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January 31, 2007 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Minnesota is a state rich in study material for fans of political oddity. The state has faced famous (and infamous) political news in the last few years, from the legendary surprise independent gubernatorial victory of Jesse "The Body" Ventura to the tragic death of Senator Paul Wellstone and its ensuing fallout, controversy, and lunacy. It holds a unique variation in the usual two-party system with the DFL replacing the Democratic Party. St. Paul will host the 2008 Republican National Convention. And now, the ongoing oddity that is Minnesota politics will now enter a new chapter as Comedian Al Franken, who moved his Air America radio show to his home state of Minnesota a year ago, will be leaving radio in February to run for his late friend Paul Wellstone's old Senate seat against incumbent Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. Another unique fact would be should Franken win the DFL nomination, it would be a rare instance of both candidates from the major parties in a statewide race being Jewish- Franken and Coleman are two of the less than 50,000 Jews living in the state.
posted by XQUZYPHYR (48 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
So is that considered a Jew-off, or a Jew-down?
posted by Balisong at 9:14 PM on January 31, 2007



Great post. Had no idea about the DFL. I do take issue with the idea that Wellstone could have been murdered being labeled as "lunacy" - with the stakes as high as they were in the 2002 mid-term elections (and the run up to the Iraq War), I wouldn't think the administration above it, and as far as I know I don't don a tin foil cap. As recent history shows us, it's important that we not automatically dismiss skeptical attitudes toward official versions of events as "lunacy" - it's they who are the lunatics, not us.
posted by bukharin at 9:14 PM on January 31, 2007


i hope franken kicks some ass.
posted by brandz at 9:16 PM on January 31, 2007


Franken went to high school with my dad. Weird.

I'm not sure Franken is a very good candidate, and I'm not sure his platform is very clear yet. But who knows, stranger things have, as XQUZYPHYR pointed out, happened.
posted by jiawen at 9:19 PM on January 31, 2007


I had no idea that we (read: the jews) were being tracked.

What ever are you planning...
posted by Derek at 9:19 PM on January 31, 2007


There's less than 50,000 Jews living in Minnesota?

No wonder I feel all fucking alone here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:21 PM on January 31, 2007


Astro Zombie for Senate!
posted by escabeche at 9:26 PM on January 31, 2007


I think we need to see Astro Zombie in a pair of white tights first before I can switch my allegiance from Al.
posted by maudlin at 9:28 PM on January 31, 2007


Isn't congress already a bunch of cloned zombies?
posted by Balisong at 9:32 PM on January 31, 2007


I'm pretty sure that Wellstone/Boschwitz in 1990 was also a Jewish-Jewish battle. Even though I was a young lad of 15, I remember some controversy as one side was implicated in sending out letters indicating that the other side wasn't a 'good Jew'.

It's all very fuzzy, so I'll decline to name names.
posted by unixrat at 9:37 PM on January 31, 2007


The Jewish-thing creeps me out too, it just seems out of place.

I personally would support Franken but I'm fairly liberal. He is great at talking to the anger portions of the Democratic grassroots. I am worried about whether he'll get the centrist vote though. He is so outspoken and often he seems out-of-control with rage (although maybe that is an act?), I am worried he won't get the support of the soccer moms and all.

Then again, maybe it won't come down to a character contest and rather be a referendum on the current President and his past 8 years. In that case, if Franken can play it right, he would have a pretty good chance assuming relative continuity in Iraq and related matters from now until then.
posted by bhouston at 9:44 PM on January 31, 2007


i don't think it's appropriate to characterize speculation as to the cause of senator wellstone's death as "lunacy". i'm not a liberal at all, but i formed speculations the moment i heard about it.
posted by bruce at 9:51 PM on January 31, 2007


The plot thickens, as Franken, Wellstone, and Ventura (of course) all were wrestlers. Although the University of Minnesota men's wrestling team is ranked #1 in the country, the entire Minnesota state high school wrestling program has been suspended due to an outbreak of herpes gladitorum.
posted by Kibbutz at 9:53 PM on January 31, 2007


yay! being in minnesota, i was hoping someone would post something of this ilk today with the Franken news.

