The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Election News

October 28, 2010

Walz seeks 3rd term in challenging season

MANKATO — A former defensive coordinator for the Mankato West Scarlets, Congressman Tim Walz is facing an all-out blitz in his run for a third term. The cornerbacks are coming at the Mankato Democrat. So are the linebackers. There are even some unidentified players charging in from the sidelines.

The blitzers aren’t using fancy spin moves or swim moves. They’re going with a bull-rush aimed squarely at his voting record — targeting his support of a $787 billion economic stimulus plan, the Democratic health care reform and the cap-and-trade energy bill.

“It’s the fourth quarter,” Walz said of the final days of the campaign. “I heard somebody say every hour feels like a day ... .”

The scoreboard shows Walz at 50 and Republican Randy Demmer at 41, according to a poll released Wednesday night by Austin TV station KAAL.

The numbers could be different on Tuesday depending on the effectiveness of the blitz of anti-Walz TV ads and direct-mail pieces by National Republicans, the Demmer campaign and outside groups — which popped up after a Supreme Court ruling last winter allowing unlimited contributions by corporations, often with anonymity, to organizations attempting to influence elections.

‘Effective governance’

Walz professed confidence in his blitz protection package, listing a team that includes former Republican Sen. David Durenberger and former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson — both of whom have endorsed him — and groups as varied as the National Rifle Association, the Sierra Club and several veterans organizations.

“I think it falls on deaf ears,” Walz said of the effort to portray him as a budget-busting, tax-hiking, Nancy Pelosi-loving liberal. “When (southern Minnesotans) are seeing people like Arne Carlson, when they’re seeing people like Dave Durenberger — all these groups who support me, and they’re numerous — they’re seeing what effective governance looks like. And the partisanship kind of fades away.”

Walz doesn’t mention another key factor in countering the attack ads — a nearly $2 million campaign war chest that has allowed him to match most of the advertising with attack ads of his own. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also come in with a late batch of anti-Demmer ads.

Both sides have accused the other of unsportsmanlike conduct, and the race is likely the most expensive and most negative in 1st District history.

Walz has also run advertisements highlighting accomplishments, most notably his work to improve benefits for veterans — something that has brought him national awards from veterans groups.

The big three

Criticism of Walz by Demmer and Demmer-supporting outside groups has focused almost exclusively on the three big votes — with House Speaker Pelosi’s name and image invariably nearby.

“Tim Walz is bumfuzzled,” says the headline of a Demmer mailer that includes a photo of Walz, a thought-bubble rising above his head showing a picture of Pelosi. “We want him to stop spending, but he’s desperate to please Nancy.”

The ads detail the “failed stimulus” and “untold billions” for “Obamacare” and the “new energy taxes.”

Walz has voted with the Democratic House leadership 97 percent of the time, just like the mailer claims, according to the Washington Post website cited as documentation. But that doesn’t make Walz one of Pelosi’s most loyal and consistent supporters by a long shot.

The Washington Post list shows Walz as somewhere around the 160th Democrat most likely to vote with the leadership out of 263 Democratic members. He’s bucked the leadership most notably when favoring more offshore oil drilling, opposing the bailout for American car companies, and opposing the financial industry bailout.

But Walz voted for the big three and doesn’t regret a one of them — not even the energy bill that has been a bulls-eye on the backs of House Democrats despite that it stalled in the Senate and didn’t become law.

‘Decisive action’

Walz’s defense of the bills can be complex, like the bills themselves. But here’s a summary of each.

The stimulus bill was far from “failed,” in Walz’s opinion. A third of the $787 billion was tax cuts, mostly a reduction in the payroll taxes of working-class Americans; the bill financed needed infrastructure projects around the nation, putting construction crews on the job; and it provided assistance to cash-strapped state and local governments so that teachers, police officers, firefighters and others weren’t laid off.

The bottom line was that the economy was teetering on the edge of an even bigger collapse, he said.

“If we had not done this, had we not taken decisive action, I think we’d be facing depression-era types of times,” Walz said. “And most economists agree.”

On the health care bill, Walz instructs people to seek out the opinions of people at the Mayo Clinic, or at area hospitals or from Durenberger, a Republican leader on health care during his time in the Senate. That, said Walz, is what he did.

And he sees the bill as a strong start toward what the experts advised — private-sector health care coverage for uninsured Americans, outcome-based care that will help rein in skyrocketing medical costs, and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The energy bill, if the Senate had passed it, would have started America toward reducing its dependence on foreign oil, much of it from countries that actively dislike America, Walz said. The alternative to a national energy policy is to leave the nation’s future increasingly vulnerable to the whims of the countries that control the oil.

As for the growth in deficit spending, Walz said it’s important not to forget that much of it resulted from wars, tax cuts, and entitlement expansion approved when Republicans controlled the federal government up until 2006. The deficits were exacerbated by the deep recession, caused by “renegade” Wall St. financial firms that are now facing tighter regulations because of a Democratic financial reform bill, he said.

Walz said he has a record of supporting deficit reduction over time but cautions that it must be done while still making necessary investments in infrastructure, alternative energy projects, bio-research and other targeted spending.

“Growing our economy, we don’t need 20th century technology, we need 21st century technology ...,” Walz said. “And we need to make sure we don’t go into a permanent recession or depression by not educating our children.”

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