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A vote for Horner is not a wasted vote

Many Minnesotans have concluded that their third-party-candidate vote in the previous two gubernatorial elections “gave those elections” to their third choice. In short, a wasted vote with bad consequences. I feel certain that this election will be very different. Many Minnesotans are ready to get on with fixing their government for now and for the future. They don’t care about ideology or hearing about why you should be afraid of somebody or something. They want practical, fair and innovative leadership that is all about solutions. The numbers and the issues are different this time and they are daunting.

The next governor of Minnesota will confront a critical short-term financial crisis that can’t be solved by just raising taxes on the upper- to middle-income earners of this state; nor will it go away by extending the current governor’s policy of “no new taxes.” After wrestling with this “short-term crisis,” policymakers will need to aggressively address our long-term state government financial security — one that will be severely challenged by the incredible demand for services the next 20 years of retiring baby boomers will require. This does not even take into account the need for many other long-delayed investments like our crumbling infrastructures (i.e. roads, bridges, sewer and water systems), 21st century education support and growing environmental concerns.

A recent Star Tribune editorial summed up our situation with real clarity: “The most important election for governor in decades … comes at a time of rapid economic, demographic and social change in Minnesota. A wrong move now in state policy could erode the prosperity that several generations sacrificed to achieve.”

During 25 years of service at the Minnesota Department of Health, where I served two Republican governors, two Democratic governors and one from the Independence Party, and 10 years at the University of Minnesota, I never publicly expressed any partisan political opinions. I never attended a political caucus or provided support for any candidate. In fact, as a senior science adviser to the governors of our state I have been responsible for providing the most comprehensive factual information I can to these leaders, without partisan implications. During that time, I came to admire and appreciate the leadership of individuals from both parties. I had the good fortune to work closely with Rudy Perpich and Arne Carlson, two governors who were quite different in their political approaches to governing but similar in their clear vision about leading Minnesota into tomorrow. Al Quie was a leader I came to deeply admire for an unwavering sense of integrity and nonpartisan fiscal responsibility. 

Election has unique financial and policy implications
That’s why in August, when I publicly announced my support for Tom Horner for governor, it was a scary proposition — to leave the world of science-based facts. But it was something I felt compelled to do on behalf of my children’s and grandchildren’s future. I believe that this election has financial and policy implications for the future of our state unlike any other that I have known as a voter. I have no agenda for personal gain with this endorsement. While Horner has declared his support for more resources for the University of Minnesota, less than 1 percent of our center’s support comes from the university. That would not change under a Horner administration.

Michael Osterholm
Michael Osterholm

I respect all three candidates for governor; anyone willing to get into the public leadership arena and the scathing personal and political criticism that goes with that territory deserves our appreciation. However, the Democratic and Republican parties have given us two candidates that can best be described as being on the outer edges of political ideology; an unprecedented event in my lifetime. Their approaches to our many and unavoidable financial problems focus on seemingly easy solutions that are really not practical and avoid most of the hard decisions our citizens are going to have to make in deciding what services and government benefits are essential to the Minnesota we want for our children.

Additional taxes on the rich or middle class as a primary budget approach will not solve the short-term crisis, let alone our long-term fiscal solvency. And somehow it seems to excuse those making less than the magic tax income number from any of the responsibility of limiting run-away state government budgets. Similarly, the no-new-state-tax approach will guarantee that Minnesota will continue to transfer the actual and unavoidable tax burden to local and county governments for essential services, where regressive property taxes will skyrocket. Also, this tax strategy does not provide any hope of a meaningful response to the future challenges of the baby boomers, infrastructure and education demands. We will become the northern extension of the state of Mississippi.

An honest, practical plan
The Horner/Mulder ticket brings an honest plan for addressing both short-term and long-term crisis issues. The two men owe no one for their positions on the Independence Party ticket. Horner’s practical plan to address our future, along with a temperament that is all about accountability and fairness, will make it more difficult for obstructionists to tie up the Legislature in “failure-based” strategies for political gain. He will hand-pick his cabinet from the best minds and committed citizens this state can offer; it will not be related to party affiliation or a political IOU. Given that Minnesota local and county governments need to be critical partners in any fiscal and policy solutions to our state’s problems, it gives me great comfort that Jim Mulder, a former executive director of the Association of Minnesota Counties and a recognized expert in creative and accountable local government, will be at the table as the lieutenant governor.

Since my endorsement, I have heard from many Minnesotans in all walks of life who want desperately to support the Horner/Mulder ticket for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Many are life-long and active members of either the Democratic or Republican parties and previously have not experienced a similar “difficult choice.” But they are afraid of having their vote result in their third and absolutely unacceptable choice winning the election.

