Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 8, 2000 · Page 12
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Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota · Page 12

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Wednesday, March 8, 2000
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PAGE A12 STAR TRIBUNE SUPER MSDAYCAMPAIGH TRAIL WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8 2000 2000 M epondGnce raw poll goes cCain's way J i -t' A If f V -- - -- - ' Ti m .,, ' J? , J "-"o -'rtoit-!..- . At a precaucus gathering, Gov. Jesse Ventura urges the onetime Reformers to build the party, ev en if it happens slowly: "Maybe in five or 10 years down the road, maybe we'll have an Independence Party of America." By Dane Smith and Chuck Haga Star Tribune Staff Writers Minnesota's newly christened Independence Party displayed its independence Tuesday by favoring Republican contender John McCain over national Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan in early returns of a straw poll of precinct caucus attendees. Just five days ago, the Independence Party was part of the national Reform Party. But at the urging of Gov. Jesse Ventura, a strong critic of Buchanan's conservative agenda, it seceded from the national group and renamed itself last weekend. With 87 of 134 legislative districts counted, McCain was getting about 40 percent of the caucus attendees' support. A distant second was John Hagelin, a Natural Law Party candidate from Iowa, with 15 percent. Buchanan was well back in the pack, with less than 10 percent of the straw poll vote. About 20 percent of the voters were uncommitted or made write-in entries. There already is a Ventura-McCain affinity, at least in Ventura's eyes. In Washington, D.C., last week, Ventura, who has adamantly said he is not a candidate for president this year, said he would have to "listen" if McCain asked him to be a vice presidential running mate. Before caucuses officially started Tuesday night, Ventura urged his fellow Independence Party members to "pull our boots up" and build the now-isolated state party into a national political force. "We are on our own here in Minnesota, and I came to lend support," Ventura told about 125 caucus-goers who met at Edina High School for a brown-bag dinner before caucuses began. Independence Party's straw poll Ballot results as of 1220 pm. 87 out of 134"legislative district caucuses reporting. Robert M. Bowman 8 i Bill Bradley " " 13 1 777 Harry Browne 0 j Pat Buchanan 29 7 George W. Bush 23 ; 5 Harvey Carroll 0 Daniel Clay 0 ! Charles E Collins XX2 X Kenneth G. Dixon 0 : Al Gore 1X79": "X John Hagelin X 7777 65 " 157 Greg Hollister 0 X7 Scott M. Kendall X" 2 ; X. Alan Keyes 3 j LorenzKraus 2 John McCain "ltol 40 Ralph Nader 11 " Christina Rosetti 4 Erik Thompson 0 j George D. Weber 1 ; UncommittedWrite-in 87 ': 20 Source: Independence Party of Minnesota The party, which is still trying to establish itself as more than a one-time, one-candidate wonder in Minnesota politics, was scheduled to hold about 134 caucuses one for each of the state House legislative districts. By contrast, the DFL and Republican parties try to get at least one person to attend caucuses for each of 4,000 election precincts, although both parties usually end up well short of the goal. The total votes cast in Tuesday's straw polls underscore how tenuous the Independence Party's claim to major-party status is. Republicans appeared likely to cast more than 20,000 votes, compared to probably fewer than 1,000 for the Independents when all the votes are counted. Seeking more successes Though the Independence Party, then the Minnesota Reform Party, burst onto the national scene with Ventura's astounding victory in the 1998 gubernatorial election, the party has yet to convert its prominence into more victories. None of its legislative candidates either in the 1998 House elections or a handful of special legislative elections since then has managed to win. Ventura, in his remarks to the caucus participants, said success would be slow in coming. "Maybe in five or 10 years down the road, maybe we'll have an Independence Party of America," he said. He also urged participants to keep their spirits high and to have fun but to keep their expectations low in the upcoming state legislative races. "We're not going to win a tremendous number of races this year," he said. "If we could win six to eight to 10 of those, that would be huge." But Ventura himself has been criticized for not doing more to help build his party. Alan Shilepsky, a parry platform committee chairman who has been openly critical of what he perceives as Ventura's weak efforts toward party-building, offered this analysis: "Instead of a building year, it's been a self-destruction year. There's been fault on all sides, partly because people were jockeying for control and power rather than keeping an eye on the ball." Ventura's supporters say he just isn't a terribly political person. "To a certain degree, you could call Governor Ventura apolitical," said Independence Party chairman Rick McCluhan. Even Doug Friedline, head of Ventura's campaign committee, said he "would like to see Ventura more engaged." But Friedline said there is plenty of time before the November election for that to happen. Ventura did little to publicly encourage participation in the party's caucuses Tuesday night, saying earlier in the afternoon that voting was more important than participating in party activities