Patwin Lawrence: Calling Out a Candidate for Inconsistencies

Patwin Lawrence is a candidate for the Minnesota Senate in District 59, and I think he may have inconsistent personal and political views that he’s not disclosing to voters.

This has been a weird national election season. I’ve learned (the hard way) that being too outspoken about politics is obnoxious. But I also think it’s important to talk about. Politics is messy, but it won’t get any better if we completely ignore it.

And as I’ve said before, local election coverage is weak at best.

So I’m diving in (gulp). I’m asking public questions of a local candidate (and acquaintance) because I think it’s important voters be informed to make their own decisions.

So full disclosure: This is an oddly personal and political blog post.

Yay for New Candidates

A lot of people have complained about the lack of choices among the candidates this year. My response has been that I hope they consider running for office. If our politicians suck, let’s replace them.

So this gets a little awkward. An acquaintance of mine is running for political office. I’m thrilled to see him stepping up and doing that. But I can’t support him.

Patwin Lawrence is running for the District 59 (Downtown and North Minneapolis) Minnesota Senate seat, challenging incumbent Democrat Bobby Joe Champion in the primary on Aug. 9. Patwin went to my church for a while. I haven’t seen him in a few years, but we’re Facebook friends.

I should be able to tell my friends in District 59 to check out Patwin Lawrence. But I won’t.

The Issue: Personal vs. Public Life

I’m not close with Patwin, but I have seen his Facebook posts over the past several years. As a blogger since 1998, I’m the last person who should judge what someone posts online. I’m sure I’ve posted a lot of stupid stuff over the years.

But when Patwin announced his political campaign, those personal positions took on a new importance.

He’s running as a Democrat, but the links and comments I’ve seen him post over the years weren’t positions Democrats traditionally hold.

And that’s fine. I don’t expect every candidate to toe the party line. But as I dug deeper I started to see more and more inconsistencies between his personal comments on Facebook and his official campaign platform.

On issues such as abortion, LGBT rights and gun rights, Patwin’s personal posts seem to conflict with his political stances. He also shared what I would consider to be fringe views on a number of issues. In the comments on these posts, many of his friends would challenge his statements or fact check his links—so I wasn’t the only one noticing these positions. Sometimes it was just a news article he was sharing, but often he made specific comments for or against issues.

How Patwin Lawrence Responded

I asked Patwin about these issues, and we messaged for a while. He asked me not to quote from our conversation or his personal Facebook posts. So it’s hard to dive into any specifics (or actually back up what I’m saying in any way).

But he was willing to go on record. Here’s his response:

There is no inconsistency. My platform/issues page on my campaign website are some of the issues important to my constituency in SD59. I’m running to be a public servant that does the will of the people and votes accordingly to how they dictate a vote should be cast. An elected official is not there to cast their personal opinion, but the consensus of the will of their constituents. The elected official is, but one opinion, in a district of varying opinions.

First of all, Patwin says there are no inconsistencies, then defends why there are. So let’s be clear that there are inconsistencies. He’s made adamant comments on Facebook against issues that he says he supports in his campaign. So there is a difference between his personal and political views.

He explains it by saying  his personal opinions don’t matter because he will do whatever the people want. That makes sense, though I’m not sure it makes for a charismatic leader. How do you lead on an issue if you only do what the people want? Will you champion an unpopular position even if it’s the right thing to do?

Be an Informed Voter

While I’m not in Patwin’s district and can’t vote for him, I still think it’s important for voters to know enough about a candidate to make an informed decision. Every time I go to the polls I Google the candidates and struggle to make a decision based on the paltry information I can find online.

If I discovered a candidate in my district were running on issues that seemed to contradict statements they’d made in private, I’d want to know about it. Maybe they could justify it or maybe they couldn’t, but as a voter I should get to make that decision.

I would also hope people who knew the candidate would speak up.

So that’s what I’m doing. Trying to inform voters.

Voters can decide if Patwin Lawrence is being inconsistent. They can decide if his personal views are relevant. By posting this, I’m hoping voters will ask Patwin and judge for themselves.

After this bizarre national campaign season when the seemingly impossible has happened, I couldn’t stand by and say nothing, hoping Patwin lost. Voters should know who they’re voting for.

Personal & Public

I feel awkward posting this because I don’t want to slam Patwin. He’s campaigning hard on racial issues and is pushing for real changes to address the vast disparities we have in Minnesota. That’s awesome.

I do disagree with Patwin on some issues (and heartily agree on others). But his stance on the issues isn’t my concern. My concern is that his stance isn’t clear, because he seems to say one thing in private and one thing in public, and then says it doesn’t matter.

At the very least he should be willing to admit where personal beliefs and political stance don’t line up, and give voters a reason to trust that he’ll put his personal beliefs aside.

Candidates for public office have it hard. No doubt. But that scrutiny is part of the job. Voters have to gauge character.

So let the voters of District 59 be aware and decide for themselves.

Statement From Patwin Lawrence

Here’s the full transcript of what I asked Patwin and his answer:

My Question: I’ve seen statements on your private Facebook account that seem inconsistent with your political stance. How do you explain that to voters?

Patwin’s Response:

There is no inconsistency. My platform/issues page on my campaign website are some of the issues important to my constituency in SD59. I’m running to be a public servant that does the will of the people and votes accordingly to how they dictate a vote should be cast. An elected official is not there to cast their personal opinion, but the consensus of the will of their constituents. The elected official is, but one opinion, in a district of varying opinions.

That’s the problem with Facebook and trying to guess one’s stance on topics based on Facebook postings and interactions. My Facebook account is private to provide a safe space for friends (I only accept requests from people I know and have had some real world connection). I have friends who are extremely liberal to extremely conservative and most of them are very vocal and opinionated. My only rule on my page is that personal attacks are off limits. I’ve never unfriended anyone, no matter how crazy their post was and no matter if I strongly disagreed. Just don’t personally attack others.

I also post a wide variety of articles from conservative, liberal, Libertarian, religious, alternative media, and almost any other type of site you can think of. It’s about sharing information and learning from a variety of sources. I have a lot of left leaning friends so I do like to troll them with conservative articles in their feed. Same for conservatives, I troll them as well, especially the ones completely against BlackLivesMatter. I can’t tell you how many times, Facebook friends have come up to me and mention an article I posted or thanked me for posting a particular article.

I also asked Patwin four policy questions to try to get a clear picture of where he stands. He declined to answer those questions, citing a lack of time. Here are those questions:

2. You’ve expressed personal beliefs vehemently opposed to abortion, but your political platform promises “Protecting access to the full range of reproductive health care.” Can you assure voters that you will defend access to abortion and vote against limits on abortion?

3. Likewise with your stance on LGBT issues. Where do you stand on the “bathroom bills” that have been in the news lately? In 2012 Minnesota had a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Did you support that amendment? The next year the legislature approved gay marriage. Would you have voted for that law?

4. In the past you’ve been critical of Black Lives Matter, specifically questioning their protest tactics. Where do you stand on Black Lives Matter now?

5. You’ve been in support of gun rights, but your political platform talks about “sensible regulations.” What are those sensible regulations? Do you support a ban on assault weapons? Do you support background checks before someone can buy a gun?

2 thoughts on “Patwin Lawrence: Calling Out a Candidate for Inconsistencies”

  1. Very interesting! Sounds like Hillary’s running mate, Tim Kaine. These questions should be brought up in a debate.

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