Knockoff Naomi

A few extra candidate commentaries for Minnesota. I'm no Kritzer, but I'll do what I can.

Coming soon: about 60 Minnesota races

Oof -- almost 60 obscure August special elections and November regular elections to cover for the state of Minnesota.

Probably going to be about half filled with school board battles for the nature of public education (people who more or less trust teachers to develop lesson plans appropriate to all kids in the district vs. people who adamantly don't) and half filled with suburban + small-town city council races that may feel a bit less politically urgent but nevertheless make a pretty big infrastructural difference for quality of life in a lot of ways (walkability, services, amenities, parks, pollution).

Of course, Minneapolis and St. Paul are having city council and school board elections this year, too, but I have confidence that Naomi Kritzer will cover them on her blog.

Wish me luck! It can be really hard to get debates or profiles until the very last minute, and when I do find them, they're often behind Hometown Source local newspaper paywalls.

Keep an eye on:

  • Your local city web page and social media
  • Your local school district web page and social media
  • Your local teacher's union web page and social media if their endorsement of school district candidates is important information in your decision
    • If you generally trust teachers with curriculum decisions (which seems to be the main issue up for debate school board races these last few years), and you find that there are more candidates you support than you can actually vote for, then whichever candidates you like who are also union-endorsed will probably have the best chance of winning. The union probably won't endorse more than can actually win, even if there are more candidates they would've liked than can win. If the union isn't advertising their endorsements, ask a teacher friend if they can find out whether there's been an endorsement vote yet and what the results were.
    • (If you don't trust teachers with curriculum decisions, I suppose this'll tell you whom not to vote for.)
  • Your local and nearby city and county chamber of commerce web page
  • Your local and nearby League of Women Voters web page
  • Your local community newspaper. If it's behind a paywall and it's not delivered to your doorstep, you might have to pop by a nearby library and pick up printed issues.

The LWV and COCs usually host debates, but city and district pages often link to the video feeds.

Almost all of these elections are "nonpartisan" and won't list any sort of political party next to the candidate's name. If you generally like the kinds of candidates I endorse, then my advice is to read between the lines when candidates debate or explain themselves and look for:

  • City/County: A sense that "it takes money to make money." All suburban and outstate candidates will give lip service to being "smart about saving money." But avoid "penny-wise, pound foolish" candidates. Look for people who aren't afraid to say that they believe that making smart investments now in quality-of-life infrastructure are high-return pursuits worth engaging in.
  • School:
    • Same thing about money as city/county, of course.
    • Embrace verbal hugs; avoid fighting words. Look for the "Yes, and" people, not the "No" people. Even if, by all reasonable standards, your school district actually is a hot mess currently run by total nincompoops, someone who's going to be a great candidate to help fix the problem is going to be enough of a mature grown-up to 1. be diplomatic in public and 2. show that they're a collaborative person who can work well with others, giving people the benefit of the doubt as well-intentioned and trying their best.
      • I'm always a big fan of candidates who list off all the micro-subcategories of students, parents, and staff they thank and say they couldn't imaginably do the job without the day-to-day work of. Particularly if their list is really broad and perhaps even explicitly inclusive of people who often get overlooked (like counselors, lunch staff, etc.).
      • While in a congressional or presidential election, I have no problem with candidates pointing out very explicitly why they're the better policy choice than "that other candidate," in a school board election, I generally avoid candidates who slip subtle digs, insults, or complaints into their campaigns. To me, it comes off as an "Elect me and I'll burn the institution down and refashion it in my image" dog-whistle.
    • Avoid people whose language paints teachers as villains and parents as heroes. (Obviously, teachers aren't perfect and there's nothing wrong with parents caring about what their kids learn! Nevertheless, in my experience, school board candidates who make a point of running for office with that kind of battle cry are looking to impose their own very narrow personal view of right and wrong on all students in a district, teachers' years of training about child development and curriculum planning be darned.) A subtle variation on this is the phrasing "I'll listen to parents" (generally avoid) vs. "I'll listen to stakeholders such as parents, students, teachers, counselors..."
    • Similarly, when the word "transparency" comes up -- is it used in an "it takes a village to raise a child" enumeration of all of the people who make a school district great (this is a good sign) or is it used in conjunction with the word "parents" or "politics" as a linguistic weapon, implying they have an axe to grind about not yet having gotten their way about having their worldview imposed upon every student in the district via curriculum? Pay close attention to how candidates say the word "transparent." Is it thoughtful or angry? Generally stick with thoughtful; generally avoid angry.
    • Be very suspicious of anyone who says the word "politics" -- especially the phrase "politics in the classroom." I've typically found them to be far more "political" (again, their worldview in the curriculum only) than people who don't say the word "politics."