Tuesday, May 29, 2018

An Open Letter to Democrats

This year’s national election may well be the most important in our history. Never before has our Republic been so threatened from within. There can be little doubt that Donald Trump is not only using the Presidency for personal gain but he has continuously attacked all institutions that provide stability and confidence in our democracy. In addition, he has a vast built-in support system in the media from Fox News to right-wing radio.

This is not to be underrated. What most political observers thought would be a democratic landslide in 2018 has evolved into a situation where public opinion is evenly split between the two parties and Trump’s numbers continue to rise.

If the Democratic Party continues on the old path and fails to reform, another 2016 election will occur. That our nation cannot afford. This is what brings the two of us together in this mission to do all we can to bring moderate Republicans and independents into the Democratic Party fold. But you, as Democrats, hold our national fate in your hands.

Although we are strong supporters of Richard Painter for the United States Senate, we are not writing for that purpose. No our concern is that Tina Smith’s candidacy may well fall short of victory in November thereby keeping Trump Republicans in control of the Senate. We say this because red flags are waving making it imperative that all delegates and all those involved in the nominating process make certain that the relevant concerns are publicly resolved before any support is offered.

Rest assured that if these issues are not dealt with now they will be aired very publicly in the months ahead by her Republican opponent and their media system. Secrecy and surprise are not options.

Tina Smith has refused to debate. We have been around politics long enough to know that debates can involve gamesmanship. That is not the case here. Senator Tina Smith has supported and voted for suspending the tax on the medical device industry. Many Democrats would agree with that vote since so much of the industry is located in Minnesota. But what is wholly unacceptable here is that she also holds millions of dollars of stock in these companies and directly benefits from the suspension of that tax. Further, Senator Tina Smith has fully participated in an industry fundraiser promoting her candidacy.

Using the powers of government to enhance one’s wealth is precisely what Donald Trump has been doing. How can a Democrat Senator criticize Trump for behavior she herself practices?

In addition, Senator Smith has not supported Medicare for all. This is a single payer system – Medicare for all - strongly advanced by many Democrats including Senator Bernie Sanders and Richard Painter. But it is also opposed by many healthcare companies that profit from the current system including the medical device industry.

Another major concern that warrants public debate is copper-nickel mining in the Boundary Waters area. How can we risk permanent damage to our state’s most valuable natural asset and allow foreign financial interests to simply exploit it? All for 300 jobs.  Certainly with metro overcrowding, moving 300 jobs to Northern Minnesota cannot be all that challenging. Growing employment in rural Minnesota should be the priority not destroying our environment.

Now, we accept the reality that this letter will create pushback. No matter how flawed critics may think we are, the fact remains that we are not the candidate and we are not the ones blocking the emergence of the truth. The unwillingness of Senator Smith to debate and disclose is the real concern.

Again, it is the unique importance of this election that cries out for the highest level of scrutiny so Democrats can stand tall in the fall election and declare to the voter without hesitation that “we do not accept Trump, we do not accept his dishonesty, we do not accept his beliefs.” As John F. Kennedy challenged us: “We can do better.”

We very much respect your service.


Janet Entzel                                                                             Arne Helge Carlson
Minnesota House (DFL -1972 – 1984 )                                  Governor of Minnesota  (1991-1999)
MN Deputy Commissioner of Corrections                            Republican – now Independent

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Minnesota…A Battleground

Putting aside personal feelings, the battle for the Senate seat currently occupied by Tina Smith is going to emerge as one of the most hotly contested races in the nation. Klobuchar will have an easy ride thus allowing both parties to focus on the Housley, Painter, and Smith competition.

Overall, Democrats may feel comfortable with a seven point lead in the generic ballot when respondents are asked which party they would prefer to control Congress. Unfortunately, that number does not factor in the effects of gerrymandering which heavily favors the GOP and will have an effect on control of the House.

But that seven point lead does clearly help the Democrats on the Senate side. One element that could be key is the level of enthusiasm. Karin Housley, a strong Trump supporter, will benefit because the election could well be seen as a referendum on the impeachment of Trump thereby exciting the Trump base. Richard Painter, if he is the DFL primary winner, will also have it because he has long been a key anti-Trump figure on the national level and that will turn out the Democrat base.

The real question mark is Tina Smith who scores poorly in the enthusiasm contest. Worse still is the fact that she currently trails Housley in at least one credible internal poll. That has created considerable nervousness among national Democratic leaders who very much want control of the Senate. Their interest in Richard Painter is increasing.

All three candidates are relatively unknown to the voters and all these current impressions could easily change. However, for the incumbent to be in this position bodes poorly for her.

Elections tend to be about the incumbent’s record and, in this case, that is largely unknown. Richard Painter, a highly skilled attorney, is already raising questions about the role of foreign interests in the proposed copper mining controversy in northern Minnesota. Governor Dayton has publicly wondered aloud about the conflict of interests involved. What precisely is he referring to? Regardless, Smith, as the incumbent, is going to have to play a more public role in this budding controversy. The environmental vote could be pivotal. 

And the public monies that have been poured into the U.S. Bank stadium while shortchanging education is certainly a rising concern. This will become more visible as Tina Smith’s negotiating role on behalf of the Governor is examined.

Further complicating her mission is that there still is some bitterness over the departure of Al Franken and the lack of due process. Many Minnesotans feel that the Governor should have appointed a placeholder and thereby allow an open and competitive process to take place. And the role of New York Senator Schumer in “advising” the Governor remains a concern. In this instance, being an insider and a benefactor may not be an asset.

How quickly she gets out in front of these issues may well be key to her survival. But the bottom line is simple:  That Senate seat is up for grabs. All candidates would be well advised to bring all their concerns out early and deal with them in robust public debates. Good public policy requires openness and full disclosure so we, the public, can be properly informed.

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