Rice County DFL Convention

The last day of March, Rice County  DFL delegates gathered at the Northfield Middle School to debate, deliberate and elect officers and delegates. They also listened to candidates offer speeches. Congressman Tim Walz gave a rousing speech that had delegates on their feet.  Most of the county is now represented by Rep. Walz in the First District, and it used to be that way prior to the 2002 redistricting. I for one would be proud to be represented by this veteran who also served his community as a teacher and coach. But Northfield remains in the Second Congressional District.

A fellow Northfielder, Patrick Ganey has thrown his hat in the ring for that office, hoping to win the DFL endorsement to run against Congressman John Klein.  I am seeking the endorsement of House District 20B DFLers in a convention that will happen May 1st in Montgomery.  But many of the delegates in attendance at the Rice County convention are also delegates to that convention. Following is the message I delivered to them to win their support:

Powerful forces are working against us — they’re working against you and they’re working against me. It is the powerful and not so invisible hand of corporate America. With scare tactics, they’ve weakened the power of unions. Through the courts, they established their rights as faux persons, their money as speech and finally the insistence that they can say anything they please. This enables them to seize control of state legislatures and governorships across the country.

Their goal, no matter what they say to the contrary, is to destroy our middle class economy. They learned how to seize pensions through bankruptcy and hostile buyouts.  Now they are setting their sights on the benefits and pensions
of state workers and teachers. They shut down plants and shipped jobs overseas to free themselves of regulations and responsibilities to their workers. In the 1990s for example U.S. multinational corporations shed 2.9 million employees and hired 2.7 foreign workers. Right now in Minnesota and North Dakota at Crystal sugar they lock out union workers and refuse to negotiate and won’t accept agreement on even the original terms they offered.

They push their agenda through their political arm ALEC, the American
Legislative Exchange Council. They blame government and taxes for every evil while at the same time demanding bailouts and payments at every turn of the economy. Their political and economic power increases every day.

When Pawlenty was Governor he raided every account, took money from schools, technical colleges, every licensing board, every agency so that he would not have to raise taxes on his wealthy friends or be blamed for destroying our infrastructure. He almost came to his senses when the 35w bridge fell into the Mississippi. But then, after a stiff talking to from his buddies, he insisted he would only raise transportation revenue if he got a tax cut for the wealthy. He wanted a direct transfer of public wealth into the private hands of his friends and was willing to hold our safety hostage to get it done. Only a veto over ride by the legislature changed that.

In the same way, corporate bosses like the Koch brothers want to destroy
government, undermine its power, and steal its public wealth so that it
can no longer enforce the principles of a society that has the ability to create a middle class and protect our democracy. You can’t have a democracy without a middle class!

Have you seen my little booklet “The Middle Class Amendment”?  In it, I put myself on record to return our state and our country to the principles that made us great. I believe we must invest in our people.  I believe each and every one of us deserves an opportunity to make his or her life better and contribute in the best way they can to our common good. But if we continue down the path we are going, we will lose these ideals and, worse yet, the chance to get them back.

Last week I was in Washington DC and I walked up and down the Mall visiting the various memorials to the fallen soldiers and the great leaders.  I was moved by the inspiring quotes and studied the enduring stone and bronze statues. The symbols of our democracy seem secure and long lasting but across the mall in the Capitol and on the steps of the supreme court you wonder if men and women working there have forgotten that government should serve the people.

You may remember Northwest Airlines CEO Richard Anderson resigned in
2004 to take another lucrative job, with a major health insurance company. He left a company that was headed for bankruptcy and eventual sale to Delta. In spite of Northwest’s troubles, however, Mr. Anderson, like other top executives at Northwest, was covered by three generous company pensions. Anderson cashed his in for a lump-sum payment of $3,028,700. Northwest’s workers had a much harder landing. Half of their jobs were eliminated outright. The survivors saw their traditional guaranteed pensions morph into 401(k) plans funded at what amounted to $85-a-month for every year they worked. At that rate, Anderson’s 14 years with the airline would have resulted in a contribution of $1,190 per month toward a decidedly more modest retirement.

Christine, a flight attendant I know, stayed with Delta. In the transition,
Christine lost her union, most of her pension, had her wages cut, and lost seniority standing. She supported her dwindling income with a job as a waitress at a posh country club. Approaching 65, Christine was hoping her pension would provide an acceptable retirement.  Instead, it provides her $200 a month and no health insurance. The waitress job helped for a while, but then came the recession and that income dwindled as well. Christine was at a loss for what she might do. She wonders, “What has this country come to?”

“What has this country come to?” I’m sure I’m not alone in being troubled by Christine’s question. For the past several years, I’ve been trying to come to terms with the changes we need in our political system to make sure our society and economy can work for all of us.

– This is why I carried the Minnesota Health Plan in the Minnesota House
that would make sure every citizen had access to quality affordable health care.

– It’s why I introduced legislation to promote the development of renewable energy that would create jobs and make it possible for home-owners and schools to be able to afford to make use of solar and wind energy.

– It’s why my first bill the governor signed was to reinstate funding for
early childhood and after school programs. Early childhood education,
experts tell us, brings us the greatest return on our investment

– It is why I stood up to powerful utility lobbyists to push through legislation to protect homeowners from unfair compensation for land used for power and pipelines. I worked with Sen. Dahle to get bi-partisan support and it passed with strong votes in both the House and Senate.

– It is why I introduced legislation protecting homeowners from foreclosure and why I want to go back to the legislature and make sure that government works for everyone.

-This is why I am running for endorsement for the Minnesota House — why
it is imperative for those of us who believe in democracy to once again be put in charge of it. I want to join Governor Dayton in making Minnesota better for all of us. Let no one forget: “We all do better when we all do better!

I still have a campaign committee and am well on my way to raising the funds needed to run a winning campaign.  But last year taught all of us a bitter lesson. They can spend all the money they want to elect the candidates they choose. They did it to me, no, TO US, in the last election, and they can do it again.

Only organized people can beat organized money.  Yes, let’s raise enough to fight back.  But let’s do what money can’t do.  Let’s stand up and fight back!

I would be honored to have your endorsement.  You can count on me to represent each and every one of you – every single day I am in office.  But I can only win if I can count on you. So, I ask you: if you can stand – stand with me, if you can talk – talk to your neighbors, if you can walk – walk with me, and let’s take back our state government.

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