November 02, 2008

My Sample Ballot

This is an enhanced version of my sample ballot for Tuesday. I put one together every election for me, my husband and anyone else who wants to trust my political judgment. I read the candidates' statements, look at endorsements, and Google for red flags. This isn't so important for nationwide or statewide elections, but it's critical for positions like school board and open judges' seats, which don't get much coverage.

I'm sharing my sample ballot with a few more people than usual this year. In order to make it more useful, I've included races in which I'm not eligible to vote but about which I have strong opinions (uncontested seats are not included). Each pick contains a link or links to my rationale for the choice. Not all of them were written by me, but I agree with them all.

Enter your address here to find out where you vote and who's on your ballot. Also has links to candidate profiles.

Here are my picks:

U.S. President: Barack Obama [why]

U.S. Senate: Al Franken [why and why]

Supreme Court Associate Justice, Seat 3: Paul H. Anderson [why]

Supreme Court Associate Justice, Seat 4: Lorie Skjerven Gildea [why]

Appeals Court Judge, Seat 16: Terri J. Stoneburner [why]

Sales Tax Amendment: No [see below]

U.S. House, District 1: Tim Walz [why]

U.S. House, District 2: Steve Sarvi [why and why]

U.S. House, District 3: Ashwin Madia [why and why]

U.S. House, District 4: Betty McCollum [why]

U.S. House, District 5: Keith Ellison [why]

U.S. House, District 6: El Tinklenberg [are you kidding me? why and why and why]

U.S. House, District 7: Collin Peterson [highly effective incumbent]

U.S. House, District 8: Jim Oberstar [highly effective incumbent]

Minnesota House, Seat 50B: Kate Knuth [effective incumbent]

Minnesota House, Seat 51A: Shawn Hamilton [why]

Minnesota House, Seat 51B: Tom Tillberry [why]

Minnesota House, Seat 61A: Karen Clark [effective incumbent, technolibertarian opponent]

Minnesota House, Seat 66B: Alice Hausman [effective incumbent, opponent running only as non-incumbent]

Minnesota House, Seat 67A: Tim Mahoney [why]

District Court Judge, 4th District Court, Seat 9: Philip D. Bush [why]

District Court Judge, 4th District Court, Seat 53: Jane Ranum [see below]

District Court Judge, 4th District Court, Seat 58: James T. Swenson [highly effective incumbent]

Hennepin County Soil and Water Supervisor, Seat 3: James Wisker [see below]

Hennepin County Soil and Water Supervisor, Seat 5: Karl Hanson [see below]

Hennepin County Commissioner, District 5: Randy Johnson [no serious opponent]

Hennepin County Commissioner, District 6: Jan Callison [more direct experience]

Minneapolis Schools Operating Levy: Yes [why]

Minneapolis Schools Referendum: No [why]

Minneapolis School Board (3): Carla Bates, Jill Davis, Lydia Lee [why]

Osseo School Board (3): Jennifer DeJournett, Dean Henke, Teresa Lunt [why and why]

Annandale School Board (3): Bryan Bruns, Michael J. Dougherty, Michelle R. Miller [see below]

Lakeville School Board (3): Judy Kelliher, Kathy Lewis, Ron Schieck [see below]

Other Elections: Let me know if you don't see your school board here and want it included. I've included those where I know I have readers, but I'm happy to look at others.

My Reasons
Sales Tax Amendment (Legacy Amendment): I'm voting no on this one for two reasons. One is that even in Minnesota, where we exempt clothing and much food, sales taxes are still regressive taxes. The other is that, barring an emergency, I want to keep the anti-tax magical-thinking idiots accountable for their votes. We're just not facing that kind of an emergency in Minnesota right now. Update: See the comments for someone who disagrees with me for some pretty good reasons.

District Court Judge, 4th District Court, Seat 53
Both of these candidates are highly qualified, and either would be a good choice. I chose Ranum, frankly, because she is endorsed by more judges.

Hennepin County Soil and Water Supervisor, Seat 3
There are only two credible candidates in this race. Workcuff is running on an anti-gay-marriage platform (WTF?). Klatte is talking about environmental issues, at least, but does not appear to have a grasp of what the job entails. I chose Wisker over Torell because this is obviously Wisker's passion. His degree and work experience relate directly to the responsibilities of this position.

Hennepin County Soil and Water Supervisor, Seat 5
While I'm not thrilled with Hanson's statement of priorities, his statement is at least readable. Beck provides no indication that he knows what this job entails.

School Board Elections
My priorities in choosing school board candidates are as follows. I eliminate anyone who is trying to use the school board as a platform for noneducational issues or who otherwise demonstrates that they don't understand or don't respect the position they're running for. I watch very carefully for the buzzwords that indicate an attempt to inject religion into the classroom or to manage school spending strictly to keep taxes down. I give a premium for nonprofit and governmental board service.

School Levies
I'm not a fan of these, as I think school funding is a burden and a privilege that should be shared generally. However, as artificially enhanced property values fall and in the absence of a recognition at the state or federal level that unfunded mandates are a real problem, many of these school districts find themselves in immediate trouble. Many of the states levy requests are renewals, others are required to meet the needs of growing districts or aging school buildings. I haven't seen one of these on which I wouldn't vote "yes."


Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing this.

I am voting yes on the sales tax for exactly the same reason you are voting no. The "cat" people have to be told that most citizens are in favor of taxes because we are in favor of what they buy. Not just any tax any time, but the basic idea of taxes, yes.