Their vote, if other than for Horner/Mulder, will be in a sense a vote of fear. I believe with certainty that if all of us who feel this way instead cast a vote for the Horner/Mulder ticket, a vote for the future and our children and grandchildren, we will have a chance to find that wise and moderate approach to Minnesota state government that has made us such a great state for so many decades.

Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., MPH, is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), a professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, University of Minnesota. He is a former Minnesota state epidemiologist.

Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/08/2010 - 07:05 am.

    Tom Horner’s policy is what sells me. And given the efficiency benefits of consumption-oriented taxes (especially those focused on negative externalities) it’s probably wise to include broad-based taxes and budget cuts as part of a budget balancing process.

    On the other hand, we have one candidate who feels we can contract our way to growth. And another who wants to tax the rich which is misleading. Because it might convince the mass of non-millionaires that Minnesota can solve its budget problems by soaking the rich.

    I like the idea of shared sacrifice. I don’t see that from the other two candidates. That is one of many reasons why I will be voting for Tom Horner this election. Great policy and less ideology.

  2. Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/08/2010 - 08:20 am.

    I have great respect for Horner and Dr Osterholm, and for Richard Schulze. But a vote for Horner is wasted. It creates the possibility of giving us Emmer. Remember 2006 when a third party candidate produced Governor Pawlenty and weep.

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/08/2010 - 08:54 am.

    I prefer Emmer because he is the only candidate that has put forward a budget plan that verifiably balances our out of control budget, but I could live with Horner because I think that his plan, while inchoate, is feasable with further work.

    A Dayton administration would be a disaster. The man is clearly lacking the tools for the job, and given his history, there is no chance he’ll “grow into it”.

    But I’m not concerned, because Dayton doesn’t have a chance. His endorsement from, and of, the failing Obama administration angers people from all sides of the political spectrum. His promise to “work with” Obama during a pep rally with Joe Biden fueled conservative and moderate anger and determiniation and demoralized the moderate left even further.

    For a thoughtful Democrat, a vote for Tom Horner is far from wasted, and in fact has a much better chance of being the winning choice than pulling the lever for a proven loser who managed to be endorsed by the far left wing of the Democrat party.

    Fact is, Osterholm’s thoughtful, deliberate words give common sense conservatives food for thought.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/08/2010 - 09:17 am.

    I have great respect for Dr. Michael Osterholm and the excellent work he’s done, but when it comes to political viewpoints he’s just another guy like the rest of us guys and gals.

    That being said, I won’t be voting for Mr. Horner because, considering the massive problems the next governor will confront his “moderate” (continue to protect the already fabulously wealthy) approach will leave him “a day late and dollar short.”

    His approach simply won’t be sufficient to get the job done and will only exacerbate the already toxic levels of income disparity in the State of Minnesota.

  5. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/08/2010 - 11:35 am.

    Mr. Swift –

    Please correct me if I am wrong but did I not read elsewhere that you were supporting Horner? Perhaps I am confused because I know there is another Mr. Swift?

    My colleague, prof Mike Osterholm:

    I have to disagree with you on this one, Mike.

    I think that a vote for Horner will end up being a vote for Dayton. My reading is that many more dissatisfied Republicans (quislings in Sutton-speak) will be voting for Horner than possible Dayton supporters. So if you want to see Dayton get elected, fine – vote for Horner.

    Of the two candidates, Emmer or Horner, I much prefer Horner, but rather than vote for far right or roght of center Republicans, I’ll be voting for Dayton.

    See you in November, Mike.

    Bill Gleason, U of M faculty and alum

  6. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 10/08/2010 - 12:19 pm.

    “Their vote, if other than for Horner/Mulder, will be in a sense a vote of fear. I believe with certainty that if all of us who feel this way instead cast a vote for the Horner/Mulder ticket, a vote for the future and our children and grandchildren, we will have a chance to find that wise and moderate approach to Minnesota state government that has made us such a great state for so many decades.”

    First, the claim that a candidate who is trailing badly in the polls is doing so because people are voting their fears instead of for the bright future that candidate offers is pretty arrogant. This state has elected a third-party candidate as governor in the not-too-distant past. They just aren’t going to elect this third-party candidate. Horner isn’t a partciularly appealing candidate, and his political base (moderate Republicans) is a group that doesn’t really exist anymore. Horner is losing and is going to lose because more people would rather have one of the other candidates be governor.

