Before it disappears behind the paper's subscription firewall, here's a story from today's Rochester Post-Bulletin about shifts in Rochester's political winds:
By Matt Stolle
Richard Hall recently attended a rally for DFL senate candidate Amy Klobuchar, and as he scanned the room at Daube's Bakery in Rochester, he couldn't help but notice a political trend.
Many of the people there had once been Republicans.
Hall was in a position to know. A retired IBM engineer, Hall's life in many ways had followed the same political arc as many of the 40 to 50 Rochester residents gathered in the bakery that day.
A one-time moderate Republican, Hall abandoned the GOP many years ago after it, in his opinion, went from being "fiscally conservative and socially liberal to socially conservative and fiscally out of control." He now considers himself a moderate Democrat.
"Back in the days when there was a moderate ring of the Republican Party in town, I was a moderate, as were a lot of what you now call pro-choice people," Hall said. "As the party became very pro-life, or anti-abortion, that sort of split things up."
Hall's story is one example of a region in political flux. For decades, the Rochester area was considered reliably Republican territory, a region of GOP stalwarts who for decades loyally voted for the party of Lincoln. But two years ago, Rochester's political foundations were shaken with the election of two Democrats, Tina Liebling and Andy Welti, to the Legislature. Suddenly, Rochester was an area very much in political play.
For some, this is what the 2006 election is about: Was the beachhead established in Rochester by the DFL Party two years ago a transitory phenomenon or a launching pad for a political transformation?
"I think we're going to find out," said Ray Ricketts, a retired IBMer who also defected from the Republican party several years ago. "I was as surprised as you were at the last election with the change of the two House seats."
Political prognostications about Rochester's future depend on who you ask.
Sandy Keith, a former lieutenant governor and state Supreme Court judge, says the flow of political converts is moving both ways across the aisle but is probably creating a net gain for Democrats.
As Rochester's moderate Republicans have abandoned their party to vote independent or embrace the Democratic Party, others have left the Democratic Party, disenchanted with what they see as party's embrace of gay marriage and support for abortion.
"I sense it (political switching) in both directions," Keith said.
Faye Eggenberger, a Rochester homemaker, said she was a Democrat. When she moved to Rochester, it was her policy to vote for whomever she considered the best candidate. As the parties became more polarized, she turned into a straight party-line voter for the GOP.
"I have to now because of (the DFL party's) pro-choice and gay and lesbian and immigrant (stands), so they don't give me a choice," she said.
We're wondering when Faye Eggenberger was a Democrat; she was trotted out in 2004 to talk to MPR for the article "Cheney stays on the offensive in Rochester visit." Back then she said:
"I have two sons in the military, and I need them to be protected. I'm pro-life and I don't want same-sex marriage. . . ."
Interesting to see the shift in talking points from the military to immigration.