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Fairgoers vent their political views

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
The beauty of politics at the fair: Where the carnival spills over from the Midway to the mainstream and fosters, if not a free-for-all of ideas, at least an opportunity to vent to a like-minded political volunteer.

Politics is so important at the Minnesota State Fair that this year there’s a designated political map.

The Green, Independence, Constitution and, of course, Republican and DFL parties have staked out temporary homes at the fair, along with candidate booths and groups promoting ballot initiatives.

And why not?  An average of 150,000 people visit the fairgrounds each day of its 12-day run, visitors who are polite, curious and tolerant of anything offered with Midwestern sincerity, be it a corn dog or sign-up sheet.

The Protect My Vote booth was a particularly busy spot Wednesday, given its speck of a presence on Underwood across from the kiddie rides. The group is promoting the proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to provide a photo ID and change voting procedures for absentee ballots and same-day registration.

“We are extremely busy – and happy,” said volunteer Dorothy Fleming, who got an earful from a visitor who said he saw a news report showing someone walking away from a voting booth with a fistful of absentee ballots. “We get the best feedback from the people who stop by.”

That’s the beauty of politics at the fair, where the carnival spills over from the Midway to the mainstream and fosters, if not a free-for-all of ideas, at least an opportunity to vent to a like-minded political volunteer.

Power of the polls

Valda Santee of Lime Springs, Iowa, crossed the border to sport her “Women for Obama” button and spend a little time with the DFL at its sprawling (for the State Fair) set-up. “These are the kind of people who are hateful,” she told a volunteer, commenting on Republican attacks on President Obama. “We ain’t going to change people, but we have the power by going to the polls.”

The volunteer represented Minnesotans United for All Families, the group urging a no vote on the proposed marriage amendment. There’s a Minnesotans United booth just down the street, where, their volunteers and literature appeared to outnumber the people and  purely political material at the DFL location.

The Republican operation on Carnes had a more establishment feel – names and photos of candidates, information on the party platform, a loop-to-loop video featuring the speech given Tuesday night by Ann Romney at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Republicans, too, view the fair as an open-air forum for debate and straight talk. 

“There were a few comments about the Minnesota delegation at the convention and Ron Paul,” said volunteer Scott Garoutte, referring to embarrassment among some Republicans over the delegation’s refusal to back Mitt Romney and its visible anger over a change in convention rules.

Of note at the Republican booth: There was no “vote yes on the marriage amendment” presence, save for a simple sheet of information, but no buttons, signs or volunteers. The difference among the two major parties is telling. While DFLers consider the “vote no” campaign a boost to their turn-out and election chances, Republicans have come to believe the issue could actually hurt them at the polls.

Ellison vs. Fields

For fair-goers who thirsted for a little more blood in their politics, there was a debate. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and his GOP challenger in the 5th District, Chris Fields, faced off at the Minnesota Public Radio booth and offered listeners and spectators some clear differences in their political approach. 

Ellison ticked off a list of projects in Minneapolis he helped fund by procuring federal support. He also supports a tax increase on the top 2 percent of wage earners. And he said he sees government-funded programs like transportation as key to raising employment.

Fields/Ellison Debate 2012 MN State Fair
MinnPost photo by Brian HallidayChallenger Chris Fields and Rep. Keith Ellison debating the issues in front of the State Fair crowd on Wednesday.

Fields said closing the achievement gap is the way for minorities to advance. He advocates lowering business taxes to encourage employers to expand and increase hiring. He not only opposes tax increases, he had a specific tax he wants to lower: Tips in the service industry should be tax free, he said, which should be helpful for the many service workers in his district.  

The debate was punctuated by hoots and cheers from Fields and Ellison supporters. But the crowd of more than 100 that gathered in front of the MPR studio on Judson included more than political staff or 5th District residents. They were the fair-goers, the Minnesotans who know that the State Fair is the unofficial end of summer and the official start of the election season.

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 08/30/2012 - 10:07 am.

    The difference in “vote no” presence and “vote yes” presence was remarkable. I must have observed twenty-to-one in favor of “vote no” (make that thirty-to-one if you count the seed art). Sadly, I do believe the vote will be close, which only goes to show the level of shame the “vote yes”-ers have over their position.

    • Submitted by Mike Keller on 08/31/2012 - 03:54 pm.

      Not shame….

      Jeff, maybe it’s because they didn’t want to be harassed as a couple of my friends were at the fair.

      They had a small button on saying they’d vote YES on the issue and were almost constantly harassed by people in vote NO gear.

      You can wear your political beliefs on a T-Shirt (as if anyone cares), but you don’t have the right to harass someone simply because they don’t believe the same way you do.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/30/2012 - 12:33 pm.

    The Yes vote doesn’t have to be sold

    You’re either a decent person of religious faith who believes in the laws of God and nature or you’re not.

    • Submitted by Chelle Blakely on 08/30/2012 - 06:58 pm.

      Whose faith and whose nature?

