Shock and surprise! Democrat Mark Ritchie is a Democrat

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By Jeff Fecke • 11/12/08 • You have to hand it to the modern Republican Party. Most candidates facing a recount would be quietly going about their business, lining up their legal advisors, maybe making a few points about what they view as important in the procedural approach to the count.

Jeff Fecke is a freelance writer who lives in Eagan, Minnesota.In addition to his own blog, Blog of the Moderate Left, he also contributes to Alas, a Blog, Minnesota Campaign Report, and AlterNet. Fecke has appeared as a guest on the “Today” show, the Alan Colmes radio show, and the Mark Heaney Show. Fecke is divorced, and the father of one really terrific daughter. His debut novel, The Valkyrie’s Tale, will available for sale in September.

Not today’s GOP. Rather than do what Al Franken is doing — keeping his head down, asking a few questions, generally expressing support for a fair count — the GOP has decided to go nuclear, trying to destroy decades of fair, reasonable elections in Minnesota. Their primary evidence? Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, DFL-Minnesota, is a Democrat!

You may think that’s kinda obvious, given the DFL after his name. He is, you know, a Democrat. He ran as a Democrat, against the previous Secretary of State, Republican Mary Kiffmeyer. And won.

The GOP views this as proof that Mark Ritchie is the Katherine Harris of 2008. Now, I’m glad to see the Republicans belatedly acknowledging that the 2000 recount in Florida was a completely unfair and backward process that led to a flawed and likely incorrect result, and I’m sure my fellow Democrats will join me in agreeing that the GOP can have Norm Coleman in exchange for a voiding of all laws, appointments and decisions made by George Bush between 2001 and 2005. No trade? Okay, I guess we’ll go to the recount then.

Anyhoo, the GOP has gone so far as to issue a talking points memo about Ritchie, with such shocking revelations as:

• Mark Ritchie ran a vigorous campaign for office!

• Democrat Mark Ritchie spoke at the Democratic National Convention!

• The Communist Party once wrote nice things about Ritchie, thus proving he’s a Communist!
• ACORN endorsed Ritchie, proving Ritchie is Bill Ayers!

• Before being elected, Ritchie ran a voter drive affiliated with ACORN, proving Ritchie is Satan!

• Ritchie said that the state was prepared for high turnout, and noted few irregularities with voting!

Truly, these are dizzying allegations, which have been summarized neatly by local GOP mouthpiece and Strib columnist Katherine Kersten, and by “summarized” I mean “repeated verbatim.” Kersten spends paragraph after paragraph detailing these shocking allegations of a partisan Democrat being a partisan Democrat, before leading up to her big conclusion:

Thus far, Ritchie has shown no evidence of misconduct. But many Minnesotans are questioning the openness and transparency of the vote tally that just ended.

That’s right! There’s no evidence that Mark Ritchie has done anything but operate a fair and above-board process; indeed, today he appointed the canvassing board, and included on it such crazed liberals as Chief Justice Eric Magnusson and Justice G. Barry Anderson, both appointees of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican.
Sure, but look at this photographic evidence that Ritchie is a Democrat, ganked from Mikey Brodkorb:

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Shocking! A DFLer who supported DFL-endorsed candidates! Franken’s predecessor, Mary Kiffmeyer, never would have done such a thing. She was totally moderate and non-partisan all the time. Right?

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Oh.

But still, that aside, Kiffmeyer was a totally above-board player, right?

The head of the DFL Party on Wednesday accused Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer of playing partisan politics in brochures her office printed up to explain Minnesota’s precinct caucuses.

The brochures say the caucuses will be held Tuesday, March 7. That’s true for the Republican, Reform and Constitution parties. But the DFL, for the first time, will hold its precinct meetings the following weekend in an effort to improve attendance.

DFL chair Mike Erlandson said that Kiffmeyer, a Republican, was trying “to politicize a democratic process that’s intended to be accessible to all Minnesotans.”

Ah. Yes. That’s right. Kiffmeyer was a partisan hack — which is why the GOP is as freaked out as they are. The Republicans are all about projection, and they know darn well that Mary Kiffmeyer would be working overtime to put her thumb on the scales, if only she had the chance. The idea that Mark Ritchie might value the state above his party never crosses their minds — he’s obviously guilty, evidence be damned.

Incidentally, while reading the GOP’s court stenographer lose his mind in ALLCAPS, it’s important to remember that Mike Brodkorb is far from a neutral observer:

Since her failed re-election bid, Kiffmeyer has appeared more concerned with her legacy than she is with a smooth handover to Ritchie, who takes office next month. The paranoid election official even told The Fargo Forum in November she plans to have a Capitol Security officer accompany her on a pre-departure walkthrough of her office to “protect my record and my reputation” against “any potential false claim.”

After thinking it over, however, it appears Kiffmeyer decided a Capitol Security officer can’t really provide good political cover. After all, the security force is non-partisan, which doesn’t play to her strengths. Instead the vanquished secretary of state called in the Republican cavalry – in the form of Michael Brodkorb, of Minnesota Democrats Exposed fame.

It didn’t take long for the high-profile disinformation specialist to begin his campaign to “defend” Kiffmeyer’s record by impugning Ritchie’s.

“In my opinion, Ritchie did not seem prepared to discuss the transition nor was he versed in the functions of the Secretary of State’s (O)ffice,” Brodkorb opined shortly before noon Thursday.

What’s his basis for that judgment? Brodkorb has been a very successful political operative for more than a decade, but nowhere on his Web site’s “About Me” page is there information that would indicate he has anything more than a cursory knowledge of the Secretary of State’s Office – unless peddling propaganda for Mark Kennedy can somehow be construed as comparable to overseeing elections statewide.

It’s simple, though. To Mike and his fellow partisans on the right, all DFLers are unqualified, partisan boobs until proven otherwise. The real story of today — that Ritchie appears to have appointed a fair, ideologically balanced canvassing board with ties directly to the head of Minnesota’s GOP — is lost in the screaming about how Ritchie’s party affiliation disqualifies him from serving his state. If the right wants to argue that the Secretary of State’s office should be truly nonpartisan, then fine — I’ll be the first one in line to back that proposal. But the right doesn’t object to partisanship in the Secretary of State’s office — they object to Democrats in the Secretary of State’s office. Partisan Republicans who went on to fundraise for anti-Catholic preachers? Totally fine.