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BEST VILLAIN Minneapolis 2005 - Mary Kiffmeyer

Readers' Choice: Tim Pawlenty

If it's true that the current crop of new conservatives are villainous--and it's true, they are--then you've got to hand it to the state GOP for throwing sweet little Mary Kiffmeyer out there. The secretary of state is so aw-shucks Midwestern that she could have materialized from the pages Laura Ingalls Wilder. It's true that in her button-down dresses and pearls, Madame Secretary hardly cuts an imposing figure. And it's also true that there are many good candidates that spring from the same moralistic sewer hole as she does: Last year's winner David Strom (retire the jersey already), state senator and anti-gay marriage obstructionist Michele Bachmann, the self-righteous circle-jerkers over at the Powerline blog, even Governor HockeyPuck himself. The more infantile Republicans in these parts offer us an embarrassment of riches, really. But Kiffie walks off with the booby prize this time. It wasn't so much that she sent a missive to a certain little alternative weekly saying the publication might be in violation of state election laws for encouraging people to vote at a state fair booth (long story; upshot: we weren't), but that her actions seemed so curious--we thought it was the job of the secretary of state to encourage voter turnout. Madame Secretary first insisted on implementing many new (and ultimately confusing) guidelines under the federal Help America Vote Act, even though 41 states opted out for the 2004 election. (This gained her national attention, and not in a good way.) She further muddled up the election process by taking shots at election officials from Ramsey and Hennepin counties, who, it turned out, had followed the HAVA guidelines to the letter. And she placed restrictions on media access to polling booths, which were widely believed to be the most stringent in the country (the term "Freedom Fighter" comes to mind). That she goes through every controversy with an unfailingly smiling visage might mean that she believes that God is on her side. Or that she has no idea what she's doing. Either way, it's apparent that 2004 was Madame Secretary's year for villainous deeds.

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