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.