Politics is full of sports metaphors, so in that spirit, I want to tell you about the many young DFLers who are attempting to “draft” St. Paul City Attorney John Choi. He’s not a Brett Favre coming out of retirement; he’s a top prospect for a big career as an elected official.
They want to move him from the farm team of activists and operatives to elected official as the new Ramsey County attorney in 2010. The seat is currently held by Susan Gaertner, who is stepping down after four terms to run in the DFL race for governor.
Choi is what some would call a solid utility player who has been highly involved in DFL politics for the past 15 years: first as a recent law school grad and, later, as the youngest partner ever at the law firm Kennedy and Graven, where he represented cities and companies as an attorney and lobbyist.
That made Choi a solid outsider’s choice for city attorney in Mayor Chris Coleman’s administration.
Coleman persuaded Choi to take a salary cut to play for St. Paul’s team. It also says something about the two men and their relationship that Choi originally supported one of the other DFL mayoral contenders, Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega. In the end, Coleman saw and appreciated Choi’s leadership and experience and set aside any political issues.
Now, via Facebook, supporters of Choi are promoting Run CHOI Run!, a group that has attracted hundreds of supporters in an effort to persuade him to enter the contest.
The tactic offers an intriguing measure of how rapidly social media can change political dynamics even in less-visible races. Choi’s group already has surpassed the support level of that of one opponent who is officially in the race.
Choi says he’s thinking about a possible candidacy but is focused at this time on his job and his young family at home.
That may be because Choi continues to have a full plate as city attorney, in addition to the legal proceedings involving the “protesters” at last year’s Republican National Convention. He also is leading a national coalition of city attorneys working to find solutions to the foreclosure crisis and the increasing number of abandoned properties that many cities like St. Paul have to deal with.
And I suspect that Choi, as a mild-mannered partisan, had fun negotiating with the bigwig RNC attorneys when the city cut a great deal to host the Republican convention.
Some political opponents already may be salivating over the prospect of linking Choi to the negative fallout in some quarters over the handling of protesters at the convention, and some may see possibilities in exploring Choi’s past life as a lobbyist. But they ought to consider, too, that he also represented advocates of preventing domestic violence, as well as Citizens for a Safer Minnesota, a gun-control advocacy group.
That’s the type of outside experience the DFL can use in promoting their candidate in what could be a high-profile race for the state’s second-largest counties prosecutor.
Choi, however, isn’t likely to be alone in the race for county attorney.
In fact, another DFL activist, Dave Pinto, already is running, and others are surely thinking about it.
But it is Choi who has gained the attention of political watchers, partly because he has never been perceived as ambitious or power-hungry. He’s just a hard-working utility-man, a refreshing idea in politics today.
In sports terms, Choi seems like a lottery pick. If he opts for the draft, the odds of him becoming an All-Star look very good.