Even if her primary opponent weren't ethically challenged or hadn't until recently owed $251,000 in back taxes, veteran legislator Barb Goodwin would be the clear choice for DFL voters in this north-central suburban district's state Senate race.
During her six years in the Minnesota House, the DFL-endorsed Goodwin was a respected lawmaker who struck a balance between working on broad topics such as education and consumer protection while staying focused on issues important to her district: Northstar commuter rail, Fridley's well-loved Springbrook Nature Center, traffic concerns, parks and property taxes, as well as many other city and county issues.
Goodwin, 61, who now serves on the Columbia Heights School Board, also worked to prevent job outsourcing during her time in the Legislature and has an impressive bipartisan track record on fiscal issues, collaborating with Republicans to cut back state use of expensive consultants.
Voting for Goodwin will also put a much-needed end to the long-running soap opera that is the legislative career of her primary opponent: incumbent State Sen. Satveer Chaudhary. Two of the latest episodes in this embarrassing ongoing drama surfaced this year.
Chaudhary, 41, lost the DFL party endorsement this summer after a Senate ethics panel publicly admonished him for last-minute legislative maneuvering to bolster fishing on Fish Lake, where he owns a cabin. Although he told the Star Tribune Editorial Board that he learned from this incident -- saying he'd gone on a "tremendous spiritual journey" -- a recent campaign flier blaming the media for his Fish Lake troubles suggests that this was nothing but New Age hogwash. The blame for Chaudhary's poor judgment rests solely on his shoulders. The flier -- which says he was "complimented" by the Senate panel for requesting a review but neglects to say he was rebuked for his behavior -- is eye-rolling evidence he just doesn't get it.
This summer's second episode in the Chaudhary soap opera: reports that he and his wife owed $251,000 in back taxes. While he appears to have paid the IRS, the situation doesn't inspire confidence about his financial management skills. In 2008, a Senate ethics panel also reviewed his solicitation of sponsorships for his outdoor TV show. He wasn't disciplined, but it was another situation in which he had to devote precious time to defending his behavior.
Goodwin has the trust of many key officials who say that she will make her district's needs a priority. Chaudhary does not inspire the same level of confidence and has a reputation for missing meetings and prioritizing outdoor issues over local concerns. It's time for a change. Goodwin merits voters' support.