Skip to Content

Support MinnPost

DFL Chair Ken Martin on Bakk-Dayton, Daudt's performance, and 'throwaway' legislative deals

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin
DFL Party Chair Ken Martin

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

As the second-term chairman of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party in Minnesota, Ken Martin is tasked with promoting his party’s candidates and politicians, and selling their accomplishments to voters. That's no easy feat these days, after a 2015 legislative session when — despite a nearly $2 billion budget surplus and DFL control of both the Senate and governor's office — divided government still left many of the party's priorities on the cutting room floor (see: transportation funding bill, universal pre-K).

What’s more, after a chaotic one-day special session, disagreements between DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, rank-and-file members and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton left the party in a sort of state of suspended animation, with leaders having little interest in touting what did — or didn’t — happen.

What happens in session is entirely out of Martin's control, of course, even if he's still responsible for putting a positive face on the outcome. 

“It was a session of missed opportunities, he said. “We were able to … squeeze more out of a pretty unproductive legislative session by vetoing several of the bills that the governor did. When you consider that the House Republicans in their initial education budget proposed $157 million in new spending, and the final number that we got to was about $525 million in new spending on education, that wouldn’t have happened without the governor vetoing the education bill and fighting as hard as he did.”

In an interview with MinnPost last week, Martin offered his take on everything from the Bakk-Dayton relationship to House Republican Speaker Kurt Daudt to what to expect during the 2016 legislative session. 

On the Bakk-Dayton relationship:

“I do think they were unified in one sense, which is that they had a shared outcome and shared agenda. ... I think there is disagreement among rank-and-file DFLers and others in the caucus on how we actually got there. There’s no doubt that the discord between the governor and Senator Bakk didn’t help things in the end. But as I like to say: We are one large family in the DFL, and in any family you are going to have fights and disagreements, the question is how do you deal with those. In the end I think it was very clear that the governor as a leader of our party was able to get members in the DFL Senate and the House together to say we have to one agenda.”

“As I’ve said to both of them, you don’t have to like each other, but you do have to work with each other. You have a symbiotic relationship.”

“It should be no surprise to anyone that there is tension between legislative leaders and the governor. There’s always been. Now, was it more public this legislative session than in years past? Sure, yes absolutely, and I’m not very happy about that. But it’s not anything new.”  

On the rural-versus-metro divide:

“There is a divide, not only in our party, but there certainly is a divide in Minnesota, both in the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, which is: How do we balance the needs of folks who live in Greater Minnesota with those who live in the ever-growing metro and suburban communities?” 

“People in Greater Minnesota, it doesn’t matter who is in power, are naturally predisposed to this notion that they are being left behind. They don’t feel like people in Washington or in St. Paul are fighting hard for their interests. When they hear all this discord in St. Paul and they see this toxicity and this polarization in politics and nothing happening to improve their communities it’s sort of a pox on both houses.”

On Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey: 

“When Keith Downey [came to the Legislature] and insisted that Republicans give all [the surplus] back in the form of tax breaks and incentives and giveaways, it was at that moment that you saw Republican legislators start to really turn and say that, ‘No, we need to give back all of the surplus.’ It created this really unhealthy dynamic in the Legislature.”

“My job as party chair is not to exact rigid purity out of our elected officials. It is really unseemly to me that any unelected official would feel like they have to be more responsive to their political party than to the people they are elected by.” 

On Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt:

“I think the biggest loser in this is Kurt Daudt. I know people think he is a winner in this legislative session, but think about what he promised the voters last year. He said, ‘We are going to lower the size of government,’ yet they voted for the largest state budget in our state’s history. They said they are going to decrease taxes, yet they voted for an E-12 bill that has a tax increase. They said they were going to pass a transportation bill to help folks in Greater Minnesota; they punted that bill down the road. They said they were going to help Greater Minnesota ... the Republicans made a whole host of promises in the last legislative session that they didn’t and can’t say they delivered on to the voters with a straight face.”

“ ‘We stopped the Democrats from spending all the surplus and getting a gas tax increase’: That’s their message. Listen to Kurt Daudt as he is traveling around the state. That’s what they are talking about: It’s not what we did, it’s what we prevented.”

“There’s an old saying in politics, that when your opponents are committing political suicide, you get out of the way. He got out of the way. I don’t think Kurt did anything magnificent, but the one thing that I would give him credit for is: It’s hard when you are first in leadership because you want to be the center of attention, and he just got out of the way. I will give him credit for that.” 

