Monday, March 13, 2006


A "Progressive Voice"......Right.

As I've mentioned several times here, I make my loyalties in the gubernatorial race pretty clear. Since I met him, I've found Senator Steve Kelley to be an honest, principled, progressive, grounded human being, and a pretty good legislator to boot. He's going to make a great governor.

Once we do away with the foolishness upon which I shall now expound. Through a colleague of a friend of a relative....okay, through channels, I've confirmed what I've long suspected - that Becky Lourey's campaign is now engaged in an all-out tear-down campaign against her opponents.

This isn't a rumor, this isn't speculation. This is a confirmation from a Lourey campaign staffer that her staff and her stump speeches are going negative in order to do anything they can to get nominated.

In the common parlance, it's known as a hatchet job. My colleagues at Backbone Minnesota and Broken Nails can examine their comment threads for examples of comments designed not to support Lourey, but rather to tear down her primary competition for the progressive-activist state delegate segment, Steve Kelley. Vicious stuff. Examples:
  1. Jay Says:
    March 10th, 2006 at 9:34 am

    So, the DLC gave an award to a state senator who’s politics is different from their organization? Really? That doesn’t seem like to overly-pragmatic (over principle) DLC style. I’m thinking that Kelley’s record is the reason for their endorsement. Maybe its his creative proposal to fund a baseball stadium with public dollars WITHOUT the public weighing in on it. That’s sounds very DLC to me.

    Three years ago is AFTER his last election. It’s AFTER his failed attempt for Senate and AFTER his failed attempt for leadership within his own caucus.

    They know him, his colleagues at the Senate know him, they question is, do you know him?

    Oh yeah- he’s so viable that his endorsement from Betty McCullom got him a solid third place finish in her Fourth Congressional District. They know him too.

  1. Michael says: Says:
    March 10th, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    Problem with Kelley and his folks seem to be focused on everyone else except himself and his campaign. They failed on Tuesday and lost the most, afterall they are the ones that put all of their eggs in the endorsement process. Well, not all. Steve Kelley will still have the opportunity to stay in his Senate seat after he looses the endorsement in June.

And from my blog:
I'm just wondering, seriously, why it is that blogs that claim to be "progressive" would consider backing a candidate that is a "new democrat" - DLC member - DINO - Republican.

Shouldn't the DFL be looking for a good DEMOCRAT instead of a Republican is sheeps clothing (yes, I meant sheep. Democrats have been cowards for far to long now).

Blogger GOPnightmare said:
If you're wrong, you've done exactly what you're accusing others of doing. Stringing together criticism of your candidate and sticking them to an opponent seems pretty weak. It's obviously getting you. I wonder what Hatch people are saying about the criticism and rumors hurled at him? I bet he's not crying foul.
Blogger MN Campaign Report said:
It's a big IF you bring up. However, my source is pretty darned solid. You're right that Hatch's people aren't crying foul - I think, in part, because the criticisms headed his way are coming from a community his campaign strategy is unconcerned with. He has no reason to respond. But these attacks on Sen. Kelley are occurring in a time and fashion that suggests an organized effort, now confirmed to be the Lourey campaign, to discredit her major opposition not named Mike Hatch. It's necessary, in my mind, to make sure that the DFL-endorsed candidate didn't get there by slaughtering the reputation of their competition.
Blogger Joseph Barisonzi said:
I do read your blog on a regular basis and enjoy it very much. I am glad that there are so many people closly following a critical Minnesota race. I very much enjoy reading your opinions and perspectives, even when I don't agree.

I do however resent the inference that I, or anyone on Becky's campaign, has decided to go negative on Steve Kelly. I like Steve Kelly. I believe that Steve Kelly would make a much better Governor than Tim Pawlenty. If Steve Kelly wins the Primary in September, I will support him for Governor. I hope that when Senator Lourey is elected Govenror, Senator Kelly will serve Minnesota as Commissioner of Education.

We have no reason to go negative on Steve Kelly. It makes no sense either politically, or ethically. It is not consistent with who Becky is, nor is it consistent with the campaign she has asked her staff to run. To win the DFL endorsement we would like to be Kelly supporter's second choice. Senator Kelly is many of our supporters second choice.