But with all the talk about the Jewish political force hailing from MN, you forgot to mention the first ever member of the US Congress who happens to be a Muslim.

On the Wellstone topic, to this day there are many stencils around the University campus which ask, "Who killed Wellstone?"

His memorial service (which was broadcast over local tv. Here it is in Real Player ) was said to have turned into a political rally. Many people did not like that, and many political observers still cite that incident as why Coleman beat out Mondale in the 02 election.

Wellstone was, in my opinion, the best senator of the last 20 years.
posted by localhuman at 10:08 PM on January 31, 2007


Wow. South Dakota is, like, .04% Jewish. For the first time in my life, I'm feeling the strong urge to move Bismarck and become full-on Hasidic. I'm talking pais, tallit, big furry hats, the whole nine. Maybe I'll even go Lubavitcher so I can cruise around town in a Mitzvah tank and ask my neighbor Bizmarkeeans if they're Jewish, and if so, would they like to sit down and have a nice talk about the Rebbe.

I'm totally serious about this. Astro, Derek, are you with me? We could even start our own kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant. They did it in Iowa, why not South Dakota?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:47 PM on January 31, 2007


As long as I can eat bacon, i'm with ya brother.
posted by Derek at 12:06 AM on February 1, 2007


Yeah, I wouldn't write off the convenience of the Wellstone death either (I remember people on both sides of the politics muttering about the crash).

I thought Norm had converted (I could be wrong on that)? Anyway, Norm has a very good staff that makes sure that he is always in the news and responds quickly to both snail, email and phone though I noticed a serious decline in the last year for turnaround (due to his chief of staff leaving?). Unlike Dayton who could not get on MPR or the air if he was on fire at the Mall of America (he had extraordinarily bad staff too). Now Norm has been accused of being a womanizer but his wife doesn't seem to mind and he has made sure that his children don't get into trouble by the expedient of private schools (A previous senator got tagged for the sins of the son -- a Republican activist I met said, "He needs to focus on his family and take some time off from his office").

The DFL is not a smooth running machine. Remember, that Wellstone was not really supported by the DFL hierarchy until he WON afterwards. He won despite the DFL. Also, DFL candidates are either not the best or their campaigns need some serious help. The DFL wins despite themselves or if the Republicans goofball it.

The DFL needs a better candidate than Franken. Norm maybe feeling a bit cornered (scroll half way down) right now realizing that Republican Mark Kennedy only got 38% of the state wide vote for Senate this last November.

Hell, I am puzzled that Governor Pawlenty is being vetted for potential VP candidates only winning by what, 22 thousand votes, against another self wounding DFL candidate.

But hey, I what do I know? I just read cookbooks and futz with my computer.
posted by jadepearl at 12:09 AM on February 1, 2007


Well, Afroblanco, I think that you, Derek and Astro could do a great service by genetically engineering a kosher pig [1]
[2]

It would be midrashically possible....
posted by jadepearl at 12:26 AM on February 1, 2007


My mom's family is from Minnesota - some of them have been actively involved in the DFL for years, incidentally. Anyhow, it's a weird, weird place.

(Another one of the 42,000+ Jews in Minnesota: Bob Dylan. Or at least, he's from there.)

I was one of the .09% of Jews living in Vermont. It's a weird, weird thing. I ran into a rabbi at work a few weeks ago - he was asking me if our tea was kosher. I said that I'd run in the back and check the packaging - he was about to tell me what the kosher label looks like, and I politely explained that I know what it looks like, I happen to be Jewish myself. He asked if I grew up around here, when I told him that I grew up in Vermont, he said incredulously (but somehow still very politely) "There are Jews in VERMONT?"

I told him that there is indeed one Jewish community in Southern Vermont. With a rent-a-temple. That is only ever full on Yom Kippur.