On last-minute provisions in budget bills:

“The reality is some of the stuff that was agreed to in those final hours really flies in the face of our values as DFLers, particularly some of the agreements that were made on bad environment policy, some of the agreements made around the state auditor’s office. Take the auditor’s provision for a moment: Republicans have been trying for years to privatize that office. It’s not necessarily just about the auditor's office itself; it’s their attempt to privatize large swaths of state agency and state government work. I’m not sure why some Democrats in the state Senate agreed to that provision.”

“If you are going to make a deal, you should get something in return, and I would say there are a lot of Democrats who felt that some of the deals that we made in the final few hours were throwaways, that we didn’t really get anything in return for some of the stuff that we gave up. There’s a lot of stuff that we gave up that Republicans have been fighting for, for years. If you think about what they got, the Republicans got a lot more out of the deals than Democrats did.” 

On tax cuts:

“I really believe strongly that we need to pass a tax bill: We need to do targeted tax relief in the form of property tax relief. But giving back any surplus in the way of rebates or checks is a gimmick, and it’s not strategic or smart for the long-term of the state.” 

On transportation funding bill:

“The Republicans drew a line in the sand right off the bat; they said there is just no way we are ever going to a transportation bill with a gas tax hike in it.” 

“It’s not probably realistic [to raise the gas tax] in an election year, but I’m hopeful that something will happen.”

On the 2016 session: 

“For us, when we go into the next legislative session, it’s making sure the Republicans don’t give all that money back and squander an opportunity to make the investments we need to make our state strong.”

“This will be the choice for voters next year: Do you want a tax break, do you want $70 on average, or do you want to make investments in our schools and roads and bridges in the state? That’s the choice. I like our odds in that fight.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for publication. 

Get MinnPost's top stories in your inbox

Related Tags:

About the Author:

Comments (37)

DFLer Code Phrases

"I really believe strongly that we need to pass a tax bill: We need to do targeted tax relief in the form of property tax relief. "
Take from Peter and give to Paul

“For us, when we go into the next legislative session, it’s making sure the Republicans don’t give all that money back and squander an opportunity to make the investments we need to make our state strong.”
Spend it on Union Jobs and More Government, while raising taxes and taking on more debt for roads, etc.

"“I think the biggest loser in this is Kurt Daudt." If you are going to make a deal, you should get something in return, and I would say there are a lot of Democrats who felt that some of the deals that we made in the final few hours were throwaways, that we didn’t really get anything in return for some of the stuff that we gave up."
Both sides of his mouth. GOP didn't get anything or give up anything...

The Need to Dismiss Losses

with labels is clearly a sign that some among us can't face such losses,...

or even consider that they happened.

Ken Martin is doing a bit of the same in this interview.

The tension between the small "range" faction of the DFL and metro area faction,...

and the desire for the guys from the range to get new and very damaging types of mining going on the range for the sake of a few jobs,...

and the future can go to perdition for all they (and many of their constituents) care,...

prevented Gov. Dayton and the Democrats in the legislature from accomplishing much in the face of complete Republican fealty to the tax phobic ideas and ideals of Grove Norquist,...

a fealty the Republicans rehearsed at great cost to their rural constituents.

Ken Martin is not going to talk about the splits in the DFL because he can't do a blessed thing about them,...

but, sadly, at the end of Governor Dayton's term as Governor there will be a very damaging battle within the DFL to determine who will be the next nominee for Governor.

Tom Bakk will likely become something akin to Minnesota's own Chris Christie in his attempts to bully himself into the Governor's mansion,...

will be a disaster if he does,...

and come dangerously close to fracturing the DFL coalition by starting a third party on the range if he doesn't,...

perhaps even doing so; leading the rangers to seceded from the DFL in order to get even for the insult he'll take at not being nominated.

I wish Ken Martin blessings as he tries to keep a lid on, and put the best face on these future events.

Meanwhile, our Republican friends continue to prove that they have NOTHING to offer their rural constituents,...

more and more of who will become increasingly aware that you don't gain anything from legislators who take it as a badge of honor that they got you NOTHING.

Nothing to Offer

The Liberal mind set always fascinates me. It seems to believe that people want "more and more" from government. In Greg's word "they have NOTHING to offer their rural constituents"

I argue that rural constituents may be happier with less than more. Fewer regulatory laws/hurdles, fewer State office buildings, less light rail, fewer new stadiums, etc. Fewer bike paths and expensive bridges. I mean the GOP saved us all from paying $.20/gallon via the regressive gas tax that the DFL recommeded.

And please remember that the GOP helped secure funding for water pipelines.
https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2014/05/dfl-gop-bonding-bill-bl...

Clarify please

How could rural residents have fewer stadiums and light rail? I'm not aware of any stadiums or light rail in rural areas. You can't get lower than zero.