    Osterholm is right that there are some people who prefer Horner who won’t vote for him because of their concern over who wins if Horner doesn’t, just as there will be a lot of actual Horner voters who will wake up the day after the election wishing they had thought the same way. Emmer and Dayton are very, very different. A vote for Horner won’t lead to his “wise and moderate approach to Minnesota state government.” It will only lead to you not having a say in whether its Dayton or Emmer becomes governor. If that matters to you – if you wan’t to have a say – you need to make your vote count and not vote for Horner.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/08/2010 - 01:30 pm.

    Bill consider yourself corrected; you’re on your own with the confusion, however.

  8. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/08/2010 - 02:03 pm.

    Even if I found Mr Horner’s stated positions reasonable and did not care about “wasting my vote,” I would not vote for Horner. The most salient question to me is who the governor will appoint, whether he will stay out of his appointees’ way, and whether he will allow the legislature to do its job by avoiding illegitimate use of his veto power to obstruct the democratic process, as imperfect as it may be. Mr Horner, being a Republican and running to the mythical middle, undoubtedly would appoint many people ranging across the Right side of the spectrum and very few from elsewhere. As Mr Sutton’s “quisling” remarks made quite clear, the Republican party’s interest in being in government has nothing to do with the welfare of the people, it has to do with being victorious against the “enemy” on some ideological battleground constructed in their heads that has very little to do with what kind of society we make for people to live their lives in. For this reason, and until this changes, the Republican party to my mind has forfeited its right to participate in governing. Ideally, competing parties are the grist for better laws and policies. But only when those parties are joined in governing in good faith. So although the DFL has deep failings, and although its candidate (as usual) is deeply flawed, until the Republican ethos arises Phoenix-like from this dark period, I will vote for the candidate under which the Republican unseriousness of governance will have the least role. And that would be Mr Dayton.

  9. Submitted by Sherry Gunelson on 10/08/2010 - 03:46 pm.

    Dan said it well. Republicans, welcome to your own version of “Peter Hutchinson”. And Sutton obviously knows this.

  10. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/08/2010 - 05:53 pm.

    Tom – so you support Emmer?

  11. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 10/08/2010 - 06:24 pm.

    I didn’t bother to read this piece by this publicity hound when I saw it was bought and paid for (“sponsored” in MinnPostspeak) by the United Way.

    My question is, why is the Twin Cities United Way sponsoring political screeds such as this?

    They’ve gotten their last dime from me. This is a “great” way to spend money donated for charity.

  12. Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/08/2010 - 09:56 pm.

    Nate Silver of has Dayton with a 5-6 point lead over Emmer. He gives Dayton a 77% chance to win, with Emmer at 23%, and Horner at 0.

  13. Submitted by John Hakes on 10/09/2010 - 08:38 am.

    Bravo, Dr. Osterholm!

    I just wish there could be a more concerted effort by the untold number of seasoned experts and policy veterans, who like you are supporting Horner/Mulder, to get on the “campaign bus” and reach Minnesotans everywhere.

    Most academics know how clear the choice is for governor this year, but will that be enough?

  14. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/09/2010 - 01:07 pm.

    I’ve taken note of the same thing, Hal.

    Although it’s not illegal this time, observing a charity fund a leftist propaganda mill brings back memories of the (now defunct) Air America radio network funneling money from “Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club” to keep Al Franken fat and happy.

    I encourage liberals and leftist groups to support MinnPost, but when people donate to “United Way” they are picturing the smiling faces of the children they suppose themselves to be helping.

    Smells pretty ripe, doesn’t it?

  15. Submitted by Terry Hayes on 10/13/2010 - 08:33 am.

    To me ‘Michael Osterholm’ is one of those names like ‘Larry Jacobs’ that you hear on the radio for the last 20 years and automatically believe whatever they say. Well, ‘Larry Jacobs’ has shown that he’s not so brilliant after all, and ‘Michael Osterholm’ has just done the same, in my extremely objective and perspicacious view. A vote for Horner is not only a wasted vote, it’s a stupid vote. It might be less stupid if we had instant run-off voting, like states with a brain in their head, but since we don’t, if you’re planning to vote for Horner, you might as well stay in bed all day instead. Thank God Horner has even less chance to win than Emmer. Osterholm, stick to the pill-pushing. You might still have some credibility there.

  16. Submitted by Terry Hayes on 10/13/2010 - 08:48 am.

    Hey, thanks for publishing my comment! I thought it might not meet the civility requirement that I love Minnpost for, but I took a chance. I figured if a nut like Thomas Swift can post his twisted ravings all day long, day in and day out here, why not me!
    But please, Minnpost, don’t turn into another rathole of idiocy like the comments sections of the Star Trib and Pioneer Press! Please keep your integrity and civility and continue to be a forum for real ideas and debate–even if it means censoring the over-the-line comments of someone such as my own sweet self.

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