A NEUTRAL SECRETARY OF STATE
In the past, the Secretary of Stateís office has had a low profile. But recently, the office has gotten more attention, particularly because of close presidential elections. In both swing states Florida (2000) and Ohio (2004), the Secretaries were also the state campaign managers of President Bush. Many people feel the actions of these Secretaries influenced the result. This does not inspire confidence in the integrity of elections.
Recently, Mike Erlandson indicated he was considering a run for Secretary of State of Minnesota. In his role as Minnesota DFL Chair, he was the chief hatchet man against the Republicans, regularly ridiculing their positions and their leaders. Republicans, how would you feel having Mike in charge of Minnesota elections?
Is Mary Kiffmeyer fair? My first-hand experience says no. She professed publicly to be neutral about ranked voting initiatives that I proposed, while killing them behind closed doors. If these initiatives were bad, she should have told the whole state. By targeting them privately, she was admitting that she perceived them to be bad for her political posture, not for the citizens as a whole.
At a minimum, the Secretary of State should not be engaged in political campaigns for other offices. Itís worth considering that the office be made non-partisan, although non-partisan in name alone will not comfort everybody.
But who says you're neutral?
Anybody can claim to be neutral. Citizens are going to be curious about what my personal political beliefs are. I am reluctant to share specifics on issues that have nothing to do with the SOS office, or discuss who I voted for in the past. I’m hoping it will be enough if I share some of my beliefs and principles. I think that people who know me from my work at the Capitol have observed that I strive to be fair and see the strengths of both sides of an issue. I am a qualified neutral and in that role have helped hundreds of people resolve their disputes. Here are some of my beliefs and some information about me:
I believe in representative democracy, also known as a republic.
The executive branch should be representative of the majority, and the legislative branch should be representative of all.
I think a lot about process, and I take my inspiration from James Madison. I believe if the process is good, then the results will be good. I don’t advocate reforms to advantage any political viewpoint, beyond the principles which I enunciated above.
I believe that the market economy is effective. All proposed government interventions should be scrutinized as to why the market doesn’t meet the public’s need in that area, and whether the cure will be worse than the disease. When government does intervene, it should be at the most local level possible to address that problem.
I believe the people in government in Minnesota are basically good people, and that the annoying things that they sometimes do are usually the product of the difficult circumstances that they are in.
I don’t object to taxes, but I want the money to be spent wisely.
I have worked in two political campaigns, Goldwater in 1964 and McGovern in 1972. I still admire both of those men for their candor, but my own political views are now somewhere between the two.
I like to hear both sides of the story and invent a creative way to accommodate the best of both sides.
I have attended DFL caucuses on a couple of occasions, but I get disappointed when people always talk about reapportioning the pie, rather than making the pie bigger.
I was raised a Republican and though I have “strayed from the flock,” I have always appreciated the principles of fiscal responsibility and personal liberty, and I like the many Republicans I have met at the Capitol.
Even though I am a centrist, I also look to the extremes for possible solutions. That’s why I fit with a group referred to as the “radical center.”
It is my respect for the extremes and the center, and my commitment to process over politics, which enable me to be neutral.
Given the choice, most people would want the administrator of elections to be someone who shares their political views. But you will probably only successfully elect such a person 50% of the time or less. Why chance it?
I offer neutrality. I believe in the process. I will strive to make all aspects of elections as fair as possible. I will not take any action solely for the benefit of one party or another. Everyone will have their voices heard and responded to. No one will be misled about my positions. I will testify as to the pros and cons of each piece of election legislation that is proposed, and let the chips fall where they may. Elections will be conducted competently and fairly. I will set an example for fairness that I hope will become the standard for future Secretaries of State.