Over the last few weeks we have spent considerable time responding to Steve Kelly's campaign pointing out that Becky Lourey voted for "conceal and carry". This was a very effective strategy for their campaign in the many of the urban districts. In our internal tracking, we recorded it as doing us harm. Unfortuently Democrats consistently lose on the gun issue, so I am not sure this is either an effective primary or general election strategy -- but it is a clear area of difference between Senator Lourey and Senator Kelly and I congradulate their campaign on using this difference effectivly in their efforts to earn support for their candidate.

There are many other policy and personal differences between Senator Lourey and Senator Kelly.

Senator Kelly was the chief author of Hennepin County's stadium bill, Senator Lourey opposes public funding for stadiums. Senator Lourey supports the consitutional amendment to make health care a right, Senator Kelly oppoes it. Senator Lourey is a single payer advocate, Senator Kelly is not. Senator Lourey has both farming and small business experience, Senator Kelly does not.

It is our campaign job to do a better job of drawing these distinctions in the upcomming weeks. I am confident that we will do so based on policy and experience.

We will not do so by making anonymous thinly veiled accusations on blogs. If anyone would like to contact me directly about this they can contact me at Thank you.
Blogger Sally Jo said:
Consider the experience in the Hutchinson-area DFL precinct caucuses in McLeod County.

Our in-town precincts and area townships met together in the library at the Hutchinson High School. Representatives for each campaign spoke. All were well-known local Democrats; I spoke for Becky, and a local organic farmer ( great guy) represented Hatch.

A highly-regarded retiree (another great guy) gave the surrogate speech for Steve Kelley. This volunteer cited two principle strategic reasons for supporting Kelley: that Kelley could perform well in the suburbs, and that Steve Kelley was the more moderate candidate in the field. The volunteer felt that as the more moderate candidate, Kelley would have a better chance of winning against Pawlenty. The volunteer noted that other candidates might be "too liberal", though he had supported some of those same liberal candidates in past years (he had, in fact, supported Becky for governor in 2002).

This latter point was pretty surprising news to me, since Steve's progressive creds have been touted on his own campaign blog and by other lefty Minnesota bloggers. I didn't know if this was the volunteer's own personal take on the race or not. I didn't view Steve Kelley's voting record in the Senate as being especially "moderate" either.

I soon got a chance to ask the Kelley campaign itself about this confusing talking point.

When one of Steve Kelley's campaign workers called me Saturday before the McLeod County convention (which took place yesterday), I brought up my question directly.

It struck me that the Kelley campaign might wish to know that one of their own volunteers had made a claim in a moderate non-metro area that cut against the grain of the talking points Kelley's campaign was making for itself on the blogs.

I was assured that Steve Kelley did not intend to campaign as a progressive in the metro areas, while having his volunteers on more moderate areas of the state make claims that their candidate was the most centrist of the DFL field. The Kelley stafer was positive and professional.

And at the McLeod County convention yesterday, Senator Kelley himself said nothing about being a moderate. Nor did Becky say anything negative about either of the other candidates. The Hatch surrogate was positive about Hatch, etc.

Now, this is a case where a volunteer for the Kelley campaign made a statement at the caucuses about Kelley being a moderate.

Maybe you'd like to look elsewhere for the source of these misperceptions about where Kelley stands, than at the Lourey campaign. A highly respected Kelley volunteer brought up the idea of Kelley as the more moderate in McLeod County.
Blogger MN Campaign Report said:
Mr. Barisonzi,

I honestly and truly appreciate your readership, and debate is important to the DFL process. And while you are correct that our candidates both need the other's delegates to win the endorsement, I disagree with your assertion that it makes no political sense for Ms. Lourey to go negative on Senator Kelley. Whether or not it's right, whether or not it would backfire in the long run/primary, in the short term of the endorsement race, it makes a lot of sense. My source is not unimpeachable, but I would call it very solid. If you accept that the words were said, I would recommend you find out which of your staffers let slip an incorrect statement on behalf of the campaign. Of course I can't prove that these comments came directly from your campaign, but Occam's Razor would tend to predict that I'm right.

Also, this repeated line of "Becky Lourey supports a constitutional right to health care, Kelley opposes it" is both misleading and wrong. Review the records and you will find that Senator Kelley voted the exact same way as Becky Lourey on the bill. I'm not sure where in the record you find opposition from Senator Kelley to universal health care. If you can offer it, I would love to examine some documentation from your opposition research on the matter.