      This really is a question of religious rights. My faith and my church would like to share the joys of marriage with our committed, loving, gay and lesbian members. Your church can do what they wish. This state’s various faiths have many of their own peculiarities like enforcing head coverings or the hijab, keeping kosher, eating vegetarian, avoiding working on different Sabbaths, forbidding divorce, forbidding birth control, mandating circumcision, etc. Fortunately these rules are not put into laws that apply to everyone in the state. I can respect your faith’s mandates, please respect that my faith is different.

    • Submitted by tony gamble on 09/01/2012 - 01:36 am.

      …the laws of God and nature

      Precisely, which is why we must outlaw the eating of shrimp, the sacrifice of blemished oxen and all of the other things that, along with homosexuality, the bible says are “an abomination”.

  3. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 08/30/2012 - 01:36 pm.


    Did Ms Brucato and Mr Kimball go to the same fair? The differences in their descriptions of the various activists and their booths is quite striking?

    I spent 2 days at the Fair and my experiences are much closer to Mr Kimball’s observations leading me to wonder about Ms Brucato’s possible bias. On the other hand with the heat and the funny glasses available from fair vendors there may be another explanation.

  4. Submitted by Chuck Johnson on 08/30/2012 - 03:55 pm.

    What “Vote No” is Really All About…???

    …in the not to far off future demanding access to classrooms so they can teach school kids the virtues of homosexuality.

    Stealing a page from Bill Clinton, I think it is very important that the little children be protected from those who are looking to promote a very broad variety of perversions. Protect children – vote YES.

    • Submitted by Nathaniel Finch on 08/30/2012 - 04:07 pm.


      Mr. Johnson, do you know any actual GLBT people? Do they tell you this is their goal? Why don’t you give the folks at Minnesotans United for All Families and ask to speak to an actual GLBT person. They can tell you why they care about this issue. This amendment hurts real people with real families. Educate yourself. You might be surprised.

    • Submitted by Emily Sojourn on 08/31/2012 - 08:35 am.

      I thought we covered this 36 years ago…

      But okay Chuck, we’ll go through it again: I was taught by almost all straight teachers. (The one or two who were gay were deeply closeted.) I was surrounded by a straight society which taught me nothing other than the virtues of heterosexuality. In short, I was “protected.”

      But I am gay. And not only that, I became a teacher! However, I don’t teach virtues of sexuality in any shape or form; I teach communication skills. And I didn’t “demand” access to my classroom, I earned my position by being considered the best fit of the candidates who interviewed.

      Your argument is backward, Chuck. We achieved our rights to be in the classroom decades ago. And as Harvey Milk said way back in 1976: “If it were true that children emulate their teachers, we’d have a lot more nuns running around.”

  5. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 08/30/2012 - 06:32 pm.

    Why we vote no

    1. To the Christian Taliban argument about god’s laws: You choose to follow the so called laws of your god and ignore the ones you don’t like: We call that hypocrisy, which us “no” folks want none of.

    2. To the wing nuts that talk free market and freedom of choice, but chose to deny freedom of association and choice to others. We call that selective reasoning, which “no” folks want none of.

    3. To the freedom of Religion Taliban (that claim persecution): That is called diversity, which you cannot comprehend. No one is forcing you to do anything: You are free to remain in your neanderthal world, and us “no” folks should be free, not to join you there!

    In short: The “yes” folks want to enshrine Taliban type thinking into our constitution, and the “no” freedom fighters want to prevent it.

    Interesting that our countrymen and women are giving their lives to be free of the Taliban influence in Afghanistan, while there is an effort on the home front to legislate and embrace this right wing restrictive religious ideology Taliban thinking on the home front!
    Freedom of religion for you is the same as “FREEDOM FROM RELIGION” for me.

    The truth she hurts.

  6. Submitted by Chelle Blakely on 08/30/2012 - 06:48 pm.

    A Fistful of Absentee Ballots? Really?

    I hate it when nonsense gets reported! There is no way anyone could walk away from a voting booth with a “fistful of absentee ballots.” Absentee ballots are not processed at voting precincts. They are mailed individually by the county to voters after they complete a detailed application. The ballots are returned and processed at the county and do not go to polling booths. Now, someone could get a handful of absentee applications for a nursing home or for a training session (like the one I attended for election judges since most of us have to vote absentee). The application is not a ballot, it is a request to have a ballot mailed. There is just no way someone ran off with a “fistful of absentee ballots” from a voting booth. Unsubstantiated, hearsay accusations like this should never be put in print. Seriously MinnPost, you are not doing your job when you print ridiculous stories like this without making a couple phone calls to even see if there is even a remote possibility it could be true.

  7. Submitted by Liz Warner on 08/31/2012 - 12:15 am.

    Biased Reporting

    Unfortunately, the news, both written and oral has been one sided as of late and filled with anger. It is what was called in the old days as “yellow journalism” tainted by personal feelings and emotions of those reporting the news. Should one wish to remain unaffected and report the news from both angles of the story, please do so, or do the people a favor and become detached from the subject or get out of the game of reporting news……it does not do the viewers any favors, and quite frankly, we are sick of listening to half truths and innuendos.

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