Minnesota Dems encourage students to vote

By Patrick Malloy

There was a clear message throughout Sunday’s “Take Back Our State” rally hosted by the Macalester Democrats (MacDems): help the Democrats win in November by voting and getting everyone you can to vote.

Al Franken, the liberal author, comedian and potential 2008 opponent to Minnesota’s Republican Senator Norm Coleman, was the main speaker at the event. He spoke of his aggravation with the Christian Right and the recent Congressional page scandal involving Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican. He also addressed global warming, United States dependence on Middle Eastern oil, the expanding power of the executive branch, and budget deficits
“I am sick and tired of Republicans saying they own values,” Franken said to an audience of approximately 75 students.

Franken also cited the scandal involving Foley, who has since resigned from his Congressional seat. Foley is accused of sending sexually explicit emails to teenage male Congressional pages.

“This latest scandal is a metaphor for this Republican Congress and Republican administration,” Franken said in his speech.

Democrats “should let [the scandal] run its course,” and “talk about what Congress has done wrong,” Franken said in an interview before the address.

Franken invoked the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone in his plea to encourage students to vote.

“Wellstone said the future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard,” Franken said.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-St. Paul) kicked off the rally, telling students of the risks of failing to vote.

“When you don’t vote, you empower someone else to make decisions for you,” McCollum said. “We can’t take this country in a new direction if we lose vulnerable seats.”

McCollum encouraged students to vote in elections at home by absentee ballot or vote in Minnesota, where Macalester students are eligible to vote in November.

Erin Murphy, the Democratic candidate for state representative in district 64A, Macalester’s district, spoke of the need for Democrats to vote if they are going to take control of the state legislature. A former nurse, she also focused on healthcare issues.

“I’m going to fix healthcare with your help,” Murphy said.

Macalester alumna Rebecca Otto, a candidate for State Auditor, Secretary of State candidate Mark Ritchie, and Ramsey County Sheriff candidate and former St. Paul police chief Bill Finney echoed these messages regarding voting.

“We will not go quietly into the night,” Finney said. “We will lead the charge!”

Ritchie discussed his plans for the Secretary of State office to increase voting among young people in an interview after his speech. The Secretary of State administers all elections in the state.

“We need to work on ensuring that low participating Minnesotans vote,” Ritchie said. “We need to address barriers.”

Ritchie proposed introducing voting equipment in schools for school elections so that students are more familiar with voting. He also wants to undertake efforts to recruit younger poll workers. This would increase interest in voting among young people, Ritchie said.

Lieutenant Governor candidate Judy Dutcher, who is running on Attorney General Mike Hatch’s ticket, discussed her vision for the office of Lieutenant Governor in an interview with The Mac Weekly.

Aside from being prepared to take the place of the governor, the Lieutenant Governor has no official constitutional responsibilities.

“Mostly that office has been well-defined in the past,” Dutcher said. She said that Hatch wanted her to be a “partner.”

“My passion is public education,” Dutcher said.

Minnesota’s public education system is in a state of “degradation,” Dutcher said.

“There is a shortage of classrooms and resources,” she said. “You need to support the teachers and students in their everyday experience.”

Dutcher said that she would bring teachers “to the table” to determine priorities for what needs to be addressed. Dutcher did not offer specific initiatives.

The Mac Democrats began planning Sunday’s rally in June. Jake Levy-Pollans ’09, a Mac Dems co-chair, said that the organization invited the candidates and Al Franken in July and August.

“Macalester is a pretty vital place for candidates to start,” Levy-Pollans said when asked why the candidates would decide to visit.