Bipartisan Panel Air Views at Bloomington Event


“How many people think the Legislature will go into special session over the budget deficit?” failed independent Senate candidate Dean Barkley asked at a meeting on bipartisanship in Wednesday night sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the Park Plaza Hotel, Bloomington.

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The evening forum, although lacking in headline news, was the very model of Minnesota nice. Much of the forum featured DFL Rep Ann Lenczewski, House Tax Committee chair, and Republican Sen. Geoff Michel voicing sweet thoughts like honeymooners. Barkley was also on the panel. Obviously the League event must have been a priority for Lenczewski to break away from her busy schedule as legislators wrestle with the budget deficit.

Barcley belittled Gov. Pawlenty’s latest scheme to balance the budget by raiding tobacco bonds. I was prepared to hiss and boo Barkley given his role in the current Senate election mess, but I found myself warming to his unconventional audacity; like the party guest who dances with the lamp shade on his head.

He voiced some rather interesting notions to advance third parties in the state such as replacing party caucuses which draw “radicals” (special interests). Instead candidates would be selected through primary elections which would open the process to the “general public”.

Barkley characterized the DFL and Republican constituencies as special interests keen to advance agendas related to hot button issues like gays, abortions and the environment, whereas the Independence Party target audience is only interested in “paying their bills.”

Organizing a political movement focused on bill payers has been a problem, Barkley admits, in getting them to vote for Independence Party candidates in the general election much less go to party caucuses or primaries

Barkley also supports instant runoff elections which might help third parties whose supporters fall prey to the argument that they waste their votes when they pull the level for the independent. Although, judging from the last election that may not be true given the enormity of wasted votes.

Audience members were invited to submit written questions for the panel that were screened for voicing by the moderator. My question was for Barkley: “What is the Independence party’s game plan for actually winning an election in Minnesota at any level?” It never got asked but the answer might have been amusing.

–David Zarkin, Bloomington, former reporter for United Press International,
Sun Current and Idhao Statesman