Daily Reformer: AFSCME troubles; caucus troubles, $$ for childcare

Claire Pardubsky, a University of Minnesota student, and a handful of other would-be voters observed the caucus from the sidelines because they hadn’t pre-registered. Photo by Rilyn Eischens/Minnesota Reformer

Good morning. 

This morning on the Reformer: 

  • A Reformer scoop: Weeks before the leadership shakeup at AFSCME Council 5 last summer and fall, a letter landed in the inbox of the union’s board describing “rampant” sexism, as well as a “racist” and “retaliatory” culture, Ricardo Lopez reports. Executive Director John Westmoreland was placed on investigatory leave and resigned a month later. AFSCME represents government workers, so it’s a big deal around the Capitol and a key part of the DFL coalition. 
  • From Washington, Allison Winter on Rep. Betty McCollum’s effort to stop copper-nickel mining in Superior National Forest, which has divided her party
  • Progressives love the Constitution, too: Max Nesterak on some activists in Bemidji hosting a mock funeral for the Constitution, timed to President Trump’s State-of-the-Union address tonight and his expected acquittal in the Senate. 
  • Rilyn Eischens caught up with Iowans in Saint Paul Monday night at one of the designated “satellite” caucuses that the Iowa Democratic Party set up around the country (and the world) to encourage out-of-state Iowans to participate. Two delegates for Sen. Bernie Sanders; two dels for Sen. Elizabeth Warren; one for Andrew Yang. 

Caucus oops

So, about that caucus! No results until later today. The Iowa Caucus, already in a precarious spot defending its right to be first given the demographic makeup of Iowa, is now in really serious trouble. (Times analysis.) The campaigns spent millions of dollars, thousands of on-the-ground hours and employed hundreds of organizers, only to come away with no clear result. It will be much harder for the winner to get his or her bounce, which naturally has Sanders’ supporters doing some conspiracy mongering. It’s certainly true that a poor showing by VP Joe Biden is ameliorated by the results being so late (if that’s indeed what will happen), but it appears the Iowa Democratic Party couldn’t run a caucus, let alone conspire to fix one. 

Where does this leave Minnesota’s own Sen. Amy Klobuchar? Insofar as anyone cares, this allows her to move on to New Hampshire, whereas a disappointing fifth would have put pressure on her to leave the race. She smartly took the stage first Monday night to get some air time, after which all the candidates followed. Pete Buttigieg declared victory. I am a true cord-cutter so I didn’t watch coverage, but there was quite a bit of snickering in my politics-curious friend group text about the whole thing being fodder for SNL. 

A good night for President Donald Trump, whose Gallup approval also hit 49, a personal best. The averages are what matter, not any single poll, but he’s clearly rising a little, and the Democrats are great at blowing winnable elections, so there’s that.  . 

Adam Belz reports that farm bankruptcies are up both here and nationally.

We sat down with Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman Monday and she said she expects a couple of priorities this session given the modest “surplus” that’s expected. She said she wants to put some money toward the school lunch and breakfast programs and early childhood education. The first-term speaker said she’ll take a proposal to her caucus to spend an additional nearly $500 million on early childhood, among the programming scholarships and an expansion of the Child Care Assistance Program, the troubled CCAP program that got a bad audit last year. (Let’s hope the Walz administration has cleaned it up before they are putting more money into it.) The early childhood policy is being run by Rep. Dave Pinto, a smart Saint Paul lawmaker and Ramsey County prosecutor. Interestingly, Hortman downplayed the importance of the programs’ not having ongoing funding. 

My guess is if the money’s not there next year, she still gets the issue: How can you not fund childcare and breakfast and lunch for impoverished children you monsters? Just a guess. 

There’s a special election today to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Nick Zerwas and another to replace the late Rep. Diane Loeffler. The Zerwas seat is a safe GOP hold, but it’s worth noting the DFL’s interesting choice of candidate. As Reformer contributor Aaron Booth reported on Twitter, Chad Hobot has some serious DWI offenses, plus civil orders of protection by his wife. A 2013 DWI blood alcohol level was .264, or more than three times the legal limit.  

Hortman sent out a letter to people in the district supporting Hobot’s candidacy despite the obvious problems, saying he’s seven years sober and a volunteer at Free Grace United Church, “committed to helping others through faith-based recovery.” 

I guess I admire her willingness to allow for redemption. We all need it. 

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Have a great day all! JPC