Rural residents do want more broadband internet access (probably so they can read MinnPost) and they didn't get that.

Even worse

I guess you are correct, they do not have stadiums or light rail near their homes. Yet if they are partially paid for with State funds, they are forced to help pay for them.

They may want more Broadband, however I am not sure they want to pay higher taxes to get it...

I don't think of it that way

The light rail and stadiums are covered by contributions from metro taxpayers just like the rural roads and nursing homes are covered by contributions from rural taxpayers. If anything there is a slight subsidy from metro to rural.

It doesn't surprise me that rural residents want other people to subsidize their infrastructure for broadband internet. Something for nothing is a great deal if you can get it. People usually want to pay lower taxes but they always want to cut something that someone else is willing to pay for. If rural residents truly want lower taxes as a top priority they should identify one of the services they actually receive to cut.

Question

Why do we have big roads and bypasses in rural MN? Is it for the Rural people or for the city folk?

I have tried to figure out that slight subsidy with no success. I am pretty sure it does not account for the big bonded projects that the metro benefits from.

And I think everyone in the State will be helping to pay for the stadium.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Bank_Stadium

"Something for nothing is a great deal if you can get it." That reminded me of a Conservative talking about welfare, ACA, medicaid, etc. :-)

"We are one large family in

"We are one large family in the DFL, and in any family you are going to have fights and disagreements, the question is how do you deal with those."

Ah yes. As the childish squabbles between our unelected Senate majority leader, and our lame duck governor proceeded, was there any DFLer or any parent in Minnesota who wasn't saying, "I don't care who started, knock it off!!"

I understand and am quite fond of, the metaphor of the DFL as one big family. The problem with it, is that as of the last session, it's perfectly clear to me who the children are, but what I don't know is who are the Mom and Dad? Evidently not Ken Martin, it seems.

Over-reach anxiety killed the DFL

Actually, if you want to understand what happened in the last session you have to go back to the previous sessions where the DFL had a clear majority. They could have settled almost all of the issues that cost them the house but they backed off because they were afraid of blow-back from over-reaching. Some DFLers like my State Senator actually seem to think that "over-reach" cost them the House. It was exactly the opposite. I don't why or where the DFL got the idea that success ruins their chances for re-election but it's a ridiculous notion.

I was actually quite bothered by my DFL Senator's comments that he'd warned he fellow Democrats not to over-reach because it might back-fire and cost them seats. I hate to tell you guys this but the issue isn't whether or not YOU win, it's whether or not your constituents win or lose. When you pass up opportunities to fix problems because of over-reach anxiety, your constituents lose. In this case, the DFL could have settled the transportation funding issue, they could have stabilized funding, and bonded for the necessary upgrades, but they backed off because they were warned about over-reach. Then they lose anyways and now their constituents are screwed for the foreseeable future.

I don't why the DFL has such a hard time running on success. During the last election when the MNGOP came out complaining about pot-holes and rural spending I kept waiting for a DFL response that never came. The fact is that Dayton and the DFL did more transportation work and more for rural and out-state equity than the MNGOP has EVER done, or would ever do. If the DFL had created the necessary tax and revenue stream to pay for new transit, repair, and restoration, they'd a been able to knock it out of the park but they still had a lot to run on... but didn't. Now they complain they don't have much to run on? Well, when you had something to run on... you didn't. So what's the deal? Do you guys want to win or not?

I hate to say it but I think part of the problem is a rift between Dayton the DFL. I wonder if one reason they didn't run on their success in the previous session was that most of those initiatives were championed by Dayton and dialed back by the House and Senate... Bakk in particular. Are they afraid of they run on Dayton's success (he did handily win his re-election after all) they'll diminish their own credibility or agenda? Whatever.

Look, if you guys ever get the majority again, if you have another chance to fix some big problems and settle some persistently tough issues... do us poor bastards who voted for you a favor and just get it done. I voted for you. I put you in power. And I still don't have adequate and stable transportation funding. Not because you didn't have the votes, but because when you had the votes you worried about losing the next election. Then you lost the election anyways and now you REALLY don't have the votes.

Really

You don't think there were consequences to legalizing gay marriage immediately after the people in those districts voted to ban it permanently. Ok...

You don't think there were consequences to passing a number of business to business taxes that would impact many people in rural MN and then rescinding them next year. Ok...

I hope the DFL takes your advice.

Gay marriage

I believe that more than any other single issue or factor, the legalization of gay marriage was the reason the DFL lost the majority in the House. But that was a matter of principle, something that had to be done and I make no apologies. for that. The point of the process is to get things done, not just win elections. The state office building was more of a problem; but issues like that are more symbolic than real; in this case it was a stand in for the gay marriage issue because many voters were concerned about appearing bigoted. In any event, with the recent Supreme Court case and the continuing change in attitudes I think gay marriage will be pretty much a dead issue in future.

