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Political ‘resurrections’ may prove too big a task for 2011’s ‘Un-Magnificent Seven’

The political resurrection of Mark Dayton proves that it is folly to completely write off any political personage or entity.

But Dayton had two things most pols don’t have: money and name recognition.

November’s election results will mean some major Minnesota political players will fade away, at least in the short term and likely forever. There even are some winners who will end up losers as the new year unfolds.

Here are my nominees for The Un-Magnificent Seven of 2011: 

Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau
Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau

Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau: She got a two-year head start on her fade. She was booted from the position she most wanted in the Pawlenty administration — commissioner of the state’s department of transportation — following the collapse of the I-35W Bridge on Aug. 1, 2007.  In the aftermath of the collapse, it was shown that Molnau had run a slipshod agency. (Remember the name Sonia Morphew Pitt? She was the emergency preparedness management director who didn’t bother coming home to Minnesota in the wake of the bridge collapse, and it took Molnau a few days to notice she wasn’t around.)  After Molnau lost her job as DOT commissioner, she returned as the full-time lieutenant governor but raised obscurity to new levels, even compared with past lieutenant governors. Her days as a player in Minnesota politics are over.

Sen. Larry Pogemiller
Sen. Larry Pogemiller

Sen. Larry Pogemiller: He easily won re-election in November but has lost all his once-considerable power. First elected to the Senate in 1982, the Minneapolis DFLer quickly rose through the ranks by gaining an understanding of Senate rules that impressed all. He became chairman of the K-12 education committee and then the powerful tax committee before becoming Senate majority leader in 2006.  The Republican takeover in November means that high-profile leadership post is gone. He quickly announced that he would not seek the position of minority leader, a good move because he likely wouldn’t have been elected to that post by his peers. For the first time in decades, Pogemiller will be just another face in the crowd of pols at the Capitol.

The 8th Congressional District: Suddenly, the sprawling northern district has become a “so what?” region of the country. By unceremoniously tossing  36-year U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar out of office, the district went from being a major recipient of federal money to just another remote congressional district in the middle of the country. The good news for the northern portions of the district is that the new governor is a man who appreciates loyalty. Mark Dayton owes his election victories in both the primary and the general election to the Iron Range and St. Louis County. He will do everything he can to help foster economic activity in northern Minnesota. But for the next few years, the major political news in the 8th won’t be about the newest multimillion-dollar federal project (there won’t be any), but about whom the Democrats will run in two years to try to unseat rookie Chip Cravaack.

Tom Emmer
Tom Emmer

Tom Emmer: The Republican gubernatorial candidate came closer to winning the big job than most “experts” — including pollsters — expected. But close doesn’t count for much in politics. Despite Emmer winning high marks from Dayton and various editorial boards for his “gracious” acceptance of recount defeat, hard-core Republicans are more likely to remember that the party’s candidate failed to win the big race, despite the huge national Republican wave this year. A new crop of leaders is being groomed in the Legislature. Emmer was liked, but not respected, as a legislator, meaning he likely won’t have influence as a lobbyist or consultant. He never has been known as a student of government, meaning there’s no logical place for him in any conservative think tanks. He’s likely destined to be a sentence in state political history books.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher
Margaret Anderson Kelliher

Margaret Anderson Kelliher: Just where does the unsuccessful DFL-endorsed gubernatorial candidate turn to start rebuilding her political career? Will she even want to?  Kelliher, who just a few months ago was one of the state’s strongest leaders, still has a few things in her corner: youth (she’s only 42) and an incredible political resume (as House Speaker, she got high marks from both sides of the aisle for attempting to be a consensus builder). But, like Emmer, she’s now a loser, and unlike Dayton, she’s not wealthy, meaning she will not be able to be a perpetual campaigner. There is some speculation that she might run for mayor of Minneapolis, if R.T. Rybak ever decides to step aside. For the moment, however, she has accepted the job of president of the Minnesota High Tech Association, not exactly a headline-grabbing spot.

Tarryl Clark
Tarryl Clark

Tarryl Clark: The lure of knocking Michele Bachmann out of the Congress was just too much for the St. Cloud area politician to resist.  So she stepped out of her high-profile position as assistant majority leader of the state Senate and into a race that she eventually lost by a stunning 13 points. Her youth (she’s 49) and redistricting might open a door for Clark in the future, but the size of her loss and the unfocused nature of her campaign would seem to leave her without much of a base.

