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The 201 members of the House and Senate return on January 31, 2022, to gavel in for the start of the regular session. The Minnesota Legislature remains divided with a DFL-led House of Representatives and a GOP-led Senate.
The DFL-led House announced all legislative work will continue to be conducted virtually, while the Republican-led Senate will operate under a hybrid model.
Statutorily, lawmakers have no required business to complete in the second year of the legislative biennium. Historically, even numbered years are considered the time for significant infrastructure investment packages also referred to as bonding projects. However, the last 18 months in Minnesota and nationally have been anything but typical.
The legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn by May 23, 2022.
Additional driving factors in the session will be the significant influx of federal funds coming to the state, the upcoming election with all 201 lawmakers and the governor on the ballot, and re-drawing of all 201 legislative districts.
Kendall Qualls formally announced his run for governor January 9, joining 5 other Republican candidates looking to defeat DFL Gov. Tim Walz.
The Army veteran and former health care executive ran as a political newcomer for our MN Third Congressional District in 2020 and then established non-profit TakeCharge MN.
Qualls told Fox & Friends that he was filing as a candidate on the Republican ticket "because in our state we were ground zero — all of the rioting, looting and defunding the police initiatives all started and spread across the country…. And even now, two years later, we're suffering from record crime across our state.... And in the center of it all is our governor, Tim Walz, allowing that to happen, his weak leadership." To watch the brief video CLICK HERE
Here is the current list of Republican candidates that have announced their run for governor and candidate websites, in alphabetical order:
Sen. Michelle Benson Michelle4MN.com
Sen. Paul Gazelka gazelkaforgovernor.com
Dr. Scott Jensen drscottjensen.com
Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy MikeMurphyforMN.com
Kendall Qualls KQforMN.com
Dr. Neil Shah electneil.com
In December, businessman Mike Marti dropped out of the governor's race.
All currently-active Republican candidates will be listed for the Governor straw poll at the February 1 Caucuses.
In May, the Republican Party State Convention will endorse one candidate to take on Walz.
Minnesota came through the 2020 census with all of our eight Congressional seats intact. However, the ramification of that census will not end there. The shifts and growth of the state population could well result in the adjustment of precinct, senate district and Congressional district boundaries.
The legislature has until February 15 to reach agreement on the maps for Minnesota’s eight Congressional districts and 201 state House and Senate districts. A special panel empowered by the Minnesota Supreme Court “is preparing to be the ultimate decider.” It has schedule oral arguments on January 4 over a lawsuit filed by activist groups. Fox 9 reports that it is prepared to take over on February 15 if the divided legislature cannot finalize the maps by that date.
On November 18, the State of Minnesota Special Redistricting Panel released its Order Stating Preliminary Conclusions, Redistricting Principles, and Requirements for Plan Submissions. In it, the special panel said it would draw districts that are within 2 percent of an ideal district – a population of 42,586 for the house and 85,172 for the Senate. As reported by Fox9, “the court-drawn districts will be convenient and contiguous, will not violate federal voting rights laws, and will not protect incumbents.”
The Order was released as part of on-going litigation around redistricting in Minnesota. As was true with voting rights litigation in Minnesota in 2020, the DFL and DFL affiliates like the League of Women Voters Minnesota, Common Cause, OneMinnesota.org, and Voices for Racial Justice are suing to drive certain changes in the way the state is redistricted. The various proposals from the DFL and DFL-affiliates would have all led to the same result: spreading excess votes from urban areas to districts in suburban and rural Minnesota. However, this time, Republican Plaintiff-Interveners have joined the litigation, represented by attorneys with vast redistricting experience, to ensure that their claims are not settled by consent decrees.
The Republican Roundtable is a series of video interviews hosted by Max Rymer and produced by Patty Piatz. In this 23-minute interview, recorded on December 1, the guest is Twila Brase, President & Co-founder of Citizens' Council for Health Freedom. The topic is health care freedom and privacy and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.
Lynn Swon called our attention to the obituary of Tom Richards recently published in the Star Tribune. According to Lynn, Richards was a loyal Republican who served as a delegate for many years from Edina.