Business taxes are a problem, I suppose, but people are largely ok with that. That's why the GOP preferred to campaign on the state office building. This time around, Republicans are going to have to explain why they didn't deliver on their promises to Greater Minnesota, but how they were able to deliver to Norm Coleman who resides in far off Washington D.C.

I don't think gay marriage was the big issue

It looks to me like everyone is guessing what the big issues were out-state, has anyone actually done any surveys? I personally have a hard time believing that gay marriage was THE issue driving rural votes because we know those rural voters split their vote, many of them voted for Dayton who has always championed marriage equality.

I think rural voters were frustrated. They saw billion dollar stadiums, more money for the University, and light rail lines, and Rochester, and all kinds of stuff going into the cities and just assumed they were getting the short end of spending. Of course they were wrong, most people everyone are being left out of the economic recovery, it's not just rural Minnnesotan's. Nevertheless the Democrats did an awful job of getting their story out. I think if the Democrats had developed a statewide narrative highlighting what they'd done for rural Minnesotan's and pointing out the fact that democrats had done more in two years than the republicans had done in 10, they could have responded to republican claims that the big cities were getting all the attention. I think this was manageable but the democrats failed or refused to run on their record. We all knew that the republicans would NOTHING for rural Minnesota other than try to cut taxes, but the democrats never even tried to point out that democrats have a better record.

I don't know anything about running campaigns but it seems to be if democrats had developed a single message contrasting their approach with the republicans, they could have made one or two ad's statewide that would have boosted all of their candidates. Seems to me that would be an economical way to support every candidate and get the democrats message out. Take road repair and construction for example, you couldn't drive anywhere in the state without hitting road construction yet when the republican's ran that ad claiming that democrats were spending all the money on choo choos instead of pot holes there was NO response... none. All democrats had to do was slap together a response pointing out the fact that whoever made that potical ad clearly doesn't actually live in MN. But we got nothing. And now democrats claims their problem is they have nothing to run on... we NOW their right, they do have little or nothing to run on.

Incumbent with Weak Opponent

I think Dayton won because he was the incumbent and Johnson had ZERO charisma and a very weak message. Even I could not get excited about him, I was voting against Dayton/Taxes and not for Johnson... Hopefully the GOP fields a better candidate next time.

I believe the gay marriage passage impacted the local vote more than you think. Imagine that you had just made it very clear to your local rep that you did not approve of something, and then ~4 months later they ignore the "will of their constituents" and vote for that exact thing. I am pretty sure that was not accepted well.

"I think Dayton won because

"I think Dayton won because he was the incumbent and Johnson had ZERO charisma and a very weak message"

Dayton won because he had a great record to run on. Gay marriage is a great issue with a lot of voters. Clearly, the GOP effort three years ago to deny freedom to marry was bad for them. The state is recovering from the GOP great recession. There was a solid legislative record to run on, with lots of achievements benefiting Greater Minnesota. While Dayton ran very well in the cities, the legislative party didn't do badly statewide, just not well enough to win. The fact of the matter, at least the way I see it, the notion that the DFL didn't do right by Greater Minnesota was much more perception than reality. After all, the issues that the GOP ran on outstate, the State Office Building and gay marriage have little to do with the real problems of rural Minnesota.

We lost the last election in

We lost the last election in Greater Minnesota, and I think the paragraph below speaks to the heart of the problem.

“People in Greater Minnesota, it doesn’t matter who is in power, are naturally predisposed to this notion that they are being left behind. They don’t feel like people in Washington or in St. Paul are fighting hard for their interests. When they hear all this discord in St. Paul and they see this toxicity and this polarization in politics and nothing happening to improve their communities it’s sort of a pox on both houses.”

If you look at what Martin has to say elsewhere in the interview, you see that themes are already being polished for the next election. But when it com es to Greater Minnesota, Martin is still at a loss. The tone in the quote is somewhat patronizing, with a certain blame the voter quality, always a sure political loser. During the last campaign, it was pretty clear that we had no effective strategy for reaching voters outside the cities and the suburbs, and as of this interview that hasn't changed.

