MN-08: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Green Bay Packers?

Close elections often result in a lot of spaghetti being tossed around, but what U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and DFL Party Chair Ken Martin seem to think sticks to the wall in the race for 8th district congress has to rank as one of the weirdest: that being a fan of a particular sports team somehow correlates to how well one relates to residents of northern Minnesota.

If that is indeed an important factor when selecting a congressman, then Nolan is in serious trouble.

Republican challenger Stewart Mills is a fan of Minnesota Vikings rival the Green Bay Packers, but Nolan is guilty of an infraction at least as bad if not worse: He is a staunch fan of the Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota,Twin Cities, archrival of the University of Minnesota, Duluth Bulldogs.

Republican challenger Stewart Mills was “caught” wearing a Packers jersey at a football game in 2009.

Mills packers

Nolan is seen proudly wearing a Golden Gophers hat in a 2013 holiday greeting that was mailed to constituents across Bulldog Country, tweeted and posted on Facebook.

nolan christmas card error
Oops.

Nolan may be the only 8th district DFL congressman in history who just doesn’t get it, but he’s certainly not the only DFLer to make the blunder.

One of the more memorable gaffes was made by Gov. Wendell Anderson in the 1970s during Legislative Weekend, a massive lobbying effort in which Duluth played host to legislators and their families.

The highlight of the weekend was the UM-UMD hockey game. Hockey is serious business in northern Minnesota and the rivalry between the Bulldogs and Gophers becomes particulary intense during the winter months.

Anderson decided it would be great fun to toss out the puck to start the game. Staff from northern Minnesota warned that the crowd would not respond well, noting that he not only graduated from UM but played hockey for the Gophers . But the governor didn’t understand why this would be the case, since it is after all a Minnesota team (not like the Packers, right?) and ignored their strenuous objections.

The chorus of boos was deafening, even when heard over the television, and continued for several minutes.

Those who are not from the northeastern part of the district might not truly appreciate the intensity of this rivalry, which is in part an extension of the long-standing battle between Duluth/the Iron Range and the Twin Cites metropolitan area.

Every legislative session is characterized by area lawmakers beating back legislation harmful to our communities and economy, and fighting to wrestle what often amounts to little more than nickels and dimes from those who don’t seem to believe that intelligent life exists beyond the Interstate 494-694 corridor.

For the first time in recent memory, that dismissive attitude has slithered its way up I-35 into the race for 8th district congress.

The picture of Mills wearing a Packers jersey was leaked to City Pages over a year ago and since then, the DFL party, Nolan for Congress and Nolan congressional staffers have repeatedly pushed it as a reason for voters to reject Mills.

And if that’s not insulting enough, a recent DFL mailing attacking Mills was built around the Packers, making it abundantly clear that the Metrocrats in control of the state party (and apparently the 8th district congressman) view residents as little more than bumpkins.

Following their lead, this race boils down to a choice between a DFL congressman representing Bulldogs Country who sees no problem in sporting a Golden Gophers hat in holiday greetings to constituents (and can’t spell), a Republican challenger caught wearing a Packers jersey at a football game and Green Party challenger Skip Sandman who, as of yet, has not been outed for being a fan of either.

It’s a probably a very good thing for the congressman that voters in northeastern Minnesota aren’t that shallow.

MN-08: How not to respond to a political ad

Friends of Stewart Mills released a new campaign ad Wednesday featuring Aurora steelworker Steve Biondich telling voters “It’s not about Republicans or Democrats any more. It’s about jobs and our way of life. Look past the party, start looking at candidates” – a very effective message for the Iron Range. So effective in fact, that Democrats felt the need to immediately go on the offensive.

But instead of articulating an intelligent response to the ad itself – or challenging Mills – U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and his allies chose to go the cheap and easy route of attacking the Mesabi Range steelworker who appeared in the ad.

The Twin Cities-based CityPages posted “Star of Stewart Mills’s (sic) latest ad has off-color facebook page” early Thursday morning, after they say Biondich’s facebook page was called to their attention by a “tipster.”

Nolan staffers quickly jumped into the social media feeding frenzy that followed, focusing on screenshots that play into the stereotype of Range men, particularly those who work in the mines. Campaign manager Kendal Killian called Biondich “Sexist Steve” and a misogynist, and campaign communications director Sacha Haworth passed along similar tweets. The Breck School graduate also criticized the Range steelworker for thinking that “sexist jokes” are funny:

Haworth Mills ad

So, if a voter from the Iron Range who decides to appear in a campaign ad is now considered a “spokesman” and subject to a social media colonoscopy, shouldn’t an official campaign spokesperson from Deephaven undergo similar scrutiny?

Let’s just take a little look at some of Ms. Haworth’s social media postings.

Hmm…this tweet is pretty darn insulting to women:

haworth tweet demeans women oct 2010 (SFC)

Maine native Franni Franken might take issue with this one:

haworth maine weird people mar 29 2014

Does this indicate that Ms Haworth has reason to associate with a drug dealer?:

haworth knows how to get pcp

Is this really the level of commentary expected from the assistant communications director of a member of Congress?

haworth boo invasives boo sep 2013

And then there are the pictures…

sacha 3

sacna haworth

What conclusions could one draw about Ms. Haworth if applying the same standards used to judge Mr. Biondich?

The point is that context is important, everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet, everyone says things they shouldn’t (or should have expressed differently) and everyone has said or done something that others will find offensive.

Public officials and those running for office are fair game, but where does one draw the line for this kind of scrutiny?

If attacking and publicly humiliating a supporter becomes an accepted strategy to discredit a candidate, people will flee from the political process in droves. How many would choose to work on behalf of a candidate knowing that everything they have ever said or done in their personal lives will be fodder for opposition research?

Think of the chilling effect on our democracy.

Elections are supposed to be about ideas and articulating a message to voters, not trashing citizens who are actively engaged in the political process. Perhaps it is not the amount of money in politics that is truly corrupting our democracy, but rather what people think they need to do in order to get elected.