Born in Chicago in 1926 and raised in Hamlet, Indiana, Richards survived both the Depression and military service in World War II. He had a 41-year career with the 3M Company. He and his wife Joan moved several times before settling in Edina, where they lived for over 55 years.
Richards retired from the 3M Company in 1992 and enjoyed 28 years of golf, tennis and traveling the world, vacationing often in Arizona, and Naples, FL. In 2020, Tom and Joan moved to Friendship Village in Bloomington. His family reported that he passed away peacefully on November 18. At the time that the obituary was published, the timing of his memorial had not been identified.
Bloomington voters had their first experience with Ranked Choice Voting this year. Three City Council seats were decided using RCV.
The vote totals reported on the Secretary of State’s website after the polls closed was not the same as reported by Bloomington for its 1st round results. On close races, Bloomington reviewed ballots that were considered “inactive” and not counted by the electronic balloting machines. If a visual inspection could determine the intent of the voter, that vote was added to the totals. As an example, if a voter was confused by RCV and did not mark a first choice, but instead marked a second choice, it was treated as the voter’s first choice.
In this election, the review of the inactive votes affected the 1st round voting totals by at most 0,2%, generally less than 0.1%. However, that was enough to knock the front-runner in the 4th District from 50.02% down to 49.9%.
When none of the candidates in a race tallied at least one vote more than 50% of the “active” votes, the ballots of candidates that got the least votes were reviewed for the second choices. Any ballots that had a write-in for a first choice were also reviewed. In each race that went to the 2nd round, the runners-up were identified as the second choice almost two-to-one over the eventual winner, but those votes were not enough overcome the winner’s lead.
The number of ballots that were considered “inactive” at the end of the first round significantly increased at the end of the second round. This resulted when a voter chose not to mark a second choice. The percentage of Bloomington voters whose ballots did not register after two rounds for either the winner or the runner-up ran from 7,7% to 9,3%.
Depending on whether it was a District race or an At-Large race, the number of “inactive” ballots ranged from over 200 to almost 1,200. These are the numbers of votes that would have counted if the ballots had reflected just two candidates per race as has been the practice up to this year.
RCV proponents argue that by encouraging more candidates to run, more voters are encouraged to turn out. So far, that does not seem to hold true. In 2019, in the last city-wide municipal races including the mayor and an At Large council member, over 17,300 votes were cast. This year, 15,500 individuals voted for the At Large candidates.
Bill Holm passed away from complications of pneumonia on November 1, on the eve of an Election Day in Bloomington that had been the focus of his life for the last several months.
In late September, Bill experienced severe chest pains, shortness of breath, coughing, fever and chills. After testing three times for COVID, with negative results, his doctors diagnosed severe pneumonia and told him to stay in the hospital for three weeks.
“However,” he wrote to his friends and colleagues on October 2, “after three days of being chained up to machines and not being able to move, I walked out of the hospital …I am resting comfortably at home and taking all of my medication. Overall, my spirits are great and I intend to beat this thing by the end of next week.”
None of those of us who had worked with Bill were aware of how serious his illness was. He never wanted to trouble anyone. It was only after Beth Beebe initiated a well check that we learned that we would no longer be recipients of the email advice sent from “captbilly007”.
Tribute to Bill Holm
By Beth Beebe, SD49
Bill Holm was a willing and tireless volunteer in the GOP Senate District 49. He was often “boots on the ground” for behind the scenes work and physical set up for meetings and events. He was dedicated to do his part in trying to “form a more perfect union.” Having been in the military, he treasured this nation. It troubled him to see the direction things were headed.
After missing 2020 due to Covid restrictions, this year’s Fall Conversation proved once again to be a very successful format for a fundraiser. Almost 80 people came to the Edina Country Club on Thursday, November 4, to gain some insight into “What We Need to Do to Win in the Suburbs.”
Three distinguished commentators came at this question from different backgrounds and perspectives. Moderated by Kyle Hooten of Alpha News, the panelists were MN Sen. Mark Koran, life coach and community activist Sheila Qualls, and political observer and campaign advisor Lonny Leitner.
