GOP outreach: Lietenant governor candidate once asked activists to harass MN Women for Kerry rally

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Bluestem is beginning to wonder about the Republican Party’s commitment to be more inclusive interms of demographics, in that some of the candidates in the governor’s race–and their running mates–aren’t exactly star graduates of human relations seminars.

Take Bill Kuisle, perhaps our favorite Southeast Minnesota Republican since Mike Parry and The Draz. Defeated in Minnesota House District 30B in 2004, 2006, and 2008 after serving four terms, Kuisle is the running mate of endorsed MNGOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, who is Minnesota Nice (unless you’re a “clueless, obnoxious and frankly, very messy” Occupy protestor).

A devoted reader in the Rochester area with a long memory sent Bluestem the link to a 2004 KARE 11 report, DFL Criticizes GOPer’s E-Mail Urging Harassment at Kerry Event (paragraphing provided for readability)

The state Democratic Party chairman said Friday that GOP leaders should denounce a state lawmaker who urged Republicans to disrupt a campaign event by supporters of presidential candidate John Kerry.

In a news release, the DFL Party included an e-mail that Rep. Bill Kuisle had sent to Olmsted County Republicans, urging them to attend an event in Rochester on Friday featuring singer Carole King and the group Minnesota Women for John Kerry.

Kuisle provided the details of the event and said, “If anyone can go and harass it would be appreciated. Bill.”

“I call on the Republican Party and the campaign of George W. Bush to reject this negative and hateful kind of politics,”DFL Party chairman Mike Erlandson said in the release.

Kuisle, R-Rochester, confirmed that he sent the e-mail but said the word ‘harass’ was not directed at women. He said he was simply referring to the standard counter-demonstrations in which people wave signs and make noise. “I don’t know if it was the proper word to use,” he said. “But let’s face it: the DFL does it and the Republicans do it. If that’s not harassment, I don’t know what is. But is it about harassing women? No.” . . .

Perhaps he should have left this sort of planning to the operatives, who might have been more judicious with their word choice.

This article is reposted from TCDP media partner Bluestem Prairie. Check out the links below for other recent Bluestem Prairie stories:

Via Nexis, we found more coverage in a September 11, 2004 Pioneer Press report by Rachel Stassen-Berger, “Parties bicker over campaign tactics; each accused of using Sept. 11”:

. . . Also Friday, Erlandson admonished GOPers over an e-mail sent by Minnesota Rep. Bill Kuisle, R-Rochester.

According to the DFL, Kuisle sent an e-mail to Olmsted County area Republicans on Thursday asking them to “go and harass” at a DFL event featuring singer Carole King and Women for Kerry.

In response, Kuisle said he should not have used the word “harass” in the e-mail he sent late Thursday night. He meant debate or protest, he said.

“I’m big enough to say I apologize. It was the wrong word,” said Kuisle. “Was it too strong a word? Yeah.” (via Nexis All-News, accessed June 22, 2014)

Okay, then.

The strange case of English-only driver’s license tests

Dan Severson, the RPM’s endorsed candidate for Minnesota Secretary of State, teamed up with Senator Dan Hall to launch the Minority Liberty Alliance as outreach to conservative New Americans. While it’s admirable, we suspect that like many citizens, they’ll be looking at track records.

And so we wonder if perhaps the candidates the party selects for the governor’s team–and those who challenge them–aren’t necessarily the strongest allies for this work, given some of the votes they took in the legislature. And while Severson speaks about learning of new Minnesotans’ concerns in his 2010 race, some of his votes suggest that he’s not always been so welcoming.

Take the notion of English-only, which was a hot issue for Republicans in the first decade of this century, coming to something of a head in 2010. But even earlier, when Kuisle was in the legislature, he and primary ticket rival Marty Seifert tag-teamed in a failed proposal to restrict the language in which Minnesotans could take the written part of the driver’s license exam. The Associated Press’s Brian Bakst reported in 2004:

Minnesota House members decided Wednesday they won’t do away with multilingual driver’s exams, wouldn’t intervene in the Twin Cities bus strike and should commission a study that could lead to a second beltway freeway around the metropolitan area. . . .

Debate stretched over two days and was most passionate over a proposal that called for English-only driver’s exams. It failed on a lopsided vote.

Rep. Marty Seifert, a high-ranking Republican from Marshall, sought the testing limitations, casting it as a road-safety measure. His amendment would have prohibited the use of foreign language interpreters.

Minnesota currently offers the written driving test in English, Spanish, Hmong, Russian, Vietnamese and Somali.

Seifert and his allies said knowing shapes and colors of road signs is no longer enough. They said scrolling road signs make the ability to read vital for drivers.

“If you can’t read them, how are you going to react?” said Rep. Bill Kuisle, R-Rochester.

But opponents, led by urban Democrats, said the proposal discriminated against immigrants and others who don’t speak fluent English. They challenged supporters to prove that those drivers present a safety hazard, but no anecdotes or statistics were offered.

“Representative Seifert is confusing an English proficiency test with a public safety test,” said Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul. The measure, opponents predicted, would result in more people driving illegally and job losses among people who couldn’t drive to work. (Brian Bakst, “House rejects driver’s test changes, bus-strike proposal,” Associated Press State and Local Wire, April 7, 2004, Nexis All News, accessed June 21, 2014)

The Seifert motion to amend begins on page 6458 of the Journal of the House for 2003-2004 (April 7, 2004).

The “lopsided vote” against the measure (the Republicans controlled the chamber at the time, mind you) was 49 yeas and 83 nays. Curiously, a number of “yea” votes are showing up on the statewide Republican tickets this year: Seifert, Zeller, and Kuisle in the gubernatorial primary; Scott Newman as the endorsed Attorney General candidate, and yes, Dan Severson. In CD7, Torrey Westrom, who supported the Seifert amendment in 2004, is challenging Collin Peterson.

Lest readers think that the Seifert Amendment was a Greater Minnesota Republican thing, some of the names in the “nay” column are familiar figures in Greater Minnesota leadership: Tony Cornish, Bob Gunther, Bud Nornes, Dan Dorman, Jim Knoblach (now challenged St. Cloud DFL incumbent Zachary Dorholt).

Bluestem has to wonder how this sort of malarkey will play not only in the Cities, but regional centers in Greater Minnesota like Rochester, Mankato, St. Cloud, Worthington and yes, Seifert’s own Marshall, where New Americans find work in food processing companies like Schwans. It’s not as if people need driver’s licenses to get to work in Greater Minnesota nor that employers want them to be able to get to work–much less shop and all those other things people do with vehicles in areas with few public transit options.

In Kuisle’s case, we’re seeing a pattern of diminishing or dismissing the concerns of people not exactly like him: environmentalists and conservationists, Native Americans, women, immigrants whose first language isn’t English.

He’s met The Others and they are the rest of us.

Photo: The post-convention MNGOP fly-around. Men in suits. via Facebook.