The “bull hockey” tournament

Image credit: MN House Public Information Services

Image credit: MN House Public Information Services

Earlier today the valiant Bemidji High School Lumberjacks hockey squad had a hard-fought loss against the aristocratic cake-eaters over at Edina in the state tournament. I was the only one in the newsroom for a time, as my coworkers all huddled around some pizza in the breakroom, watching the game on TV. I had fun hearing their cries and hoots of joy during scores or blocked shots, clear across the Pioneer’s building.

Seems like hockey was on Rep. John Persell’s mind too, in a big way. (Hat tip to Sally Jo Sorenson at Bluestem Prairie for picking this out. Without her hawk-like vigilance of committee meetings, moments like this would go unreported).   On Tuesday, the House Environment committee, of which Persell is a member, heard a bill introduced by Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, who replaced Persell as House Majority Whip when the GOP took control of the House in 2014.  Essentially, the bill makes it harder for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to institute new water quality standards, by forcing a “cost benefit analysis”  and requiring the MPCA to get legislative approval before each new standards is implemented.

In response to testimony, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, went on a rant against the watershed experts sitting across from him, who had testified earlier. While he claimed at the start it would be “respectful” it turned out to just be threatening:

I was offended by the arrogance of the bureaucrats that testified here today in saying that we weren’t qualified to make decisions.

You wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for the Legislature. Or your funding, your pensions, or your planning, your operations. We gave you rule-making authority, of which many of us regret.  And the reason we’re here today, and we have some of these bills, is because of this arrogance. And instead of standing between the EPA and the farmer, and the businessman, and the miner, and the power companies, what you people, it seems like, are doing is worshiping the shrine of the EPA, and saying ‘There’s nothing we can do.’ It’s just offensive.

Persell was riled up enough to invent a whole new cuss-word to express his disgust with the bill (and probably with Cornish, too):

Rep. Cornish, you kind of stole my thunder a little bit. You’re offended, I’m offended too. But not for the same reason, MPCA doesn’t bother me. Although, we don’t get along on everything.

But I’m offended. You look at this map and most of the sewer treatment plants in Minnesota did the right thing. We did the right thing in Bemidji 30 years ago.  Thirty years ago! And instituted phosphorus reductions so we could save Lake Bemidji, Big Wolf Lake, Andrusia, Cass Lake, Winnibigoshish, on down the Mississippi River, through all of them, so we could send you all down here cleaner water.

Cleaner water! And now a few sewer treatment plants, a few cities want to say, ‘oh no, not me, we don’t want to do this.’

Well, bull hockey. That ain’t right! That ain’t fair! That ain’t the way we do things in Minnesota!

I just want to say I support what you’re trying to do, MPCA. Let’s do the right thing here and support standards the way they’re supposed to be developed.

You can see the whole Persell speech right here:

Contrary to what Rep. Cornish believes, part-time elected legislators that may or may not have any idea of what phosphorus even is are most certainly not more qualified than the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to regulate pollution. Also contrary to what Cornish believes, the primary directive of the MPCA and the watershed groups is to combat pollution, not combat the Environmental Protection Agency.

A-Bakk-alypse Now

So the big Capitol news this week is obviously the fracas between Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Majority Leader Tom Bakk on Thursday over Dayton’s pay increases for his cabinet. Before Dayton said Bakk “connives behind my back” and Bakk obliquely told Dayton through a reporter, “this is not a kids’ sandbox”, I got to see the warning signs of the impending kerfuffle firsthand.

I actually was in St. Paul the day before, for the Bemidji Day at the Capitol volunteer lobbying event, where both Dayton and Bakk were speakers. They were never in the same room (third floor of the State Office Building) at the same time, though.

After Dayton was done speaking to the Bemidji group, his press assistant invited me to come down a few floors and ask him some questions as he left. I got to take part in what’s called a “media scrum”, where a bunch of reporters cluster around a public figure and ask the person questions. This was my first scrum ever at the Capitol, and I got to stand in a secluded hallway beside reporters from the Associated Press and MPR while we asked questions of Minnesota’s governor together.

I went first, and stammered out a question on some legislation that was specific to Bemidji and that Dayton said he hadn’t heard of.  Then, the other reporters immediately launched into questions about the pay raise fight, which until that point had been mostly limited to Dayton and House Republicans. Even then, Dayton was showing obvious and pointed frustration with people’s criticism of the raises- the Q and A I was in on produced quotes such as Dayton’s assertion the Republicans were showing the “definition of hypocrisy”.  I could hear the anger in Dayton’s voice as I was standing there beside him.