Better than Iceland though, there are only three Jews there and they all have to share a yarmulke.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:54 AM on February 1, 2007


As for Al's potential run, there was this interesting comment at Digby's Hullabaloo:

It's interesting this news item appeared today, because the person who first dreamed up the idea of Al Franken running for what we call "the Wellstone Seat" was Molly Ivins. I hope Al told her he had decided before she checked out yesterday.

Al Franken, Molly Ivins and Walter Mondale all served on the board of Wellstone Action, (Paul's memorial) and the idea that Al should run first got run up the flagpole about three years ago at one of their meetings. At first it was just a vague "what if" rumor in party circles, but Mondale actually announced it a little over a year ago during a Q and A at a Carter Center event. As Mondale put it; "there are enough of them down in DC who don't know they are stand up comics -- time for Minnesota to send them a real one." Al moved "home" about a month after that, got a condo, moved his radio studio, registered to vote and attended his precinct caucus last year, (which is how you formally join the DFL).

Last Summer Al did the County Fair and summer festival circuit, raising money for DFL candidates, particularly for Amy Klobuchar. I think he probably attended every county DFL picnic, bean feed or dinner -- meaning that much of the party benefited from his fund raising strengths. Now he has just about a year to put it together as an organization that can win him delegates at the March 2008 Precinct Caucuses.

In Minnesota getting the Nomination is a two stage process. You first get the Party Endorsement at State Convention in late May or early June, and you get that by getting committed delegates elected first at Precinct Caucus in early March, who inturn select the State Convention Delegates in Legislative District or County conventions. They go to the May-June State Convention and endorse. Then the primary is just after Labor Day in September, and most likely the party endorsement will be challenged in a primary.

Everything up through the State Convention is one on one retail politics. No TV, some radio interviews of course, but limited -- it is phone work, and grass roots organization. If you do it well, the people who help you at Precinct Caucus and on to State Convention are then able to shift into election mode, and do the ground game during the Primary and General Election. It is only after State Convention that TV and money come into the picture.

Al will inherit a considerable part of the old Wellstone organization, which has managed to stick together and play a significant role in electorial politics over the past four years. It was a significant part of Keith Ellison's organization, and made a major contribution to the successful effort to "take back the House" (state house) last fall. It played a role in the Tom Walz campaign in the first district. It is state wide, and could be a crucial asset in putting together the organization needed for Precinct Caucuses a year from now. I doubt if any other possible candidate can get the help Al can from Wellstonians.

....

For those asking about Al's relationship with Wellstone -- they were very good friends. Back in those dark days in 1990 when I was working for love on Wellstone's first Campaign (our opponent had 11 million in the bank, we beat him with just over a million dollars), Al came through in the crunch, doing fund raisers in some of the odd corners of the state where we needed the visability as much as the $$$. Both Al Franken and Garrison Keillor really stuck celebrity necks out for what was viewed in the summer of 1990 as a very quixotic candidacy. This will not be the same sort of campaign obviously, but it is useful to know the cultural links.
....
Sara | 02.01.07 - 6:51 am | #


posted by maryh at 4:07 AM on February 1, 2007


I wish we didn't have another celebrity politician running. But on the other hand, Franken V. Coleman should at least be very entertaining-- Coleman's a sleazy opportunist, but he's a very well-spoken one (and it's been interesting watching the sleazy opportunism in action as he's scuttled leftward following public oninion in the past year).

A Senate race between two articulate, well-spoken candidates is a nice contrast from th disaster we nearly had last year... if Mark Dayton hadn't decided not to run again, we would've been forced to endure debates between him and Mark Kennedy, two of the most awkward men ever to walk the earth.

and nice post title; saw it in the RSS and came over expecting something about Rocket Red. But since it was something else dear to my heart, the surprise is ok.
posted by COBRA! at 5:05 AM on February 1, 2007


If the race comes down to Franken v. Coleman, you can bet the GOP's whisper campaign will peg Franken as a "New York Jew".
posted by pruner at 6:05 AM on February 1, 2007


