After feeling somewhat despondent after the 2016 election, I decided to focus on local politics. I couldn’t do much about things at the national level, but I thought maybe I could make a difference at the local level.
I wasn’t alone.
An army of volunteers and supporters came forward, and together we worked for change. People tried to join city committees, we supported a local trail, put on a bike rodeo—we got involved.
Then the sexism controversy exploded and West St. Paul made national news. And not in a good way.
People were already starting to pay attention, but that issue galvanized people like never before. A progressive advocacy group, Women of West St. Paul formed, and they organized voter registration efforts, rides to the polls, and multiple candidate forums.
On April 23, 2018, West St. Paul’s first female mayor, Jenny Halverson, expressed frustration at what she saw as sexism, and declared, “This will not be forgotten, folks.”
After the 2016 election, I not only felt defeated, but I felt raw and shocked and a bit stupid. I hadn’t done a damn thing to advocate for the causes I cared about, so it was no wonder they lost.
That was a bitter lesson.
After the 2018 election, I feel empowered. Winning certainly helps. But I was also involved in these races. We had major wins in our local races, which is where I spent most of my volunteer time. And I think that sense of empowerment is greater than any sense of victory. Because I also know what empowered loss feels like. We lost a hard primary, one where I thought I would regret all the effort wasted.
But you know what? A loss isn’t a wasted effort. All that energy, all that enthusiasm, all those connections—they can build something that lasts, even in defeat.
So let’s do a “quick” (ha!) morning day after review of the 2018 election. (I laugh because I was awake until 3 a.m. last night, unable to sleep as all the storylines kept playing in my head.)
For the past several years I’ve been blogging about local elections. I’ve tried to stay quiet about broader politics and avoid stupid comments, but this year I couldn’t help myself. Well, I hope I avoided most stupid comments, but I couldn’t stay quiet about what was happening in our democracy.
So this year, instead of just blogging about West St. Paul’s races, I found myself blogging about the entire ballot. From city council to U.S. Senator, I covered it all. 18 posts in 18 days (plus a lot of posts before that).
In a democratic country where the people are supposed to have a voice in government, the vote should be sacred. It is a right that we should protect and encourage. We need to ensure only citizens are voting, but there should be no other hurdles to the voting booth.
That’s why voting for the secretary of state is pretty important. They safeguard our elections and are the frontlines of democracy.
The State of Voting
I’m not a fan of anything that makes it harder to vote. There have been efforts around the country, from requiring IDs to closing polling stations, to make it harder to vote. I shouldn’t have to remind people that these are similar to Jim Crow-era efforts to stifle the black vote through poll taxes, tests, intimidation, and all-out cheating.
Let’s be clear: Voter fraud is not a widespread problem. When Trump talked about millions of illegal votes, he was making it up. Study after study has shown this to be true.
It’s voter suppression, plain and simple. And anytime a political party wants to see fewer people vote, you should be worried.
Instead of making it harder to vote, we should be doing everything we can to make it easier to vote. I’m thrilled that Minnesota has same-day registration and now no-excuse absentee and early voting. I’m a big fan of even more efforts to make it easier to vote, such as automatic voter registration and a national holiday on election day (though honestly, going to work is a nice distraction on election day).
Voting for judges is always kind of weird. Usually it’s the back of the ballot and there are a flood of names in uncontested races. It often feels like it doesn’t matter. But then there are a few contested races, and it definitely matters. Unfortunately, no one has talked about it, so if you haven’t done your research (and brought it to the polls), these judicial races can be challenging.
At the June 25, 2018 city council meeting, a citizen asked about the possibility of displaying LGBTQ Pride flags along Robert Street for Pride Month next year. The city council would need to approve such a move. Assuming the logistics can be worked out, would you be in favor of displaying Pride flags on Robert Street?
A sexism controversy erupted in West St. Paul this spring. Men challenged women who stepped forward to serve, and then sat silently, refusing to explain their issues. Men ignored the concerns women raised.
And something very similar has happened in the primary campaign. Two men and two women are running for the ward 3 city council seat. The men have refused to answer questions. They skipped out on a candidate forum. They haven’t even put forth a platform or taken positions on issues. They’ve just put their names out there and assumed that voters will hand it to them.
It’d be ironic if it weren’t so sad.
I’ve said this primary election is a moment of truth for West St. Paul. And I believe that. It’s a referendum on this lazy, sexist approach to politics. It’s a turning point—will we accept inappropriate behavior or do we want something better?
I’ve written plenty about this primary, so let’s not rehash it. My many posts are linked below.
As we approach the 2018 elections, people in West St. Paul are engaged. It used to be that nobody knew anything about local elections and finding information was an exercise in futility—especially in our first-ring suburb of 20,000 people. But now my neighbors care. And that’s so inspiring.
It started with a sexism controversy that flared up in April, resulting in packed city council chambers and nearly two hours of citizen comments. The TV news showed up and residents donated money and feminine hygiene products to a local nonprofit—earning national attention. The issue even launched two city council campaigns (here’s the speech launching one of those campaigns)—creating a four-way primary that will be narrowed down next week.
I’m excited to support Erin Murphy for Minnesota governor this year. Really. There’s an energy around her campaign and I like where she stands.
Minnesota has a crowded primary this year, with multiple candidates in both parties vying for governor and other major positions. So it’s important to vote in the primary on Aug. 14, 2018. We’ll see if we can touch the most-recent high turnout of 20% from 1998 (or top 1994’s 27%?).
Excited by Erin Murphy
I don’t think I’ve ever been excited for a governor’s race. Even in 1998 when Jesse Ventura came out of nowhere to win it, I was still a Michigan resident and not paying much attention to Minnesota. I’ve been happy with current Governor Mark Dayton, but he never excited me.
Mayor Jenny Halverson and a few city council members will be joining us to share their stories of running for public office and answer questions as a part of our moderated panel discussion.
The event is coming up pretty quick—Wednesday, April 4—primarily because the filing period is in May and there’s not a lot of time to decide if you want to run. Of course the event is open to anyone, whether you want to run this year or just some day.
I’m doing this because a lot of people don’t pay any attention to local politics. Yet the local level often has the greatest impact on your daily life. Roads, parks, trash collection, noise, and petty crime—that’s all local politics.
“If you love where you live (or if you hate where you live and want to fix it), you need to run for city council.” -Amanda Litman, Run for Something