The Gopher State Governor’s Race—Democrat Tim Walz v. Demagogue Donald Zealot Jeff Johnson August 19, 2018
In case you don’t already “get it,” as Demagogue Donald goes loonier and loonier, so does his party. The GOP has now become wholly co-opted by Dictator wannabe Donald. GOP primary candidates fight among each other concerning who supports Trump the “mostest.” Money, name recognition, and prior experience don’t really matter to this rabid GOP “Trumpista”/Tea Party base. It’s Trump above everyone and everything else, or to say it in the original German, “Trumpland uber Alles.” View the results of the MN GOP 8/14/2018 gubernatorial primary.
In a political shocker, Hennepin County GOP commissioner Jeff Johnson (51) upset former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s (“T-paw’s”) bid to win back his old job in the MN GOP primary. Johnson handily beat Pawlenty, 52.61%- 43.87%, an 8.74% margin (AP, Bierschbach & Bakst, 8/14/18, MPRnews). Pawlenty (57) had been MN’s Gov. for two terms (2003-2011) and had cultivated a “moderate” image. He had briefly run for President in 2012 and been considered for the VP slot. Pawlenty was the darling of the GOP business and political “establishment.” He had “y uu ge” name recognition and received millions from business and mainstream GOP groups the minute he announced his 2018 candidacy. In 2006, Pawlenty was the last GOP Governor to win statewide in MN (See realclearpoliticis.com, Potter, 8/15/18). Pawlenty was leading in the polls (Weigel, Wash. Post, 8/14/18). Pawlenty didn’t bother to challenge Johnson at the 6/2018 MN GOP convention whose activists endorsed Johnson. Less known Johnson turned the contest against Pawlenty into who was the top Trump supporter. Although Pawlenty took a hard line on immigration, he basically ran a pragmatic campaign focusing on bread and butter issues like health care and taxes. Johnson worked “big time” to grab Trump’s voting base. Like his idol Donald, Johnson promised to “overthrow the status quo” in office. He was not shy about bragging to radically change government’s course (MPR, Bierschbach & Bakst, startribune.com, Coolican, 8/15/18). Pawlenty’s post-political career as a lobbyist for the nation’s largest banks did not help against “anti-establishment” Johnson (realclearpolitics.com, Potter, 8/15/18). Johnson ran a grass-roots campaign that took him all over MN in an RV. His pictures were emblazoned on the vehicle as well as the slogan, “Overturn the status quo (Coolican, startribune.com).”
Most importantly, Johnson belittled Pawlenty’s Trump “credentials” as inauthentic. Johnson ridiculed Pawlenty for “un-endorsing” Donald after the 10/2016 sexually crude “Access Hollywood” tape came out. Although Pawlenty later assured GOP voters that he had still voted for Donald and supported most of his policies, Johnson skewered “T-paw” for not being a true Trump believer with this “deviation.” Never mind that Johnson himself once called Donald “a jackass.” Johnson successfully positioned himself as Trump’s “pure” steadfast supporter (realclearpolitics.com, Potter, 8/15/18, Wash. Post, Weigel, 8/14/18). Underdog Johnson “out-Trumped” Pawlenty and became the primary’s “top dog.” In defeat, Pawlenty acknowledged the “new normal/abnormal” in GOP politics. He stated, “This is the era of Trump and I don’t fit into that very well. We knew the ground had shifted, but I think we thought there was still a reservoir of support from Pawlenty supporters we could draw upon to win this thing. But that turned out not to be the case (MPRnews, Bierschbach & Bakst, 8/14/18).” Exactly. The GOP is now completely in Donald’s “little” hands and might as well be called the “GTP,” “G rand T rump P arty.”
In the 11/06/2018 MN gubernatorial midterm election, GOP/Trumper Johnson will face six-term Democratic Congressman Tim Walz (WALLS). Walz (54) currently represents MN’s 1st Congressional District (CD). In a surprise win over two other Democratic challengers, the more centrist Walz defeated state Rep. Erin Murphy and MN Atty. General Lori Swanson. Walz won 41.62% while Murphy and Swanson took 32.04% and 24.55% of the vote respectively (AP, MPRnews, Bierschbach & Bakst, 8/14/18). Let’s look at the general election.
Tim Walz grew up in Nebraska and joined the Army National Guard to help pay for college. When he retired 24 years later, he held the rank of command sergeant major. Walz is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress. He graduated from college in NE and was part of the first group of American educators to teach in China. In 1996, he and his wife moved to Mankato, in the 1st MN CD, to take teaching jobs. Walz taught high school geography and coached the high school football team to two state championships (CQ & Barone 14 Political Almanacs). Walz did some organizing for Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. In 2006, he upset by six points a six-term GOPer in a district that had sent Republicans to Congress for 100 of the previous 114 years. Rochester’s world-famous Mayo Clinic is located in the MN 1st. This hospital has brought many college and graduate school residents to that the city as well as immigrants. However, the 1st remains a rural agricultural GOP district with a current PVI, Cook Partisan Voting Index, of R+5 (4/07/17). Although Obama eked out victories here in 2008 and 2012, Trump clobbered Hillary here by 15 points (Pres. Race results).
