These have been the longest two years in American history. Sure felt like it, anyway.
In the past this nation’s been at war a lot—one time, the enemy was us—and gone through depressions and oppressions, and had presidents shot and killed. (Some good ones, too.) But the pace of information used to be slower. Now news moves at light speed. Each hour brings another blow to the psyche and/or the idea that the United States is a republic, with a constitution, and not some rich pig’s toy to fuck around with.
His enablers walk among us. Some are getting a little nervous about keeping their jobs. Good. They should pay for what they’ve done. And we should see some new faces, ones more representative of the people who actually do make this country great.
It all seems so overwhelming. People feel helpless. In the face of such villainy, what can one person possibly do? We’ll tell you. You can vote. Matter of fact, this year, you pretty much have to.
Voting can feel like choosing the lesser of two evils. (They’re all politicians, after all.) City Pages took its best shot at helping you make up your mind.
Tim Walz (DFL) v. Jeff Johnson (GOP)
We could’ve had a balls-to-the-wall race between urban progressive Erin Murphy and hardcore conservative Tim Pawlenty. Both parties’ voters flinched and went with the safe choices. Tim Walz and Jeff Johnson are mild-mannered dudes who tend not to wear fanatical hats.
Walz has represented southern Minnesota in Congress for six terms. A farm-town teacher and retired Army National Guard Sergeant Major, his core comforts are ag policy and veterans affairs, though he’s got a streak of support for LGBTQ and abortion rights.
Walz shot guns all his life and respects the right to own. For a while, the NRA showered him with A ratings and cash. Shortly after the Parkland school shooting, Walz decided to give away all the NRA money. He called out that outfit for obstructing moderate solutions to gun violence, like universal background checks.
Oh, and: He’d legalize pot if elected. So there’s that.
This is Jeff Johnson’s second tilt for governor after losing to Mark Dayton in 2014. A former lawyer for Cargill, Johnson shielded that food-and-energy monolith from its employees’ grievances. More recently a Hennepin County commissioner, Johnson is that board’s lone holdout against taxes and spending, especially on rail transit.
As governor he’d restrict abortion to about the six-week mark—before most women would even know they’re carrying—claiming to value the sanctity of human life. Not all of it, though: Johnson thinks health care’s a commodity rather than a right, and considers any gun control a form of blasphemy.
Johnson has picked up the torch on xenophobic rage in a sort of ho-hum, stats-manipulating style. In an Alpha News op-ed, he makes a money case against refugees, citing a study showing an average refugee “costs” taxpayers $107,000. He left out the part about that refugee contributing nearly $122,000 in taxes in the same period.
Another time, Johnson said “83 percent” of his constituents opposed Hennepin County adopting sanctuary policies. That “survey” was based on 165 people—who were all subscribers to his listserv emails. It’s not as tacky as a MAGA hat, but suggests you shouldn’t trust Johnson more than you would your sister-in-law’s brother’s Facebook shares.
Keith Ellison (DFL) vs. Doug Wardlow (GOP)
What a fucking mess.
There were hours on the clock before the state primary when DFL U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan’s family came forth with allegations he’d serially emotionally abused her, and once dragged her off a bed while calling her a “fucking bitch.”
Monahan has since produced medical records saying she suffered PTSD directly related to the relationship. Ellison denied the bed-dragging incident—Monahan claims it was videotaped, but has declined to make the clip public—but carefully side-stepped claims of emotional abuse. “I still care for [Karen’s] well-being.”
Later he admitted to calling her a “bitch,” but just one time, and suggested Monahan’s allegations stem from her jealousy he’s dating someone else. (We’ll pause while you rinse and spit to get that bad taste out of your mouth.)
Don’t want to vote for a man like that? Sorry. You have to.
Doug Wardlow’s on-the-record history in legal filings and statements is awful enough: He’s disgusted by gay people—don’t even get him started on transgender people—and worked cases for an outfit obsessed with the “homosexual agenda.” (Doug claimed he was fighting for “free speech.”)
It gets worse. A secret blog Wardlow penned while clerking for the Minnesota Supreme Court exposed his view of women as, essentially, sperm receptacles endowed by their creator to carry a man’s child. Another writing indicated he’d like to see church and state not only together, but full-on making out.
