Editorial: Our recommendations for the Nov. 2 vote
8th District Congress: Jim Oberstar (D)
Immediately after the tornado hit Wadena, Congressman Jim Oberstar reminded us that government does have a role, and sometimes it can act swiftly to help.
Oberstar has long championed Wadena's desire to get the four-lane U.S. Highway 10 project done, and as the chairman of the transportation committee, he's a man who can get us there.
But Oberstar has also helped Wadena gain federal funding for a railroad spur that helped keep businesses in our city and county. He was there for us, and we should be there for him. We endorse Oberstar.
Secretary of State: Mark Ritchie (DFL)
If ever a secretary of state was tested, it was in 2008 during the recount of Minnesota's U.S. Senate race between Al Franken in Norm Coleman. Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie not only passed the test, but also set standards for other states to emulate. As a bitter political storm swirled around the recount, Ritchie conducted himself and managed his office with professionalism and studious non-partisanship. In the end, the process, which ultimately included the courts, reaffirmed the state's reputation as place where elections are conducted fairly.
Ritchie has done a good job with all functions of the office. He's earned re-election.
Attorney General: Lori Swanson (DFL)
Lori Swanson's record as Minnesota's attorney general might not be without blemish, but her performance has been good enough to justify her re-election.
She has distinguished herself as a people's AG by using resources to ensure Minnesota residents are not abused by scam artists and unethical business people. She's only been at it for part of one term, but she seems to have focused the office's limited resources on the people who need the AG's help most.
Swanson's two years in office have been rocky at times. But challenger Chris Barden's charges of a "culture of dishonesty" seem over the top. Swanson seems to be moving the office in the right direction for Minnesotans. She hasn't been on job long enough to emerge completely from the shadow of former Attorney General Mike Hatch. She should have that chance. She should be re-elected Nov. 2.
Auditor: Pat Anderson (Republican)
Patricia Anderson, who was Minnesota's state auditor from 2002 to 2006, is seeking to return to the office. She was an activist auditor, and that energy is part of what recommends her for election to the job Nov. 2.
Her opponent, incumbent Rebecca Otto, has seemed more of a caretaker than activist. For example, when Anderson was auditor, she presided over an audit that provided Minnesotans and individual communities with information regarding management and mismanagement of state funds. Otto objected, ran against Anderson, and won.
That was then. Today Anderson's role as auditor looks far better that Otto's.
Anderson's approach to the auditor's responsibilities is energetic and out-front - which is what Minnesota needs in this time of fiscal austerity. She should be retuned to her old job.
District 10 State Senate:
Dan Skogen (DFL)
When Dan Skogen was elected to the Legislature, it may have been a surprise to some but certainly no mistake: Skogen won the seat because he worked his tail off to get there.
We were thrilled to see he brought the same work ethic to St. Paul.
Even those who disagree with Skogen on a partisan basis must admit the senator returns everyone's phone call, listens carefully, and carries the concerns of the people of his district to the Senate floor. Skogen doesn't represent the DFL. He doesn't spout talking points. He is a common sense guy who votes for his district and his only agenda is to do the best he can for the people of District 10. What more could we possibly expect? Vote Dan Skogen for District 10.
District 10B State Representative: Pete Phillips (DFL)
Pete Phillips is brash, outspoken and sometimes even pushy. That's exactly what District 10B needs as we try to recover from devastation caused by the EF4 tornado.
While his opponent, incumbent Mark Murdock, is a well-liked guy who has worked hard, we favor Phillips' approach: pound on the table until you get what you want. He showed in his years on the Wadena City Council that's he's unafraid to take a stand on issues, especially when it benefits the people he represents. That's a needed quality: someone who will go against the grain of party leadership when needed.
The stakes are huge for Wadena in 2011 and 2012: We need aid and bonding from the state to rebuild our infrastructure. Murdock has pushed for that aid, but Phillips, who knows every block of the tornado-devastated zone and the people who live there, will have extra incentive to bring this town's needs to light until Wadena is restored to a town we can be proud of again. We'd be happy to send Phillips to the Legislature on Wadena's behalf.
Wadena County Auditor-
Treasurer: Char West
Wow, Brian Hagen has run an inspired and vigorous campaign. We think Hagen is fit for public office right now based on his impressive showing.
But for Wadena County Auditor/Treasurer, we endorse Char West for the job. This is a far-reaching and complex position, and West has performed superbly in it. It's a rare skill set that can watch the county's balance sheet and nit-pick the vast bookwork of Wadena County. Although it's an unassigned position, West serves ably as a coordinator of the county and the county board, giving guidance and institutional knowledge to the commissioners.
West has performed admirably in her job. And no matter how much we're impressed by her challenger, she still deserves re-election to her post.
Wadena County Commissioner
(District 3): Bill Stearns
Danny Goeden is a politically active guy who has a great spirit for public service, but incumbent commissioner Bill Stearns is our choice for Wadena County Board. Not only does Stearns gavel the county board as chairman, he has a wealth of experience that's necessary right now.
If anyone had a question about how the county functions, whether it's a question about a garbage incinerator in Perham or a query about what roads get plowed first, what expert would you consult first? Stearns comes to mind immediately. The board has a good mix of new energy and great experience, and that balance would be upset if Stearns weren't on the board. He deserves your vote.
Wadena County Commissioner
(District 5): Dave Schermerhorn
Schermerhorn sits between two voting blocs on the Wadena County Board: Commissioners Bounds and Miller often take one side of an issue, while Stearns and Waldahl take the other. They are reasonable men who sometimes disagree. So it's really nice to have an even-keeled guy like Schermerhorn who can step in with a bit of logic and a tie-breaking vote to set the board on a good direction. Schermerhorn is a rock-solid member of the county board and deserves another term.
Wadena City Council
Open Book business owner Gillette Kempf is an impressive addition to our community and an obviously bright and motivated person. We like her a lot for anything she runs for. However, considering the immensely daunting task any city council member in Minnesota faces with lagging LGA from the state, and the present task of recovering from a natural disaster here in Wadena, we feel a change of course is unwarranted.
Not to mention we really like the two council members who are up for re-election. Jeanette Baymler is wisdom personified. When Baymler speaks at a Wadena City Council meeting, everyone leans in, and for good reason: when she says anything, you can be sure it's quotable. Baymler is the cool head that often prevails on the council, and she's a consensus builder. She's a great fit for Wadena anytime, but a city still in crisis mode needs someone like her.
Toby Pierce is a miserly guy. And that's a great compliment. Pierce is the check-and-balance on the Wadena City Council, a guy who challenges every dollar spent and every good intention that's perhaps misled. Pierce is another voice of great wisdom, but he's much more than that. He questions conventional wisdom even when it's unpopular. Every single public body in America would do better with a Toby Pierce on it, but guys like him are in rare supply. So Wadena is darn lucky to have a Toby Pierce of its own. He's conservative as can be in the purest sense, and that's a great thing for the Wadena City Council. We wholeheartedly endorse him.