Daily Reformer: State Sen. Susan Kent needs to staff up

Stay warm out there!

Good morning.

State Sen. Susan Kent needs a chief of staff who sees the big picture — meaning November, not this do-nothing legislative session — and I has thoughts!

But first, at the Reformer: 

From Washington, Robin Bravender has the first reporting of its kind on the tight relationship between Wall Street and Rep. Tom Emmer, who is probably the most influential Minnesota Republican in Washington. He’s racking up big campaign donations and has become a champion of deregulation. Great piece.  

Our man on the Iron Range Aaron Brown on the dueling realities of the Range, where the one-dimensional economy, he argues, has had a stilting effect on the consciousness of the place. Great piece

Scoop machine Max Nesterak on a class action lawsuit brought in Connecticut against retail giant Target for wage theft, with an interesting issue about whether a manager should be paid OT. Read it

Ricardo Lopez on Rep. Steve Drazkowski’s (I suspect very sincerely felt) stunt to call for adjournment, which included this dig on his fellow Republican, Minority Leader Kurt Daudt: “After all, it would give our one lobbyist legislator more time for his other job.” (Daudt is head of public affairs for lobbying firm Stateside Associates but says he’s doing no lobbying.) What on earth happens if the GOP caucus + New Republican House caucus have the majority but only by a vote or two? Big leverage for Draz and Co. 

With her rise to minority leader, state Sen. Susan Kent needs her own Tom Kukielka, the powerful chief of staff to deposed leader Sen. Tom Bakk who retired. She needs someone who gets the big picture — not about the legislative session, which in the grand scheme of things doesn’t matter much this year — but about the November election. This person will have to be a political mind with a good network in the DFL and allied groups. 

A couple of possibilities:

Carrie Lucking is back at EducationMinnesota after managing the campaign of Gov. Tim Walz, who got more votes than any governor in history. This puts Walz and the teachers union firmly in Kent’syour corner. Lucking is a talented operative, and she brings with her a network of the best minds and fattest wallets in the DFL. She’s a powerhouse in her own right, and she’s also married to Tunheim’s Bob Hume, who was Gov. Mark Dayton’s longtime deputy chief of staff and known as a sound strategist. 

Corey Day is currently running the Joe Biden for president campaign, if that’s still a thing. But he’s coming off a run as executive director of the DFL, which obviously just had an impressive victory in 2018. Having learned under the state’s best fundraiser, in DFL Chair Ken Martin, Day he would bring a wealth of experience and allies to an operation that at this point is sorely lacking in both. 

Speaking of Bakk, I’m told he’s taking his defeat in the leadership battle well. At the annual shindig at the home of former lawmaker Loren Solberg for rural DFL types and friends, Bakk   announced he’s not going anywhere and will return upon reelection in 2021. 

More Senate chatter: Senate Majority Leader is expected to unveil a “normal” sized bonding bill but then supercharged with a cash infusion of maybe $500 million for roads and bridges. This will be in response to increasing pressure from Dems, led by Gov. Tim Walz’s call for a $2 billion bill, to boost bonding. With cash for roads, Senate Republicans can tout projects and say they did it without a gas tax increase. And they prevent Dems from spending on programs like early childhood, which is what House Speaker Melissa Hortman wants — also to the tune of $500 million — which would be tough to cut in future years. (Why do you hate the children?!) Plus the construction trades and road builders love it.

Roseau County commission has voted to become a Second Amendment “sanctuary” county, Briana Bierschback reports, “which will allow the county to refuse to send officers to enforce red flag laws, according to a release.”

Help me out here: Are county lawmen going to refuse to fulfill a court order? OK. 

Matters Bernie: 

As Minneapolis politics blogger John Anderson (Long Walk Down Lyndale) notes

“People are already writing big op-eds about how Bernie has transformed the Dem Party forever, even though he hasn’t won, while nobody pointed out the actual election of 2018 points to a very different Dem party of the future…”

Although a handful of leftists like Rep. Ilhan Omar are winning all the attention, the Democratic Party that rose to power in 2018 is thoroughly suburban and even competed in exurban areas that were long the stronghold of the GOP. It was stocked with moderates from national security and business. It was more Rep. Dean Phillips than Omar. 

This sets up quite the situation should Bernie Sanders become president. Those suburban Dems will be fighting for survival in 2022, and they’ll abandon him if they need to. (A DFL legislator told me he fears being on the same ballot as ‘Bernie Corbyn’ in 2022.) 

If you’re concerned about the country’s democratic backsliding, meaning the state-led debilitation or elimination of the political institutions sustaining an existing democracy, even if you’re a non-Trump Republican, Sanders’ major differences with the Dem class of 2018 are actually a mark in Sanders’ favor, because there’s nothing to fear about Sanders. (Contrasted with Trump’s increasingly authoritarian gesturing; see the firing of Pentagon official Elaine McCusker for refusing to break the law for him.) 

Unlike Trump, whose party’s discipline has allowed him to run roughshod over our democratic norms and institutions, Sanders would face a revolt from all those suburban moderates in his party, whereas Trump’s Senate allies are covering up for him.  

Dave Weigel on Sanders’ tenuous status as frontrunner

Sanders has the biggest coalition, but no bandwagon. As in Iowa, Sanders ran behind his total vote from four years earlier but had more than enough to get a plurality of the popular vote. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Sanders was on track to get more than 75,000 votes, just about half of the 152,181 votes he won in 2016. Put another way: Sanders now holds the record for the largest win number (60 percent) in a competitive New Hampshire primary and the record for the lowest win number (26 percent).

Minnesota’s James Hohmann is a sharp political mind at the Post and has perceptive reasons for Sanders’ supporters to be hopeful: By solidly defeating Sen. Elizabeth Warren he seems to have consolidated the left; Amy Klobuchar’s emergence further divides the moderate lane; he won health care voters; he has better appeal among blue collar voters and dominated young voters. But also reasons for concern: His victory was narrower than expected; a majority of voters chose the moderate lane; young voters made up a smaller share of the electorate than 2016; Dem voters don’t think he’s electable; late deciders did not back him. Read the whole thing

Another take from sharp analyst Dave Wasserman: 

NH Dem turnout (vs. ’16) in towns won by … Buttigieg: +26.5%; Klobuchar: +25.2%; Sanders: +12.0% Takeaway: Most of Dems’ turnout increase was attributable to Kasich/Rubio types crossing over from ’16 GOP primary — not heightened progressive/Sanders base enthusiasm.

As we noted yesterday, Sanders took a hit in Nevada when the Culinary Union criticized Medicare-for-All because it would take away the union’s cherished health care. This led to a wave of attacks from Sandernistas. Reformer contributor Javier Morillo responded

“I don’t agree with the Culinary Union’s criticism of Sanders’ healthcare platform. Unions can’t be in it only for ourselves. That said, the speed with which some of his supporters started denigrating union members’ jobs was something. Solidarity Forever UNTIL WE DISAGREE”

U.S. House voting today to dissolve the ERA ratification deadline

Busy day at the State Capitol on insulin and bonding and plenty of other stuff. Full schedule.

Walz did an event with Twin Cities Dunkers this morn (is this a sports thing?) and is doing Farmer Union lobbying day at the Capitol and meeting with AG Keith Ellison. 

Correspond: [email protected] 

Have a great day all! JPC