At the now-infamous press conference the next day, Dayton likened his situation to Pres. Obama, a fellow Democrat executive at the end of his rope when it comes to Republican legislative leaders second-guessing him.

There’s more similarities, though. Like Obama, Dayton has been re-elected to a second term, and used that success as a factor in deciding that he’s going to be more assertive in putting forward his agenda and speaking his mind on the things that matter to him.

Bakk is an Iron Range-adjacent DFLer from a district that’s pretty far from Duluth. His relative conservatism has clashed with Dayton’s ideas in the past, and it was only a matter of time before the two butted heads again. There other signs Wednesday that pay raises would be the next battlefield the two fought on, mainly in the written statement from Bakk that he had “reservations” about the increases.

Like many observers, my concern now is that the Bakk/Dayton flap will mean a much less productive 2015 legislative session. This conflict has already shown us examples of the classic Minnesotan passive-aggressiveness. Can we now see some classic Minnesota Nice?

Never on Sunday? Bemidji and the liquor sales ban

I read an interesting article from MPR’s Tim Pugmire today, about the chances for the Sunday sales debate rearing its head again during the 205-2016 session.

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said he voted against lifting the ban on Sunday sales in the past and will do it again this session when and if it comes up.

“Most of these liquor stores are small mom and pop shops, and they’d really like a day off,” Davids said. “It’s worked fine in Minnesota for many, many years. You know, if you open it up on Sundays you simply are spreading the same number of sales over another day. So, I’ve come down on the side of small business owners.”

That argument has been around for a decade, but it has a major logical flaw: nobody at the legislature is saying we should compel the stores to stay open on Sunday. The following has been brought up before, but Sunday sales opponents apparently aren’t getting the message: eliminating the ban would mean private liquor store owners and cities could open if they wanted to, or they could stay closed- it’s completely up to them.

Let’s say store A isn’t open on Sundays, but neighboring Store B is.

If competition from Store B is enough to make it financially essential for Store A to cave and open one more day every week – isn’t that proof their potential customers want to be able buy on Sunday? Can’t they just close on the day with the least amount of sales?

Also, how do we “know” adding Sunday sales would simply stretch out the profits over seven days? In Georgia, for example, a PolitiFact report rated a claim the state would gain an additional  $4.8 million in sales tax revenue as “Mostly True.”

A different MPR report, in 2013, got some liquor voices that aren’t tied to the Teamsters or the Municipal Beverage Association: the craft brewers. These artisan beermakers support lifting the ban.

Jamie Robinson, owner of Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub in south Minneapolis, supports Sunday sales. He estimated that his business loses between $12,000 and $15,000 in sales each year because he can’t sell beer in growlers on Sunday.

“Craft beer is really popular right now and we feel like there are 52 days a year when we have a product people want and they’re just not able to buy it because there’s a group of retailers out there who just won’t want to work Sundays,” Robinson said. “We’re open Sunday and we feel like we should be able to sell the products we have.”

Brewpubs, which produce their own beer, must also sell food by state law and are unable to distribute their beer to retailers. That means Northbound doesn’t depend on distributors or liquor stores to sell its product. Robinson said that breweries with taprooms, which often see the bulk of their business come from sales in liquor stores, have little incentive to cross distributors and retailers who oppose Sunday liquor sales.

“I’ve talked to several different packaging brewers and they’d like to see Sunday sales as well, I believe they just don’t want to rock the boat,” Robinson said. “That’s where everything gets hung up, there’s just not a big enough craft brewers voice out there at this point.”

In Bemidji, elected city officials I’ve talked to have spoken against Sunday sales at the two municipal liquor stores that put up some of the highest sales numbers in the state in 2013.

It would be interesting to see what Bemidji Brewing, our local brewpub, has to say on the idea. I contend they’d probably be in favor of legislation that could stand to generate more money for the City of Bemidji and private small businesses, as well as give the consumer more power in the process.