The post also forgot about the recent vampire candidate.
posted by Muddler at 6:34 AM on February 1, 2007


I think Coleman's from New York, too, pruner.
posted by COBRA! at 6:40 AM on February 1, 2007


you're right COBRA!

according to his wikipedia page, he graduated from James Madison High in Brooklyn, along with Chuck Schumer.

but I'm not sure that'd stop the GOP.
posted by pruner at 6:50 AM on February 1, 2007


Al Franken is one of the stupidest people on the planet.
posted by tadellin at 8:11 AM on February 1, 2007


You people are too much. "9/11 Wellstone's death was an inside job." Any theories about Mel Carnahan's crash? Or any of these? How about Johnson's stroke?
posted by jaysus chris at 9:06 AM on February 1, 2007


You got any cites for that, tadellin? Most of my cow orkers voted for Bush; who could be stupider than that?
posted by faceonmars at 9:19 AM on February 1, 2007


I though if you're caught orking cows you're not allowed to vote anymore.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:27 AM on February 1, 2007


Oh man, and if Dennis Miller runs against Barbara Boxer, there will be 2 SNL alums running for senate seats.

That. Will. Be. Weird.
posted by Kattullus at 9:28 AM on February 1, 2007


I just hope we move to Minnesota in time for me to vote for Franken.
posted by padraigin at 9:33 AM on February 1, 2007


Thing is, Coleman IS a "New York Jew", that's where he is from.
Coleman also use to be a DFL-er, switched parties to run with the winning republicans, got bitch slapped by Bush et al when he wanted to run for Governor and was told to run for Senate. He won with Wellstone's death, but was losing in the polls prior to the crash. He is also a "as the wind blows" candidate, making some noise about opposing Bush recently (although the latest is he is back in line with the Administration). I wouldn't be surprised is he is VERY vulnerable next year.
Rumor, and this is just rumor albeit fairly solid rumor, is Coleman lives with his mistress in the Twinkies while his wife and children live in California. Coleman may have good staff but I don't think it'll take much to knock him over.
I've seen Al speak and he can connect well with non-liberals/centrists. He can speak firmly and to the point of growing up in Minnesota. He's done a number of USO tours and actually has quite a few friends right of the aisle. He is someone who can run on a realistic "family values" campaign without being anti-gay and if he can get the nomination I think he'll be a strong candidate.

"Stewart Smalley Saves Minnesota"?
posted by edgeways at 9:59 AM on February 1, 2007


anyone know how many "New York Jews" live in Minnesota?
posted by pruner at 10:06 AM on February 1, 2007


One thing you won't hear in a Franken-Coleman race is the Republicans raising any fuss about whether or not Franken ever did any drugs, especially during his SNL years. Why, you ask? Because Senator Norm Coleman used to work as a roadie for Ten Years After in the late 60s.
posted by Ber at 10:16 AM on February 1, 2007


Incidentally, someone mentioned Coleman being good about returning correspondence? I've given up writing to him because about 70% of the time I got back form letters that didn't address the reason I wrote. It was like a game of look at the address send a random letter.
posted by edgeways at 10:25 AM on February 1, 2007


To choose Coleman over Walter Mondale is one of those dumb low-rent mistakes, like going to a great steakhouse and ordering the tuna sandwich.

To this day I STILL repeat this line. Thanks, Garrison!

The link that jadepearl posted that references Norm Coleman's private life is totally true. Those who hang out at the St. Paul Grill (which I have done once or twice in my day) have often discussed this particular rumor.
posted by norm at 11:23 AM on February 1, 2007


Coleman also use to be a DFL-er, switched parties to run with the winning republicans, got bitch slapped by Bush et al when he wanted to run for Governor and was told to run for Senate.

Isn't it the other way around, that Bush/Cheney bitch-slapped Pawlenty into running for Governor so he wouldn't compete with Coleman's first Senate run?

