Opening salvo sets the tone for brutal gubernatorial campaign ahead

Rep. Betty McCollum and former rivals Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Matt Entenza look on as Mark Dayton delivers his remarks Wednesday afternoon.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Rep. Betty McCollum and former rivals Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Matt Entenza look on as Mark Dayton delivers his remarks Wednesday afternoon.

Within three hours of Margaret Anderson Kelliher conceding victory to Mark Dayton, the state’s Republican Party released its first TV ad of the campaign.

It’s predictable, brutal and a clear sign of the tone of the campaign ahead between Dayton, the DFL nominee, and Tom Emmer.

Shortly after the ad was introduced to the media, DFLers held their unity gathering at the Capitol, which had been delayed from 11 a.m. because of the closeness of the race. The tone of that session was predictably different from the tone of the Republican gathering.

“We’re not going to talk about the ad today,” said Dana Anderson, Dayton’s campaign manager. “We’re here to talk about unity today.”

It’s expected that Dayton will take on the ad and the campaign tone on Thursday.

It is amazing how fast things change in politics. A day earlier, many of the people who were sporting red “Kelliher” buttons, were in Dayton blue.

“Not hard,” said Rep. Jeff Hayden, who was a strong Kelliher supporter. “I just explain to people ‘I’ve sat next to Emmer for two years.’ ”

This was a Who’s Who of DFL politics standing with Dayton today. The two senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, members of Congress. The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Leaders of the Minnesota House and Senate. Party leaders.

And Dayton’s two rivals in Tuesday’s primary, Kelliher and Matt Entenza.

Just hours earlier, all of them except Entenza had been supporting Kelliher, who embraced Dayton when she entered the room.

Kelliher got a huge ovation from her former supporters.

“We unite as DFLers, we unite behind Mark Dayton to beat Tom Emmer in November,” Kelliher said. “I don’t mind being beaten, so much, by a hockey goalie because I’m a hockey mom. … Now is the time that every single one of us stands with Mark. … Minnesotans will have a clear choice in Minnesota. … There’s a clear choice. That choice is Mark Dayton.”

When Kelliher was finished with her speech, Dayton appeared on the verge of tears of appreciation.

For his part, Dayton cracked a joke that the Republicans might use in a future ad. He thanked Klobuchar for being the inspiration of this unity event.

“Sen. Klobuchar is a big improvement over her predecessor,” Dayton said of his own term as U.S. senator. “I know them both well.”

He spoke of calls he received this morning from President Obama and Vice President Biden. He said he told both of them, “Wouldn’t it be different if Minnesota had a governor who appreciates what you’re doing?”

 He had a quick word of praise for his general election opponents.

“Both decent men,” he said.

Then, however, he went after Emmer. He attacked him for his comments that a minimum wage amounts to “socialism” and that the fund for families of the I-35 bridge collapse was “feel-good” legislation.

“I could go on and on — and I will for the next 83 days,” he said, to applause and laughs.

There was much applause and many laughs among the DFLers this afternoon.

But then, there was that ad, which will begin airing statewide Thursday. It blasts Dayton’s record as a senator. “Erratic behavior” is the recurring theme.

Party leaders Tony Sutton and Michael Brodkorb noted that the words chosen for the ad didn’t come from them, rather they came from such sources as Time magazine, which in 2006 labeled Dayton one of the “five worst senators.” It also notes that at one point after 9-11, Dayton, during a congressional recess, closed his Senate office in Washington, citing concern for the safety of his staff.

The ad hints at — but doesn’t directly take on — Dayton’s self-revelations that he’s dealt with both depression and alcoholism.

Sutton denied that the ad was indirectly trying to bring up Dayton’s personal issues.

“We’re not linking at all,” Sutton said. “I don’t know what has caused his erratic behavior. It’s just a fact. … We’re just talking about his weird, erratic behavior.”

Clearly, this ad was produced and ready to run before voters even started going to the polls. Sutton said that the party also had an ad ready to take on Kelliher, in the event she had won.

“But we didn’t have one on [Matt] Entenza,” said the party’s communications director, Mark Drake to laughter.

In fairness to the tone of the Republican ad, it should be noted that an organization, Alliance for a Better Minnesota, which is funded by members of the Dayton family, unions and Dayton’s ex-wife, among others, has been blasting at Emmer’s DWI record throughout the primary.

Like Dayton, Emmer has addressed those issues from his past.

There are dangers in such ads. Even though they aren’t done by the candidates — officially there is no connection between the campaigns and the organizations running the ads — they will set a tone for a campaign that is starting ugly and surely will get uglier. There is splashback potential, especially given the fact that, for better and worse, most Minnesotans already know about Dayton.

Sutton said that the ad is an important message to Minnesotans.

“Closing the office is a display of his character,” said Sutton. “. . . He cut and run.”

Sutton made reference to Dayton’s “intestinal fortitude.”

Are you saying he’s a coward, a reporter asked.

