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In Edina’s House contest, it’s a race to the middle

State Rep. Keith Downey
State Rep. Keith Downey

The race to represent District 41A in Edina may well be emblematic of the battles in some two dozen legislative districts where the palette has gone from clear red or blue to varying shades of magenta.

Two state House candidates are staking out the middle ground in a district where most residents identify themselves as independents. The differences are subtle.
Incumbent GOP Rep. Keith Downey does not take his re-election for granted. He does his homework. He knows a member of almost every house he’s door-knocked, and he’s knocked at most of them. As a freshman legislator, his knack for numbers landed him a spot on the House Tax Committee, a rare appointment for a freshman. He reads and refers to budget reform material and uses his strength on those issues to address voters who don’t register concern about abortion and gay rights.

“My own read is that this community is fiscally conservative,” he says.

Second time DFL challenger Kevin Staunton describes himself as a fiscal and political moderate. “The district is fiscally responsible and socially moderate,” he says.

He doesn’t like Mark Dayton’s plan for closing the state’s $6 billion budget gap by moving high income earners to a new high tax bracket. “I’m uncomfortable with his approach on the budget,” he says.

It was evident from the legislative election of 2008 that the Republican label was no longer enough to win in Edina. President Obama took the district. In a three-way race, Downey won by a slim margin with Staunton and Independent Ron Erhardt each claiming about 30 percent of the vote. Erhardt, who lost the GOP endorsement when he voted for a gas tax increase and against a Gov. Tim Pawlenty veto, has now endorsed Staunton.

Kevin Staunton
Kevin Staunton

There are distinctions. Staunton believes higher taxes should be in the mix for a budget solution, including a sales tax on clothing and possibly a return to the overall higher income tax rates of the mid-’90s.

Downey will have none of that. “Our budget is not a math problem,” he insists. He says he’s aggregated spending reform bills that if adopted could result in a balanced budget in four years.

But their positions are tempered and temperate. Downey advocates reforms not budget “slashing” and talks about protecting K-12 education. Staunton says he will look “first and foremost” at budget cuts. They both describe themselves as pragmatists.

It’s less of a grudge match than a rematch between two candidates who both fit the district profile. (They even look vaguely alike: tall, dark-haired, and slim, with Downey, the business consultant, a slightly preppier version of Staunton, the lawyer.)

They also demonstrate that this election cycle — in places like Edina anyway — it’s easier and even preferable to crack slightly away from the confines of the party mold.

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Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/23/2010 - 09:38 am.

    There’s nothing moderate about an absolute refusal to raise taxes.

  2. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 10/23/2010 - 09:47 am.

    This seems like another PR piece for a Republican candidate. There is nothing in the middle about most of these Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature. Most are quite extreme on social issues and are even interested in throwing our vets under the bus. I am always appalled at the way the Republicans in the Legislature are willing to deprive even vets and seniors of needed medical and dental care.

    In the middle? You’ve got to be kidding. These Republicans are mean.

  3. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 10/23/2010 - 09:51 am.

    P.S. I still can’t understand why MinnPost is using Cyndy Brucato as a writer. She is a Republican PR person and not a journalist. This piece is the type of stuff she writes — a white wash of very mean, cruel social policies.

    I don’t mind Cyndy Brucato’s efforts to white wash the Republican policies — that is what PR folks do. I am disappointed to see Cyndy Brucato writing for MinnPost.

  4. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 10/23/2010 - 04:31 pm.

    I too am wondering why Cyndy Brucato is a featured writer at Minnpost, given the obvious journalistic cred of the other main writers, i.e. Brauer, Black, Grow, Albright, Hawkins, etc. It is even more disappointing that on one from Minnpost, including Joel Kramer, will explain this discrepancy.

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/23/2010 - 06:00 pm.

    “Erhardt, who lost the GOP endorsement when he voted for a gas tax increase and against a Gov. Tim Pawlenty veto, has now endorsed Staunton.”