For myself, I don't work in Greater Minnesota, so what I know about their issues comes second or third hand. A basic political dynamic that hurt us in Greater Minnesota is that the issues that piled up votes for us for the statewide candidates in the cities and the suburbs lost us votes in marginal Greater Minnesota elections. That dynamic changes in 2016, with no statewide races on the ballot. It's also the case that while 2016 is a presidential year, Minnesota will not be regarded as a state in play, so there won't be much of a national campaign presence here. Some of the issues that hurt us in 2016, gay marriage in particular, will be largely gone, and Republicans who campaigned on the theory that the DFL wasn't delivering enough for Greater Minnesota will now have to explain why they couldn't deliver at all.

Just Curious

"have to explain why they couldn't deliver at all."

What do you think rural MN wants? Other than "Broadband"...

Greater Minnesota

First off, I don't know what rural Minnesota wants, at least not first hand. More significantly, in this piece at least, Ken Martin doesn't show any evidence of knowing what rural Minnesota wants either, although I expect he knows considerably more than what he says here.

The best source for what rural Minnesota wants is what rural Minnesotans say themselves, and the outlines are clear enough. They want better roads, broadband, better health care, including support for nursing homes. They are very uneasy with environmental regulation especially when it's dictated by goo goos from the cities. Overall, rural Minnesota is struggling economically and they are frustrated that nobody in St. Paul seems to have an answer for that. As for the economy generally, Republicans love to tell us their policies are good for the economy, a claim that has frequently been belied by reality.

For the DFL in political terms, these are a mixed bag of issues. Environmental issues, for example, are really divisive within the party. and there is no easy political solution for that., On other issues, such as transportation, the DFL is much stronger. That's a problem for Republicans in that while they too support better roads, they don't have a way to pay for them. Their response to that is political rather than substantive. Instead of coming to grips with the actual problems of roads and how they are to be paid for, they try to shift attention away from the problem by pointing to things like urban mass transit, something that appeals to Republican political strategists because such things, for the most part, don't benefit Republican voters. It's a golden opportunity to gore someone else's ox.

May be Too Simplistic

I think there may be more hints in here.
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/groundlevel/fighting-for-an...

Though I don't think it does a good enough job of stressing how intertwined the rural / urban citizens and economies are, especially in MN. Since a very large chunk of our State's GDP comes from agriculture, crop processing and tourism.

Intertwinement

Lots of people in Greater Minnesota understand how the economies are intertwined, and the DFL gets lots of votes there, sometimes just not enough. The problem has more to do with election dynamics. The DFL wins statewide by piling up huge majorities in the cities. The challenge there isn't persuasion, it's turnout. And turnout in the cities often means emphasizing issues that are popular in the cities, but tend to be a negative outstate. Gay marriage is one such issue. So are issues having to do with urban development like the state office building. But you notice, working to increase this urban turnout so crucial to winning state wide races is meaningless when it comes to legislative elections where Democrats already pile up huge majorities. A five point swing in Minneapolis is meaningless to a DFL candidate there, but it's everything in an evenly split Greater Minnesota district where as a practical matter, control of the legislature is actually decided. And the issues that swing that crucial five percent swing in Greater Minnesota might be very different from the ones that pile up the huge DFL majority in the cities.

I actually think this dynamic is part of what underlies the otherwise foggy reasoning surrounding ranked choice voting, and helps to explain the DFL enthusiasm for it.The point of RCV as I understand it, is to ensure representation of large but non plurality voting groups. In those heavily DFL city districts, for example, additional votes are largely wasted. If the DFL candidate gets 90 as opposed to 80 percent, the result is still only one DFL candidate elected. The additional voters might just as well have stayed home. What RCV supporters want without quite realizing it, is proportional representation, a system many democracies use, which would mean that minorities would be represented, at least in legislative bodies.

According to the BEA, the

According to the BEA, the three industries you cited directly represented about 6.5% of Minensota's GDP in 2013.

Interesting

I think the way you are looking at the BEA data is misleading. Also, I found it amusing that they considered government an industry. (ie taking money out of private economy to spend)

How did you allocate for the ripple effect of agriculture into all of those service and manufacturing industries? Like manufacturing, education, inventing and mining, agriculture is one of our "wealth creators". (ie high value add)

https://www.minnpost.com/macro-micro-minnesota/2014/08/government-releas...

Here is an interesting presentation about the interactions.
http://www.leg.state.mn.us/docs/2008/other/080928.pdf

I didn't allocate that impact

I didn't allocate that impact because I'm not an economist, hence why used the word "direct". But I did count the food manufacturing in the 6.5%.

Sure, there is some impact in other industries, but we need to face the reality that the long-term vitality of rural Minnesota is going to be about diversifying the economy to be less reliant on industries like ag and mining, which are going to employ fewer people moving forward.

