Sunday, December 18, 2005

Remember that Democratic mayor in Minnesota who endorsed GWB, then lost his reelection fight? Our pal Isaac tells us more about Randy Kelly


DWT has persuaded a pal--of his and mine--of many ideological wars' standing to share a bit of his special journalistic perspective with DownWithTyranny readers.

Isaac drifted into journalism in the Twin Cities after he was forcibly drifted out of his previous employment by the economic forces that would eventually coalesce into the Mighty Don't-Even-Let-'em-Eat Cake Economic Engine brought to us by the people who also gave us George W. Bush as president of the U.S.A. He discovered that there was an enormous opportunity for an actual journalist in town--namely, actually covering government and politics there, rather than just lightly rewriting the pols' press handouts.

I wish he could share with you some of his splendiferous tales of raising havoc among state and local muckety-mucks by just reporting what the yo-yos said and did. He has been known to pull such dastardly tricks as attending sessions of the state legislature and telling his readers what happened there! In fact, maybe he will share some of those tales. Trust me, you won't know whether to laugh or cry.

Meanwhile, he has more to tell us about the downfall of one of the scummier specimens to adorn our political landscape in recent times, outgoing St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly. Take it away, Isaac.

Last year, GOP pundits were busting their buttons over a Democratic mayor of a large city endorsing George W. Bush for "reelection." I leave it to you why I put that word in quotation marks.

Anyway, the mayor in question was Randy Kelly, of St. Paul, MN. And he lost big in his reelection bid last month. That was widely reported nationwide, but there was a lot left out of the reports I saw. I don't think it was just the endorsement, but also missteps Kelly and his campaign made afterward. GOP pundits were pretty quiet about the aftermath of Randy Kelly's endorsement.

First, the primary election in September didn't get much coverage outside of the area that I remember.

Kelly had two major challengers: Chris Coleman, a fellow Democrat and St. Paul city council member, and Elizabeth Dickinson of the Green Party ( I've met Elizabeth and like her a lot.)

Elizabeth pulled in 19% of the vote and shocked a lot of people, especially since Kelly only pulled in 24%. Coleman got about 52%, with the rest scattered among the also-rans.

Kelly put out a campaign statement that Coleman's poor showing just demonstrated that he was incapable of energizing his liberal base, ignoring the fact that the totals also showed that Kelly hadn't been doing a lot of energizing of his own. Actually, as we saw later, Kelly did do a good deal of energizing; it was just that he fired up the people who wanted him gone.

The word was out that the election was going to be a referendum on his Bush endorsement, at least according to people responding to pollsters. Randy Kelly's abrasive "my way or the highway" style of leadership, or conservative leanings weren't doing him any favors with voters either. Kelly is as much a Democrat as Zell Miller or Joe Lieberman.

John Kerry carried solidly Democratic St. Paul last year with around 62% (or so) of the vote. Kelly had his work cut out for him, so what did he do between the September primaries and the November general elections?

1. He ran a Republican-styled campaign, repeatedly referring to his fellow Democratic opponent as a "liberal." Having his inexperienced 24-year-old son as his campaign manager probably didn't help him a lot either.

2. Holding down taxes was his main issue.

3. He sent out campaign literature featuring him being buddy-buddy with Republicans US Senator Norm Coleman (no relation to Chris) and Governor Tim Pawlenty. This was supposed to show how he can reach across the aisle and work with the other party. What it showed people, however, was that he gets along with Republicans better than Democrats.

4. His endorsements didn't include any Democrats of any consequence. In fact, he had support from Republicans former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator Coleman and Governor Pawlenty.

He did get an endorsement from one Democrat, or rather putative Democrat: former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who also endorsed Bush last year.

5. On the same day Ed Koch came to St. Paul to do a fundraiser for Kelly (at a mansion where the papers said around 50 people attended), John Kerry was in town stumping for Coleman. The papers said around 700 people were there, and early on a Monday morning.

6. There were reports that Kelly's campaign had paid a Karl Rove-related firm $40,000 for help.

7. Late in September, Kelly called a press conference where he said he was going to make an "important announcement" about the campaign. Instead, the place was packed with shills, and it was obvious that he had assembled the crowd for a campaign photo op. The media didn't appreciate it at all, and I was not able to find one positive story about him after that.

8. Kelly's "important announcement" was that he endorsed Bush "on principle" (I'll say more about that in a minute) and that people should vote from "hope, not anger." In reality, most people were planning to vote out of the "hope" of getting rid of Randy Kelly, and would have been "angry" if he held on for another term.

9. The more Kelly talked, the more he came across as a Republican. That had been a problem for him through his term. In fact, one thing that hadn't been noted much was that he was such a Democrat In Name Only, the GOP didn't run anyone against him.

The more he insisted he was a Democrat, the more he acted like a Republican. I think he misread Norm Coleman's experience. Norm had been the mayor before Kelly and was a Democrat who switched sides and was reelected anyway. The difference was that Norm was upfront about it, and enough people accepted his being forthright that he squeaked through to be reelected. A lot of people wondered why Kelly didn't just become a Republican.

He also seemed to forget that in 2001, he only won by about 400 votes, and therefore never had overwhelming support, or a mandate. He just acted like he did.

But the most important thing may have been how Kelly handled the criticisms about the Bush endorsement.

When he was asked about it--and he was asked a lot-- he stood his ground, saying he had done the right thing endorsing Bush. But he didn't stick with the same justification. One day it was that his endorsement was because it would be unwise to change commanders-in-chief in the middle of a war. This ignored that support for the war in heavily Democratic St. Paul was iffy at best.

Then he floated the notion that it was always a good idea to have friends in Washington, forgetting that those "friends" still shorted St. Paul of federal funding, guaranteeing that property taxes had to go up in order to keep the city afloat. Kelly refused to call them taxes--he used words like "fees" when the subject came up.

What it boiled down to was that:

(a) Kelly was telling the voters they were wrong and he was right.

(b) It called into further question his judgment and his priorities.

I firmly believe that, while it may not have won him the election, he might have picked up some votes if he had admitted he had made an error in judgment, or apologized for having misjudged the situation so badly. He might have picked up some support if he had vowed to keep his constituents' concerns at the top of his list of things to do, and that he would do better in the future.

Instead, he insisted that a stupid thing he did was the right thing, and in the face of evidence to the contrary, he refused to back down or admit it had been a mistake.

In the end, Randy Kelly came across as a surrogate of the Bush administration, and that was a dumb association to hold onto in a solidly Democratic city.

In the end, on election day, Kelly lost 69-31%.

I wouldn't worry about ol' Randy though: It wouldn't surprise me to find out he has a cushy future ready and waiting in the Republican Party.


I sent Isaac the text of my intro to his piece on Randy Kelly, and he worried that I had oversold him:

I'm just a guy that thought the status quo of reporting was inadequate and could do better. In this case, I thought there was a good deal that went unreported in the national media. This isn't intended to be anything more than my take on the whole thing, rather than the definitive analysis.

Well, Isaac, I agree it's sad, even pathetic, that being "a guy that thought the status quo of reporting was inadequate and could do better" constitutes a special journalistic perspective, as I described yours. But that's the reality, isn't it? Now would you please get to work sharing some of those cases-in-point with DWT readers?


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