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As is the tradition for every major election, The Reader pulled together a committee to endorse candidates. This year’s panel consisted of publisher Robert Boone, staffer Richard Thomas and writers John Gilbert, Harry Welty and Gary Kohls. Admittedly not much diversity in this crew of old white farts; it was who we could get on a Monday night. Also we’re mostly on the left side on the political spectrum with Welty (who ran in the primary election against Pete Stauber) being the token Republican, and even then a member of that virtually extinct breed, centrist Republicans.
So no surprise, we didn’t endorse any Republicans. And there are so many races in Minnesota we didn’t even get to Wisconsin or the Duluth School referendums. Thus armed, on Oct. 22 we gabbed for two hours over beer and dinner. What follows is a transcript severely edited for length and um, clarity, as the beer flowed freely.
This election is the most hotly contested midterm in memory. We’re at a pivotal moment in history when the nation is an 18-wheeler barreling out of control down the highway. Do you want to hit the gas pedal or slam on the breaks? Or do you want to sit back and watch, singing Que Sera Sera?
Get out there and vote. This may be your last chance to avert fascism, civil war and the end of the world as we know it. You may or may not feel fine, but you definitely won’t if you sit it out.
Since it’s standard editorial policy not to identify specific editorial board members’ specific positions, we have assigned each panel member a pseudonym from the movie “Reservoir Dogs.”
Mr. Blonde: I have a huge, deep-seated disgust and fear of Donald Trump.
Mr. Pink: Is that a way of saying you’re for Tina Smith? (Incumbent Democratic senator.)
Mr. Blonde: Well, yeah.
Mr. Pink: Just checkin’.
Mr. Orange (to Mr. Blue): Is this your salad?
Mr. Blonde: Tina’s not for Donald Trump. (Hands salad to Mr. Blue): This is yours.
Mr. Blue: I didn’t order salad.
Mr. Pink: The biggest debate of the night is probably between Mr. Blue and me because Mr. Blue probably will find some common ground with the independent candidate, Skip Sandman, running for Congress. I’m mostly really sad that he will get votes that would otherwise go to somebody who is not for Trump.
Mr. White (just arriving): So what did I miss?
Mr. Blue: Oh, we’ve decided already.
Mr. Blonde: You can go home now, Mr. White.
Mr. Orange: We got our meals, but you can have a beer or something.
Mr. White: I don’t drink.
Mr. Blonde: What’s wrong with you?
(Group talks for 20 minutes about auto racing.)
Mr. Orange: Should we get down to the nitty gritty?
Mr. Pink: Because you’re through eating?
Mr. Orange: Yeah.
Everyone else: Yeah.
Mr. Pink: Because I know this is easy, let’s start with Amy Klobuchar.
Mr. Orange: I don’t know if you judge candidates by how much content they write down on the responses in the League of Women’s Voter Guide, but Amy Klobuchar has a dissertation for every answer and (Republican challenger) Jim Newberger writes one sentence.
Mr. Pink: A lot of people are concise.
Mr. Blonde: I think (Newberger’s) decision is, “If Trump’s for it I’m for it.” I don’t mean that kind of concise.
Mr. White: I watched the debate and he had a string of shopworn cliches, no substance.
Mr. Pink: It’s not fair to say all the Republicans are beholden to the Trump platform. There are the ones that are resigning.
Mr. Blonde: That’s true. You can stay on the ship or walk the plank.
Mr. Orange: Republicans are all falling behind Trump on everything, he’s got them whipped.
Mr. Blonde: That distresses me a great deal. You have a party of one mind, and that mind is Donald Trump’s mind.
Mr. Orange: Beside Amy Klobuchar there’s also Paula Overby of the Minnesota Green Party and Dennis Schuller of Legalize Marijuana Now.
Mr. Pink: Mighty powerful temptation.
Mr. Blonde: I would have said of all the Green Party people that if somebody had motivated to vote for a third party candidate to make a point of something, they’re basically saying they would prefer to make a dramatic point rather than help someone who might help slow down or stop Donald Trump.
Mr. Blue: That’s the classic “lesser of two evils” we’re faced with every election.
Mr. Pink: Until we break the cycle.
Mr. Blue: Most Democrats, when they look at the Green Party platform, they say, “Yeah, I’m for that.” And yet they never get more than 2 percent of the vote.
Mr. White: You’d think Skip Sandman had a chance. He’s got good things to say.
Mr. Blonde: But he’ll take 4 or 5 percent away from the candidate who’s not a Trump voter.
Mr. Blue: The most important issue, potentially anyway, for us people who are downstream from Polymet copper mining they’re doing up there, that’ll wash through the St. Louis River and have it be toxic for hundreds of years.
Mr. Orange: Isn’t Amy behind that?
Mr. Blue: Unfortunately, most major party candidates are for that.
Mr. Pink: Let’s not skip around. So Amy is unanimous?
Mr. Blue: No, I’ll be a little contrarian.
Mr. Blonde: Maybe not a change of vote but a qualification.
Mr. Blue: OK, that’s fine. I don’t want Amy to lose.
Mr. Orange: You never know ‘til election day. For all we know the vote’s already been decided by Russian hacking.
Mr. Blonde: I don’t expect the Russians will succeed in hacking. It may be she’s already so far ahead with absentees and early votes she can’t be nudged.
Mr. Pink: Next race?
Mr. Orange: Tina Smith versus Karin Housley, Sarah Wellington (Legal Marijuana Now) and someone named Jerry Trooien who’s unaffiliated. He seems to be kind of a green candidate. Wants to get out of carbon-based energy, wants more economic equality. Seems a reasonable guy. Most of his answers are pretty short.