Writing while clerking is an ethical no-no. So would be firing every single Democratic attorney in the AG’s office, which Wardlow has pledged to do. Such a purge would allow Wardlow, who recently jumped ahead of Ellison in statewide polls, to pursue a Middle Ages-era agenda against women, queer people, the accused, and voters. Wardlow’s favored parties are few: Donald Trump, corporations, conservative Christians, and Doug Wardlow.
His personal reputation is somehow even worse. In high school, Wardlow picked on gay classmates, driving one to the point of trying to kill himself. That man’s name is Ryan Durant. He’s speaking out now, telling his story, and we can’t think of a more fitting agent to drive the stake through the heart of Wardlow’s horrific career.
The storylines at play span the spectrum of Edgar Allen Poe’s oeuvre. On one side, Ellison’s, a mystery. On the other, Wardlow’s, a pitch-black horror story.
Don’t want a man like Keith Ellison to be your attorney general? Elect him, and petition him to resign. The only other ending to this story is too dark for Minnesota to imagine.
Tina Smith (DFL) vs. Karin Housley (GOP)
Isn’t it just like us to try making a race between two women about a bunch of men?
DFL U.S. Sen. Tina Smith is running to hold her seat from her opponent, GOP State Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Marys Point).
Housley’s claim to fame is husband Phil, National Hockey League hall-of-famer and hometown hero extraordinaire, seen most lately skating to Karin’s side in campaign ads.
Smith’s line to this point runs through two other famous men, and over a third. She was chief of staff for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, then took the same gig for Gov. Mark Dayton. Then last year DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken got #metoo’d, and voila: By dint of Dayton’s pen, Ms. Smith went to Washington.
Both Rybak and Dayton leaned on Smith’s acumen, and put big projects on her desk. Rybak turned to her to take the lead on responding to the 35W bridge collapse. Under Dayton, Smith stood in for the governor when health issues acted up. When Dayton fainted during a State of the State Speech, Smith swept in and literally caught him from falling.
To this man-heavy mix, Housley tossed in two more, appearing on Fox News to accuse Smith of siding with DFL U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and using the #metoo movement to seize power from Supreme Court hopeful Brett Kavanaugh. Then she plugged her own campaign.
Forget the guys. In a political period defined by gridlock, Smith has a rare collaborative spirit. She’s sat at the table of power. She’s made deals.
Housley, meanwhile, has made jokes. She lampooned John McCain for, of all things, his war injuries. She compared Michelle Obama’s posture to the chimp from Bedtime for Bonzo. She appeared to mock Native American dancing for the benefit of a bunch of white folks at the Karl Oskar Days parade in Lindstrom.
There’s nothing especially funny about control of the U.S. Senate. One of these women knows that.
Amy Klobuchar (DFL) v. Jim Newberger (GOP)
DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is a stone-cold career prosecutor, skills she accessed with her polite but withering cross-examination of Brett Kavanaugh, pushing our newest Supreme Court justice to expose his innermost petulant boy.
Klobuchar guards her image closely, eschewing local media for the national spotlight. Her platitude-laden press releases are great at highlighting low-risk, inoffensive crusades. Klobuchar issues proclamations and avoids heat; hey, she’s asking the questions here, pal.
Here’s some heat: rumors of her being a hardass as a boss. A report published this year by LegiStorm shows Klobuchar has the highest staff turnover in the Senate. Nevertheless, you don’t get to her position by being Minnesota nice.
So who’s Jim Newberger? Good question. He’s the GOP state rep from Becker best known for being a self-serious goofball in general, and a climate science denier in specific.
He voted against a legislative resolution to recognize the reality of man-made global warming, then complained about being “persecuted.” He’s recently conceded that climate change is happening, though the true culprit is not human activity but... the sun. The yellow thing in the sky.
Just last session, Newberger authored a bill to prohibit changing the names of state bodies of water, an obvious reaction to Minneapolis reverting “Lake Calhoun” to its Dakota birthname, “Bde Maka Ska.” Newberger’s no-hope bill was meant to stick it to those PC snowflakes from the Twin Cities, the economic engine of the very state he now seeks to represent. Thanks for playing, Jim.