Otherwise, right on.
posted by COBRA! at 11:24 AM on February 1, 2007


edgeways wrote:
I've seen Al speak and he can connect well with non-liberals/centrists. He can speak firmly and to the point of growing up in Minnesota. He's done a number of USO tours and actually has quite a few friends right of the aisle. He is someone who can run on a realistic "family values" campaign without being anti-gay and if he can get the nomination I think he'll be a strong candidate.


Is Franken married and/or have kids? That can be an issue for politicians, married ones often do better than single politicians, especially if it becomes a "family values" campaign. Just checked Wikipedia and no mention of either.
posted by bhouston at 11:48 AM on February 1, 2007


Nevermind, he's got a wife and a few kids...
posted by bhouston at 11:58 AM on February 1, 2007


One thing you won't hear in a Franken-Coleman race is the Republicans raising any fuss about whether or not Franken ever did any drugs, especially during his SNL years.

Also: "I know these conservative kids don't fuck or get high like we do" --Norm Coleman, 1970
posted by punishinglemur at 12:41 PM on February 1, 2007


I'm pretty sure that Wellstone/Boschwitz in 1990 was also a Jewish-Jewish battle. Even though I was a young lad of 15, I remember some controversy as one side was implicated in sending out letters indicating that the other side wasn't a 'good Jew'... posted by unixrat at 9:37 PM PST on January 31

Bingo! Boschwitz campaign sent letters to a Jewish mailing list citing Wellstone's marriage to a gentile and saying he was a "bad Jew."
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:58 PM on February 1, 2007


Wow. South Dakota is, like, .04% Jewish. For the first time in my life, I'm feeling the strong urge to move Bismarck
Before you do anything rash, is the fact that Bismarck is actually in North Dakota relevant to your plans?
posted by joaquim at 1:11 PM on February 1, 2007


Damn, your probably right COBRA!
posted by edgeways at 3:38 PM on February 1, 2007


pruner: anyone know how many "New York Jews" live in Minnesota?

Well, Bob Dylan has a house there that he stays in when he's not touring, so that's three. There's Miriam and Beaumont Fitzclarence (he converted), so that's five. Then there's Zachariah Buchsbaum, that's six. Sunflower Morningseed Gertsch (hippy parents, goes by Sonny), that's seven. Erica... can't remember her last name... anyway, that's DEREN! It's Deren, how could I forget?! slaps forehead Yes, where was I? Okay, so then there's Daniel Shapiro and Josh Eissig, so how many now? Ten? Okay. I used to think they were gay, but apparently they're only roommates. That reminds me, though. Elsa Taubmann and Sarah Taubman, now they're gay. Also, isn't it funny how they almost have the same last name? It's so cute, it's like it's fated! Where was I? Oh, yes... twelve. So, then there's Gerald and Refaela Moritz, and their adorable little girls, Hannah, Suzannah and Mangina. And how could I forget Chauncey and Harkness Fitzclarence?! Such precious children. That's, uh... nineteen. And then there's Oren Jool. Twenty. And also Alien burst out of chest AARGH! AARGHhhllllurgh hero monologue-ending alien scuttles off to enjoy life, liberty and human spleens
posted by Kattullus at 4:55 PM on February 1, 2007


joaquim, in his defense, I'm sure there aren't many jews in North Dakota either.
posted by graventy at 7:29 PM on February 1, 2007


I knew Jews in North Dakota!
...but not very many.
posted by flaterik at 9:30 PM on February 1, 2007


Graventy, there aren't many people in North Dakota what-so-ever, really.

Isn't the world wide percentage for Jews like .2%? So hearing .04% for South Dakota doesn't sound that small.

Remember, there are two parts to Minnesota- the Twin Cities, which makes up 80% or so of the population, and the rest of the state, which is far more conservative.

DFL'er are a different animal than regular democrats. Farmers that might otherwise be more conservative vote for the people that would get them the subsidies in congress. Yet for managing the state, they tend to go more conservative.
posted by Monday at 11:17 PM on February 1, 2007


As most people know by now, Franken made it official today. He's got a YouTube video message on his website. WoW.
posted by spock at 8:44 PM on February 14, 2007


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