Saturday, February 06, 2010

Just a darn minute, Margaret

Spot tuned into Almanac on TPT last night (February 5th) to listen to a conversation between two of the front-running candidates for the DFL endorsement for governor, Mayor R.T. Rybak and Speaker Margaret Anderson-Kelliher. As she usually does in campaign appearances, the Speaker touts the Omnibus Transportation Finance Bill of 2008, and raising the gas tax, as a signature legislative achievement of hers.

But when the Speaker claims the transportation bill when counting coup, it’s a little like the automobile manufacturers when they call the side lights on a car an “electro-luminescent positioning system.” Strictly speaking accurate, but there’s a lot of gilt on that lily.

Spot did you write that last paragraph that way on purpose?

You will never know, grasshopper. But it’s a hat trick, no?

But Lori Sturdevant reminds us who really had skin in the game on the bill Anderson-Kelliher boasts about: the six Republican legislators who voted with the House majority to override Governor Gutshot’s veto:

Former State Rep. Ron Erhardt of Edina is angling for a comeback -- as a DFLer. The leader of the rump Republican group that helped DFLers override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's 2008 transportation bill veto was dumped by his GOP party in 2008. He ran as an independent and came in second in what may have been the year's most-watched legislative contest. It was won by Republican Rep. Keith Downey; DFLer Kevin Staunton placed third.

Erhardt, who served 18 years in the House and was once one of the state Republican Party's most prolific fundraisers, sent letters to DFL activists this week announcing his party change. He said he intends to challenge Staunton, who is also running again, for DFL endorsement. Erhardt is not yet saying whether he'll take his comeback bid to the primary voters if he doesn't prevail at the endorsing convention.

Erhardt's experience, and that of the other five GOP transportation bill overriders, illustrates the high cost today's political parties are exacting for cooperation with the opposition party. Only one of the Override Six was reelected in 2008 without an intra-party challenge; only two of them still serve in the state House.

In the case of Erhardt, in particular, he had been a tireless champion for better transportation funding and choices for many years, and was he was recognized by MAPE (Legislator of the Year in 2008) and the Sierra Club for his leadership on the override.

As Anderson-Kelliher says, she “held her caucus together” on the Omnibus Transportation Finance Bill in 2008, but she got more than a little help from her friends, and it is they who can claim the real credit for the bill.

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