Tom Horner
Tom Horner

Tom Horner: The Independence Party candidate and his party got the opponents they dreamed of in the governor’s race.  Horner received the endorsement of virtually all of the state’s newspapers — and the support of  three former governors. He got stomped in the general election. He may try to keep spreading his moderate Republican message, but who will listen? Given the results of November, how can the Independence Party ever recover from the widely held wasted-vote syndrome?

Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/27/2010 - 08:56 am.

    For me, “Un-Magnificent Seven” has a negative connotation that doesn’t seem deserved. Why not the “Trivial Pursuit Seven”? Except for Molnau, who has perhaps earned her anonymity, the others, while their flaws have been publicly exposed, at least made a good effort.

  2. Submitted by Jeff Michaels on 12/27/2010 - 09:13 am.

    Tom Horner’s defeat proves once again the value of newspaper endorsements.

  3. Submitted by Bruce Anderson on 12/27/2010 - 10:23 am.

    It is not the Independence Party that needs to recover from the wasted vote syndrome. It is the people that need to go to rehab on that one.

  4. Submitted by Kevin Slator on 12/27/2010 - 11:32 am.

    The only thing more invisible and obscure than a Lieutenant Governor is a former Lieutenant Governor. Anyone remember Mae Schunk? Marlene Johnson?

  5. Submitted by Dion Goldman on 12/27/2010 - 11:43 am.

    One of many obituaries written previously for the Independence Party. Don’t count them out. They will be back ~

  6. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/27/2010 - 12:27 pm.

    It’s pretty tough to come back from obscurity when a bridge drops into the river on your watch. People like that deserve to be kicked to the curbside.

    The Independence party though? I’m looking forward to who they put forth next. With some pragmatic candidates and ideas they could become the new Republican party.

  7. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 12/27/2010 - 12:37 pm.

    Yes, the Independence Party will be back. Next time around they will find some so-called “moderate” candidate, who will get a lot of ink as the “reasonable” choice up against partisan extremists. Because that candidate is not a former professional wrestler and actor, that candidate will get crushed. Afterwards, independence party supporters will say “don’t count them out, they will be back.” And the cycle will repeat itself.

  8. Submitted by John Hakes on 12/27/2010 - 01:44 pm.

    Oh, goodness, another post-election analysis with either the intent or the consequence of trying to get bold public-minded folks to think poorly of their prospects, if not themselves.

    While there is much to applaud & defend on behalf of the first six so-called “unmagnificents,”I’d like to stand particularly by the seventh– the Tom Horner candidacy.

    Here is the most blatantly ridiculous thing about the 2010 gubernatorial election: insecurity trumped credibility.

    All through the election season, some steadfast doubters & some just plain not so friendly people ripped the IPer as having no chance to win. Because politics is largely about perception in the mass media age, Lo and Behold …. Horner did not win.

    Now that the election is over, many of those same people who politically conquered a constructive Horner often stand proudly proclaiming the Horner loss.

    Gov. Elect Dayton may well go on to successfully administer the business of the state. Now it’s at least time for all the folks who continue bashing Horner to stop, and begin helping increase the chances of the new governor doing that.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/27/2010 - 03:11 pm.

    Horner didn’t win because there’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and dead armadillos. Pawlenty proved that mediocrity can win, but can’t promise mediocrity. The problem with a campaign based on moderation is it’s very difficult keep it from being perceived as a status quo message. We have big problems, Emmer promised ideological purity, Dayton promised solutions, Horner tried to split the difference. No wonder he didn’t catch on.

  10. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 12/27/2010 - 03:38 pm.

    Actually, the most blatantly ridiculous thing about the 2010 election is that Horner supporters are blaming Horner’s poor showing on “insecurity” and “perception.” Polls during the race showed that Horner actually had higher negatives than the other candidates, and that even if we had instant run-off voting or another mechanism to prevent “wasted” votes, that Horner still gained no traction.

    Horner lost because he was a poor candidate and Minnesotans did not want him as their governor.

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/27/2010 - 04:34 pm.

    I believe the news from both Minnesota and Washington over the next two years will show great and growing disaffection toward Cravaack, Bachmann and others who were elected by a record turnout of extremist members of the Republican and Tea Parties whose ideas about “small” government will turn out to be as injurious as they sound on first hearing.

    Tarryl Clark will, I hope, run again in 2012.

  12. Submitted by Allison Sandve on 12/27/2010 - 05:30 pm.

    Civility, if not on life supports, is surely in trouble. The handwriting was on many walls during the elections.

    I hope I’m wrong. I don’t think so, though.

