Ron Erhardt talks with a constituent
by Steve Timmer
Jul 9, 2014, 8:00 AM

The immutable Ron Erhardt

I have known Ron Erhardt for a long time. I have fought with him, voted for him, voted against him, traded stories with him, stood at the back of the room and made fun of other politicians (and some of you perhaps know who I mean) with him, and admired what a completely steadfast and principled public servant he is. Ron is the opposite of ideological; he lost his seat in the Minnesota Legislature in 2008 because of that fact.

Which is why the letter in the Sun Current by Republican activist Angie Berger is so poisonous. Ms. Berger writes:

Rep. John Benson cashed in some political chips before retirement to write a glowing letter about fellow Democrat Rep. Ron Erhardt (“Metro commuting will be better thanks to Ron Erhardt,” June 12). Politicians congratulating themselves on spending other people’s money is frustrating. If Benson and Erhardt prioritized transportation money for roads and bridges, instead of funneling gas taxes to light rail projects and bike paths, there would be no need for creative budgeting to maintain and expand our road system.

Erhardt’s political career began at age 61. It’s almost 25 years later and unfortunately his tenure has turned him into everything people say they don’t like about politicians. He will say and do anything to retain his self given title “Edina’s Representative.” Erhardt has run as a Republican, Independent and currently as a Democrat. Ron’s endorsements and donations come from large construction employee unions and trade organizations that gain from the road construction money he pushes through.

Ron’s name will be on the ballot again this year in District 49A. Ron will send you mail listing support from various groups who want to keep Democrats in power and the money flowing. Edina deserves a public servant who listens to the people and is not beholden to those who profit from your tax dollars.

So on the one hand, according to Angie, Ron Erhardt neglected road and bridges, but on the other, special interests benefit from the “road construction money he pushes through.”

Angie Berger and the Tea Party faithful | Steve Timmer photograph

Angie Berger (center) and the Tea Party faithful | Steve Timmer photograph

This is confusing and contradictory, save to an intellect like Angela Berger. But the most scandalous thing that Berger writes is this:

He will say and do anything to retain his self given title “Edina’s Representative.”

In the time that Ron was in the Legislature, the earth — and especially the part thereof occupied by the Republicans — moved under his feet. But Ron remained the socially moderate cheapskate that I have always known: always been pro-choice, always been anti-gun nut, always in favor of gay rights, always for separation of church and state, always in  favor of protecting the environment, always in favor of adequate funding for our transportation system, and the list goes on.

As I have written elsewhere, Ron was the last, the very last, pro-choice Republican in the Minnesota Legislature. It is a libel for Angie Berger to claim that Ron is the changeable one.

This disgusts me.

Angie Berger is, or was, I’m not sure, a member of the executive committee of the local Republicans, so she knows the story. As a Republican, Rep. Erhardt worked for years to secure some desperately-needed additional funding for transportation: a gas tax increase. Finally, in 2008, a bill that he worked on for years finally passed on a bipartisan basis.

But this didn’t fit with the aspirations of Governor Tim Pawlenty — the laughably preening Governor Gutshot — who thought he was presidential timber. (Gutshot found out soon enough that he was just presidential balsa wood.) So he vetoed the bill. Ron and five other Republicans and the entire DFL caucus in the House voted to override the veto.

This earned Ron the undying enmity of ideologues like Angie Berger. They refused to endorse Ron in 2008, preferring the simmering lunatic Keith Downey, who served, to the undying shame of the district, for two terms, until his own political delusions met Melisa Franzen in a contest for the Minnesota Senate in 2012.

But Ron Erhardt, who figured out that he wasn’t exactly simpatico with Republicans any more — which a lot of people had been telling him for years — came back as a DFLer to win his old seat back in 2012.

Naturally, this really bothers Angie Berger.

But it pleases me to no end. It pleases me because it says that the residents of my city are not cranks and ideologues.

Unlike Angie.

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