or joining a party. And at Edina High School, the governor said he had his doubts about the caucus process. "Oftentimes the people at the caucuses are out of touch with the general public. That may be the downside to caucuses you get the activists," he said. Ventura did not stay to attend his own legislative district caucus at the Edina site. He left before 7 p.m., after pointing to St. Paul businessman Stan Donnelly, a leading advocate for unicameralism, and telling the audience that he and Donnelly had work to do on the governor's unicameral legislative proposal. They looked for inspiration courtside. By 7:25 p.m., Ventura and Donnelly were at Target Center to watch the Timberwolves play the Washington Wizards. Party members In St. Paul, at the Rondo Education Center, where all the St. Paul Independence Party caucuses were combined, about 40 people attended, up slighdy from two years ago, said the presiding convener, Phil Fuehrer. Among the new people was Dede Wolfson, a long-time Republican activist who said she suddenly realized that she no longer was voting for Republicans. A moderate who supported candidates such as former Gov. Arne Carlson and Judi Dutcher, the state auditor who defected recently to the DFL Party, Wolf-son said she thinks "a strong third party would be really good for the country." At Edina High School, Bob De-sannoy said Ventura's unicameral proposal was one of the things that drew him to the fledgling party. Desannoy, 57, of Golden Valley, said he left the Republican Party because of the religious right's influence. He was among the party delegates who voted Saturday to change the Reform Party's name to the Independence Party and to quit the national Reform Party. Desannoy said the party must focus on winning more legislative elections. "We have to get some legislators," he said. "It will be hard to have success without that, even with Jesse." District caucuses When the party broke into district caucuses at the high school, most were small. In District 44B, the caucus was Bob Verdich, 61; Ryan Scott, 23, and Cynthia Nehrbass, 33, all from St. Louis Park. "This isn't bad," Verdich said. "I thought maybe nobody would come, and I wound up with two new people!" The three puzzled over how to elect 10 delegates to the party's state convention, their district's allotment. "Does that mean we're all in as delegates?" Scott asked. "All Chairman Bob Verdich explained the caucus process Tuesday to first-time attendees Cynthia Nehrbass, left, and Ryan Scott, all three of St Lou-Is Park. They were the only ones to show at Edina High School for District 44B. "This Isn't bad," Verdich said. "I thought maybe nobody would come, and I wound up with two new people!" Scott said that he decided to come after the Reform Party decided to become the Independence Party, splitting from the national Reform Party. Star Trbune photo by Judy Griesedieck right!" All three declared themselves uncommitted in the presidential race, and they were pleased by Ventura's suggestion that they focus on local races and building the state party. "I'm excited about not worrying about the national scene for a while," Scott said. "I feel removed from the mud-slinging. It's absolutely the right move for us to focus on the state level now." Nehrbass, who has a daughter with special needs, said she's concerned about funding for education. She'd also like to influence the party's position on gun control toward more control. "I've always had opinions," she said. "I've never been able to say them. It's scary, being one of only a few here, but it feels really good to talk." For Scott, "the make or break thing is I'm gay," he said. "The turning point for me with Jesse was when I heard him asked, 'Would you protect the rights of gay people?' And he said, 'Absolutely! Love is bigger than the government.' "The Republicans hate gay people, and the Democrats just make promises to gay people. So the important thing for me is how is it with this party?" Verdich reassured him. "I'm gay, too," he said. "I chose this party because they're open." A heady day for Ventura-backed Senate candidate S I C ix'n . VM7 r I : :' . , t ' '' , , :., Star Tribune photo by Judy Griesedieck James Gibson, at the Independence caucus In Edina, has reason to look relaxed. He's unopposed for the party's Senate endorsement By Bill McAulrffe Star Tribune Staff Writer James Gibson got the biggest endorsement of his short political career Tuesday, and it went straight to his head. "I'm frazzled," the Independence Party's U.S. Senate candidate told nearly 40 people at a party caucus in St. Paul, shortly after Gov. Jesse Ventura had introduced him at an earlier event as "the best man for the job." Gibson, 46, a software developer from Edina who's making his first venture into politics, quickly pulled himself together to answer questions on Social Security, foreign policy and global warming, before heading off to yet another caucus at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis. "It went well," he said of his first two stops. "I'm getting more comfortable." At a gathering before an Independence Party caucus at Edina High School, Ventura sparked applause, when he said, "We've got the best Senate candidate right here." Then he added, "I say that because Tim Penny's not running." Penny, who recently dropped out of the crowded DFL race for party endorsement, has been a Ventura ally and was once seen as a possible ReformIndependence Party candidate for Senate. In any