Factual errors in your comment aside, I have posted many, many comments on the correct spelling of Senator Kelley's name. It is a simple thing to be able to spell the name of a candidate, even an opposing candidate, correctly, to avoid confusing casual observers as to whether the former mayor of St. Paul is running for Governor.
Blogger MN Campaign Report said:

It's not misperceptions that I'm calling out here - it's attacks. The comments I cited in my post can't be read as misperceptions, although I fully acknowledge that in a state full of precinct caucuses, the campaign can't exactly control what every one is going to say. I don't want to get into full campaign-support mode here, I'll let the campaign do that at their blog, but I can say that Senator Kelley intends to run as he has approached his job in the Senate - as a progressive who is not above compromising to come to a common solution.

The fact is that any analysis that says "This politician is more liberal/conservative/moderate/hairy than that politician, and this is why" is bunk. One cannot examine one issue at a time, one vote at a time, and come to a grandiose conclusion about where on a single axis a political figure lies. The only way we're going to come to a successful conclusion in June, in September, and in November is to make sure that the facts are out about all the candidates, let the candidates, their records, and their campaigns speak for themselves, and make sure that sneaky blogosphere tactics aren't used to tear down opponents within the DFL.
Blogger MN Campaign Report said:
I've also just received word from Jessica Null, the Kelley campaign's comm. director, regarding the conceal-and-carry matter:

JN: we have not coordinated any effort to spread the word about Becky's vote. our supporters have talked about it, yes. many people who talk to us say they chose Steve over Becky partly because of that vote. we didn't need to tell them.
Blogger Sally Jo said:
Thanks for clearing that up.

I'm happy to hear that Steve Kelley and his campaign won't be running as a moderate in moderate areas, while making claims among progressive communities as a progressive. I hope that this strategy is made known among Steve's rural supporters.
Blogger Gareth said:
Lourey’s campaign is spitting down our backs and telling us it is raining.

For her campaign’s claim that she is the most progressive candidate, she sure is acting most like a republican: weak on the issues, strong on the mudslinging.

In preparation for my Sen. Dist. Convention I checked on Steve Kelley’s voting record (as I plan to do for the other candidates). Turns out, his record is one of the most progressive in the Senate. Good thing I didn’t take Lourey’s word for it. Then again, her “campaign manager” cannot even spell Kelley’s name right, what an apt metaphor for a bumbling campaign.

How can Lourey claim to be a progressive when she (1) runs a campaign that attacks other DEMOCRATS and (2) refuses to listen to what her party is sure to tell her in June?

I am sure Lourey is a good person, but this is a campaign strategy that CANNOT work.
Blogger Mike S said:
Don't belive everything you read on blogs. Everyone posting here has an agenda and without seeing or talking to people in person it is easy to throw mud and see what sticks. I too have heard from numerous Kelley supporters about the gun issue, but I agree with Joseph, if Kelley wants to win in November, a hard anti-gun stand won't play well.

Besides, even if these allegations here are true, are they really that bad. They are simply pointing out things about an opponent similar to what any campaign has and will do. If Lourey supporters or Hatch supporters or Kelley supporters or Ole Savior supporters for that matter make statements about another candidate, it is because they want their candidate to get the nomination because they believe their candidate has the best chance to beet Pawlenty and/or they think their candidate will make the best Governor.

Something like who is most progressive is impossible to determine. There is no objective standard. Some people value issues like stadiums more than issues like gun control, some see it the other way. Neither is right or wrong. Can we talk about winning in November and stop whining about gossip?
Blogger North Star Politics said:
I'm extremely confused at this point. Without taking sides, because I don't have one to take, what evidence is there (besides your source, which none of the rest of us can verify) that Sen. Lourey's campaign has gone negative? I see comments that could possibly be from Lourey staffers/campaign associates, or could be from DFLers who just don't like Kelley. Other than that, you have what seem to be valid concerns, but nothing that appears to be any worse than the shenanigans that are going to appear in most contested endorsements/primaries.
Blogger lloydletta said:
I don't see it as "negative campaigning" to point out differences between candidates. Sally Jo's point is an interesting one. It's very common for candidates to try to niche market themselves to different audiences. Candidates are going to emphasize different things when they are in Urban and rural areas. This is harder and harder to do totally under the radar campaigns - because much more gets exposed much faster with the internet.
Blogger MN Campaign Report said:
I have to admit, yesterday I was peeved by things I suspected for a while and were confirmed - but they were confirmed as "going to happen," not "happened."

