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Star Tribune, Pioneer Press political endorsement scorecard

Endorsements are about principle, not prognostication. Still, when newspapers took their firmest stands, the voters often went the other way.
By David Brauer

OK, I’ll just say up front this is unfair, because newspaper endorsements are statements of principle, not prognostication. Still, it’s fun to see how closely the will of the journalists matched the will of the voters.

In the handy-dandy chart below, green means the newspaper’s view matched the voters; red marks a disconnect. Caveat: Minneapolis races marked “likely” are not decided, pending IRV tallying. However, most will go the way indicated, I think. I’ll update the chart if the counting produces changes:

Quickie analysis: Electorally, a lot of the endorsements were gimmes (Rybak and Coleman weren’t going to lose). By my count, the Strib endorsed favorites in all but three Minneapolis races, and “lost” those (Hanna in Ward 1, Stone in Park District 5 and Martens on the Board of Estimate).

And Minneapolis voters decisively spurned one of the Strib’s big pushes: to get rid of the Board of Estimate and Taxation. Voters give 53 percent of its first-choice votes to an anti-abolition candidate the editorial board pointedly rejected (Carol Becker). The Strib also called for massive change on the Park Board, but two rejected incumbents (Carol Kummer and Bob Fine) have better-than-even chances of winning, barring IRV bank shots.

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Meanwhile, St. Paul voters didn’t listen to the Pioneer Press editorialists (or Joe Soucheray) on Instant Runoff Voting. However, it should be said that the editorial page’s anti-IRV stand was very, very attenuated, which sort of matched that vote’s closeness (52 percent for, 48 percent against).

The PiPress wimped out on the school board, only picking two of four possibilities while seeming to bless four for the remaining two seats. I can appreciate not choosing when you like all the possibilities, but they only get credit for the two races they took a stand on.

So in the end, does this prove newspaper endorsements matter? I’ll wimp out and say, “Maybe.” In a low turnout year, the question is whether the hardy few voters who actually pay attention take anointments seriously. I sensed a real hunger for information this year among likely voters, and gosh knows candidates care. But especially in Minneapolis, when a newspaper took up a cause, those voters didn’t follow.

Still, I want to give three shout-outs to the Strib.

First, I appreciated the staff-challenged editorial board stretching and making endorsements in Minneapolis Ward 5 and Park District 6. Second, I want to applaud political reporter Steve Brandt’s tireless efforts to compile candidate questionnaires; this voter found them very useful, even if the web-side implementation could’ve been much more timely. Third, thanks to the Strib’s programming staff for listing Minneapolis first, second and third choices on their Election Night results page; I think they were the only media outlet to do so.

As I’ve written previously, there wasn’t enough coverage of city elections this year. Still, a handful of journalists, including those outside the two dailies, worked damned hard to educate a handful of voters.