With the mid-term election behind us, Terry Stone, local Republican Party leader, is focusing his attention on the 2020 elections.
And he’s not alone. He noted four organizations of which he is an elected member are focused on the future.
“Because politics is a process and not an event, we are immediately shifting to the 2020 campaign where every Minnesota legislator will be on the ballot,” he said in reflection of last week’s elections. “We need to build and use institutional wisdom to win the next election.”
Minnesota needs a government that will recognize opportunity, and change to capitalize on the national boom in jobs and productivity, he said.
“Whether voters made the right choices should be apparent before the next election,” he said. “Parties lose elections for largely predictable reasons. It’s a logical consequence of our collective bad decisions — or more bad decisions than the other party.”
Stone said election “losses are a voter reaction to too-frequent partisan extremism. Losses are a shrine to Minnesota’s defective endorsement process. Losses are the result of seeing our political opponents as too-often evil instead of as our neighbors with differing ideas. We lose because we fail to address voter apathy. We lose because we see defeat as insurmountable instead of a learning opportunity. We lose because we mistake the ongoing political process for a series of bi-annual events. We lose because we are too willing to cultivate division within our own party through intolerance of diverse thinking. We lose because we fail to identify and apply our resources to races that are statistically and tactically winnable. We lose because we fail to identify why we lost.”
Stone, who serves as the first vice chairman of the 8th Congressional District GOP, said Republican Pete Stauber’s win to represent the 8th District in Congress was a part of the GOP’s plan.
“We focused our resources on what we determined to be winnable seats; we provided maximum legal funding to the successful Stauber campaign,” he said.
Stone said what happens in the next year will shape the next elections.
“I have a sense the taxpayers would like some governing done,” he said, “and if they get it, that will be great, if they get controversy and confusion, that will set up the tone for the GOP take-back of the Minnesota House and perhaps at the federal level, the GOP recovery of the House. It’s not a sexy idea, but let’s wait and see.”
The outcome of the upcoming elections are “unknown and probably unknowable,” he said. He said the results are unknowable, because they are dependent on many variables, including what happens and what the president does.
At the state level, Tim Walz, DFL governor-elect, is already talking tax increase, and while Stone said he’s not surprised, he called it an unfortunate emphasis on the future.
He said anyone who says they know the outcome of the next election “is less accurate than the people that polled this election.”
He pointed to polls that said Republican Doug Wardlow was leading Democrat Keith Ellison in the race for attorney general, when in the end, Ellison won soundly. He said the same pollsters predicted former Gov. Tim Pawlenty ahead in the primary, when the results were different.
“People are concerned about them,” Stone said of polls. “In the 8th District, with (President Donald) Trump, not everyone wants to tell someone unknown to them what they think. Some do.”
Same might be said for Thanksgiving dinners in the nation, he said.
“Who wants to bring up Trump?” he wondered laughing. “I suspect for Thanksgiving dinner, a lot of people will leave the engine running outside when they come to grandma and grandpa’s.”
And while Stone said he finds the president “mostly amusing” as he manipulates the press and his opponents, he doesn’t care beyond entertainment value.
“I am concerned about what governing is being done, and I like what’s being done,” he said. “At the federal level, I do.”
However, Stone said he is concerned about the state, which will be competing against all other states for jobs that he said will be created because the changes the federal government has made.
Under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota makes doing business cumbersome and has obstructed job creating pipelines and copper mining, he said.
Locally, he said the International Falls community appears to believe that adding to the state’s sales tax would be helpful to capture jobs, as voters approved the first step to implement a 1-percent local sales and use tax in the city.
Stone rejects that thinking. “I see it as... hostility against retailers, making them 1-percent less competitive.”
He sees no innovative ideas or bills offered for state House District 3A, represented by Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls, elected last week to a third term.
“There are simple solutions, but it takes political will,” he said, declining to discuss those solutions at this time. “We need ideas from leadership... I am concerned governing and leadership that would address local and state problems are not being done.”
He called the 2020 elections an opportunity, pointing to a recent report on the state’s growth and spending, which showed a $46 billion biennial budget in 2017, way up from 1960’s $1 billion.
The state’s spending increases, he said, for two reasons: Because of the population — the number of people who need goods and services from the state — and inflation.
If corrected for inflation, Stone said based on population growth, the state should have experienced an 11-percent per decade increase in spending. There is no legitimate reason state government has grown 800 percent in that time, he said, noting roads are not better.
State spending could be cut by closing some state offices, such as treasurer, auditor and the attorney general. He also said Minnesota could save money if it were to follow Nebraska’s lead in having a unicameral government, meaning one legislative body instead of two. And money could be saved by having a biannual legislative session, like Texas, he said.
Stone said he’s concerned about unfunded accrued pension liability, mistakes of the past, adding every election is also an opportunity to address that.
“There are ideas out there,” he said. “We need to get back to core functions of state government. The growth of state government is a serious problem we have to address.”