The Owatonna People's Press looks at the tone of the SD26 special election campaigns. Opening paragraphs:
OWATONNA — Between “Twittergate,” famous party bigwigs and Franni Franken’s pie, the race for Senate District 26 has been anything but typical, even for a special election.
State elections in District 26 are often a sleepy affair, with well-known incumbents sliding into victory with little contention. Not so this time around. The campaign trail has been on fire — candidates had just one month to make their case — and tense, even ugly at times.
I didn't get a chance to attend the January 14 SD26 candidate forum sponsored by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and the U.S. Highway 14 Partnership, so I didn't hear what Mayor Srp said about political mud-slinging and Mike Parry's shifting position on selling Maplewood Park in 2005.
But the Owatonna People's Press's energetic reporter Clare Kennedy was there, and she reports in her analysis, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (also appearing online at another chain paper in SD26 in Faribault, but under different headline):
For his part, Srp frequently criticized partisan bickering between the DFL and GOP.
“My two opponents don’t have a clue as to what’s going to happen to them in the next week. I do. It happened to me. As we go into the homestretch, the DFL is going to be saying that Mike Parry is a liar — his tweets and all that other stuff — you mark my words and watch,” Srp said at a forum on Jan. 14. “As a matter of fact, Mike Parry wanted to develop Maplewood Park in Waseca and 1,500 signatures came in saying don’t do that. I want those 1,500 people to vote for me because he wanted to do that and after that happened he turned around and said ‘No, I just wanted to bring attention to Maplewood Park.’ That was a lie. He wanted to develop it.” [emphasis added]
This is fascinating. While decrying a hypothetical attack by the DFL on Parry as a liar, Srp preempted that move by saying Parry lied about his proposed resolution on Maplewood Park.
That's strong language, stronger than those words I used here on Bluestem when I researched and wrote up the issue after a concerned Waseca resident told me about the incident.
In my second post, Update on Maplewood Park story: more Mike Parry backtracking, I pointed out that:
This sort of behavior--say something, then excuse himself of responsibility--looks like the hallmark of Parry's leadership style.
This characteristic was clearly evident in the last few days, when Parry changed his story several times about who wrote and who deleted his offensive tweets before half-heartedly apologizing under fire yesterday afternoon. (The remarkably bad press might have had something to do with that).
Parry's actions aren't those of a leader--and the Maplewood Park episode is only one of several incidents that make it easy to conclude why voters decisively kicked him out of city office after one term.
In the earlier post, From Waseca's back pages: Mike Parry and Maplewood Park, I made a similar point. However, Mayor Srp has worked with Parry and may know him better than a blogger casually observing the scene. Srp and I joked after the first forum about Parry having a "tell" but I'm not sure if any DFL literature or spokester ever said that Parry lies or is a liar. I will look into that.
As for other bloggers using that discourse, none of the political parties has been able to muzzle free speech, nor is it clear any of them wish to do so.
An IP party official, Diane Goldman did post a link on Srp's Facebook Page to Think Progress's Twittergate story, so it's not as if the IP hasn't joined in this game as well. Nor do I think that the party offical was wrong to do so. Why shouldn't Srp's fans know about the character of one of his opponents?
One factual caveat on Kennedy's story. She writes:
A Web site called Minnesota Democrats Exposed took aim at Engbrecht, sending someone with a camcorder to all of his public appearances. The site used the footage to put forward what Engbrecht called “gross, misleading statements” about his attendance and actions on the Faribault school board.
While MDE has indeed posted footage of Engbrecht on the campaign trail, that footage is not shot by people employed by Minnesota Democrats Exposed. The trackers at Engbrecht events are employees and interns of the MNGOP; Luke Hellier does not identify what his source for the video is. Perhaps he might do so in order to prevent potential confusion about whether his blog is a part of the MNGOP.
Moreover, Kennedy's own newspaper reported on Engbrecht's entire statement about his own record, which he made at a meet and greet at the Owatonna Dunn Brothers. While the MDE Youtube--with footage most likely shot by a paid MNGOP operative--cuts Engbrecht off in mid-sentence, the OPP's reporter, Wendy Reuer, has much more integrity:
“I have not missed a single (regular) school board meeting,” Engbrecht said. He did say that he has missed special meetings, which are often called at the last minute and organized when at least four of the school board members can attend.
Across the Great Divide blogger Charlie Quimby pointed out:
"Missed 40% of special board meetings" — The Board held five special board meetings in 2009. Engbrecht missed two where the only agenda item was whether to expel a particular student. In each, the vote to expel was unanimous. Failing to add one more vote here hardly seems like a dereliction of duty, but "special" board meetings do sound special.
"Missed 60% of votes in 2010" — That may be true. But there's only been one special working session for the Board so far this year. It was a basic housekeeping meeting that included things like electing officers, committee assignments and naming the local paper as the official school publication source. Since the minutes haven't been posted yet, it's difficult to see which votes were missed at a meeting Engbrecht attended.
Fact: Engbrecht attended every single work session and business meeting held by the school board in 2009. If I were a taxpayer, that's what I'd care about.
And if I were a voter, I would never trust a single "fact" being pushed by these characters.
Quimby also notes that the Faribault School Board puts its minutes online--and links to it so that his readers can check the public record themselves:
Fortunately, the Board of Education makes its minutes available to fact checkers like me as well as oppo-slime specialists like Hellier (who does not link to his source, but shows two snapshots of Engbrecht's rarely empty chair).
Kennedy mentions in her analysis that Parry's critics have cited his poor attendance record while on the Waseca City Council:
On the Republican end, Parry’s critics have also charged that he was frequently missed at Waseca council meetings as well.
I plead guilty, having researched this topic by reading articles about it on the OPP's sister paper, the Waseca County News. In Looking at Republican contenders in SD26: Waseca's Mike Parry,
. . .Back in October 2008, the Waseca County News reported in Meeting attendance by council members varies:
WASECA — At least once a year, the attendance figures for Waseca’s council, boards and commissions are tallied to see where members stand. At a recent council meeting, Waseca City Council member Robin Terrell asked for the 2008 numbers.
She said she requested the information because she thinks it is very important for elected officials to be present at city council meetings whenever possible.
“Our job is to represent the citizens and you can’t do that job well when you’re not at meetings,” she said.
Mayor Roy Srp, who is seeking the Independence Party endorsement for the seat, missed only one of nineteen meetings in the period that ran from January through September 2008.
The worst attendance? According to the article, "council member Mike Parry was absent from five of the 19 meetings."
The article also noted 20 work sessions held by the city council. It reported "perfect attendance for Srp and only one absence for Johansen, Clemons, Terrell and Coy."
Parry? The WCN reported:
Parry with seven absences.
“All of it was due to travel for my work,” said Parry of meetings missed in 2008. ...
Parry's attendance at board or commission meetings:
• 67 percent Joint Government Board; 50 percent EDA; 100 percent Traffic Safety Board
This factual material--which is a matter of public record and solid reporting by the local paper in 2008-- has indeed come up in the campaign. Why shouldn't it?
As I noted back in December:
The 2008 WCN article included the city charter's expectations for attendance:
According to Chapter 31 of Waseca City Code, “To ensure maximum representation and allow for orderly conduct of business, the City Council requires all board and commission appointees to attend a minimum of 75 percent of the annual scheduled meetings.”
A staff member is required to report membership attendance to the council by each January, according to the code. The code also says that “extraordinary circumstances such as serious illness” would be considered to waive the requirement.