Not Eudora  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 package!

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 minority!

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: www.snowbizz.com  

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: harrywelty@snowbizz.com