DFLers Are Cheap
Mulling over the campaign-finance reports filed by the two candidates who survived the March 16 Hennepin County Board primary, Off Beat discovered an interesting little maxim: Money might buy you a lot of things, but it doesn't go very far with the voters of District Three. By the March 1 reporting deadline, Republican Peter Bell had spent some $41,000 on a special-election campaign for the seat representing St. Louis Park and much of South Minneapolis, while DFLer Gail Dorfman had shelled out a mere $8,700. Translated to dollars per vote, that means each of the 4,800 votes Dorfman ultimately pulled in cost less than two, while Bell lavished almost fourteen dollars on each of his 3,033 supporters. Why the difference? Well, offers Bell, DFLers outnumber Republicans in the district about three to one; besides, "she's a current officeholder as mayor of St. Louis Park, so she has a built-in advantage." The TCF Bank vice president also warns that Off Beat's calculations are "a disservice to your readers" because they don't include the expenditures made by others--political parties, activist groups, unions--on the candidates' behalf. Indeed, Off Beat would love to include that information, but under current state law, independent expenditures don't have to be revealed until the end of the year. Meanwhile, what will both candidates do with their substantial bank balances? Well, says Dorfman, between now and the March 30 polling date, "We have the opportunity to contact each of the voters with phone calls--maybe several times--and between two and three pieces of mail." Off Beat can hardly wait.
As the candidates' debate schedule kicks into high gear, chances are Bell will keep needling Dorfman for taking money from PACs and labor unions, including the ones that represent county workers. "How in good conscience can anyone conduct labor negotiations with the taxpayer in mind when you have received substantial contributions from the people you're negotiating with?" he asks. Counters Dorfman: "I suppose if I wanted to--and I wouldn't--I could say, 'Well, you have Sheriff Pat McGowan's endorsement, so how are you going to deal with policy and budget issues that affect the sheriff's department?" If Off Beat wanted to, and it wouldn't, it could say that these two have mastered Political Rule #1: Never let logic get in the way of an argument.
Franson 2000: The Untold Story
The heavies are already lining up for a chance to unseat Republican senator Rod Grams in 2000. Former U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug officially proclaimed his "zest" for the race last week. Among other names being bandied about are DFL moneybag Vance Opperman, anti-tobacco lawyer Michael Ciresi, and state auditor Judi Dutcher. But one candidate is claiming that a far-reaching journalistic plot has kept word of his candidacy out of the mainstream media. In response to a Star Tribune story about Lillehaug's announcement, the tireless Dick Franson chided Strib writer Dane Smith for omitting his name. "For your information, I was the first male to announce my candidacy for U.S. Senate," Franson huffed in a letter to Smith that doubled as his latest press release. Smith says there was nothing sinister behind the omission: "Speaking just for myself," he notes, "I know I'm not capable of pulling off a decent conspiracy." He says he enjoys talking to Franson, but that "his track record doesn't suggest that he's a viable candidate." Franson, who came in third in the DFL primary for Secretary of State last fall, contends that lack of news coverage is partly to blame for the many electoral losses he has endured since serving on the Minneapolis City Council in the 1960s. Looking back at last year's campaign, he says, "Coulda won that there, if they hadn't blacked a lot of my coverage out."
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