    A fact usually ignored in discussions about Joe McCarthy is that most of the people that stood accused of being Communists or Communist sympathizers, were just that.

    Here we see the proof that despite the hue and cry from some circles, the GOP rightly identified and expelled the leftists operating among us.

  6. Submitted by B Maginnis on 10/23/2010 - 08:36 pm.

    So, only the hard lefty writers are “OK” on MinnPost.

    What’s the point?

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/24/2010 - 09:05 am.

    //So, only the hard lefty writers are “OK” on MinnPost.

    Actually, I can’t think of another Minnpost writer who’s producing pieces like this for any of the other candidates. The liberal bent of Minnpost is obvious, but when someone writes about Dayton there’s a critical intellect on display, his shortcomings, his REAL shortcomings and problems are discussed. Likewise with all the other pieces. By contrast these pieces by Brucato are really fluff pieces that lack any sense of critical analysis. Emmer’s problem for instance is he’s a big guy. Why didn’t he respond more forcefully to an issue everyone was clearly ignoring (his DWI)? Etc. etc.

    There’s room at Minnpost for Brucato, but I think I’m going to stop reading her articles, in every case they’ve been a waste of my time. I don’t expect her to attack these candidates, but she deliberately avoids obvious questions and issues in a way that other Minnpost writers do not. For instance these Republicans she’s writing about have all been ferocious culture warriors for their entire political careers. There’s nothing moderate about these guys, they’re just doing what they always do during elections to appeal to voters beyond their base. This pretense of moderation is always a deception.

    Brucato writes like she’s a political debutante and everything these guys tell her can be taken at face value. They read more like style pieces on soccer dads than conversations with people who are running for office. This is bizarre since we all know Brucato’s background.

    For instance, I’m sure Brucato knows that the candidates in this piece are playing to what they think is a conservative constituency, they’re not playing to the middle, they’re playing to right, you have a no tax Republican running against a Republocrat, yet she describes them as running to the middle, middle of what? The article should be about how hard it is for a liberal or a real moderate to elected in Edina, instead we get this fluff piece about middlism.

    Whatever, I’m going to complain about her presence on Minnpost, but I may ignore her.

  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/24/2010 - 11:14 am.

    The proper term, Ms. Brucato, is “purple,” not “magenta,” if you’re attempting to describe a melding of blue and red. “Magenta,” however, is correct if what you’re describing is more red than purple on the spectrum, and if we’re going to continue to label political stances by color, it might be more accurate in this instance.

    Among the facts Mr. Swift ignores is this one: “most” – as in, the majority – of the people accused by the McCarthy witch hunt of being Communists or Communist sympathizers were neither. Further, since “Communist sympathizer” was never defined (either in the 1950s or by Mr. Swift), nor its purported harm to the United States described by anything other than hysterical language, using the term basically amounts to nothing more than name-calling with a twist of innuendo.

    It’s an interesting view of democracy that praises such witch-hunts by saying “…the GOP rightly identified and expelled the leftists operating among us.” Going beyond the falsehood of the statement itself, apparently only people who think the “conservative” way are worthy of living in our society…

    All of that McCarthy business is beside the point of Brucato’s piece, which is to put a right-ish gloss on the legislative race in District 41A. Mr. (?) Maginnis has a valid point. I don’t mind that Ms. Brucato leans to the right. As long as I know the bias from the beginning, I can take it into account when I’m reading, even when it’s a viewpoint I don’t share.

  9. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 10/24/2010 - 12:39 pm.

    No – BD – journalists. Brucato is obviously a Republican partisan activist. And her writing is, frankly, terrible. There is a difference between her and the other writers. It is an insult to compare them.

  10. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/24/2010 - 02:51 pm.

    Ray, the facts are not on your side.

    “With Joe McCarthy it was the losers who’ve written the history which condemns him,” said Dan Flynn, director of Accuracy in Academia’s recent national conference on McCarthy, broadcast by C-SPAN.”