Impact

It may require fewer people to grow and process, but it's reach keeps growing every day. Look how far those silly little soybeans that I hated shoveling and slipping on have reached into our society and around the world.

http://unitedsoybean.org/farmer-resources/tools/soy-products-guide/

The wealth adder is incredible... Invest some time, fuel, seed, land, and fertilizer and let the rain and sun do the work.

One of the big improvements was when they started processing the grain closer to the farms. Then jobs and the funny smells stayed out there.

Where to even begin

The BEA data is not misleading. You made an unequivocal statement:
"a very large chunk of our State's GDP comes from agriculture, crop processing and tourism"

This is demonstrably false. It's a very small chunk. Please don't invoke a concept like GDP then fail to understand what it measures.

"agriculture is one of our "wealth creators". (ie high value add)"

No, it is not. In fact it's one of the lowest value-adding sectors in the economy. Again, the BEA provides this data (both value-added and gross output by industry). In fact, value-added is how one actually accounts for the size of each industry within an economy, so to think that it's something distinct from measuring its contribution to GDP indicates one doesn't comprehend how an economy is measured.

"I found it amusing that they considered government an industry. (ie taking money out of private economy to spend)"

It's not amusing, it's how things are measured and have been by economists much longer than you or I have lived. Government doesn't take money out of the "private economy". There's no such thing. There is AN economy and government is a part of it. All throughout the world. That's why we have phrases like "private industry". If the word "industry" signified only for-profit firms, then it wouldn't be necessary to modify it with the word "private".

I also find it not-amusing that people denigrate the efforts of men and women who work in government - soldiers, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, infectious disease specialists, physicians caring for veterans, teachers, school bus drivers, etc. The word "industry" means "the habit of working hard and steadily". It's interesting to think that people who consider themselves patriotic feel that heroes protecting lives, saving lives, and defending freedom are somehow not industrious.

Disagree and Agree Kind of

I still believe that agriculture's influence is very understated. Cargill, General Mills, Cenex, Harvest States, Monsanto, ADM, John Deere, Agco and thousands of other business around the world and millions of jobs are reliant on American Agriculture. We go out of business, people starve and jobs are lost.

I do agree that much of the government spend for the public good is value add, however if they are counting medicaid, welfare, social security, medicare, etc, then they are just counting money that the private sector could have saved and spent without their "bureaucratic mark up".

Exactly

"During the last campaign, it was pretty clear that we had no effective strategy for reaching voters outside the cities and the suburbs, and as of this interview that hasn't changed."

That was the most frustrating thing, and there was no good reason for it. Democrats delivered more to rural voters, and would predictably deliver more than the republican ever have-could-or would. You have history, current rhetoric, and predictable behavior to campaign on, and they were a no-show as far as I could tell. I don't think that loss was inevitable, a strong campaign on roads, broadband, etc. might have won the election for the DFL. What was the problem? Were they short campaign funds? Did they just assume they were gonna lose anyways? What? And, what responsibility does this chairperson bear for all of this?

Professor Schulz

The good Professor Schulz had a terrific article here in Minnpost during the last election season about the limitations of our statewide campaign. It was certainly something I and my friends saw in real time with that slow motion feel you sometimes get when you see disaster approach. But there just wasn't anything that we could do about it. The priority was re-electing Dayton and Franken, neither of whom seemed to have any visible interest I could discern in local campaigns. And the issues they spent so much effort on didn't play well in Greater Minnesota. The urban areas where the statewide campaigns had to pile up votes don't care all that much about roads or expansion of broadband in rural Minnesota. And the campaign in rural Minnesota didn't have the resources or really the skill necessary to conduct an effective campaign independent from the state wide campaigns and organization..

Ken Martin is really in a difficult position. He has to serve a governor whose a lame duck and doesn't much like the DFL anyway. He has got about 8 or 9 quasi bosses in the legislature, all of whom want to be governor. He has a myriad of donors with many conflicting interests all of whom need to be kept happy. And he's got guys like me whining about the lack of leadership and his inability to keep the children we seem to have put in office in St. Paul in line. He does have my sympathy.

So your saying....

It was a lack of necessary resources to run effective campaigns for Franken and Dayton AND local state-wide democrats?

Now I've never run a campaign for anything so what do I know? But I notice the republicans ran a basic state-wide anti-democrat ad, and apparently found the money to pay for it. So why couldn't the DFL do the same thing? Obviously everyone knew what the issues were, and they were state-wide (rurally speaking), so wouldn't it be cost effective to build a statewide narrative that all DFL candidates could hang onto? It wouldn't have been difficult, democrats have a better record to run on, and could've made a powerful case.

I saw Shulz's article at the time and I didn't buy it because I assumed the democrats would mount a response... but they never did. Sheesh when you see a train wreck approaching you don't just stand there and watch.

