SEE ALSO: "ELLISON: THE BEST HOPE" AND "CONTRIBUTIONS TO EMBER WE'LL REMEMBER"
by SID PRANKE
After the third ballot among delegates at the DFL state convention in Rochester a few months ago, Becky Lourey, running mate Tim Baylor and their spouses went for a serious stroll along the Zumbro River just outside the Rochester Civic Center.
Campaign staffers peered out the windows of their temporary headquarters, trying to figure out how the conversation was going.
Lourey trailed both Mike Hatch (43.3 percent) and Steve Kelley (29.6 percent) to her 26.9 percent after the third ballot. Would the Lourey/Baylor ticket simply disintegrate? Lourey had already more than hinted at a primary run if she didn’t get the endorsement, as had Mike Hatch. Lourey returned to the Civic Center and said, “I am going to see you seriously in September.” Hatch would go on to win the endorsement after many contentious ballots against Kelley.
said the conversation along the river was important and powerful. “We
were talking about what was best for the state,” she said. “We talked
a lot about who would be most electable in November.” She didn’t
seem surprised at the “drama factor” in the Hatch-Entenza squabble
this summer or in the resulting shift in DFL energy and resources that the squabble
inevitably brought about. “Because it’s Mike,” Lourey said.
Hatch and Lourey have notable style differences, as well as differing visions
for the state. “There is a different thing that people look for in their
attorney general than in their governor,” Lourey said while being interviewed
at the State Fair on Sunday. Lourey strongly believes that her candidacy provides
the best contrast to Gov. Tim
Pawlenty, and therefore, she’s the better DFL candidate to face off
against him in November. One of her fliers highlights this contrast by inserting
one of Pawlenty’s quotes next to one of her own.
Pawlenty’s statement at the Republican State Convention in June: “Now
I know I may not be in some of your wildest dreams, but I can tell you what
your worst nightmare is, it’s one of the big spendin’, tax raisin’,
abortion promotin’, gay marriage embracin’, more- welfare-without-accountability
lovin’, school-reform resistin’, illegal-immigration supportin’
Democrats for governor.”
Next to Pawlenty’s statement is Lourey’s: “I believe in the
equal rights of all Minnesotans—regardless of their sexual orientation.
For me, this is not just a political issue but a deeply personal issue. One
of my children is gay and in a committed relationship. I have been fighting
for the civil rights of GLBT for over 30 years. As governor, I will never back
down from my commitment to the civil and human rights of all Minnesotans.”
year, Lourey was speaking at a Minnesota event around the same time as Cindy
Sheehan and others were at Camp Casey outside President Bush’s ranch
protesting the war. She announced to the crowd, “What am I doing here?
I should be defending Cindy Sheehan’s right to free speech.” Lourey
said people came up to her and said, “You should go.” She did go,
and ever since then, Lourey has solidified her position as a strong state and
national anti-Iraq war voice. One of Lourey’s sons, Matt, was on his second
tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed in a helicopter crash just north of
Baghdad. Family members had tried to talk Matt out of going back to Iraq, but
Lourey said he had a strong sense of responsibility. While Matt prepared for
the trip back, Lourey rallied against President Bush. “I don’t want
any more chicken hawks making these decisions, lying to us about the reason,”
she told the Washington Post last summer.
Lourey sees a strong link between the Iraq War and public policy. “There’s
a void of leadership at the national level … States are suffering. People
are suffering.” According to the Minnesota Budget Project, which is funded
by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, $40 billion in overall federal cuts
to state aid is expected from 2006 to 2010.
She went head-to-head with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a National Conference
of State Legislatures a few years ago, calling him on the no-bid contracts Halliburton
was getting in Iraq. Of the experience, Lourey said it “felt like I was
beating my fist into a tree.”
A few weeks ago, Lourey was flanked by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Rep.
Karen Clark, Women
Against Military Madness founder Polly
Mann and others when she announced her Minnesota Peace Initiative. “The
Minnesota Peace Initiative rejects Washington politics and the claim that foreign
policy is the exclusive domain of the President and Congress. It is time to
step forward in our neighborhoods and in coalition among the states to move
our foreign policy toward a peace strategy. At the same time, we must do more
to help returning soldiers and their families.”
Components of the plan include demanding that the “compromised mission
of the National Guard return to its appropriate state role, keeping the peace
here and responding to emergencies within our state borders. The governor is
commander-in-chief of the Minnesota National Guard. Our governor should join
in a coalition of governors who will step up and challenge the improper, over-extended
use of state militia.” Lourey said governors in Pennsylvania, Montana
and Arkansas have showed interest in similar ideas.
On a recent
local weekend television news interview, former Gov. Wendell Anderson expressed
support for Lourey’s ideas. “The National Guard has always been
considered the home guard,” Anderson said.
On the Zumbro River walk, Lourey and Baylor also talked about health care and
education concerns in Minnesota. “We talked about the need for leadership
in health care, and achieving universal coverage,” she said. “Education
was one of the topics we discussed during our walk, with an emphasis on closing
the achievement gap.” According to a recent Education Week magazine analysis,
fewer than half of Minnesota’s black students –44 percent—graduated
from high school in 2003. Only six states post lower graduation rates for black
students, though Minnesota ranks eighth in the nation in overall graduation
Lourey co-authored the MinnesotaCare plan in 1992, and has developed a plan
to provide access to all who need health care by 2010, and has criticized Mike
Hatch for touting “half-baked” health care reform plans, according
to a Star Tribune report two weeks ago.
In the 2002 DFL primary election race for governor, Roger Moe and Ole Savior
faced off. Moe received 199,103 votes, and Savior got 25,135 votes. According
to secretary of state statistics, overall voter turnout for the 2002 primary
was 18.5 percent.
In this year’s primary on Sept. 12, Lourey campaign staffers said they
expect higher turnout in Congressional District 5 (which includes Minneapolis)
and District 8 (Lourey’s home district), which they hope will translate
into more votes for Lourey. Primary contests for Congress in both those districts
will fuel those higher vote totals, said Jim Robins, Lourey’s press secretary.
Voters with passion will turn out on Sept. 12, and “our voters are passionate,”
Voter turnout for the 2004 primary election was a dismal 6.7 percent (or 250,561
voters) overall, which was attributed to the lack of major state races on the
ballot that year. This compares with a 16.9 percent (or 602,690 voters) in 2000,
which was a presidential election year primary, as well as a U.S. Senate primary.
First!ers made a strong showing (20+ percent) at the DFL State Convention,
and seemed to be primarily strong in the Twin Cities. That group would also
include a large portion of Congressional District 4, where Lourey could also
pick up a high number of votes.
Recent polls that pit Hatch against Pawlenty have varied widely. The Rasmussen
poll shows Pawlenty 10 points ahead of Hatch among likely voters, and a Wall
Street Journal poll shows Hatch 3 points ahead of Pawlenty. Identifying those
likely voters will be a challenge, since turnout usually falls below 25 percent
of eligible registered voters. Pundits who try to predict the vagaries of state
politics this election season could be cruising a hazardous course.
Lourey points to the buzz in a Star Tribune article two weeks ago—which
said she was “best positioned to score an upset” in primary gubernatorial
contests this year – as an example of the growing momentum against opponent
Mike Hatch. On Sunday, surrounded by food and trinket booths and streams of
people at the State Fair, Lourey said “I think we’re going to win.”