On police reform, look for common ground

As a politics/government reporter, it’s distressing to me to see just how polarized and politicized the attitudes toward the Black Lives Matter movement have become in recent weeks. It seems like commentators on the outside looking in are all hell-bent on portraying this as protesters and their liberal allies vs. police and their conservative allies. It reminds me of the narrative that surrounded the Iraq War: if you respected the sacrifices the troops themselves made but you opposed the war or the way it was fought, that supposedly made you a hypocrite.

It is possible to both respect police, and at the same time, wish for them to do better work. In many cases, the police themselves want to improve.  Law enforcement in Minnesota have been working toward the same objectives activists in other parts of the country have cried out for.  In fact, we’re lucky in Bemidji to have law enforcement officials working to improving their departments.  Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin is to be commended for his department’s openness to the idea of body cameras on patrol, even if the cameras aren’t very practical for the entire department at this point. Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp deserves similar praise for his work on the Legislature’s Offenders With Mental Illness Work Group. That said, there is always room for improvement so that police operate fairly and effectively in a diverse community like our own.

 

The Masons building: let it go, let it go

I was floored this morning when I fired up the Pioneer’s Facebook page and saw some 40 comments on my story about plans for the Masons building to be torn down, just since the story was posted last night. By comparison, most of the stories I do will get maybe three or four comments in a week.

I was also surprised at the amount of negative reactions to the building plans. A lot of people apparently didn’t read the story itself, since they seemed to think some sort of business or tacky parking lot is going into the space. Rather, that couldn’t be further from what Watermark Art Center actually wants to do with the land after the building comes down.  As Watermark director Lori Forshee-Donnay said when I talked to her yesterday, the center aims to turn the plat into a garden where public art can be featured, possibly with some sort of pavilion for public gatherings. It’s a vast improvement over an empty, dilapidated building past that at this point can only suck up utility costs and pose a safety hazard.

We can only speculate as to the motivations of whoever donated the $250,000 for the Masons building to be purchased and demolished, but I have a theory: the person or organization donated the money precisely to save the space from becoming a parking lot or fast food chain location. They donated to Watermark specifically in order to prevent some other developer from coming in and turning the space into something commercial. They probably chose to remain anonymous because they anticipated the legion of haters suddenly throwing rocks at the idea of demo-ing the building just because it happens to be old. Where were all these people last spring, when news first broke of the temple’s condition?

Although it’s an ugly fact that the temple has to go away, it’s still a fact. The future green space is really the best possible outcome that could have happened, considering the amount of money it would have required to renovate the building.

The Masons are satisfied they did all they could to save the building. Why can’t some people in Bemidji be satisfied with a little change?

Open country, open meetings

I’m a bit late to this, but I wanted to put in my two cents to a post from Sally Jo Sorensen’s blog post from last week about the Minnesota Senate’s Rural Task Force. On her Bluestem Prairie blog, Sorensen took the Task Force to task for not recording its meetings via sound files or minutes, and failing to distribute document packets to the public. Although RTF subsequently released minutes from one meeting to her, my guess is it took some prodding. She apparently never got a comment from Saxhaug himself, but she did get a response from Senate Majority Media staffer Amelia Cerling explaining things.

I have heard back from Sen. Saxhaug’s staff and unfortunately don’t have good news to share. Because the Rural Task Force is not an ‘official’ Senate task force there is no audio/video or minutes taken. Likewise there are no digital copies of the documents handed out at the meeting.

 

If you are interested in attending the next meeting, it’s taking place on Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. I apologize for not being more help.

 

Please let me know if there is anything else I can assist with.

As it so happens, the Task Force is chaired by Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, who I frequently cover on my beat as a member of the Bemidji-area delegation to the Legislature. He swung by the Pioneer office last week, and I figured I’d cut through all this red tape and just ask him why they weren’t recorded.

To his credit, Saxhaug actually beat me to it, bringing it up himself how “we got a little static from some people” about the lack of recordings. However, when I asked him about why they weren’t recorded, Saxhaug at first handed the question off to staffer Mitch Berggren, who was also at the interview. Berggren said the reason RTF didn’t record the meetings was partly because they didn’t have to and partly because they couldn’t.

“Under Senate rules, these are not official hearings,” he said. “No formal actions are being taken. They do not need to be recorded, there don’t need to be any minutes made public. It’s strictly informational, we’re not in session.  If it was a hearing by a committee, absolutely they have to be recorded and minutes have to be posted. One, (due to) the Capitol renovations… we don’t have cameras right now. So, the technology that everybody has come to rely on isn’t available in the building right now, due to no fault of our own. But the main reason is because, as a task force, not a formal senate committee, there is no requirement of recording them. And, we don’t have the means to get that information out.”