Mr. Pink: Do we have any debate on this race?
Mr. White: Phil Housley (Karin’s husband) is a great hockey player.
Mr. Pink: That’s close.
Mr. Blonde: If hockey is the major preoccupation for people, you’re also going to get Pete Stauber in Congress.
Mr. Orange: Karin Housley didn’t even bother to respond to this guide.
Mr. Blonde: The League of Women Voters used to be a genuinely bipartisan group. Then Republican women pretty much abandoned the League. So Housley’s not responding is an indication of how she feels about the League, and it’s probably a good indication of what we can expect from her if she were to be United States senator. Somebody who’s going to do what Donald Trump wants, at least until he should be replaced, at which point she might become a new kind of actor. And I’ll also say this, I think that an attempt to try to impeach the president over the next few years could backfire on the Democratic Party.
Mr. Orange: We’ll get Pence.
Mr. Pink: And making him the sitting incumbent for 2020.
Mr. Blonde: I do like the idea of questionable candidates being dumped by the political process in the election. I don’t know if the Republicans have so managed to thin out the people who are eligible to vote that Trump will win again. That’s a major concern.
Mr. White: They’re all swimming in the swamp they were supposed to have been draining.
Mr. Blonde: The only person who’s happy about this election is The Creature From the Black Lagoon.
Mr. Pink: So let’s vote. (5-0 for Tina Smith.)
Mr. Orange: But back up. Are we 5-0 for Amy Klobuchar?
Mr. White: We’d still like her to change her mind on Polymet but that’s what we’re stuck with.
Mr. Blue: We’re really lukewarm on those two candidates. All these Democrats. They have been making us really unenthused about the Democratic Party, in my opinion.
Mr. Pink: It’s all proportionate. I’d be disgusted with the Democratic Party if it wasn’t for the Republicans.
Mr Orange: In the latest Michael Moore movie, his thesis is that the reason Donald Trump won is, most of America is actually progressive, but they didn’t want to vote for the Democrats because they felt the Democrats screwed them over.
Mr. Blue: Give me a third party.
Mr. Blonde: This is what I can say about Klobuchar, and I don’t know how hard set she is about Polymet, but …
Mr. White: She’s in favor of it.
Mr. Blonde: She is bucking the obvious majority of people in Minnesota, probably the Democratic Party for sure. I’ve never been one to rule out some kind of development there. I don’t want it to be at the hands of people who are like Donald Trump.
Mr. Pink: Next race.
Mr. Orange: Pete Stauber and what’s-his-name. Joe Radinovich.
Mr. Pink: And Skip Sandman.
Mr. Orange: Stauber claims he’s going to be an independent voice, his own man, but Trump came all the way here to campaign for him and Trump demands loyalty.
Mr. White: I like Pete, but I wouldn’t vote for him because of the mining thing. Prove to me that it’s safe, and that’s something nobody can do.
Mr. Blue: It’s inherently unsafe and that’s provable. Examples, worst environmental catastrophes in the history of British Columbia and then the history of Brazil.
Mr. Orange: So Sandman’s the only one who’s against it.
Mr. Blonde: Trump has tons and tons of people who never met a development that spewed toxic wastes they didn’t like. Radinovich would, at the very least, be somebody I could trust to go on the front. Minnesota is notoriously fussy about the environment, especially up here with respect to the copper nickel mine. But I’d be willing to trust the DNR if it’s not controlled by a bunch of Trumpists.
Mr. White: I actually had a debate with Pete one time and I said, “You can’t make it safe because it’s inherently toxic, should any spillage or any leakage, and they always leak, there’s never been one in the world that didn’t at some point spread toxins to the surrounding area, to the water. I felt like saying, Pete, why I have I studied this more than you have?
Mr. Pink: I actually suspect Pete is more competent and is a better leader than Joe, but anybody who even for a moment ties their wagon to Donald Trump is completely unworthy of a vote. But because we’re going to run out of beer when they close, do we want to have a conversation about Sandman?
Mr. Orange: I’m going balls-out for Sandman.
Mr. Pink: I’ll second.
Mr. White: I’m for Joe.
Mr. Blonde: I’m for Joe, the only candidate who can take out a Trumpette.
Mr. Orange: Mr. Blue, it weighs heavily on your shoulders.
Mr. Blue: I’d kind of like to vote for Skip.
Mr. Blonde: I’m quite disappointed at having the alternative newspaper endorse somebody who will deny a real threat to Donald Trump.
Mr. Pink: This argument happens every time. Every time we shy away from Ralph Nader or Fred Flintstone or Ross Perot in favor of the system that’s broken, it never gets better.
Amy Klobuchar 5-0
Tina Smith 5-0
U.S. Rep. District 8
Skip Sandman 3
Joe Radinovich 2
State Rep. District 7A
Jennifer Schultz 3
Dana Krivogorsky 2
State Rep. District 7B
Liz Olson 5-0
Tim Walz 5-0
Secretary of State
Steve Simon 4
Julie Blaha 5-0
Keith Ellison 5-0
St. Louis County
Commissioner District 1
Frank Jewell 4
James Booth 1
St. Louis County
Commissioner District 6
Keith Nelson 3
Matt Matasich 1
St. Louis County Auditor
Brandon Larson 3
Nancy Nilsen 2
Primary Election Day
Tuesday, Nov. 6
Polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Early voting prior to
Nov. 6 is available.