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Minnesota Brown: An opening for political independents in Duluth?

A series of quick political moves in Duluth may have created a small window for independents in Duluth.

There were a few interesting turns in the last day of candidate filing here in northern Minnesota. I’ve already mentioned the intrigue in Duluth with State Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon leaving office to run for Lt. Governor. State Rep. Roger Reinert rather quickly announced his bid for the seat and faced little opposition. Now it appears he did draw one primary opponent, former Duluth school board member Harry Welty.

Welty is an experienced (out of respect, I’ll avoid the Ole Savoir “frequent” label) candidate for state and federal offices, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy even though some Duluthians keep calling him a crackpot. I think he’s more of a gadfly, a conscience for that netherworld between Democrat and Republican.

In that regard it’s notable that Welty is running, I believe, for the first time as a member of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party. He started as a fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republican and then gradually through his career became an independent and, now, as he describes a “Lincoln Democrat.”

Welty’s got an uphill battle. Reinert — also a good guy with far more connections in the progressive DFL base — is heavily favored. I’d say he’s beyond heavily favored. Welty appears to be running on local issues, most notably his opposition to the Duluth School District’s red plan, but is capable of discussion of state issues as well, based on my several years of reading his blog. So Reinert starts ahead, but I do think on this day it’s worth welcoming Harry Welty to the DFL, if you are of that ilk.

Keeping with this theme, 2008 Independence Party nominee Jay Cole has filed as a DFLer to run for the House 7B seat vacated by Reinert, after Duluth City Councilor and longtime DFL political activist Kerry Gauthier announced his campaign last week. I’d say this race also favors the established DFLer Gauthier, but that Cole — like Welty — represents and interesting outside voice that will resonate better in this election year than most others.

So, OK, my props to the independents joining the party aside, where were all the big fireworks for these huge DFL vacancies? Almost non-existent. Is that the sign of a mature party or one that’s stagnant? Indeed, your answer most likely depends on your affiliation. The Republicans in both races offered unknown, token opposition.

In Range news, no news. All Range DFL incumbents drew an opponent; some more threatening than others, but I don’t see any alarming upsets as of now. Honestly, I’d say so if I did.

This post was written by Aaron J. Brown on Minnesota Brown.