News Politics

Reproductive Rights Was Central to Battle Between Dems in Minnesota Eighth District Primary Contest

Robin Marty

A surprisingly brutal Democratic primary is finished in the Minnesota 8th. Were allegations on abortion a turning point?

Minnesota Democrats had a battle of epic proportions in the newly drawn 8th district, where three heavily-entrenched candidates campaigned to face off against the highly vulnerable freshman Republican Congressman Chip Cravaack. 

Former Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan won the party endorsement, and had the backing of many local party leaders. Tarryl Clark, best known for challenging Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in 2010 didn’t let the endorsement stop her from taking the fight to the primary in the newly drawn 8th to first challenge Nolan with the intent of defeating Cravaack. With massive fundraising and a high profile, she brought with her some strong backing from national supporters, including an endorsement from former President Bill Clinton.

The intra-party contest became contentious once EMILY’s List sent a mailer on behalf of Clark. In it, they claimed that the DFL (Democratic Farmer Laborer) endorsed Nolan wasn’t strong enough on reproductive rights issues. “As a member of Congress, Rick Nolan failed to protect a woman’s right to choose, voting repeatedly in favor of limiting access to abortions for some low-income women,” read the Women Votes mailing, referring to Nolan’s early voting for the Hyde Amendment. The group then followed the mailing up with a television ad buy, too.

Nolan, on the other hand, had the state party to back him up as the campaign turned negative. DFL Chairman Ken Martin released a statement last week supporting Nolan and chastising Clark for her campaign’s aggressive hits.

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“Clark’s decision to go back on her word and attack Rick Nolan only hurts the primary winner’s chances of defeating Chip Cravaack this fall.  Starting a fight with another DFLer distracts from the real goal of making sure we take back this seat from Chip Cravaack, who’s done nothing to help create jobs and rebuild economic security for middle class families in the Eighth District, and who’s voted time after time against the people he was elected to represent.  The only way we’re going to defeat Cravaack is with a unified party and Clark’s ad makes that process more difficult. 

“Rick Nolan is an accomplished Minnesota leader of strong personal character.  So is Tarryl Clark. That’s why it is so unfortunate that Clark has chosen to steer this discussion away from the issues we need to address in Washington and toward the kind of negative attacks that Minnesotans are tired of seeing.”

The political group Women for Nolan rallied on his behalf as well, calling Nolan a “champion for women’s rights.”

Shame on Tarryl Clark and her outside Washington supporters. With outside money and distorted, negative attacks, they are attempting to tear down Rick Nolan’s well-earned reputation as a 30-plus year champion for women’s rights, for Planned Parenthood and for civil rights and human rights for all Americans. This is wrong.

Not being from the district, Tarryl is obviously unaware that this is not the way to do politics in the 8th Congressional District and in our DFL Party. Tearing down a good friend and Democrat is not the way to advance the cause of women’s health and women’s reproductive rights here in Minnesota and across our nation. Nor is it the way to beat Chip Cravaack and the Republicans in Congress.

Clark had name recognition, national backing, a huge fundraising advantage and extensive campaign resources. Nolan had two things that were far more important — residency and long time connections in district, and the backing of the party. In Minnesota, that often far outweighs anything else.

In the end, Nolan was victorious, garnering almost 39 percent of the vote to Clark’s 31 percent. Candidate Jeff Johnson took just under 30 percent.

News Politics

ELECTION 2012: As the 2012 Campaign Wraps, Republicans Lose and America Wins

Robin Marty

Six months ago Democrats were in danger of losing the Senate and the White House. Instead, a victory in both.

Obamacare is officially no longer a dirty word, as Democratic President Barack Obama wins his reelection campaign and will serve a second term in the White House. It wasn’t just an affirmation of approval of the president and his policies, but a rejection of Republican extremism that took what could have been a victory for the GOP in the senate and instead kept it firmly in Democratic hands.

Democrats won nearly every one of their contested senate races, often with progressive female candidates as the victors. Massachussett’s Elizabeth Warren unseated Tea Party special election victor Scott Brown. And Tammy Baldwin will be the next senator from Wisconsin, making her the first lesbian senator. Even less progressive Democrats, such as Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill defeated Congressman Todd “legitimate rape” Akin and kept her seat. In fact, every single Democratic female senator up for reelection retained her seat.

