The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 11, 2012

Outgoing councilors talk election, future

Write-in candidate says he’ll run again

By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — The two close races for Mankato’s City Council were near-perfect reversals of the contests four years ago.

City Council President Mike Laven beat Chris Frederick 51 percent to 48 percent in 2008, but lost by the same figures last week. Likewise, Councilman Charlie Hurd beat Jason Mattick 52 percent to 46 percent in 2008, but lost 52 percent to 47 percent this year.

Laven hasn’t been doing much post-election analysis, but Hurd took to Facebook to give his take on why he lost.

“With redistricting, about 500 college-aged voters were added (to the 4th Ward). They looked at the literature from my opponent, and noticed that he looked more like them than me and voted for him. Being MSUM students, they weren’t able to read and critically think about the information presented in brochures,” he wrote.

He repeated that line of reasoning in a phone interview, saying college students haven’t lived in the community for a long time and don’t have a good handle on local issues.

He also wrote he was “one of the losers in the divisive Minnesota marriage debate” because people likely voted against him because he abstained or believed mistakenly that he voted for or against it.

“So, do I blame Republicans for bringing forth the amendment or the activist members of the City Council for forcing a vote on a state issue? Probably both. But ultimately, it is single-issue voters who show up at city council meetings, only once for their issue, and have ignored all the other issues that occur week after week,” he wrote.

Hurd didn’t think the election came down to his performance over six and a half years on the council.

“Obviously, I think I did a great job,” he said. Hurd said he hasn’t decided if he’ll run again.

Laven said his ego is “slightly bruised” but wasn’t otherwise mulling over the election results.

“Coulda, woulda and shoulda isn’t going to change the results now,” he said.

He said he’s considering running for public office in another capacity, perhaps on the City Council, on the County Board or at the Legislature. He lives in the ward of Councilwoman Karen Foreman, who he called “an incredibly good campaigner.”

Dennis Dieken, who garnered 25 percent of the votes in a write-in campaign against Councilwoman Tamra Rovney, said he intends to run next time.

“I think that we did well for a write-in,” he said, but called it “pretty darn tough” for a write-in candidate to unseat an incumbent on a ballot.

He said he hopes that the work he did this time around helps when he runs again.

The new council members, Frederick and Mattick, will take their seats soon after Jan. 1, either in a regular meeting or a special meeting.

Legislative impact

While it might be assumed that the Democrats’ win in the Legislature bodes well for the city’s request for state money to expand its civic center and maintain local government aid, City Manager Pat Hentges said it’s premature to draw any conclusions.

The Democrats will face pressure to focus on the budget — and Hentges thinks that’s the way it should be — and that priority will put all other legislative business in a second tier.

It’s an off-year for a public construction bill, though Hentges has heard the governor is considering having a special bill for projects he believed should have made it last year.

The future of local government aid is an even bigger question mark for the Legislature. The only certainty comes from the local governments that depend on the aid. 

Cities and counties have already resumed that drumbeat. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is joining others for a “Thank LGA” event 2:30-4 p.m. Tuesday in the North Mankato Police Annex Community Room.