Handmaiden’s Tale, Surfacing, and other books) visited the Twin Cities and in the context of speaking about other things, mentioned that in Canada, she thought people had to work harder at forming coalitions and compromising because Canadians are often more SO (Spread Out), and there are fewer people to begin with, so according to her, SIN (Strength In Numbers) necessitated Canadian coalitions (CC’s). She thought Americans were less skilled at that (perhaps because NIH gets in our way)….

    January 16, 2008
  116. Ray Coudret said:

    That’s a great article. But I am only saying that because she aligns perfectly with my comment #64 which was written two days before her post. She did forget to mention Kevin’s awesome webmasters (thanks Holly Cairns and Gabe Rholl).

    January 21, 2008
  117. Bruce Morlan said:

    Paul Z. noted my new word coinage …

    With this I fully agree, and I like the reference to “demigogs”, which I picture as the monstrous offspring of demagogues and demigods.

    That’s exactly how I constructed it, as a melding of the two … of course.

    January 24, 2008
  118. Holly Cairns said:

    Mr. Dahle goes to St. Paul– that’s a cool idea. I wonder if he’ll keep both of his blogs going… I hear he’ll continue to use his campaign blog, too. Good, since I created that blog for him. 🙂 Plug for me!

    I notice it’s hard to find Mr. Dahle Goes To St. Paul on the Northfield News. You can find a link on the very bottom of (only) their homepage.

    January 25, 2008
  119. Holly Cairns said:

    And now to talk about Al Franken’s behavior at Carleton. Funny that you didn’t start a new thread, Griff. This is the thread that never ends, it goes on and on my friends. Some people started reading it not knowing what it was, but they’ll continue reading it forever just because… this is the thread that never ends.

    I had heard Franken was rude to a student (and I followed your link). Oops, Franken goofed, there. I think Franken should treat ALL constituents like they are his boss, because if he were elected, we would be his boss, and he should have to answer to all of us.

    I believe he’s a genious, and his mind moves fast, and I think he’s very funny. I have faith in his ability to stand up for what he believes in, and I think he’d get a lot done in congress. I am still undecided who to vote for, though. I like Mike Ciresi, too, and think he’s already done a lot of good in his lifetime.

    January 25, 2008

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