A vote for Emily is a vote for Duluth - too

Harry Welty

I almost wrote this article a week ago under the headline above absent the italicized “too.” It wasn’t meant as an attack on Roger Reinert so much as a comment on the nonsequitur spread around by unnamed Chamber of Commerce types who want - I don’t know - to make more money with less city hassle.

If I’d sent it in to the Reader last week it would have been early enough to give Roger time to reply. I’m sensitive about last-minute attacks because in 2007 I got kicked in the teeth a few days before an election by a former State Senator who essentially said I sucked the blood of babies.

But now, a week later, here I am being all last minute myself because I just read the dim-witted Duluth News Tribune endorsement of Mr. Reinert. Don’t worry. Roger’s not a bad guy. There will be no accusations of blood sucking.

Here’s how the Trib’s editorial begins: “For all the good Mayor Emily Larson has done for Duluth and make no mistake, in her two terms, there has been a lot, including 1,700 new units of housing, finally finding dedicated funds to fix streets and then dramatically upping the number of miles repaired annually, and four straight years of record private development investments she nonetheless has seemed to have lost the backing of much of the city. Look no further than the drubbing she took in the August primary, her 34.94% of the ballots cast far off the pace of challenger Roger Reinert’s eye-popping 63%. 'It's time for something different' apparently isn’t just Reinert’s campaign slogan this election. It was also the very clear message sent by Duluth voters.”

After the first paragraph what else was there to write? I can’t imagine a mayor who wouldn’t do cartwheels after 1700 new housing units, four straight years of record private investment and a dramatic uptick in street repair.

Heck, I remember Duluth mayors as far back as John Fedo in the 1980’s farting around with crumbling streets. I just got a letter from the City a week ago explaining that the pot holed monstrosity in front of my daughter’s house is set to be repaired next year. Halleleujah!  

So why is the Trib throwing shade on such accomplishment? Is a low turnout primary where motivated minorities can run amok really a sign of the times? Give me a break! ! Firstly, Duluth voters were asleep. It was Summer. Secondly, primaries can be a curse. Primaries are the reason why hot button voters have purged every single centrist out of the Republican Party the last 30 years. They’ve given us a Trumplican party of gun nuts, science deniers and Christian ayatollahs.

In the past month the dregs of the Republican party have given us a Congressional meltdown as wars loom off our shores. It’s a party built by uninformed people; deprived of good newspapers; bought and left bleeding by financiers who fired the reporters and picked the bones. It can’t be easy for an Editorial board today to find endorsement-worthy candidates.

This year it shouldn’t have been hard. Honestly, if Duluth is as hunky dory as the Trib says their endorsement should have ended, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!”

I do have a grievance against Roger. It was big enough 13 years ago that I challenged him for the state Senate in the Democratic primary. Yes, Roger Reinert is a Democrat. Locals with long memories will remember my three year fight for democracy and the right to vote on a massive school building referendum. Fighting for democracy is very fashionable now in the post Jan 6th 2021 world.

Thirteen years ago our school board decided to shove a half billion dollar renovation down our throats by denying Duluth voters their statutory right to vote in a referendum. Called the Red Plan it provoked a civil war. Before it was settled I attended my first Democratic Convention as a Barack Obama supporter. I had just switched parties. Almost as thrilling as seeing Obama take the lead in Duluth was seeing Democrats all over Duluth bring resolutions demanding a referendum to caucuses. The same thing was happening in the caucuses of the Republican Party that I had just abandoned. But the movers and shakers got their way. 

The same Chamber of Commerce types who want low taxes with Roger Reinert today were thrilled with the “Red Plan” then. Play-it-safe legislator Reinert never said boo about it. So when a State Senate seat opened up in 2010 and Roger went for it I decided to challenge him in the DFL primary. If I’d gotten to the General election it might have been a different matter but even 13 years ago Democratic activists were paranoid about former Republicans. Roger bested me. Damned primaries.

So what drew my attention to the Mayoral race a week ago? I was driving by Lincoln Park off of West 3rd Street and pulled in. I hadn’t seen it for years. It was dressed to the nines. It reminded me of the Lake-walk utterly destroyed a couple of storms ago which is now pristine. Then I thought about the shabby old West End business district that has begun to challenge Minnesota’s top tourist draw Canal Park - all this under the gaze of Mayor Larson. Gee Willikers, I thought. I’d love to run on this record. Somebody ought to say something. But I didn’t.

But now I have! And I’ll be honest about one more thing. I run for public office an awful lot. If by some strange twist of fate it was only Pete Stauber and Harry Welty on the congressional ballot next year which of our Mayoral candidates might vote for me? I think Emily would.

Harry Welty judges Republicans according to all the right purity tests at lincolndemocrat.com