Democrats also retained seats in Florida where Ben Nelson held out against Connie Mack, and in Connecticut where Chris Murphy handily beat businesswoman Linda McMahon. Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown also held off rivals in what were near tossup races prior to election day. And they gained seats in Indiana, where Joe Donnelly beat Richard “Rape Pregnancies Are From God” Mourdock, and in Maine, where Republican Olympia Snowe was replaced by Independent Angus King, who is expected to caucus with the Democrats. Democrat Time Kaine beat Republican George Allen in Virginia as well. West Virginia’s conservative Democrat Joe Manchin also held onto his seat.

Republicans did have victories as well. In the race to replace anti-choice Democrat Ben Nelson, Republican Deb Fischer has defeated former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey. Republican Rick Berg, who once pushed for a bill that could have jailed women who sought out abortions, managed to beat Democrat Heidi Heidkamp in a close election, too.

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The House will remain in Republican hands, with Democrats making little of a dent in the Republicans’ 25-seat majority. However, one major victory for the night was that of Illinois’s Tammy Duckworth, who defeated extreme anti-choice Tea Party freshman Congressman Joe Walsh. Democrat Ann McLane Kuster beat Republican Congressman Charlie Bass, who had ousted her from office in 2010. Also a big win? In Minnesota, Democrat Rick Nolan beat Republican Chip Cravaack, who had won a major upset in 2010 when he took out long time anti-choice Democrat Jim Oberstar.

Perhaps one of the most heartening wins of the evening was in New Hampshire, where Democrat Maggie Hassan was elected the next Governor. This makes Hassan the only pro-choice female Governor as of 2013, and, when you add in the slate of women elected to Congress in the state as well, creates the only all-female political team in the country, with a female governor, two female senators, and two female representatives.

At least 18 women will be serving in senate in 2013, a record number.

So what happened to the Republican party, and what do these results tell us? As NBC’s David Williams opined during election night coverage, the GOP made a wrong turn when campaigns suddenly turned to “vaginal probes and rape.” Even the Republican Party operative he interviewed admitted that the issue was extreme ideology that couldn’t connect with voters—especially not women.

The results were clear: when a diverse population of people are voting, Democrats are preferred, while Republicans still hold on to their tight-holds, a fact that was utterly emphasized by their continuing victories in many congressional races.

There’s a warning there. As we saw in 2010, 2011, and 2012, it’s state legislatures that are passing some of the most restrictive measures in the country, especially when it comes to women’s health, government services, public employees, and state budgets.  If the conservative movement continues its hyper-focus on these local races, and especially governorships, they can continue to have massive adverse impact on women and families, all without influencing federal policy much at all.

We’ve won a large victory, but now it’s on to the real work. Winning elections is done. Winning back our rights is a much bigger struggle.

News Politics

Primary Day (Again): The Best of the Rest of the Winners and Losers

Robin Marty

Although the Wisconsin senate race was the big draw, there are more winners and losers to look at from yesterday's primary.

We’re one step closer to the general election in November, with a number of new congressional and senate races finally narrowed down to the final contenders after yesterday’s slew of primaries.

In Minnesota, the big focus was on who would take on 8th District Republican Chip Cravaack, the most vulnerable member of the state’s delegation. Also considered vulnerable was Democratic Congressman Tim Walz of the 1st district. However, now that Republicans have chosen former state lawmaker Alan Quist to run against him, Walz can probably rest a little easier. After all, the anti-gay crusader known for going “undercover” at a gay bookstore to expose alleged incidents of sex in public, still believes the Flintstones has a factual basis.

Walz isn’t the only Democrat to pick up an ideal Republican opponent. Former Congressman Alan Grayson is battling to get back into office. Last night he learned his opponent will be Todd Long, a Tea Party candidate backed by Arizona’s notorious “Sheriff Joe” who is “not seen as viable GOP candidate for the district,” according to Roll Call.

In other Florida results, GOP Rep. Cliff Stearns finally conceded his race. In a Republican incumbent faceoff due to redistricting, Rep. John Mica beat Rep. Sandy Adams (who was backed by SBA List), and will go on to the general election. Also, Connie Mack easily won the senate primary and will challenge Democratic Senator Ben Nelson in November.

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EMILY’s List candidates had some losses as well. Susan Bysiewicz, who was endorsed by the group, was beaten by Rep. Chris Murphy for the Democratic Senate nomination in Connecticut. But the group also backed Elizabeth Esty, who won the nomination for Murphy’s seat.  The Connecticut Senate race will be between Murphy and businesswoman Linda McMahon, who beat Republican Chris Shays, a former congressman, in the GOP primary.