The Maplewood race that could and did

Print

A small hard-working group of volunteers waited tensely for results to come in. Maplewood has a strong independent contrary streak, there is no certainty. Sidewalks are rare and sometimes the need for curbs are still questioned. Yet there are great parks and trails. Only a small number of people get involved in local city politics, so getting out the vote is really critical. Recent elections have been volatile.

A previous mayor, Diana Longrie was running again. Diana Longrie’s term as mayor was marked by controversy and chaos. City government was devastated by firings, quittings and retirements. The financial books were not kept up. The city almost lost its insurance. Fortunately, Will Rossbach was elected to replace Diana Longrie. With hard work, Major Rossbach turned things around. But then he announced that he was not running again.

Diana Longrie has small dedicated following. She could win again and do a repeat performance of chaos and controversy. Finding a mayoral candidate with good recognition was key to stopping Diana Longrie. Fortunately, Nora Slawik, who was elected 7 times in the state legislature, agreed to run.

Nora helped recruit Marylee Abrams, an attorney, to also run. Kathy Juenemann was persuaded to run for re-election one more time. With weak mayor system, having 3 of the 5 votes on the city council is important to running local government. The mayor is one of the votes. Smart campaigning in low turnout races requires working in teams. Nora also had support from key players from the successful Bostrom-for-Sheriff campaign. The campaign team was ready.

Diana Longrie was also going for 3 of the 5 votes on the city council. She aligned with incumbent Rebecca Cave and newcomer Margaret Ann Behrens.

The teams clashed for DFL endorsement, where most of the contest is in getting out the voters at precinct caucuses and then getting those same voters to go the convention. It was tense. Local DFLers recruited outside help to ensure a smooth convention. Nora Slawik, Marylee Abrams, and Kathy Juenemann won DFL endorsement. The Nora team collects many endorsements including the Independence Party and the Chamber of Commerce.

The teams clashed again in the primaries, where the election results left only the members of both teams on the ballot. The Nora team had a lead in votes but would that lead stay in November? Interestingly, only female candidates were left on the ballot.

In an off-year election, it is hard to find volunteers and hard to get voters’ attention. Yet the Nora team kept working it. All over were Diana Longrie signs and literature indicating that that team was working it too.

In previous years, organizing the trash hauling with one hauler had been the big controversy. A strong advocate, John Nephew, had been ousted from city council. The one hauler solution had been implemented. It turned out that there was less noise and wear on the streets. And surprise, surprise, it was much cheaper with reliable service. That issue had disappeared.

The new issue was the coverage and staffing of fire stations. Fire stations look good but they really need the staffing to make them effective. Pretty buildings don’t fight fires.

Doorknocking includes all Republican doors. I find during my doorknocking that some Republican voters do not want my DFLness around, even if there are no Republicans left on the ballot. Cooties, I guess.

Election day comes with its promise of rain and snow. Will the Maplewood voters turn out?

After 8 PM, the first results come in. Nora Slawik, Marylee Abrams, and Kathy Juenemann are leading by strong percentages. However, the most challenging precincts 4 and 5 are not in. Those are the precincts that the Mayor Will Rossback did not win. When those precincts 4 and 5 come in with positive results, the team is now confident in winning. You could see the relief and happiness in the faces in the room. Mayor Will Rossback was smiling, his work would not be undone.

Nora Slawik wins by an impressive 67% to Diana Longrie’s 32%. Marylee Abrams wins the first council position with 28%. Kathy Juenemann wins the second council position with 27%. Both Rebecca Cave and Margaret Ann Behrens lose with 22% each.

The Kathy Juenemann success story is especially heartening for Jueneman is outspoken. Culturally, women are generally not allowed to be as brash and outspoken as men. For this outspokenness, Kathy Juenemann was attacked by hecklers and by cultural-rules keepers. Yet Maplewood has a strong independent contrary streak. They like Kathy Juenemann’s style and they re-elect her. Jueneman has promised to be even more outspoken, being that this is her last term.

Both Nora Slawik and Marylee Abrams are both more of the quiet consensus building types.

All three are committed to working hard and smart to make Maplewood better. All three want to move forward in ways that are financially cautious and effective. Mark Wiegel said it best on election night. Sometimes it is the little wins in local government that can have ripple effects throughout government and politics.

Thank you for reading this story. I wanted to convey to you how important these three races felt. I really feel that Maplewood decided its future direction. It was a turning point.