Saxhaug then chimed in.

“We thought that if we came up with some decent ideas, then it might be a reason for one of us to write a bill,” he said. “That’s kind of how we left it.”

Then I asked if there was still an ethical obligation to the taxpayers to record the meetings, even if there wasn’t a legal obligation.

After a pause,  Saxhaug responded.

“I think that it’s something that’s worthy enough of attention…there was plenty of people that attended, and… I didn’t feel like we were operating in a vacuum,” he said finally.

Driving all the way to St. Paul shouldn’t have been the only recourse for people wanting to be informed about RTF’s activities. I understand the task force is a new idea and the Senate is still trying to work out the kinks, but “we don’t have cameras right now” isn’t a valid excuse in the era of smart phones. At the very least, they could have posted audio on the senate website. Hopefully the upcoming meeting in December will be more open.

Bemidji’s socially tinged ripple in the 2014 Red Wave

Now that the dust has settled on 2014, it’s time to try and understand why Dave Hancock retook his House 2A seat from DFL Rep. Roger Erickson.

I read an excellent analysis piece by MinnPost’s Briana Bierschbach the other day on how the Republicans took control of the Minnesota House of Representatives by unseating DFLers in rural districts, a trend in which Hancock was at the center.  They used the rural vs. metro dynamic, Bierschbach says, in that they claimed the incumbents had voted with St. Paul over their own constituents. The main wedge they used to drive that divide was the new Senate office building, which Bierschbach calls “the perfect symbol for that message” and a “gift from the DFL”. She goes on to quote Marty Seifert:

“The House Democrats could lay the senate office building at [Senate Majority Leader] Tom Bakk’s feet and say, ‘You helped crystallize wasteful spending,’” says former House Minority leader and gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert. “They raised taxes to help pay for stuff like this, while your area gets nothing and the roads are falling apart. It was so easy for the Republicans to exploit that.”

The MinnPost piece also analyzes what role, if any, same-sex marriage played during the election, using Jeff Backer’s ouster of Jay McNamar as an example:

Yet many strategists do believe that gay marriage helped Republicans in at least five “deep rural” seats in the Minnesota House. GOP Rep.-elect Jeff Backer said he didn’t bring the issue up at the doors in his race for House District 12A, but voters did. “It came up at the door,” he said. “The people who are passionate about it are very passionate about it.” Backer ended up beating DFL Rep. Jay McNamar, who voted to legalize gay marriage, by about 4 points.

Hancock talked about the office building a few times but it was his constant refrain of social issues that really syncs up with Bierschbach’s article. Rather than claiming it was voters who brought up gay marriage like Backer did, Hancock would unabashedly bring it up unprompted himself time and and time again. While Erickson would usually address social issues if only directly asked about it, Hancock made a conscious, consistent effort to cast himself as a defender of “traditional” marriage and other conservative social values. Hancock played the St. Paul vs. rural card, but rather than focusing only on the SOB or gay marriage, he added another issue that seemingly pits St. Paul against the locals: the anti-bullying law intended in part to protect LGBTQ students against harassment.  In fact, Hancock devoted part of his closing statement at the last debate of the season to the law, which passed earlier this year.

“It’s not going to prevent bullying,” Hancock said. “I think what it’s doing is changing education from acquiring knowledge and skills to a social endorsement of…any type of sexual behavior being normal.”

Earlier in the debate season, he also brought up the anti-bullying law when I asked about the Minnesota State High School League’s proposed transgender policy at a televised debate Oct. 14:

“I think it’s a continuation of the…it’s the same groups that are pushing the anti-bullying bill,” he said. “The anti-bullying bill, in my estimation, has been forced upon the districts with the idea that it is going to protect students from bullying, that it’s going to annul that issue. What it’s really doing is saying that students and even the community should affirm and celebrate the idea that any sexual behavior is normal, and any opposition to that view would be viewed as being a violation of the bulling policy. To me, it goes against freedom of speech, it goes against freedom of religion.”

I’m not suggesting Hancock won only because of his stances on social issues, but I am saying Hancock thought they would help him win. Personally, I think most people in the North are of the same mind as Erickson: for better or for worse, they only talk about social issues when they’re confronted with them directly. No matter what your stance is on LGBTQ  issues, perhaps Hancock making a point out of them may lead to a productive conversation with his constituents over the next two years he’s at the Legislature.

