Burnsville mayor's race gets tense

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE
  • Star Tribune
  • November 2, 2012 - 6:11 PM

At the 11th hour of the mayoral race in Burnsville, longtime mayor Elizabeth Kautz is fending off a personal attack made in a citywide mailing that may have violated state campaign laws.

The four-sided flyer that landed in mailboxes all over Burnsville last week criticizes Kautz for supporting the Burnsville Performing Arts Center, for supposedly getting a stoplight placed in front of her downtown condo, for having a business conflict of interest and more. It bears the name of the "Coalition of Better Business in Burnsville," but the group cannot be found on the Internet and the mailing does not include an address or other identification.

Kautz said she felt as if she had been "hit in the stomach" by the flyer.

"This kind of political bullying and malicious tactics should be condemned and not allowed in the city of Burnsville or anywhere else, because it is not useful to the public," she said.

"It's stuff we don't do in local government," Kautz said. Candidates should "run on what you're going to do for the community and for the people. Don't destroy someone else to elevate you."

The anti-Kautz mailing does not mention Jerry Willenburg, Kautz's opponent. She charges him with sending it. "There is no one else I am running against. It's obvious," she said.

But Willenburg said he did not send the mailing. "I have no relationship with that. I saw that for the first time when I got home from work on Monday myself.

"I sent an e-mail to Elizabeth Kautz telling her I had nothing to do with it. A lot of people are assuming I did and in fact I did not," Willenburg said.

"I am kind of a victim in this myself," he said. "When I get accused of bullying, that upsets me."

He said no person or group asked for his permission to send the mailing. "If I have a statement to make, whatever it might be, I will put my name on it."

Willenburg said he has 10,000 pieces of direct mail on his shelf right now that he does not have the money to mail.

It's the second time Willenburg, 56, has challenged Kautz, 65, who has been mayor for 17 years. They ran against each other in 2008.

She is running on her record of experience and past accomplishments. He is challenging her for having been in office too long, saying the city needs a new mayor with new ideas. Term limits is one of the first things Willenburg said he would want to address.

Kautz responded to the mailing by purchasing a half-page ad in the Burnsville Sun ThisWeek newspaper.

The ad reads, in part, "In the last couple of days a group calling themselves the 'Coalition of Better Business in Burnsville' put out a hateful smear piece of literature that attacked my character, integrity and ethics. The group is not registered with the state and has violated campaign laws. This group does not have the confidence of their conviction to identify who they are. This kind of political bullying and maliciousness makes me sad and I ask that you dismiss this literature."

Kautz asked Burnsville City Clerk Macheal Brooks to investigate the mailing for a possible violation of state campaign laws. Brooks said she had determined that the group that sent the mailing would have to register their spending with her at the city within 14 days of spending $750 or more.

Not knowing when the money was spent, she said she planned to start the clock when the mailing was received on Oct. 29. If the 14 days goes by without a report from the group, Brooks said she will report it to the state Office of Administrative Hearings.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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