“Draw your own conclusions,” Sutton said.

Future ads will go after Dayton’s tax-the-rich proposals, which Sutton today described as “class warfare.”

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (23)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 08/11/2010 - 05:26 pm.

    In “fairness”, thank you for mentioning the “alliance for a brutal MN.”

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/11/2010 - 05:50 pm.

    Congratulations, Mark! You’re now the prime target.


    “Mr.” Sutton and I use the term loosely, and the Republicans are a bit behind the times.

    They don’t seem to realize that the jig is up – that all those years of Minnesotans buying into the promises of something for nothing (a wonderful state for all its citizens accomplished by lowering taxes primarily on the fabulously wealthy) have come to an end.

    ALL OF US now know someone or are, ourselves, in economic pain as the result of our trusting those seductive, traveling medicine show, now revealed to be completely bogus promises. The citizens of this state have a massive case of “buyer’s remorse” when it comes to King Timmy.

    In attacking Mark Dayton and, at the same time promising us all the things we hated about King Timmy x 2, Mr. Sutton, et al, are just digging themselves a deeper and deeper hole. Most of Minnesota, except the 20% Birchers, oh, sorry, “Tea Partiers,” are just not buying that snake oil, anymore. It’s fun while you’re drinking it but the hangover the next morning is murder!

    In the end it’s likely that Emmer will only get that 20% vote, while Tom Horner will pick up the rest of the old fashioned, moderate Republicans who, themselves, have seen the evil of King Timmy’s ways.

    Then, of course, after they’ve overwhelmingly lost the election the core of the Republican party will decide that it was because they were NOT FAR RIGHT WING ENOUGH! (which is of course, anything BUT “conservative”).

    Perhaps when they’ve gone so far right that they’ve fallen all the way out of this universe into some alternate reality, from which they can’t find their way back, the REAL Republicans (you know the ones I mean – socially moderate, fiscally cautious) will, once again, be able to offer a useful and viable foil to the Democrats.

  3. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 08/11/2010 - 06:22 pm.

    While the Strib and others will try to say that conservatives have a choice between Emmer and Horner, I think it more likely that voters have a choice between two candidates that want to raise taxes (a lot) and one that doesn’t. They have a choice between two non-Republicans and one Republican. They have a choice between two people not-Tim Pawlenty, and one who is more like him. Dayton/Horner vs. Emmer probably results in another “only a plurality” Governor Emmer. Guess we’ll see. It is nice to see how quickly everyone rushes in to join a winner…

  4. Submitted by Tony George on 08/11/2010 - 06:34 pm.

    I suppose it is that brutal extreme rightwing mentality that Target finds so appealing in Tom Emmer.

  5. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 08/11/2010 - 09:06 pm.

    Tony, you nailed it.

  6. Submitted by Tim Larson on 08/11/2010 - 10:04 pm.

    #2 Greg- Have you ever considered that all politicians are made members of the “traveling medicine show?”

  7. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/11/2010 - 10:13 pm.

    @ Tom. You lay it out correctly. The voters have three clear choices. If the candidates can keep the campaign to the issues. The candidates will have the opportunity give the voters some useful information. Especially with regard to raising revenue and making budget cuts or by just simply making budget cuts.

    Which specific programs/services will be cut and how will folks be impacted by those cuts. What will be the result of specific budget cuts? Which programs/services provide value and deliver the intended results? Which do not? Can you honestly balance the budget with budget cuts alone. Or do we have to continue rolling the deficit as we have been doing for the past eight years in order to make it work?

    What would be the effect of tax/revenue increases. Which programs would be saved?
    How would it affect education? What would be the dollar impact per household of a tax increase. What would be the net cost to citizens if the sales tax were to be broaden.

    That is the kind of useful information that campaigns could be informing voters about.
    But it appears that at least for one side it’s about personal attacks and character assignation. As Ronald Reagan used to say:
    “There you go again”.

  8. Submitted by karl karlson on 08/11/2010 - 11:50 pm.

    I suppose Pawlenty’s not running again …leaving the state in a mess …would also be called “cutting and running” and as for that, if the FBI told me my house might be bombed, i would leave also and put my family somewhere safe.

  9. Submitted by Duke Powell on 08/12/2010 - 12:54 am.

    I, for one, do not take Mark Dayton’s “admission” of suffering from mild depression at face value. The Republican Party should demand to see his medical records.

    Suffering from mild depression is one thing, being diagnosed with, say, bipolar disorder is quite another. The public deserves the full story, not just what Dayton has decided to disclose.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/12/2010 - 08:06 am.

    I don’t remember the last time we had a campaign that wasn’t nasty. And I don’t remember the last time that Republicans didn’t win the nasty award over-all for campaign ads. Republicans have no choice, they never have any actual plans or ideas to campaign on, so they attack and monger fear. I know, the plan is to not raise taxes and wait for the magic to happen. I hope people have finally realized that that is NOT a plan, it’s a non-plan.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/12/2010 - 08:07 am.