And again, I don't know anything about internal DFL stuff but I've been watching the fallout and it seems to me there was a rift between those worried about the over-reach blowback and the more liberal or progressive members. In some ways it looked to me like some folks were creating a self fulfilling prophecy of blow back that they could later parlay into political power, i.e. the advantage of being able to say: "We told you so". When you have a rift like that an electoral loss can actually be a benefit to one internal group or another. Both parties have conservative members vying for control of the caucus, and sometimes that internal struggle takes precedence over the any given election cycle results, they'll always be another election. So guys like Shulz (I don't know if he's a DFL Party guy or not) actually gain traction and clout if they make a prediction that appears to materialize, from that perspective the legislative loss wasn't actually a "bad" thing for everyone. Again, I don't know, but I've been watching Bakk, Latz, etc. since the election and they sure are making a lot of hay out of their "over-reach" predictions. Does that translate into more influence and power within the party?

It's funny with guys like Latz, he'll bemoan the consequences of "over-reaching" when it comes to gay marriage or minimum wages, that alienate rural voters; but billion dollars stadiums in MPLS are just reasonable public infrastructure that EVERYONE wanted. Rural voters tell us consistently for decades that they're rather lose the team than pay for a new stadium yet it was marriage equality, not billion dollar stadiums, that alienated rural voters. Even when marriage equality passed a state wide referendum that stadium subsidies couldn't have dreamt of winning. So it was marraige equality not stadiums that make an "over-reach". Sure republican's voted for the stadium bill, but it's largely seen as a democrat/Dayton deal, and it's been in the news as one fiasco after another ever since.

The reality is that when you

The reality is that when you control both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office, you're always going to be accused of overreach, no matter what you do. So you might as well do what you think is right and fight for it.

" But I notice the

" But I notice the republicans ran a basic state-wide anti-democrat ad, and apparently found the money to pay for it. So why couldn't the DFL do the same thing?".

My perception was that it was really a question of allocation of outside money. First of all, their senate candidate was self financing. Franken was always seen as a clear favorite for reelection so his race attracted little interest from national donors. To some degree, that was also true in the governor's race. What I do think was the strategy of Republican donors was to focus on legislative races. They cost less, and they had a much better chance of winning them than any of the statewide races. And by winning them, they could achieve their main policy objective which was to prevent any increase in taxes. This is the advantage Republicans always have. Since their policy agenda is basically negative, they don't have to win elections outright so much as they need to do well enough to establish and maintain an effective veto power over the legislative process. They were able to do that in 2014 election, and we saw the successful result of that for them in what happened during the 2015 legislative session.

Divisions

The divisions within the Democratic Party are real, policy based, and cannot easily be made to go away by wishful thinking. While some errors, like the Senate Office Building were unforced and didn't need to happen, the fact is that error was emblematic of deeper problems within the party which aren't going away. As irritating as I found the SOB issue, it was always apparent to me that if we hadn't handed that issue to the Republicans on a silver platter, they would have found something else to put on it. In this complicated world, there is always something embarrassing happening.

Same Old Ken

It seems that in every interview Ken does, he paints the Republicans as always the losers. Ok, he is the leader of the DFL party so it's part of his job. But, come on. Let's have some reality. Not many people are happy that we jacked taxes up $2 billion more with the premise being that we were running government deficits - with our state government ever growing at a much higher rate than inflation - then turn out a big surplus in which the DFL wanted to spend and permanently grow government knowing surpluses will not always be the case. People are tired of this mantra of spend, spend, spend with the code word being 'investment.' Tons of money is being pored into education but there are no positive results. Roads continue to be built but are still obsolete with ever increasing amount of gridlock. The DFL over-reached, ignored greater Minnesota, and has listening more and more to urban special interests and they paid a price for. Ken, as leader of the DFL, needs to be real in his assessment and how he portrays his party. It's easy to say deals were not done how the DFL wants. They were not done in how ANYONE wants. But it's been that way forever. If you don't like it, do something with your elected officials rather than just whine about it. Then again, ken has always never wanted the DFL to accept blame anyway as to his continued vilification of everyone else. Though his party seems to have a majority of our state government.

That's my question

Hiram says:

"What I do think was the strategy of Republican donors was to focus on legislative races. They cost less, and they had a much better chance of winning them than any of the statewide races. "

Why didn't the DFL focus on legislative races? If it worked for the MNGOP why couldn't it work for the DFL? A) The DFL should have been in a better position to make those campaigns because unlike the MNGOP their finances aren't a wreck. B) The fact that the statewide races belonged to the DFL wasn't a "secret" that MNGOP had stumbled across, it was obvious to everyone.