What we can do about homelessness in Bemidji

The most important moment from the mayoral debate Tuesday came when incumbent mayor Rita Albrecht and challenger Jorge Prince finally got to bring their opinions on Bemidji homelessness into the same room, at the same time.

As Albrecht alluded to during the debate, in Bemidji the mayor doesn’t really have all that much power to respond to specific issues. Since the city manager is the one with direct administrative control over city departments, the mayor only has their voting stake on the City Council to bring to bear, plus a little more power as a symbolic city figurehead to call attention to specific problems. Realistically speaking, the winner of the mayor race will only have slightly more pull on day-to-day operations than the winner of the City Council race between Don Heinonen and Dave Larson.

With that said, one council member’s vote can sometimes mean life or death for a city initiative, and the mayor can do more than any other council member to call the public’s attention to homelessness.

From my point of view, Albrecht’s position was basically this: the city can give money and other resources to nonprofits, but besides that,  it can’t do much directly  on homelessness except through the Bemidji Police Department.

“The city has a small role to play with human services,” she said. “Our police department, part of their strategic plan is ‘assist the community in figuring out this challenge.’ We want to support our public safety folks.”

One might see that and incorrectly assume she means the way to solve homelessness is to have the police department crack down on vagrants. However, she’s actually quite right in saying that one good way to deal with it is through the BPD, and I wish she had taken the time at the forum to elaborate on what she (probably) really meant.

The Bemidji police interact with homeless people very often, arguably as often as the People’s Church, and it’s not to arrest them. Public safety isn’t my beat, but I do read the police blotters from time to time. The blotter entries tell the story, and I invite you to check them yourselves: the police give the homeless rides and referrals, making sure they’re not out in the cold if cops run across them while on patrol. They put them in contact with shelters, shelters that could never afford to send staffers out into the streets to check on the welfare of the people forced to live there. The police department CAN send people, though.

It is the police who are often the first helping hands the homeless encounter. The men and women of the Bemidji Police Department are their true guardians.

We can do even more as taxpayers and as voters. Our voices can prompt the city to do more, too. The city can use the police to study the nature of homelessness in Bemidji, a more efficient and more real study than any reporter or any statistician could come up with. With the proper funding, the proper mandate, the police administration can provide more specific training and procedural rules for how its officers should deal with each homeless person they encounter. That way, police helping the homeless becomes more of an expectation and less of cops simply taking it upon themselves to do the right thing.

During the debate, Prince outlined an interesting funding mechanism to address homelessness: divert profits from the city’s liquor stores and put it towards partnering  with nonprofits. His idea also has some symbolism to it in that alcohol abuse is linked to the homelessness problem here.

That symbolism is nice, and liquor store profits could be used for short-term solutions like emergency shelters or travel vouchers. However, I think there’s enough political will among the people of Bemidji for a new tax that would specifically fund long-term homelessness efforts, like building permanent facilities or the public safety reform I mentioned earlier. I’m not sure whether that would be an increase to the property tax levy or a local-option sales tax. However, I am sure the money is needed and I’m confident the people of Bemidji care enough to support it.

Dessert from two political dinners

The annual Beltrami County Republicans dinner was last week, and their Democrat counterparts held their fundraising banquet Monday. With both stories, I focused on the biggest names at the event– Collin Peterson, Rick Nolan, Torrey Westrom, Stewart Mills. However, the fascinating stuff going on with speakers further down the ballot didn’t make it into my copy since it’s been a very busy two weeks. I thought I might take the chance to talk about those races via bloggin’, now that the dust has settled a bit.

The GOP had two speakers in particular that grabbed my attention: Dan Severson, running for Secretary of State, and Scott Newman, running for Attorney General. With elected “cabinet” positions like these, a common dynamic from both sides is to see some partisan rhetoric, although those positions are supposed to be non-partisan. (For the record, SoS and AG candidates run as part of a party ticket, though).

Newman and Severson both reached out to the Pioneer for interviews, and their answers to my questions were intriguing. When I asked Newman Thursday what he was going to talk about in his speech, he brought up the same pending EPA regulation regarding navigable waters that Stewart Mills and Torrey Westrom brought up in their speeches to the GOP banquet.

