Environmental group likes Otto’s cool house more than Berger’s Green ties

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Clean Water Action announced its endorsement of DFLer Rebecca Otto for state auditor, citing her environmental credentials as a legislator—and her eco-friendly home.

Otto called the endorsement significant, noting that CWA “often endorses the green candidate,” in this case Dave Berger. “It was by no means a given,” she said in a statement released by her campaign.

Apparently, CWA was impressed by the home Otto and her screenwriter husband, Shawn, built “with their own hands” that uses passive solar design and a wind generator to produce most of the home’s power. As the CWA’s Brian Elliott put it, the board was swayed by “Rebecca’s proven track record at the Capitol, but also by the ways that she’s walked the walk.”

Otto taught environmental science for five years in the Mounds View public schools and worked to curb mercury emissions while serving in the state legislature. Her home in Marine-on-the-St. Croix, where she and her family have lived for the past 10 years, is an “exciting showcase of energy efficiency,” Elliott says, that features a imported wood-burning stove that heats the entire house in the winter.

Berger, who actively sought the endorsement, “had interesting ideas about how to leverage the office for the purposes of environmental sustainability,” Elliott says. But, in the end, it was Otto’s experience and lifestyle that clinched it.

Incumbent State Auditor Pat Anderson Awada did not seek the organization’s endorsement.

And while it’s not immediately apparent how one’s environmental inclinations (or domicile) might affect a state auditor’s performance, Elliott points out that the auditor can “encourage municipalities to adopt smarter, environmentally sound practices.” The auditor also holds a seat on the State Board of Investment, he adds. “They could play a substantial role in ensuring that the environment is taken into account in investing of the state’s money.”

That’s the message CWA will circulate to its 62,000 member households around the state.

The endorsement is good news for the DFL which hopes Otto’s green reputation will pull support away from Berger, who four years ago polled 78,000 votes, more than enough to influence the 15,000-vote margin that separated DFLer Carol Johnson and Republican Pat Awada.

But Berger argues that voters should look beyond Otto’s eco-friendly lifestyle and focus on her voting record. He notes on his “Web site”:http://www.berger4auditor.org/Welcome.html that Otto voted in favor of Michelle Bachmann’s anti-gay marriage amendment in 2004, and in 2003 she voted with the Taxpayer League 55 percent of the time, the most support the anti-tax group received from any DFLer in the House.

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