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From the Left Hand Corner: A surprise attack on state DFL endorsement system

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As a believer in our two-party system that has served this nation well, I hate to see what is happening to both the Republican Party and our DFL in Minnesota this summer.

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Our party endorsement systems are far from perfect, but both provide a process for interested citizens who take the time and trouble to actively participate not only to have impact, but also the opportunity to be viable candidates for office. That is something that very few could otherwise afford to do.

Without a meaningful party endorsement system, politics would become a complete money war, an exacerbation of government by the few, for the few.

Four years ago, Republican Marty Seifert lost a close and hard fought endorsement race for governor. He graciously stepped aside and let the endorsement winner run unimpeded and almost win against Gov. Mark Dayton.

This year the same Seifert lost a not-so-close battle for Republican endorsement. But, he reacted much differently.

I obviously wasn't there to have direct knowledge, but it sounds like he was spiteful and petulant at the convention. He apparently tried to subvert the whole process by orchestrating a walkout to defeat a quorum and prevent the majority from functioning. Now he, along with others who have more money than credentials, is out stumping across the state, thumbing his nose at the same process he helped create and willingly participated in, until he couldn't win at the state convention.

We have it even worse in the DFL. We walked out of our state convention united on June 1. We had endorsed by acclamation, or unanimously, our U.S. Sen. Al Franken and our Gov. Dayton with his new running mate, Tina Smith.

Also endorsed unanimously were Attorney General Lori Swanson and state Auditor Rebecca Otto.

In our only state contested race for secretary of state, gracious loser Deb Hillstrom pledged and has since exhibited full support for the winning candidate, Steve Simon. There wasn't a threatening DFL foe in sight, and we appeared ready and starting on a unified team campaign effort on the road to November.

Just three days later, we Minnesota DFLers incurred the surprise sneak attack. Out of the wild blue yonder, in our own little Pearl Harbor, just minutes before filings closed Tuesday, June 3, one Matt Entenza filed for state auditor, giving no warning, not a word to any party officials or participants, not a word to the 2,000-plus good DFLers who just finished a full weekend of candidate consideration, not a word to our fine DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto.

In doing so, he attacked all our good faith time and effort expended in creating our best possible united effort toward creating our view of better government in Minnesota.

Entenza's surprise attack on the state DFL endorsed ticket has been described and characterized by fellow DFLers in any number of ways over the past month, some of them not very printable. The label this writer has heard and seen the most is simply "sneaky," and reminiscent of things he has done in the past. Unfortunately, with his money, he also presents us with a taste of our own little Koch Brothers - with his millions versus their billions.

Entenza came into the race last minute waving his personal wealth and access to paid media and not much else. He stirs up latent issues and seemingly focuses on political issues that have nothing to do with the role or function of the office of state auditor.

Why go against Rebecca Otto, who by all accounts has been performing in the job very well? Entenza doesn't show a single legitimate credential to do so. One can only surmise that he has the hopefully mistaken belief that she is the most vulnerable of our state officials, a status he seems bent on attaining through any means he can buy.

If memory serves correctly, he's the same guy who a few years ago had to shamefully withdraw from the attorney general race after being caught spending thousands of dollars hiring private detectives in Chicago in a failed attempt to dig up dirt against a then competing DFL candidate for governor and his family.

Otto's job performance has been impeccable. She has developed a professional state office operation that has passed scrutiny from every angle, all with convincing integrity. She epitomizes true fiscal responsibility at every turn. Once elected, she put her business and accounting acumen to work for the state, and really has "put her nose to the grindstone," as we old-timers would say. Knowledgeable analysts and observers, in and beyond Minnesota borders, seem to be in accord that she has done one fantastic job in her brief tenure.

Otto has been acclaimed all across this country as a best among state auditors. She has been selected professionally and already recognized in a top echelon, top 15, among auditors nationwide. Her peers of state auditors from the 50 states from Hawaii to Maine have selected Otto as national president of State Auditors of America.

That is impressive, coming from a smaller state and with a short tenure in office. In short, Otto could not be more deserving of re-election.

This is going to be another big test of "people vs. money" in politics. Rick Nolan proved that people can still prevail over money in 2012. Otto can do it again in 2014. It is up to all of us DFLers over the coming month to see that she does.

So, with absentee balloting in place, on or before Aug. 12, I hope that more than enough of us DFLers cast our ballot for the rightful and deserving nominee of our party, Rebecca Otto. And, I further hope that you Republicans do the same and support your endorsement process.

It is much needed for preservation of our free participation process that has served what remains the good part of our representative government "democracy."

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