Thursday, August 21, 2014

Shooting off one toe at a time

As the MN State Fair commenced this morning, GOP gubernatorial and US Senate candidates, Jeff Johnson and Mike McFadden respectively, challenged their DFL opponents to a series of debates. The goal was to make headlines with those declarations in an effort for voters to start getting more engaged a mere 75 days before Election Day. But as is customary with the MN Republican party, we instead choose to shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot, thus drawing attention away from something positive.

As my friend and radio colleague Mitch Berg says "If it bleeds, it leads."

Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald vowed to return to the Minnesota Republican Party's State Fair booth Thursday after she was banned and ordered by security to leave.

"We may as well look for justice on a stick because we can't find it here!" MacDonald told a handful of supporters as she left the booth following a 10-minute confrontation with a security guard that began as soon as she showed up.

MacDonald, a family law attorney, was endorsed at the party's state convention in May to run against Justice David Lillehaug. She drew ire from party leaders who said most delegates were not aware of a drunken driving charge at the time of endorsement. MacDonald stands trial next month in Dakota County.

This week, the party's executive committee revised its State Fair Policy to restrict access to candidates with pending criminal cases, and moved to bar MacDonald from the booth. MacDonald, who said she was notified Wednesday of the resolution, showed up anyway.

The circumstances surrounding MacDonald's endorsement have only been made worse by the MNGOP's handling of this situation. The option was available to rescind MacDonald's endorsement. However, that possibility was dismissed almost immediately because it would actually highlight the flaws in the endorsement system which party executives seem to cherish so much. 

Another potential sticky wicket is the fact that MacDonald is not allowed to have the same privileges as all other GOP endorsed candidates even though she hasn't actually been convicted of a crime (again, her legal case is merely pending). That would seem to fly in the face of that whole "innocent until proven guilty" we allegedly live by in this country.

But perhaps the most unforgivable sin is how seemingly rushed MacDonald's candidacy was cobbled together. Arrest aside, none of the delegates had an opportunity to know her, rather they took the Judicial Election Committee's recommendation at face value. Before revelations of MacDonald's arrest came to light, I happened to see an interview she gave with local politico Tony Hernandez. It lasted only about five minutes, yet it was the most awkward and unprofessional display I've seen from a political candidate in quite some time (Watch it here).

After our State Fair radio broadcast this morning, Mitch and I showed at the MNGOP booth and were immediately cornered by volunteers. Apparently word had come down that, despite being banned from milling around the booth, MacDonald had intended to show up with supporters. As such, media members from the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, MPR and Twin Cities Public Television were on site. As was detailed in the Strib story I linked to, Ms. MacDonald did indeed arrive with her entourage.....and it was tense. On one side was security personnel urging her to vacate the premises while on the other was a throng of media. MacDonald then began to spin around with her camera in hand, mumbling something incoherently.

After about 10-15 minutes of that charade, MacDonald and her entourage convened next door to the WCCO radio booth to discuss the matter on their airwaves. Upon their departure from the MNGOP booth, I turned to Mitch and said "Welp....there's our first two segments for tomorrow's show."

Sneak preview: Mitch is going to light up the Judicial Elections Committee.


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