Thursday, April 13, 2006


Interview with Christian Sande

Fourth candidate interview, third different format - I'm not sure which is my favorite. Each (email, IM, phone) has advantages and disadvantages - talking over the phone, as I did this evening with Christian Sande, means you get a much more personal feel, you can actually have a conversation....but you have to transcribe or record as you go. And you have to have a conversation, which is (surprisingly) a lot more difficult than Instant Messaging.

Christian Sande is running for Secretary of State, and had some excellent thoughts on the race, on election law, and the issues facing the entire electorate in 2006. As much as possible, I tried to ask similar questions to those I asked Mr. Sande's DFL opponent, Mark Ritchie, but email and phone have unique dynamics


MNCR: Was there a single factor that drove you to enter this race?

C. Sande: People have been employing me for several years as their lawyer to do what they ought to be able to go to the Secretary of State for - providing basic, fundamental information about their voting rights, how to go about voting and protecting their rights.

MNCR: In your opinion, how has Secretary of State Kiffmeyer failed?

C. Sande: She's not qualified to serve. She's essentially had seven years of on-the-job training. She also comes from a partisan political background - you don't want that in the Secretary of State's office. When the Secretary of State has spent twenty years as a partisan political activist, they're automatically suspected by people on the other side of the aisle. You want everyone to be able to expect fair and honest information from the Secretary of State rather than a personal political agenda.

MNCR: Has there been any one case that stands out in your mind that influenced your decision to run?

C. Sande: I've talked about it a lot, but it's the tribal ID issue - Mary Kiffmeyer would not allow Native American tribes to vote using tribal IDs. The political motive behind her move was so brazen - she wouldn't accept tribal IDs because she said Minnesota law doesn't provide for it - but federal law does. We allow the use of tribal IDs for so many other government services, and Mary Kiffmeyer couldn't point out a single case of voter fraud using tribal IDs, and she couldn't prove that they are unreliable in any way.

MNCR: If elected, how would you treat issues surrounding companies like Diebold, who are at the center of voting "issues" in recent elections in Florida and Ohio?

C. Sande: Would you trust a voting system that Katherine Harris, Ken Blackwell, and Mary Kiffmeyer trust for use? The core issue with any voting system is the credibility of the people overseeing it. I'm worried about the trend around the nation of people with a political background, who don't have any credibility on election issues, overseeing elections.

There are really three problems that have to be solved with electronic voting [once the credibility issue is resolved].
1. Does every vote result in a paper receipt?
2. Can the system be hacked?
3. Does the system run reviewable code?
Minnesota law currently addresses the first two, but it doesn't deal with the third. We should have a law requiring that any computerized voting system use open source code that can be verified independently. If we can do that, we're getting somewhere.

But credibility has to come first. The job of the Secretary of State is to certify oting machines, not to select voting machines. Local officials should be able to choose the systems that make the most sense for their communities, and the Secretary of State can certify that those machines meet requirements. An electronic voting system isn't necessarily bad - the reason we're suspicious of it goes back to credibility.

MNCR: You've mentioned several times that the Secretary of State has to be credible with more than just the majority that elects them - but you're running as a DFLer, just as Mary Kiffmeyer runs as a Republican. How do you get from "I'm a DFLer" to "I'm going to protect your right to vote no matter what party you vote for?"

C. Sande: The fact that you're a member of a party doesn't mean it governs every decision - it's an identification of your values more than anything else. I'm an American more than anything else, and as Secretary of State I'll take an oath to uphold the Constitution.

I think my advantage is my background - what I've done as a candidate, as a lawyer, as a Minnesotan, knowing the law, knowing Minnesota, understanding issues, and resolving them in a way I think is fair. If someone's suspicious, I talk about the specifics of my plan - I will NOT run for higher office while serving as Secretary of State. Laying political groundwork, currying favor - that WON'T happen. I'll also impose a code of integrity in the Secretary of State's office - we don't have one right now. We have one for the Campaign Finance Board, but not for the Secretary of State's office. I've been working as a lawyer in election law, not pursuing a political agenda. Mary Kiffmeyer can't resist the urge to get involved in politics, whether it's a prayer breakfast in DC or the MN GOP's anti-gay CD-ROM.

MNCR: As far as the campaign process itself - will you abide by the DFL endorsement in June?

C. Sande: I will abide by the endorsement.

MNCR: Running for an office with so much non-partisanship required, will you campaign with other endorsed candidates if you get the endorsement?

The failings of Mary Kiffmeyer mirror the those of other Republicans in office. That doesn't mean I'll be running around bashing Tim Pawlenty, but their failings are the same, so I will campaign with other endorsed candidates as a united ticket.

MNCR: Off-beat question time! What/Who is your favorite:
--Ice Cream flavor: Chocolate Chip
--Baseball player: I'm torn on this one. Kirby Puckett was a great player, and stayed with Minnesota when he could have taken more money somewhere else. But I also like Shoeless Joe Jackson. There are so many great characters in the story of the Black Sox, and Jackson really was victimized in a lot of ways. All he ever wanted to do was play the game.
--National Political Figure: Historically, Robert F. Kennedy - he was incredibly smart, hard-working, he was truly in the game to accomplish something good. Currently, I really like Ted Strickland in Ohio.
--Local Political Figure: Koryne Horbal - she founded the DFL feminist caucus, she was appointed by President Carter as an ambassador to the United Nations - but she still collects money and serves food at events around Minnesota. She should be an inspiraton because she's realized change in her lifetime - it's easy for us to forget that before her work on Ms. Magazine in the 70's, "Ms." just wasn't a recognized title for a woman.
--Local Blog: I like to read local high school and college student blogs, especially from Greater Minnesota. When I was first contacted David and Andy from MinnesotaBlue, I told them to give me a call next time they were in the Twin Cities...they told me "well, we're 15 - we can't drive." I was really surprised by that, because they're smart, articulate writers.
--National Blog: Election Law Blog.


We shot the breeze for a few minutes, and I let him get back to the business of the campaign. According to Mr. Sande, the fundraising process is going well, the delegate chase is going well. This is one race that will have a DFL candidate in June. As I mentioned, I will soon update the links so you can compare and contrast candidates before the State Convention. To all a good night. Leave your thoughts at the tone.

Blogger Christopher said:
Shoeless Joe?! He took the gamblers' money. That he was too dumb to know what he was doing doesn't matter.

My favorite player from the Black Sox is Bucky Weaver, who didn't take money but still got tossed with the crooked players.

A bit off topic, but I couldn't help myself...
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