  13. Submitted by larry boss on 12/28/2010 - 11:18 am.

    Yes, I agree that Tom Horner was a pitifully poor candidate. The more debates he participated in showed what an arrogant, elitist, egotist he was and that he and his buddy Arne Carlson really didn’t stand for anything other than spoiling the Republican vote. That was their goal and the only thing they succeeded in doing. The people of Minnesota cast the votes that matter, not the out of touch newspaper’s editorial boards.

    In 2014 the Independence Party will relish in their role of ‘spoilers’ and again surface to run another gubernatorial candidate. Most likely another former Democrat so they can hurt Mark Dayton’s reelection chances and again the results will be the same, around 10%.

    Let history speak for itself; 2002 Tim Penny 16.18%, 2006 Peter Hutchinson 6.43%, and 2010 Tom Horner 11.94%. Most of Minnesota’s voters realize that the IP is just a bunch of political malcontents and not worthy of their vote. Yet the IP openly brags that they enjoy playing the role of ‘spoiler’ because the rest of Minnesota foolishly fails to see how relevant their IP candidates really are. Minnesota saw all they wanted with Jesse Ventura and the IP has been unwanted ever since.

    Look Bruce & Dion, if that doesn’t convince you that the IP is a bunch of delusional idiots, nothing will. Just keep wasting your time and your vote.

  14. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 12/29/2010 - 07:16 am.

    I am not sure why anyone would want to be a Congressman, let alone a Congressman from a district which would have been so difficult to hold for a Democrat as the sixth.

  15. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/30/2010 - 07:44 am.

    Just where is the proof that Horner lost because of “wasted vote syndrome” ?? He lost because people didn’t like him, which is totally understandable.

  16. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/30/2010 - 08:31 am.

    Most voters want to know what the candidates stand for. That’s why we have political parties so even people who don’t pay close attention will know what they’re getting.

    Dayton v. Emmer was a good matchup because the people had a clear choice in governing philosophy.

    Independent candidates are people who don’t hold a clear governing philosophy and so the voter is risking buying a pig in a poke.

    People who support “Independent” candidates always remind me of what Peter Marshall, chaplain of the US Senate, said when he prayed “Give us the courage to stand for something, lest we
    fall for anything.”

  17. Submitted by Lyn Crosby on 12/30/2010 - 09:46 am.

    Yes Kevin, I remember Schunk and Johnson. Test for you: who did Lou Wangberg serve with? Who served with Arne Carlson? A real test (which I would flunk!) would be the LG candidates of the losing party!

  18. Submitted by Lyn Crosby on 12/30/2010 - 09:50 am.

    And for the 8th CD, let me start the DFL nominations with Becky Lourey. I’d love to have her back in politics!

  19. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 12/30/2010 - 09:51 am.

    How can you count the Independence Party out when, with one bizarre exception, it never was. There is no party there. There is just dissatisfaction there. It is where people whose expectations of government are greater than their tolerance of reality.

  20. Submitted by David Willard on 12/30/2010 - 09:28 pm.

    Fun to see the Grow-Meister discount the 8th district, where the elite like to slum and tell the unwashed how to run their lives. As the finger-waggers try to shame America and small towns let us remember what the Iron Range has done for all of you: Winning wars, building infrastructure..oh never mind.

    Suffice to say, an Iron Ranger has more class in his or her little finger than all of the readers of Minnpost have had in their entire geneaological history.

  21. Submitted by Patrick Phenow on 12/31/2010 - 11:21 am.

    Because he probably won’t, I will presumptuously take on the role of responding to David for Mr. Grow. I don’t believe he was personally discounting the 8th. He was merely pointing out the simple political reality that, by removing a powerful 18-term congressman and committee chairman from office, the 8th has also removed itself from a position of any political power. This is hardly analysis or opinion, it is a fact. And it comes nowhere near Mr. Grow saying or implying anything derogatory towards the 8th.

    Also, the discussions in the comment section of Minnpost articles are still probably the most civil and intelligent among local news sites. And they are generally, I might add, classy as well.

  22. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/01/2011 - 03:44 pm.

    I thought Horner did pretty well in the debates, and in the course of meeting him casually a number of times during the campaign, found him a nice guy.

    What 1998 taught us that a middle of the road candidate with charisma can succeed when the two main parties nominate candidates who open up a gap in the middle. 2010 did not fit that model. Horner lacked charisma, and somehow Emmer and Dayton, despite the fact that each probably represented the extreme in their party, didn’t open up a gap in the middle. Maybe it all those debates softened the perception of their differences.

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