    Duke gets my vote for best comment so far.

  12. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/12/2010 - 08:39 am.

    Duke gets my vote for the worst comments so far.

  13. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 08/12/2010 - 09:20 am.

    I think before the Republicans start demanding private medical records they should release their own tax and medical records. I for one don’t take anything they say at face value. I want to see Emmer’s Visa receipts so I can see what kind of a tipper he is.

  14. Submitted by Ed Stych on 08/12/2010 - 09:38 am.

    The opening salvo that “set the tone for a brutal gubernatorial campaign” was done by the DFLers with their constant anti-Emmer ads over the last two months.

  15. Submitted by myles spicer on 08/12/2010 - 09:47 am.

    Two quick comments.

    First, kudos to Kelliher and Entenza for their fast action on party unity; and they ran good campaigns on the REAL issue (Emmer) rather than attack ads to detroy each other.

    Second, after 45 years in the ad agency business, I am happy to see the ad the GOP is running; it is sommewhere between non-effective and silly. If they keep running negative ads (without a single solid program to offer)…and Emmer keeps making missteps (as he has), the Dems might just be shoo-ins this year. I think the commercial might have been written by Don Quixote.

  16. Submitted by myles spicer on 08/12/2010 - 10:34 am.

    A quick check of the record on the Republican’s decision to start an attack on Dayton’s health issues. Kindly see the quote below from the Dec. 27, 2009 Star Trib article:

    Minnesota Republican Party chairman Tony Sutton said he remembered discussions within the party about Dayton’s mental health back in the 2000 U.S. Senate race.

    “It’s not relevant,” Sutton said. “I am more troubled with what he wants to do to businesses in this state than I am about his private mental health issues or his struggles with drinking.”

    So much for Republican honesty and integrity. They are off and running with the same old crud they disclaimed 8 short months ago!

  17. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 08/12/2010 - 11:10 am.

    Since the rise of Newt Gingrich and Carl Rove, the Republicans have run nationally with a combination of slimey innuendos and bald faced lies to cover up the vapidity of their ideas like voodoo economics and their plans to lower taxes on the rich and free wall street and corporations from oversight. They’ve been pretty successful at winning but have caused the deficits and economic woes we have today. Deficits have blossomed under Reagan and Bush. The last guy to balance the federal budget was Clinton. But they continue to peddle the lie that they are fiscally responsible. Emmer is in that mold, extremely so.

  18. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/12/2010 - 12:11 pm.

    You know, after reading the erm, stuff, leftists write about Michele Bachmann every day, and having witnessed them trip over one another to excuse Senator* Franken’s unrepentant, ill bred behavior, one might be excused for finding this tear stained testimony on GOP campaign rhetoric highly amusing.

    By all means, do carry on.

  19. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 08/12/2010 - 12:24 pm.

    Ed Stych,

    For the record, those anti Emmer ads are not from the DFL. They are from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota. See this link from WCCO.

    However, the anti Dayton ads ARE from the Republican Party of Minnesota.

    And I hope MinnPost keeps that straight. There have been stories in the past where they lump a sinlge DFL action in with 100 from the Republicans say: See, both sides do it.

  20. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 08/12/2010 - 12:49 pm.

    When the biggest “troll” on MinnPost calls a Harvard-educated, award-winning, self-made millionaire ill bred, it proves that irony died sometime during the Bush Administration — after Colin Powell “proved” the existence of weapons of mass destructions and before Norm Coleman talked about family values.

  21. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/12/2010 - 01:42 pm.

    As it turns out, the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club (a charity serving underpriviledged kids), was the source of most of Senator* Franken’s millions….although the kids didn’t know it.

    Self made? Not so much.

    Help yourself? Yup, that fits.

  22. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/12/2010 - 02:08 pm.

    Perhaps the correct way to look at the “office closing incident” curing the raised terror threat is that. while the entire Senate — including Dayton — was out of Washington during a recess, only Dayton was considerate enough of his staff to tell them to close the office just in case there was an attack of some kind.

    Sounds like a plus to me.

  23. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/12/2010 - 02:40 pm.

    I didn’t think Duke was being serious about Dayton’s medical Records. I thought he was making a satirical reference to the Birther’s demand to see Obama’s birth certificate. Neither the republicans or anyone else can demand to see someone’s medical records without a court order nor should they.

    By the way, the actual diagnosis wouldn’t mild depression, it would simply be depressive disorder. Under treatment he may have recurrences that are mild in severity, but it’s probably safe to assume that at some point, probably at the time initial diagnosis he had a fairly major episode. This isn’t unusual in cases of depression. Bipolar disorder isn’t any better or worse, it’s just different.

    It goes without saying that many extremely productive and successful people have suffered from mental illness. Lincoln, Roosevelt, etc. Reagan even managed to run the country while suffering the early stages of dementia. And of course George Bush proved that being free of mental illness is no guarantee of competence, good judgment, or proper grammar.

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