By Harry Welty
Published April 6, 2002
Escaping the Minority
As a potential legislative candidate I've been watching the game
of musical chairs left in the wake of redistricting. Even though Duluth gained a
little population over the last decade it effectively lost a house seat slipping
from 3 to 2. Duluth had 4 house seats when I moved here twenty-eight years ago.
Dale Swapinski is agonizing about whether he will run against his buddy Mike
Jaros now that they find themselves in the same district. Dale said something to
the effect that if there was any legislator he would defer to (not run against)
it would be Mike, his friend of thirty years. If I was Mike, hearing that would
make me very nervous.
Dale does have other options. He could move to one of the four Duluth precincts
that have been grafted onto the new Senate District that runs from Esko through
Hermantown to Grand Marais. This prospect has the Chamber of Commerce so nervous
that when Rep. Bakk announced his candidacy for the seat Chamber representatives
stood behind him at his press conference. Apparently the Chamber has never heard
about the devil you know versus the one that you don't.
By the way, take everything I say on this subject with a grain of salt. My
analysis is tainted by my own ambition. I challenged Mike for his house seat
twice back in the Seventies. When the 1990 redistricting moved his boundary up
to 21st Avenue it darned near killed me. It meant I would have to spend the next
decade looking across the street into his district. I was certain that some
sadistic judge had put the boundary there just to taunt me.
By the time this is published Dale may have made his plans public. A lot of
people expect him challenge Yvonne Prettner Solon for her Senate seat, which now
spans the entire length of Duluth from Fondulac to the Northshore. Dale's gotta
be kicking himself for not running against her in the January special election.
Evidently the poll numbers didn't look good for Dale and he backed out of the
contest, but man-oh-man, the Green Party candidate came out of nowhere and won
37 percent of the vote. Maybe Dale coulda won. Maybe he could defeat Yvonne now.
Yvonne will be much tougher to beat now that she's an incumbent. While
Republicans like to think of east Duluth as Republican territory Doug Johnson
who represented the area for the last ten years always carried it. It's
anybody's guess whether these voters would prefer Yvonne or Dale. For what its
worth, Dale strikes me as an ambitious enough politician to burn his bridges
behind him. Going for the Senate would allow his old friend Mike retire
gracefully sometime before the next reapportionment. Its common knowledge that
Duluth legislators enjoy lifetime tenure.
I do feel a little guilty coveting a legislative seat with so many things left
unsettled in the School District no thanks to the legislature. HEY, ST. PAUL!
IF YOU'RE LISTENING! PLEASE… sort out this year's school finance
One of the frustrating things about being on the school board is that I feel
like I'm in a minority party. Mind you, its not a partisan minority, its a
"two high school" minority but its still a minority. If I got elected
to the House I'd probably be in the majority. No wonder I'm drooling.
Last week I bumped into my old nemesis Frank Wanner, the teachers' union
president, a fellow who helped put me in the minority. While my feud with Frank
was put to bed two years ago my feud with the folks he helped elect lives on.
Well, it's true that one of them was defeated last year, but the three-high
school supporters still have more votes. Frank was very cordial and suggested
that we get together. I promised to call.
The next day I had to leave a message with him because he was holding a press
conference about saving the seven-period day. I sure wish he'd done this before
we finished registering students for a six-period day! When my wife saw
him on the news she said, "No wonder Frank was so friendly!" The next
day I left another message for Frank.
The weekend was blissfully free of politics (except for some email) until we
joined friends for an Easter Dinner. Our friend's son is interested in political
science. He told me that Frank likes to bad mouth SUVs in class. Apparently my
website gets discussed too. That explains some of my email.
Frank called me back on Monday and we agreed to meet at Bixby's. I told Frank
that I'd heard that he hated SUV's. He smiled and asked where I'd heard this. I
told him that I had my sources.
We talked about his seven-period day proposal which he assured me was not a
negotiations ploy. I prefer to take him at his word. The DFT wants high school
students to be able to take up to seven classes a day. Many students, teachers
and parents are convinced that this is a key to getting into their preferred
colleges. Whether it is or not the six-period day is our response to financial
hard times. I told Frank what I keep telling the Board - if we had two high
schools we could keep seven periods. Frank didn't disagree. Ah! But I'm in the
If I could just get elected to the legislature maybe I could do something about
school finance. I'm sure not having much luck on the school board.
Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at:
The editors are not sold on my suggestion for a column title. Tough! I do like
it and it was tied for first in my election with one vote. If you'd like to
straighten me out send an Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org