Now that I've had a bit of time to think about it, it still only makes sense for Lourey or Kelley to go ballistic on the other. Hatch can depend on his statewide name recognition and job performance, and Doran can offer the centrist alternative. I still think that together, Sens. Kelley and Lourey could provide a ticket that the entire DFL could get behind and win in November.

I disagree with Eva - the things my post talked about weren't just pointing out differences, they were pointing out individual shortcomings, whether true or false, for political advantage. I have a soft spot for that tactic in the blogosphere - as long as we disclose who we are and what we're doing for whom, no biggie. But anonymously posting that stuff doesn't fly in my mind. If my post serves to prevent it from happening from all sides (since both campaigns obviously read this stuff), then I consider it a success. But the proof, as always, will be in the pudding.
Blogger Eric Mitchell said:
I'm Eric Mitchell currently the Political Director for Becky Lourey's Campaign.

Some of this I read is discouraging, some of it is expected. I've been professionally doing campaigns for a decade, mostly federal and statewide and have been lucky enough to have a pretty good success rate. It was because of the teams I've worked with.
I have never condoned, supported or participated in public bullshit attacks on Democrats. It's worthless.

I am a "MF" when it comes to Republicans? Yes, no doubt about it.

Am I critical of Democrats when I think they are acting weak, cautious, illogical or pandering? There is evidence of that. Hell, I'm an activist too. I want strong representation.

As a campaign offical/employee however, my opinion is self-silenced through November. It's the professional thing to do. Whomever we nominate, I will be in support of strongly and work for tirelessly.

I can assure you that the campaign staff is not involved in a tactical effort to smear Kelley. I wouldn't be a part of it. I've done this long enough to know that the opposition is the Republican candidate(whomever it may be).
In this game, you have to know that one year you're working against someone who may be working above/beneath/or with you in the next election. It does no good to eat your own and burn bridges for a short term gain. You make your case for your campaign, then if it works out, you reach out to the others, if it doesn't, you call them up to ask how you can be helpful in taking down the Republicans. That is the end game- a DFLer in office.

Personally, I've been nothing but congenial (sometimes downright pal-sy) to all of the campaigns, joking with Doran, congradulating Kelley on his successful organizing for the Saint Paul straw poll, and Hatch for keeping the Republicans panties in a twist. I see Steve at many events and enjoy talking to him, his wife and joking with his staff. Its not personal on this end. They are not enemies and either way, will be working together with us

You may notice that I am choosing my words with care, like the Kelley person said, we can't be completly aware of what supporters are saying, but if you lead me in their direction, I promise they'll change their tune.

What I'm observing is maybe the supporters of the campaigns getting a little antsy.

I really can't explain the source that its coming from our staff. I'm pretty much involved in most of the decisions here and found that accusation to be enlightening. I gotta beleive that someone is pulling someones chain.

For the naysayers, you can a lot of things about Becky Lourey, but there is no history of her being a mudslinger. None. It's not her style of politics or her personality.

I'll take this time to tell you that I do beleive that Becky is the best candidate running for governor. Her record, priorities, leadership and experience are solid, strong and are a testament to where she'll take this state.

We can tell that story without getting dirty. We'd better.
Blogger Eric Mitchell said:
After re-reading my post, its clear why I'm not in communications. Please excuse the many grammatical errors. Bemidji State taught me better. At least I think they did.

Feel free to email me with any concerns or comments.

Blogger MN Campaign Report said:
Thank you for taking the time to comment, Eric. I appreciate the attention this matter has gotten from all involved. As I noted in a previous comment, if these shenanigans ensure that attack-style negative campaigning within the DFl stays to a minimum going forward, I think it's a success.

I don't want to assume anything prematurely, so I'll ask the question - do your comments here make representations on your own behalf or that of the campaign? If you speak here (which I appreciate, by the way. I'll be here till Thursday. Try the veal. And the Google Ads) as a campaign rep and are officially saying that Becky and her campaign won't go negative against any DFL rival, then I'm happy to call this episode complete and we can all get about our business.
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