Sunday, February 11, 2007

MN Voters Need Joe Atkins in US Senate Race

It’s Hot Stove League time for baseball fans. That time of the season when you sit around the stove talking about the next season … optimism abounds as your team has not lost a single game and the next season always looks promising … young players are expected to emerge and veterans can only get better.

Talking baseball isn’t the only game that can be discussed among friends on a chilly winter day. In fact, although the Federal Election isn’t for another 21 months, now is the time to look at the potential candidates. It is my belief that Minnesotans will not play a role in selecting the next president. By the time, Minnesota holds its caucus and primaries; the nominees will have been long been determined. Since the Presidency is based on the Electoral College, a very few states will really matter. Minnesota may not be a fly-over state, but with only ten votes, once again Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida will get the maximum attention.

That stated, elections do matter. This past November saw a sea change in the Congress. Committees determine legislative action or inaction. Cases in point, let’s consider the issue of global warming. Under the Republican controlled Senate, James Inhofe (R-OK), was the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a major foe of mandating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The November election not only brought the Democrats the Committee control but also allowed for changes in the Republican committee structure. John Warner, who is known as a moderate on environmental issues, is now the ranking Republican. An issue that was dormant under the prior Congress will now be actively debated and addressed. So, having the best representation in Congress might be the best that Minnesotans can do to influence national policy.

Although the November 2008 may seem like a long time from now - to compete against an incumbent, that is about the time that is required. Tim Walz’s successful campaign to challenge Gil Gutknecht was first reported by Mankato’s Free Press on a cold winter day in 2005. At that time, it seemed odd that someone would be thinking that far ahead, but countless county fairs, and meet-and-greets later, the First District has a new Congressman.

To me, the most interesting race will be the US Senate race. Personally, I would not be surprised if Norm Coleman got more than token competition for the Republican nomination. The former DFLer, may be too moderate for many social and fiscal conservatives. But with his campaign war-chest and incubency may be too much for Republicans to turn their backs on Coleman … if Rhode Island Republicans wouldn’t turn on Lincoln Chaffee, Norm’s got the nomination.

On the Democratic side, there is the perrienial talk about Mike Ciresi and would Ford Bell try again? Al Franken has proven to be a good fundraiser and motivator for DFL candidates. And then there are the others that are largely unknown.

Competition is good as ideas are debated, positions formulated, electability considered and best of all, voters get to meet the candidates. Amy Klobuchar was helped by the process and the competition from Patty Wetterling and Bell. Klobuchar spent time traversing the state visiting every county. Conversely, the annoitting of Mark Kennedy was a determent – he gained nothing and the voters knew only of his bio and Congressional voting record.

Ciresi, Franken and Bell may be viable candidates, but I favor those that have previous legislative experience. I am reminded of Molly Ivins’ book Shrub in which she chided why it is that so many people only want the top job … her case in point, George Bush. If Bush wanted to be in government, why start at the Governor slot? And, I agree. This past November, the Mankato area saw the retirement of three state legislators. The voters elected three people with experience on school boards or the city council. It’s those community service functions that the art of being a good legislator is learned. As one County Commissioner told me the first thing that he learned upon his election was how to count to three …. with a five seat commission, if he wanted anything, he had to get cooperation from at least two others. That on-the-job experience teaches how to listen to other’s concerns, compromise and resolve issues.

As I look at the afore mentioned candidates, that legislative experience is missing. Based on ideology, Franken might satisfy many in his party, but I need someone who can be operate within the system to advance legislation that will improve America.

If Betty McCollum wants to move up from the House, she meets my requirements.

From the Minnesota Legislature, Representative Joe Atkins of Inner Grove Heights has indicated that he is interested. I don’t know anything about Atkins – his philosophies or motivations. His bio states that he is an attorney who graduated Magna Cum Laude … impressive. His legislative website lists his press releases. First off, I noticed that he recognizes the role of our military. Specifically, his legislation that he offered in 2006 to provide body armor for the troops being deployed overseas.

Just last week, Reuters quoted the Department of Defense's inspector-general reported "Service members were not always equipped to effectively complete their missions," and here is Atkins recognizing that we have a duty to provide body armor. Once again, I am impressed.

Politicians are great at issuing press releases, but the real test is when that time of compromise is at hand … how they voted on the issues that matter. Using MPR’s Votetracker program, I find myself in agreement with him on issues that matter to me … abortion, government spending, voter ID, definition of marriage, etc. The only area that I was disappointed in was his support for stadiums, but considering that he is a U of M alumnus and represents the Twin Cities, that may have been a motivation.

As I stated, I did not know Joe Atkins before, but he is now on my radar as someone to watch. There are others that have been mentioned, such as State Senators Mee Moua and Tarryl Clark and Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner; and all should be given consideration. Remember, this is not for homecoming queen, but for who can advance the philosophies of government that you desire.

For a meaningful election, the parties need an aggressive debate on the issues with the party membership deciding the nominees, not a backdoor anointing by State and national party officials.


Anonymous said...

Joe Atkins is a good guy, but this is not his race. Not yet. Although he is known as a phenomenal fund raiser, he will not be able to keep up with Franken and Ciresi. Joe is running for name recognition. He’ll be around for the ‘10 Gov seat. Or maybe SOS if Ritchie is drafted for Gov.

San Soucri said...

Between John Lesch, Aaron Peterson, and Joe Atkins, Rep. Atkins is the best and most qualified to take on Franken and Crisei.

He knows how to raise the money needed to win but, as mentioned, will be fighting to name recognition.

I believe that 10' Governors race would be perfect for Rep. Atkins.

It would be his nomination is Franken had not gotten in.

Anonymous said...

Rep. Atkins is gaining a reputation as someone who lies to his colleagues as well as the voters. Most recently, in a 4/18/07 debate on an Omnibus Public Safety and Civil Justice Finance Bill, Rep. Atkins made claims that were later proved to be lies. The leadership of the House however took no action to correct Atkins.

Anonymous said...

Just another politician. In fact he probably wrote this article himself. I notice he's interested in bills related to forcing insurance companies to pay more and settle more quickly. What does he do for a living? He's a personal injury atty. I he weren't so busy getting insurance to pay on bogus claims then they would be able to quickly pay the legit claims! Just another politician. Self serving and self promoting.

Anonymous said...

Joe Atkins is very good at promoting Joe Atkins. Too bad he doesn't know how to do anything else.

Anonymous said...

Joe Atkins a US Congressmen or Senator? Seriously, are you high?