Although I see your point. On the third hand, it will only be a tiny fraction of a percent. In a global perspective, we pay very low "vat" .... and it is not as regressive as one might think considering that the upper classes are buying all those 97 inch TV's and such, and we don't tax food.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Greg, I was right on the edge on the sales tax referendum. Had it been more focused, say on just clean water, I'd be more likely to vote for it.

Minnesota state sales taxes are pretty regressive, though. If the referendum were expanding the sales tax to clothing and services, I'd be jumping up and down to get people to vote for it.

Grace said...

JUDGE 58: The Swenson/Haeg race really deserves more commentary than "effective incumbent". This is the only race that I question your logic. I tend to lean towards replacing incumbents as I like fresh faces. Tell me what is wrong with Haeg? It appears to be a close race. Is the incumbent really effective or just paying the price of a tight economy and shrinking budget. The western suburbs have lots of Haeg signs.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Grace, the comment was actually "highly effective incumbent." Swenson has been chosen by the other judges to be chief judge. That's quite an endorsement.

Anonymous said...

Well, my sample ballot is up, but there are still a few open questions.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy water - and I like it best clean. I may even enjoy water more than roads and bridges. I certainly prefer land to jails, and culture to war, and so I am voting YES on the Amendment. 3/8 of one penny on any taxed dollar spent is not too much to ask or give for what it's worth to me. And I say this after spending the weekend analyzing samples for the MNPCA that show that our waters are not so well.

You have read about the fish and swim advisories of late, haven't you Stephanie? If you agree that some action needs to be taken, then what is your solution?

Stephanie Zvan said...

Ana, I said I think this should have a legislative solution, but that doesn't mean I think my responsibility is done when I help elect my representative. This is especially true since she'll be re-elected no matter how I vote. She's got one of the safest seats in Minnesota.

If this amendment doesn't pass, and even if it does, I know I need to keep pushing to make sure the state and federal governments undo the damage that's been inflicted over the course of my entire voting life by the anti-tax freaks. If you see me not doing that, please stop by and kick my ass. I wouldn't mind if you held off on judging my follow through until then, though.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...very confused by your response, especially the part where you asked that I not rush to judgment.

Still trying to understand: You're voting against the tax to show legislators who are against taxation that they're wrong (have been wrong/have done harm?)

I'd ask if you have a particular aversion to amendments, given your stated preference for legislative process, but you say that you'd be more likely to vote YES here if the amendment were defined differently. So I guess I'm just confused.

You also say that you'd support an expansion of the sales-tax base to include clothing and services, yet the link you provide to MN2020 explains that this would cause the tax to be even more regressive.

Just curious, really, and looking for discourse. Do what you will; I'm not much interested in ass-kicking.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Stephanie's basic idea about holding the elected officials responsible for not being knee-jerks. I also think (and I'm not sure exactly where Stephanie and/or Ana are on this because it is a complicated issue) that the particular way we raise money for various purposes is screwy, and in particular, a constitutional amendment is a dumb way to do this generally.

It also may be senseless. Channeling money from one tax/toll/fee to a particular purpose could allow the legislature to simply pull back money otherwise spent on that area, and the net result could even be a loss for that sort of funding...

For instance, in 6 years from now, the MN statehouse goes rotten (i.e., Republicans take over) and this sales tax is seen as a Democratic Obama Plot and they try to shut down MNDNR or something stupid like that as part of their retribution against the godless bunny hugging liberal hoards.

However, all that said, I am voting for it because I want to send the very important message that they are NOT doing their jobs in the raising and expenditure of money for important purposes. I also want rec vehicle use fees restored and an additional tax on 4-wheelers to help pay for the damage they are doing across the state.

I think the amendment getting voted down will be used forever and ever by the Pawlenty type Repulbicans: "The citizens of Minnesota told us clearly and plainly that they don't want to spend any money on anything.... " and so on and so forth.

Instead, I want the Dems of the future to be able to say "the Pawlenty administration was so irresponsible that the people had to take matters into their own hands..."

So, I urge us to band together to agitate for positive change regarding the environment in Minnesota. We'll use Ana's new blog as an umbrella! Mean time, vote yes on the Legacy Amendment!

Stephanie Zvan said...

"If the sales tax base expansion generates a significant amount of new state revenue, the overall tax system will become more regressive."

One of the arguments for this amendment is that it is relatively small. A large increase in a clothing tax will likely be regressive because it drives higher-income buyers online.

Yes, Ana, there are fairly small things that, if changed, would make me more likely to vote yes. For a relatively simple amendment, it has a lot of repercussions.

In the end, it comes down to the fact that I've been poor enough that every penny counted. There isn't quite enough in this amendment that I can bring myself to ask others in that situation for their pennies. I fully understand why someone would feel otherwise, which is why I wanted everyone to read what Greg wrote in the comments. But this is my sample ballot and I can't quite do it.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie: Have you voted yet? Do we still have a few hours to work you over on this?

I'm pretty sure Ana is sleeping, so this might be hard to do by myself...

Stephanie Zvan said...

I was #85 at our polling place, which I much prefer to being #5 as I was at the primary.

If you want to convince people, your blog is a much more effective medium, you know.

Anonymous said...

how were the lines? I'm heading over just now.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Very long lines at opening, shrinking steadily after that. Cautiously cheerful throughout.

Anonymous said...

I have also heard that tourism will account for about 30% of the new taxation proposed in the Legacy amendment. Oh, and it passed.