Strib’s endorsement of Erlandson is a vote for the status quo in Congress


If the Star Tribune’s endorsement of Mike Erlandson says anything about the race to succeed longtime Congressman Martin Sabo, it’s that a well-connected Beltway insider is preferable to any of the other choices in this third-rate field of DFLers.

According to the Strib editorial board, Sabo’s loyal chief of staff is the “best prepared” to step in and represent the Fifth District—despite the fact that he’s never authored a piece of legislation at any government level, despite the fact that he’s never taken a floor vote on any issue, and despite the fact that his so-called “progressive” values have attracted campaign contributions from some of the nation’s least progressive corporations and lobbyists.

Strib editorialists were correct in noting that Erlandson’s 13-year career in Washington gives him an advantage over candidates who made their name closer to home, but it’s hard to see how that advantage will translate into anything but business as usual in Washington.

The fact is, this is a badly flawed field of candidates vying for what has always been seen as a legacy seat in Congress. Ember Reichgott Junge is a Joe Lieberman Democrat with strong ties to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and no ties to the urban constituency that accounts for most of the district. Paul Ostrow is an overreaching Northeast Minneapolis City Council member who has never made a compelling case for his candidacy. And Keith Ellison is a bundle of conflicting talents and liabilities best suited for a career in City Hall—not Capitol Hill.

It is the sad fate of DFL voters to have to prop up one of these B-squad candidates for the perfunctory run against the city’s minor party candidates in November, so I suppose you can make a case that Erlandson is no worse than any of the others. But that’s no way to elect a member of Congress in one of the nation’s most progressive districts.

Given the standing of the Star Tribune among 5th District readers—most of whom believe the paper to be too liberal or too moderate—today’s endorsement may not be doing Erlandson any favors. Still, if it turns out to be the key to his primary victory, my guess is that he won’t have too long to celebrate. My guess is that whoever survives this mud-wrestling match will be met in two years by a host of more qualified DFL candidates hoping to right the wrongs of this misbegotten campaign.