The more I think about it the more convinced I am that there are quarters in the DFL that actually wanted to lose the House, they wanted divided government. One of the annoying things about democrats is that they can be really fear based when it come to strategy. Some democrats just don't seem to be comfortable with being in power because they're afraid they'll get ALL the blame for things people aren't happy about. With divided government you can share blame, or have someone else to blame. The problem is we all get screwed because when the DFL is in power, and hey have a chance to fix stuff, they back off and we stuck with half measures and inadequate status quo. It's a weird mentality that concludes that solving problems and making life better for your constituents is "dangerous" political policy.

Why didn't the DFL focus on

Why didn't the DFL focus on legislative races?

Because they had statewide races to win and those set the priority. Bear in mind that the role of the parties are in decline, that more and more way the races are funded and therefore run are outside party control.

"The DFL should have been in a better position to make those campaigns because unlike the MNGOP their finances aren't a wreck."

While that's true to some extent, it's still a matter of scale. The money available to the statewide candidates is still much greater than the money available locally. In the campaigns I have been involved with, I haven't seen money and/or support from the DFL in a decade. That's not unreasonable, since those campaigns didn't need it, but it's not something that ties candidates to the party either.

"The fact that the statewide races belonged to the DFL wasn't a "secret" that MNGOP had stumbled across, it was obvious to everyone."

Did I suggest this was a secret? I didn't mean to, and it wasn't What Professor Schulz did was lay out in pretty specific terms, what everyone was sensing but not quite articulating.

"The more I think about it the more convinced I am that there are quarters in the DFL that actually wanted to lose the House, they wanted divided government."

I have heard that theory too, but a more common dynamic is that the strategy that lost the house was the same strategy that won the statewide races, and a lot of individual house seats along the way. What loses in Greater Minnesota is often what wins in the cities. Something I have personally complained about with no impact whatever is that election policy is set by winners. The temptation is always to advocate for one's own constituency, which is after all what people are elected to do. But what about constituencies no represented by DFLer's? Who speaks for them in when strategy is being decided?

Not to belabor the point but...

So you're saying that for some reason, despite having a clear advantage on a statewide level and more secure financing, the DFL didn't have the resources to run statewide AND local legislative campaigns? So they sacrificed the local legislative races in order to secure the statewide races that weren't really in play?

I think we all understand Shulz's point, but what I don't understand, and what I've been asking, is: why, given the obvious nature of the challenges in front of them, didn't the DFL mount a campaign to respond to the obvious criticisms? Did the DFL just give up on the house because guys like Shulz were telling them they were gonna lose?

So you're saying that for

So you're saying that for some reason, despite having a clear advantage on a statewide level and more secure financing, the DFL didn't have the resources to run statewide AND local legislative campaigns?

They could certainly have used more money locally, but the real problem was the issues. What was piling up the huge majorities for us statewide, were hurting us locally in tight races.

"So they sacrificed the local legislative races in order to secure the statewide races that weren't really in play? "

The reasons why the statewide races particularly the governorship weren't in play hurt us in Greater Minnesota. The improvement in the economy we saw and continue to see, by the way, in the urban areas hasn't been felt in Greater Minnesota. Gay marriage was a strong issue for us in piling up votes in the cities but hurt us with swing voters elsewhere. Environmental issues which are popular with DFL voters in the cities, are quite as popular out state.

This really points out the practical problems of addressing the more theoretical issues Schulz raised. The fact is, political campaigns don't change deeply seated values. No voter changes his mind on gay marriage because he gets a glossy piece of campaign lit. No farmer barely scraping by is very interested in changing his practices because the concerns of some Minneapolis legislator. These were the kinds of challenges we needed to overcome to hold the House and we didn't overcome them. I noticed that as clearly as Professor Schulz addressed the problem during the election, he didn't have any answers either.

I don't buy it

"The reasons why the statewide races particularly the governorship weren't in play hurt us in Greater Minnesota."

The "issues" was who's going to deliver more and better representation, and on THAT issue the DFL had a much stronger case than the MNGOP in rural MN. Rural DFLer's never got elected on gay marriage and environment in the first place, or if they did, obviously it didn't hurt them because they got elected, the DFL was defending seats, not trying to capture new ones. Sure republican rhetoric piled up, but the "issues" were manageable, in fact on the issues the DFL had a better record. And we know that rural voters split their vote, so why would they vote for Dayton on the "issues" but not a local guy on the same issues?

There was nothing inevitable about the DFL loss, they dropped the ball on the campaign, I'm just trying to figure why they dropped the ball. The DFL was not outmaneuvered, they just didn't show up.