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November, 2001

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Michael Lewis

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The Double Standard

DFL Senator Randy Kelly goes up against DFL-endorsed City Councilmember Jay Benanav in a race for Mayor. With the dust still settling, the unofficial result is a Mayor-elect Randy Kelly, by a margin of 403 votes out of 63,000 total votes cast. For you statistics mavens, that's a margin of 0.6396825396825 percent. That's right - less than one percent difference. Or, as the television news graphic puts it, 50% to 50%, with a red X by Kelly's name.

But to the editors of the Pioneer Press, this showing demonstrates that the City DFL has "drifted closer towards irrelevance." St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 7, 2001. Pretty harsh grading by these folks, since a change of mind by 202 voters in that race on Election Day changes the outcome (and presumably demonstrates the DFL Party's relevance).

This conclusion also suggests that the editors don't read their own paper. On the front page of the B section, they reported that, "[Chairwoman Becky] Montgomery couldn't overcome the loss of DFL party support this year. Board watchers couldn't recall a time when a sitting St. Paul school board chair had been defeated at the polls." St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 7, 2001. The three School Board victors were the three DFL-endorsed candidates. So the Pioneer Press maintains that the City DFL is near irrelevance, but vital to the success of some candidates. To me, it sounds like they're contradicting themselves.

The real story is told by the primary results. The DFL-endorsed mayoral candidate came in first. The Republican-endorsed candidate came in fourth. Second and third place? Two more DFLers. The nonpartisan system ensures that the mayoral race is decided in the general election, not the primary. In both 1993 and 2001, that resulted in an intramural contest between members of the DFL party. The Pioneer Press is apparently unhappy that the DFL Party is broad enough to offer voters actual choices and that very, very nearly half of those voters agree with the City DFL choice.

Even more odd is the timing of the Pioneer-Press conclusion regarding the City DFL. It might have made some sense four years ago, when the DFL-endorsed candidate lost by 18 percentage points (that's about 11,000 votes). By that measure, the City DFL has moved dramatically closer to the majority of voters in 2001 and is unarguably relevant to those who went to the polls.

Michael Lewis
D-Zine Editor/Ward 3 DFL Chair
  
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