The day after: Why are Democrats so down? Plus: Pot party shenanigans.

November 4, 2020 1:02 pm

Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke during a drive-in campaign event in Falcon Heights. Pool photo by Leila Navidi/Star Tribune.

Good afternoon. (This is a version of our morning newsletter, Daily Reformer. Sign up here.)

Well, that was something. 

On the one hand, if I told you Joe Biden was on his way to the presidency with wins in the upper Midwest including a commanding victory in Minnesota, you’d think Democrats would be thrilled. 

But they’re not, of course. He’s eking it out elsewhere, and Democrats are suffering down ballot losses here — losing longtime U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, failing to beat U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, failing to take the state Senate and losing state House seats. Oh, and failing to take the U.S. Senate, though Sen. Tina Smith won handily here. 

Here’s our recap from last night and early this morning. And, read our fun and engaging interviews with voters

A big thanks to the Reformer staff and contributors, who did a great job on our first Election Day, especially Rilyn Eischens and Ricardo Lopez who served as early morning editors to yours truly. 

Key DFL losses in the Senate: Sens. Matt Little and Dan Sparks. DFL picked up an open seat in Minnetonka and beat state Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville. They came close in St. Cloud, Maple Grove and two districts in Rochester, but close doesn’t cut it. 

The GOP also picked up House seats, beating Reps. John Persell, Brad Tabke, with potentially three more to come. 

Here’s the key: Biden’s Minnesota victory matches former President Barack Obama’s 2012 victory here in percentage terms. But DFL congressional candidates lost in districts 1, 7 and 8. And instead of a legislative majority, the DFL is clinging to a narrow House majority and is in the minority in the Senate.

Why? Because their votes — while more numerous in the aggregate — are crammed into fewer districts. It doesn’t do any good for state Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, to get nearly 50,000 votes in Minneapolis, only to have your candidates lose close races in St. Cloud and Rochester. 

Another key factor: The marijuana parties. (Realizing now that must sound funny.) In St. Cloud, a state Senate candidate on the Legal Marijuana Now Party ticket got nearly 8% of the vote, costing the DFL a Senate seat if we assume they were siphoned from the DFL candidate Aric Putnam. 

It also mattered in Congressional races. Dan Feehan is losing to Rep. Jim Hagedorn by 12,000 votes — a worse outcome than 2018, by the way — but the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party candidate named Bill Rood had 20,000 votes as of this morning. 

Most astounding, in the 2nd Congressional District, Adam Weeks, the candidate of Legal Marijuana Now, had received more than 24,000 votes as of this morning. 

Adam Weeks is deceased. 

The end result of all this, given a GOP-controlled state Senate? 

No movement on legal marijuana in Minnesota, even though measures passed in other states Tuesday, including New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and — are you ready for this? — South Dakota. 

(I wrote about the suspiciously MAGA loving marijuana candidates back in June and kept writing about it in this space.)

So let me say something here that might sound provocative but is true and everyone knows it: Voters can be deeply foolish and uninformed and make horrible choices. If they really favored the legalization of cannabis, they would have supported Democrats, who give them the best chance at legalization. The GOP stands to benefit in future elections, too, by not legalizing marijuana, because ignorant voters will keep supporting cannabis legalization party candidates — which will continue to prevent cannabis legalization. Yes, it’s maddening!  

Looking ahead: Gov. Tim Walz faces another two years of divided government, dealing with a state Senate that has sacked two of his commissioners. Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, tweeted last night that they now have the votes in both chambers to strip Walz of his emergency powers to deal with the pandemic. 

I’m not clear what’s to be gained from this at the level of policy. I, for one, don’t think Rep. Mary Franson and her ilk should be running pandemic policy when we’re getting a record number of cases every day. 

Next year’s legislative session will be incredibly contentious, and 2022 politics will be in the background, especially if Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, feels vindicated because he held the Senate majority and considers running for governor. 

You don’t really want the guy leading Republican budget negotiations to be weighing — even unconsciously — how a deal might affect his GOP endorsement battle. His party’s chairwoman already endorsed the pillow salesman, though, so there’s that. 

As for Trump, he’ll hang around, like a guy at a bar who’s been 86’d but shouts at everyone from outside. 

He’s given life to a strain of the American psyche we knew was there but tried to pretend wasn’t: Blood and soil nativism, misogyny and authoritarianism. 

Nearly half of our fellow citizens credulously surrendered to a giant con that collective cruelty to their fellow humans would make them whole. Not once but twice. 

The work goes on. 

Correspond: [email protected] 

Have a great day all. JPC

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children