A tipster called today to say that the legislative assistant for my state senator, Scott Newman, sent an email to the Minnesota Nurses Association, saying that he would not be meeting with representatives of any group that had endorsed his opponent, Hal Kimball.
I'm active in one such group, so this is a concern to me, and it's certainly not what anyone in the district experienced with former Senator Steve Dille, who was always gracious to me as a constituent, regardless of where we stood on issues.
I contacted Andrea Ledger, the political organizer for the MNA, who forwarded the message sent from Newman's office:
From: Kim Kelley [email address redacted by Bluestem]
Sent: Thursday, January 20, 2011 2:00 PM
To: Eileen Gavin
Subject: [Eileen Gavin] Meeting
Kim Kelley sent a message using the contact form at [redacted]
Unfortunately, Senator Newman will not see any organizations that donated to/supported his opponent Hal Kimball. After some careful checking, I discovered that the MNA had donated to Kimball's campaign. Your association will be unable to schedule an appointment with Senator Newman.
This is also surprising because while the MNA endorsed Kimball, it did not make a contribution to his campaign, according to Ledger. Campaign finance reports for campaigns aren't due until the end of the month, but Kimball's pre-general campaign report list contributions from Education Minnesota PAC, IBEW Local 292's PAC, Laborers' Union PAC, the 49ers PAC, Minnesotans for Racino PAC, Minnesota Cable Communications Association PAC, Minnesota Farmers Union PAC, Painters Union Local No. 62 PAC, Pipefitters Local 539 PAC, PAL 9 National Association of Letter Carriers PAC, and the Minnesota State Council of HERE-UNITE PAC.
Update: Reached by phone, Hal Kimball said that the MNA did not contribute money to his campaign [end update].
Curious about whether this was a common practice, I called MFU's cheerful legislative director, Thom Petersen. In a phone interview, Petersen expressed surprise, since in his experience, most legislators "go out of their way to point out that they are meeting with a group that had not endorsed them" and try to find common ground. Frequently, the
Asked about my state representative, Silver Lake Representative Ron Shimanski, Petersen listed the common goals the conservative house memebers supports: "local foods, Minnesota Grown" and other similar programs.
Petersen said former State Senator Steve Dille was always happy to meet with MFU members and leaders. Minnesota Farmers Union members tend to be DFLers.
Does this mean that the State Senator won't talk to the McLeod County Chronicle in Glencoe, which endorsed Kimball? And is he on the fence with the Hutchinson Leader, which made no endorsement in the race at all? In "What we think of local, state races," the Hutch Leader wrote:
Sen. Steve Dille’s retirement opens up a longtime seat. We’re sad to see Mr. Dille go. Whoever wins has big shoes to fill. Scott Newman is squaring off against Hal Kimball. Mr. Newman was a state representative for half of the Senate district in the past. He earned 56 percent of the vote in 2004. Mr. Kimball faces an uphill battle as a Democrat in this part of the state. His military background and moderate tone help. The results of this election ride on what longtime Dille voters do. The pattern of county voting favors Mr. Newman. But, we might see some percentage differences since it covers two-plus counties and has not been open for so long.
Update #2: This may not be the first case in which Newman was reluctant to meet with constituents, regardless of their affiliations. The paper also noted, in reflecting on the uncontested 2010 House race in 18A:
Ron Shimanski is running unopposed for his third term. Since Bob Ness retired in 2002, the district was underserved by representatives who didn’t show up to meet voters. Mr. Shimanski has done a much better job showing up to community gatherings and meeting voters.