    See also; “Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies” by M. Stanton Evans (who was also Director of the National Journalism Center in Washington until just recently).

    McCarthy was a boor, but he was right.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/24/2010 - 03:58 pm.

    //McCarthy was a boor, but he was right.

    Lilly Tomlin was right, no matter how cynical you get you just can’t keep up. It can’t get anymore ridiculous than this.

  12. Submitted by Joseph Skar on 10/24/2010 - 05:16 pm.

    I really don’t understand the hate on all of Ms. Brucato posts. She is basically the only conservative voice on the site. For a group of people that are always barking for diversity, you’re really not very accepting of political beliefs outside or your own. To counter, I could say that Mr. Black is the liberal equivalent to Ms. Brucato. Black Ink is a daily hit piece on the GOP. Start the first paragraph with current event, then spend remaining paragraphs ripping GOP, end with What think, post complete. But I do enjoy reading Black Ink for some some different perspective. As for the comment regarding MinnPost’s other journalists having “cred”. I think Ms. Brucato has similar “Cred”. Some MinnPost reporters are relatively unknown, some are former sports reporters, and one worked at the Minnesota “Independent”.

  13. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/24/2010 - 07:30 pm.

    Having gone back to reread the piece a couple times, I’m more and more inclined to agree with Paul’s critique (#7). Even on the first reading, I wondered just what “middle” was being approached, and Paul’s suggestion that a more newsworthy story might well be the difficulty of being elected in Edina if one is politically moderate. I do think there’s plenty of room for Brucato on MinnPost, and I don’t mind reading the right-leaning viewpoint, even if it’s presented uncritically, because I know it’s the right-leaning viewpoint, and can take that into account.

    And that, of course, is something I always do when Mr. Swift entertains me. It’s too bad, I guess, that I’m not quite as easily persuaded by right-wing propaganda being promoted as “fact” as he seems to be. “Accuracy in Academia” reveals its agenda by its very name, given the context of the past couple decades of culture wars in academia, and M. Stanton Evans is known, even to me, a yokel from the hinterlands, as someone who leaned rather far to the right.

    Perhaps you should read more widely, Mr. Swift. Indeed, McCarthy was a boor, but what makes that noteworthy is that he was a U.S. Senator, he ruined the lives of many innocent people, and he was wrong more often than not. McCarthy never – never – produced any factual evidence to support the “Communist” label he attached to the hundreds of names on those “lists of Communists and Communist sympathizers” he kept waving around at his hearings.

    To a degree, but only to a degree, he appears to at least occasionally have been sincere in his delusions of a Communist behind every door, so to speak, but sincerity of belief has no correlation with truth or fact, as even M. Stanton Evans might have said. Mostly, McCarthy was a political opportunist looking for a way to boost his own reputation, and from whom the loathsome Richard Nixon learned some politically-valuable, if ethically rotten, lessons. Had he lived a few decades later, McCarthy could easily have served as a tutor in demagoguery to Ms. Bachmann, Mrs. Palin, and especially to that appreciator-of-history, Mr. Gingrich.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/25/2010 - 09:52 am.

    I guess another way of expressing my disappointment with Ms. Brucato’s articles is that my complaint isn’t that she’s conservative, it’s that the articles lack real substance.

    Ms. Brucato, I don’t expect you to conform to my political expectations, but I do require interesting reading. Minnpost is an opportunity to transcend the banal TV reporting you may have become accustomed to, and the superficial drivel of public relations. Take some real risks, look at your subjects with a critical eye, they’re not your clients (or are they?). I don’t expect you to attack these guys, unless your integrity requires you do so. But I’ll be more inclined to read your articles in future if you appear to actually think about what they’re saying rather than simply report it- stenography vs. journalism.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/25/2010 - 09:55 am.

    #7-//Whatever, I’m going to complain about her presence on Minnpost, but I may ignore her.

    Sorry, I meant to I’m NOT going to complain.

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