“Literally, the federal government will have jurisdictions over all of the surface water in the state of Minnesota,” he said. “Think in terms of water on a farmer’s field, or in their ditches or in their storm tiles. The federal government will literally be able to follow that water right up into the farmstead. The farmers are going to have to get permits and obey federal regulations having to do with surface water. Between you and I, these are regulations that are being written by bureaucrats out in Washington, D.C. and they probably don’t even know what dirt is. They probably figure meat comes out of cellophane.”

Speaking of meat, I’d call that statement some solid red meat for the base. For its part, the EPA’s FAQ page on the proposed rule conflicts with most of the stuff in the above quote.

I also talked to Dan Severson by phone the day after the event, who said current SoS Mark Ritchie is “the most partisan Secretary of State in the history of Minnesota.”

“I think he’s a nice guy… I think he has brought a lot of discredit upon the office, though,” he said.

Severson blamed Minnesota’s voting system for the extremely narrow victory of Al Franken over Norm Coleman in 2008.

“That gave us Obamacare, which now is the single largest disaster in Minnesota for the health care system,” he said.

As long as we’re talking about nonpartisan officeholders doing partisan stuff, I also want to bring up a very awkward moment from the DFL dinner on Monday: at one point, Beltrami DFL chair Steve Nelson pointed out all of the public figures in the audience. The list included Beltrami County Commissioner Tim Sumner, Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht and Ninth District Court Judge Paul T. Benshoof.

They did not get up and speak to the crowd while I was there, however, and they did not put themselves in the spotlight other than simply attending the event.

That said, these people all occupy government positions that I think have an even stronger obligation to remain non-partisan than the spots Severson or Newman are running for. It’s not as if they can’t hold personal political beliefs, but they appeared in public at a fundraiser for a political party, where the media (not just me, by the way) was present. Their official titles were laid out for everyone by Steve Nelson. At the very least this could be interpreted to imply endorsement by those offices for the DFL cause. The fault for that moment lies partially with them for attending the event, and partially with Nelson for pointing them out. Regardless, it should not have happened.

Big names in a little race/Mean tweets of the 7th CD

By now, most political observers are aware that northern Minnesota’s two big U.S. congressional races have attracted big national attention/money from outside groups. On election day (less than two months from now)  Peterson/Westrom and Nolan/Mills will be anxiously eyed-over in Washington. It fills me with a mix of pride and dread that places like Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, and Bemidji may be on the lips of hardcore political operatives deep within the bowels of the Beltway over the next few weeks.

If go down one rung in the political scale, you can see a similar effect: low-profile legislators whose races have been abruptly thrust onto a grander political stage. Except in this case, it’s local members of the state Legislature who have been illuminated with a large, well-funded spotlight in the overarching battle for control in St. Paul.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Jobs Coalition Legislative Fund released a list of “vulnerable” DFLers in greater Minnesota that the statewide conservative group is going to target.

On that list is Rep. Roger Erickson, who unseated incumbent Dave Hancock in 2012. Hancock is running to take back the seat in 2014, and he’s done a good job of connecting his name with that of Republicans higher up on the ballot. For example, he did several events with Stewart Mills in June, including touring northland businesses.  Hancock’s also one of the confirmed speakers at a Beltrami GOP banquet coming up on the 18th, along with Jeff Johnson and Torrey Westrom.

Another thing I’ve been watching this week is the Twitter accounts of the 7th Congressional District GOP and the 7th CD DFL. Based on their activity over the past few days, it appears those two handles mostly exist just to argue with each other rather than promoting their own party/engaging voters. If any of my fellow politicos find themselves dateless on a Saturday night, I encourage them to bust out a bag of popcorn, fire up the Interwebs, and watch the zingers fly.

The two accounts have debated (sometimes for days on end) over education, health care, fundraising, cap and trade, and others.

However, the GOP account may have made a misstep just today by mixing it up with Bluestem Prairie, a liberal blog run by Sally Jo Sorenson. Sorenson called out a CD7 fundraising video that featured snapshots of GOP supporters, because the slideshow didn’t have any women standing by themselves, just as part of families. It’s kind of a petty complaint, but the GOP’s response to it was just baffling:

What the heck is that supposed to imply? That women who speak for themselves don’t love their husbands? That you can’t be liberal and love a man at the same time? I can’t wait to see how Sorenson responds.