The cocktail hour ahead of the panel discussion provided an opportunity to meet and talk with some recent candidates in the local school board elections as well as declared and future candidates for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District and for MN Attorney General. Republican National Committeewoman Barb Sutter and 3rd Congressional District Chair Patti Meier also spoke personally with friends and attendees. Former MN Rep. Dario Anselmo stopped in for a brief appearance.
Senate District 49 Co-Chair Pam Tucholke kicked off the main event with a call out to special guests and an introduction of the moderator. Kyle Hooten in turn introduced the panel members. Mixing humor with statistics and quotes, the panelists spoke and answered questions for close to 90 minutes.
While impossible to capture in a short article all of the points made by the panelists, a few highlights give a sense of the lively discussion
The consensus on the top issues for the 2022 elections:
- Safety and security
City, county and state Boards and Commissions in MN rely on volunteers for expertise and community input / viewpoints. The experience of serving on these boards and commissions can be rewarding. It also gives future candidates for public office the ability to cite their background of government service.
A November 5 Op-Ed in the Sun Current described the importance of 254 state boards, commissions, work groups and task forces, that involve more than 3600 state residents. It mentioned the 1978 Minnesota Open Appointments Act and quoted Secretary of State Steve Simon as encouraging more members of diverse communities to apply: “We need everyone at the table.”
Unfortunately, true diversity on the boards and commissions in the metropolitan area is not always achieved. Those who apply are reviewed / screened / appointed by current elected office-holders and their administrative appointees – mayor, appointed city managers, city councils, Secretary of State, Governor, current commission chairs – who are, for the most part, Democrats. Even for roles that are theoretically non-partisan, the resulting Boards and Commissions are skewed to Democrat members.
Further, since the DFL definition of “diverse communities” involves “skin color” and “sexual orientation” rather than “underlying core approach to government”, this supposed outreach to all fails to result in true diversity of viewpoint. Reports issued by the Boards/Commissions about their deliberations and actions can leave the misleading impression that their policy decisions are approved (or opposed) by almost all Minnesotans.
How do we change the balance? By:
1) applying in large enough numbers that failure to appoint Conservatives/Republicans becomes obvious;
2) voicing our views when seated on a Board or Commission, even though in the minority;
3) contacting the members to express our views on items they’re discussing; and
4) attending the meetings, noting/reporting the proceedings.
Current state openings are listed at the Secretary of State website which also has more detailed information about the application and appointment process.
If you’ve applied / served on a Board/Commission and are willing to coach future applicants on the process, please let us know by emailing [email protected]
Many of the city council races in Bloomington and Minnetonka were decided by the end of Election Day. The first use of Ranked Choice Voting in those cities will delay the outcome in at least two races. The outcomes will not be known until Thursday, at the earliest, but most likely later.
In Bloomington, Nathan Coulter received 47% of the first-choice votes, short of a majority of the 15,196 votes cast in the At-Large City Council race. Thursday morning, the 3,394 ballots cast for Ric Oliva will be examined to identify how many second-choice votes were cast and for whom they were cast. Those second-choice votes will be added to the tallies for Nathan Coulter and Paul King. The candidate that has the highest resulting total will take the At-Large seat.
In Minnetonka, the Seat B on the City Council may or may not be decided after one elimination round. Kimberley Wilburn was the highest 41% of the first-choice votes, but would need at least 941 second-choice votes to take the seat. Daniel Krall’s 1130 ballots will be examined to identify to whom any second-choice votes were cast. It is conceivable that it might require Ash Patel’s ballots to be similarly reviewed before the Seat B race is concluded. The schedule for this process is not clear.
Back in Bloomington, the District IV City Council race was extremely close. The incumbent, Patrick Martin, tallied 50.02% of the first-choice ballots. If he had received one vote less than the 1,228 credited to him, this race would have gone to an elimination round. The interest in this race clearly led to a 37% greater voter turn-out over the 2017 contest for that district.
Many voters expressed frustration with the complexity of Ranked Choice Voting. Given the number of races in which there was a first-choice winner, the true impact of RCV is still to be determined. Not all elections in which RCV was used led to a decisive increase in turn-out. The number of voters participating in Bloomington’s 2021 At-Large race was only 88% of those of 2019, when a Mayoral contest was also on the ballot.