District 49 debate (www.minnpost.com).
by Steve Timmer
Sep 23, 2014, 9:00 PM


I wasn’t certain that Cyndy Brucato and I were in the same room on Monday night. But by golly, there I am. The photo is from the District 49 candidate debate on Monday evening, September 22nd. Brucato wrote a piece in MinnPost that was published Tuesday, September 23rd, and mirabile dictu, it isn’t behind the paywall. But she attended a different event than I did, perhaps on purpose, probably best exemplified by this:

Voters in the area are classic moderates. Erhardt is a former Republican, and his GOP challenger, Dario Anselmo, as well as Rosenthal and his Republican challenger, Barb Sutter, all hug the middle road of partisan politics.

You see, if you prick’d Barb Sutter’s thumb, it’d ooze tea. (I’ve been reading Hilary Mantel again, so you all are going to have to cope with it for a while.)

I went back to my notes, just to be sure; my notes in this case being the LeftMN live tweet stream of the event, a collection of which you can read here. Here’s a tweet about Paul Rosenthal’s closing remarks:

Followed a moment later by a tweet about Sutter’s closing:

You can listen to a rebroadcast of the debate on Southwest Cable’s channel 16 if you don’t believe me.

Bringing Republicans together is undoubtedly a daunting task, but it isn’t hugging the middle of the partisan political road. On issue after issue, the difference between the incumbent DFLers and their Republican challengers was obvious to anybody paying half attention. I commend the live tweet feed linked above to see them as they floated by.

Right from the get go the differences were clear. What’s the biggest priority, asks the moderator? Anselmo says, “Improve the business climate,” which, for those of you scoring at home means, “cut taxes.” Perhaps if you’re a little naive, you though it meant improving transportation for people and goods, and making sure that the populace is well educated and prepared to participate in the economic life of the state.

But you’d be wrong, tragically wrong. But that’s what Ron Erhardt actually wants to do: improve education funding and modernize transportation funding. He’s the chair of the Transportation Policy Committee in the House, you see.

So right out of the box, in the first two minutes of the debate, the line is drawn and it couldn’t be more clear.

Perhaps Cyndy was in the powder room.

And it was like this all night. You would have to be asleep or dead to think otherwise.

First audience question: Do we need more transportation funding? Yes, says Erhardt, and we’re going to have to raise the gas tax. Yes, says Anselmo, but we can look to “efficiencies” for the funding. Efficiencies are ephemeral, of course; Anselmo doesn’t say where they come from. Since fuel taxes are the principal source of transportation funding, the answer doesn’t wash; it is almost flippant.

On health care, the DFLers say that MNSure is hardly perfect, but it has reduced the rolls of the uninsured; uninsurable people can get insurance, and we need to work with MNSure to make it better. The Republican challengers: MNSure is terrible. Period. Platitudes about the wonderful system the want, but not a word about how to do it. The Big Rock Candy Mountain.

On abortion, Anselmo says he wouldn’t want more restrictions on abortion; Ron Erhardt is endorsed by NARL and has been for a very long time. Paul Rosenthal says he is pro-choice; Sutter says she isn’t in favor of abortion as “birth control.” In other words, you have to prove to somebody that you will die without one to get an abortion.

Barb Sutter thinks — quite frankly, one of her favorite phrases — that state initiatives on things like renewable energy are “meaningless.”

On gun control, Barb Sutter thinks we need to address the underlying mental health issues; Paul Rosenthal says universal background checks, and closing the gun show loophole, are essential. Rosenthal is in the leadership of the Public Safety Committee in the House.

Sutter says, in support of a photo voter ID requirement, that “people died to insure my right to vote.” Really, Barb, it was soldiers in outfits like the storied Minnesota First who died to free slaves and make sure they got to vote. You have it exactly backwards, Barb, but it’s a great dog whistle.

And in fact, although I don’t hear that well, I could hear the dog whistles from the Republican challengers all night.

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