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A mud-free campaign in House District 38B?

class=img_thumbleft>It's not often that we bite on a press release, but the one sent out today by Mike Obermueller is worth a mention. Obermueller, who has been endorsed by the DFL to run against two-term Republican incumbent Lynn Wardlow in House District 38B in Eagan, wants the statewide parties to stay out of the race. Furthermore, he says he'll disavow any DFL-backed effort to distort Wardlow's record.

 

Now there's obviously a lot of wiggle room in that--one party's distortion is another party's "examination of the record"--but Obermueller is correct in identifying the statewide party apparatus (and in statewide races, the national party honchos) as wielder of cookie-cutter style attack ads. It helps "coordinate the message" and keeps the candidate from looking like his or her hands are dirty. The problem is that both sides do it in earnest and the process is frequently cheapened.

Here's what Obermueller says in his press release: "What the caucuses do is develop these hit pieces and send them out all over Minnesota. By engaging in deceptive practices and focusing on the negative, they're cheapening the debate and turning people off. This is why people don't like politics...

"I can't speak for Mr. Wardlow, but I think he'd agree that Minnesota faces some exciting opportunities as well as some serious challenges. The voters deserve to hear us address those issues."

Obermueller's stance is particularly praiseworthy for a number of reasons. He is a first-time candidate, and newcomers frequently need to be harsher and louder in order to break through against incumbents. He is not a sacrificial lamb; indeed, this is a competitive district that Wardlow won by just 1500 votes two years ago, getting slightly less than 54 percent of the more than 20,000 votes cast.

A glance at Obermueller's website finds him to be an incredibly babyfaced candidate who doesn't look that much older than his two sons (aged 10 and 12). The second of six adopted children, he grew up on a dairy farm and his mother taught school for 40 years. A look at the issues portion of his website shows him to be a fairly moderate DFL-er.

It will be interesting to see if Wardlow--who was one of the co-sponsors of the anti-gay marriage bill and has cast key votes in favor of builidng ballparks with public money without a refendum-- decides to match Obermueller's classy gesture and keep the debate local and on focus between these two candidates.