event, Gibson said he was grateful for both Penny's move and Ventura's words. "I'm blown away," he said of the gubernatorial nod, adding, "I've always had Tim Penny in mind. I've seen my competition now, and I think they're all beatable." At this point, Gibson has the luxury of an unopposed run to his party's endorsement, which will be conferred at the state convention this summer.He also agrees on several major issues with Ventura. He favors free trade and legal, but regulated, marijuana, and he's critical of continuing large federal subsidies to family farms. Unlike incumbent Republican Sen. Rod Grams, Gibson does not support major tax cuts, which he calls irresponsible. He would prefer to use the federal budget surplus to pay down the national debt. Unlike the DFLers, he does not favor big increases in spending on health and education programs. He and Grams both favor privatizing Social Security, that is, allowing individuals to manage their own accounts. Gibson is showing his position on campaign finance reform by refusing to accept money from political action committees. He favors a voluntary program of public funding (with a $2 match for every $1 raised) for congressional candidates who limit spending and raise 75 percent of their donations from within their own state. He would ban national parties from accepting or spending soft money. Gibson said the prospect of paying off the national debt with a surplus is what motivated him to begin running for office last March. "I was afraid the opportunity was going to get squandered," he said. "A major tax cut would destroy that opportunity." At the Rondo Education Center in St. Paul, Jack Rossbach, 50, of St. Paul, had never heard of Gibson before the caucus. Rossbach said he was encouraged by Gibson's stand on the need to address global warming but disappointed in his approach toward addressing poverty through general economic vitality. "It's anybody's field," Rossbach said. "I think he's a reasonable person who handles himself well, but I'm shopping around." Major status in hand, Constitution Party holds its first caucuses By Conrad deFlebre Star Tribune Staff Writer Sometime before the resolutions to abolish public education and to respect states' rights to secede from the union were adopted, Rich Williams explained how he came to convene one of the Constitution Party's first-ever Minnesota caucuses. "It was by accident," he told 1 1 other caucus-goers Tuesday night at the Burn-haven public library in Burnsville. "1 sent in for information on the Constitution Party and ended up convening this caucus." Like most Constitution adherents, Williams is a former Republican who considers the GOP too liberal, especially on abortion. Originally called the Taxpayers Party when founded in 1992, the party changed its name last year. "It's more than just a pro-life party, as some people think," said Williams, of Savage. "It's pro-gun and pro-military. It's all in there." In 1998, the Constitution Party of Minnesota attained official major-party status when its first statewide candidate, Patricia Becker, got more than 116,000 votes for state auditor, well above the necessary 5 percent. By achieving major-party status, the party can hold precinct caucuses and its candidates get automatic ballot access. But thai doesn't mean it automatically has the trappings or influence of more established parties. The Burnhaven cau cus was one of only 28 for the party statewide, and it was open to people from six counties. Each of the 12 people who showed up automatically became a delegate to the state convention in June, Williams said. And, although the party is practically brand new, it already is facing infiltration. Three of the 12 Burnhaven participants said they were really supporters of the national Reform Party and presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. The three cast straw ballots for Buchanan over Howard Phillips, the Constitution presidential nominee in 1992, in 1996 and by vote of a national convention last year in 2000, too. Phillips attracted 3,416 Minnesota votes in 1996 and 184,820 nationwide. Tuesday night's public education and secession resolutions were offered by Mark Anderson, of Apple Valley, and adopted with little opposition. Usually, he said, "people call people like myself extremists." But for one night, at least, he was in like-minded company. The party's platform affirms "our full submission and unshakeable faith in our Savior and Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ." It opposes abortion under any circumstances and vows to appoint judges who "publicly acknowledge and commit themselves to the legal personhood of the pre-born child." It also opposes the United Nations, all U.S. international trade and financial agreements, the civil service system ana all government welfare. According to the platform, the party also would abolish the U.S. Department of Education, the Federal Reserve and the Internal Revenue Service and return the nation to a gold-and-silver monetary standard. And it would repeal the federal Voting Rights Act, wetlands legislation and the Endangered Species Act. Constitution candidates must pledge support for the entire platform, Williams said. So far, the party has backed only one Minnesota hopeful, Dick Kimbler in the Sixth Congressional District. But it is looking for more. "Basically, if you want to run for an office, they'll put you on the ballot," Williams said.

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