Walz has survived in the “Red” leaning 1st, a southern MN district that borders SD and WI, by balancing strong support for farmers, military veterans, and gun owners with his commitment to the the Democratic Party’s main economic planks. He voted against the bank and auto bail-outs. However, he was for Obamacare and the 2009 stimulus bill. He is pro-choice, with a perfect Planned Parenthood score, and for LGBT rights (Barone 14 & CQ 14, votesmart.org). He is best known for getting Congress in 2012 to pass a bill that prevents congressmen, staffers, and federal employees from using inside information when making stock trades. Before he was indicted for insider trading, GOP Cong. Chris Collins was being investigated by the House for insider trading that Walz’s law prohibited (See CQ 14). Walz engaged in many bipartisan efforts to help employ veterans (CQ14). In his gubernatorial campaign, Walz emphasizes health care, good wages, education, jobs, and the environment (walzflanagan.org).
Trump/GOP extremist Jeff Johnson is another story. Although he labels himself an “outsider,” Johnson has had a long political career. He served in MN’s state legislature and spent nearly a decade as a commissioner on the Hennepin County Board. In GOP year 2014, MN Dem. Gov. Mark Dayton, running for a second term, clobbered Johnson by 110,000 votes (Coolican, startribune.com, 8/15/18).
This is Johnson’s actual record. Johnson proudly states that “overall policy wise, I have agreed with what he (Trump) is trying to do (“Pioneer Press,” 5/10/17).” Johnson defended MN state lawmakers who claimed there is a plan to “mobilize Muslims to infiltrate our Republican caucuses.” Other GOPers and civic groups criticized those legislators (“Star Tribune,” 2/01/18). Johnson stated he would sign a bill banning taxpayer-funded abortions when he took office. He said he was “pro-life” and would support a bill forbidding abortions if one could “hear and feel a fetus’ heartbeat (MPR, 7/23/18).” Johnson opposed Obamacare and attacked requirements under that law which included protecting pre-existing conditions and not charging women more than men for health coverage. He stated, “We are in a considerably worse place than we were before the ACA (Affordable Care Act), before Obamacare (“Echo Journal,” 7/10/18).” Pawlenty repeatedly called Johnson “unelectable statewide.” Throughout the primary, Pawlenty and Johnson squabbled over “who insulted Trump worse ahead of the 2016 presidential election (AP, 8/14/18).”
The MN contest for governor as well as other gubernatorial races in Campaign 2018 are not just about bragging rights. The next MN governor, as well as other state chief executives, will be in office after the 2020 census, when new legislative and congressional districts will be drawn. Because GOPers won the majority of governor and state legislative races in 2010, they were able to lopsidedly gerrymander state and congressional districts in their favor until 2020. Currently, GOPers control 33 governorships to “Team Blue’s” 16, with one Independent (Coolican, startribune.com, 8/15/18, realclearpolitics.com).
In 2016, Donald lost MN to Hillary by just 1.5 %, the closest a GOP presidential nominee has come to winning the Gopher State since Reagan lost it to home son Mondale by .2 points in 1984 (CNN, Enten,8/14/18). The GOP, therefore, sees MN as one of the Upper Midwest “swing states” like MI and WI that gave Trump the White House in 2016. Yes, currently, only 41% of Minnesotans approve of Donald, while 56% disapprove. Retiring Dem. Gov. Mark Dayton will leave office in 2019.Dayton’s very popular, with a 51%- 35% approval/disapproval rating (vox.com, Scott, 8/01/18). However, when Hillary lost to Donald, outgoing Dem. President Obama was also very popular. Democrats have a chance to flip the MN Senate “Blue” by taking one seat. In the MN House, they would need to re-take 12 seats. However, even with the winds now blowing in the Democrats’ favor, remember, nothing is guaranteed. We have political light years to go till the 11/06/2018 midterms. Should the GOP win the MN governorship with Johnson in 11/2018 and keep both legislative chambers, “Team Red” would have full control of the state government for the first time in half a century. Such a Gopher State “Red” majority would allow GOPers to radically reduce the size and scope of the government and weaken the influence of public sector unions, just like GOP “idol” Gov. Scott Walker did in neighboring WI (See Coolican, startribune.com, 8/15/18).
MN Democrats outvoted GOPers in the 8/14/2018 primary 580, 962- 319, 276, a sign of greater “Blue” enthusiasm (nbcnews.com, 8/15/18). However, 8/14/2018 enthusiasm does not automatically transfer into 11/06/2018 “Blue” turnout on the only day that counts, Election Day. On 8/15/2018, Donald wholeheartedly endorsed Johnson, boosting him and his “Red” extremist followers (See wctrib.com/news, Davis). Johnson has little left to spend after winning his primary. However, count on national GOP organizations and groups like the Kochs to pony up millions for him. Democrats must spend in kind to aid Walz. Just before the primary results came in, polling found any of the Democratic contenders having a solid lead over Johnson (Weigel, Wash. Post, 8/14/18). GOP money and the negative ads those sums buy could change nominee Walz’s advantage in this high priority race. Democrats must not think this election is “in the bag” for Walz or any other “Blue” congressional or state candidate. On 11/06/2018, Democrats must come out in droves in MN and everywhere else to “Just Say No” loudly and clearly to Donald and all his rubberstamp followers.