The good news for Barack Obama is that this is a mid-term election. He's got more job security than Payton Manning. The bad news for Barack Obama yeaaah, there's only so much space here, so let's not get into that.
The fact that it's of a mid-term variety speaks to the importance of this year's election in Minnesota. Forget about Obama for now; we'll deal with the White House in 2012 when our list of candidates from which to choose from will include Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, and Obama himself, among others.
For Minnesota voters, this year is all about Minnesota. And, says current Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, it's one of the most important elections in recent history.
Ritchie, who's facing a primary election this year, said there are numerous reasons why we should all pay close attention to this year's statewide races.
"There's no president, there's no senate, it's just Minnesota," Ritchie said. "Minnesota House, Minnesota Senate - it's completely up for election. Governor's race it is really about Minnesota, first and foremost, and we haven't had that in a long time. And it's an important time to have that because of the budget crisis that's going on."
Ritchie hopes young people who were energized by the Palins and Obamas of the world two years ago will continue to be part of the process.
"The second thing is that a whole bunch of people got active," Ritchie said. "Do they just stay home or stay active now? If you start to think that young people are becoming voters, then you start to address issues that affect young people. When politicians are talking about things that young people care about, they're going to be more likely to vote. If young people don't keep turning out to vote, then politicians go back to their old ways and not really addressing their issue."
Also important to note is who we are replacing.
At Thursday's Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce 2010 Legislative Wrap, House Rep. Marty Seifert, who was sitting at a table with retiring Sen. Dennis Frederickson, and current Rep. and Senate hopeful Doug Magnus, noted that, together, the three of them have 76 years of legislative experience. Two of them are not coming back and Magnus might not be if he doesn't win in November. Then there's retiring Sen. Jim Vickerman, who was elected into office when Colecovision was cool. And Dist. 18 Sen. Steve Dille, who's been in office for 18 years. That's almost 120 years of seniority - 100 from those who served areas closest to Marshall.
There is a real intergeneration climate out there," said Ritchie, who noted that absentee voting begins Friday in Minnesota - yes, this coming Friday. "A number of very important people have retired; we're seeing kind of a change in the generations. They won't be replaced by people with anything close to that kind of experience. We're losing some very important leaders; we need to make sure that people of the same quality can come in behind them. "Nothing against those running to replace these seasoned lawmakers, but good luck. Not only will they have big shoes to fill, but the waters at the state Capitol couldn't be choppier.
Give them credit though; they're at least willing to captain their ship into the eye of a perfect fiscal storm. Magnus used the word "ugly" three times at Thursday's forum when describing the state's short-term financial picture - a $5 billion to $6 billion budget hole that's sitting there like a scab waiting to be picked.
"We don't have pots of money sitting around," Magnus said Thursday. "There's nowhere to go. You open the door, there's nothing in the room. It's gone."
Legislative wrap-ups like Thursdays are a chance for Marshall businesspeople and leaders to get caught up on legislative issues in St. Paul from the policymakers who were there. If this year's meeting needed a movie title "Perfect Storm" would've worked. So would've "Armageddon II." Or maybe "2010," a prequel to the end-of-the-world flick "2012" starring John Cusack. Cusack would make a good Seifert. Only from the sounds of things, it wouldn't take a Mayan to predict what kind of cuts this state is in for. No, the world won't come to an end, but the gloom in Magnus' words is pretty depressing to hear.
Give Magnus credit though. It would be easy for an outgoing politician to talk about the state's dire situation and how bad things are going to get when they have nothing on the line. But Magnus has plenty riding on his words as he's attempting to make the House-to-Senate leap. He's not telling us what we want to hear, he's telling us what we need to hear. And that is the flat-out truth. Warts and all.
This is why it's more important now than usual to pay attention to this summer's races - what the candidates are talking about, what they're proposing to do to help fix things. Go to debates. I know, not the best way to spend a summer or fall evening, but these are important discussions that will be taking place by people who will be representing the area in St. Paul next year. Now more than ever, voters need to keep themselves in the loop before they vote. The more you hear, the more likely it is you'll really give your votes some real, concrete thought in November.