Politics with Jennifer Brooks

A pre-convention DFL endorsement?

Good morning.

Education Minnesota will interview candidates for governor May 19 to consider endorsement, according to two DFL sources. This would allow for the possibility of an endorsement before the June 1 DFL convention. Education Minnesota is the state's biggest union, and an endorsement in the days leading up to the convention -- at which EdMinn members will play a big role -- would be an enormous lift to its recipient. Rep. Erin Murphy, who was at one time executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association, has ties to the union, including James Haggar, her campaign manager who was "political action coordinator" for the teachers prior to his role with Murphy. But U.S. Rep. Tim Walz is a long-time teacher (and member) and has money and a caucus straw poll victory on his resume. State Auditor Rebecca Otto has set herself up as the progressive alternative to Walz. If they pick the winner, the endorsement recipient will remember -- and constantly be reminded by the union -- of the momentum he or she received going into the convention. But not endorsing until after the convention or primary prevents picking the wrong horse and suffering the consequences.

Regarding Otto, last week I wrote about perceptions among DFL operatives and activists that she's running a divisive race. James Niland, her campaign manager, acknowledged that their hard charging strategy "makes some people uncomfortable. But the reason she did so well in the straw poll and in the Senate district conventions is because she's drawing that contrast" with the other candidates, Niland said. "The proof is in the pudding. The fact that we're in a dead heat with Walz indicates that it's been successful," he said. Niland said the strategy prior to caucus night was to tell voters that Otto was the only true progressive in the race, which meant contrasting with the other candidates. Since the caucus, she's been persuading Senate district delegates that she's the most electable, which, again, means contrast. (Which is a political euphemism for negative campaigning, by the way.) "There's two questions in every delegate's minds," Niland said. "Are you a progressive? And, can you be elected?"

Friday, I went to former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's speech at the Edina Country Club, during which he gave his stump speech about the coming changes to the economy and society from artificial intelligence and technological advances, which will be wondrous but also displace a lot of workers. He did a little scrum afterward and here are a couple answers that didn't make my story:

I asked him why he took the job at the Financial Services Roundtable after leaving office and losing the 2012 presidential race

A: "I took the job at the Financial Services Roundtable because I was done being governor, had a career in public service and I needed a job. And it’s an important industry -- lot of jobs in Minnesota. Good paying jobs. Hundreds of thousands of those jobs in our state and every other state.

The public policy thrust of Pawlenty's speech is that government needs to be ready for this coming artificial intelligence revolution, which is going to displace millions of jobs. (He's right.) So Pawlenty says we need to focus on skilled trades work. I asked why those can't be automated, too:

A: “If you think about plumbing for example, that’s gonna be hard to automate. So, that’s an example of thinking ahead of which jobs are going to be most difficult to automate. That’s not to say some can’t or won’t be, but trying to understand which jobs are least susceptible to automation and leaning into those is one piece of this.“

(8 years of Catholic liberal (small 'l') education probably influences my thinking but the other way to deal with changes in the economy with respect to our education system is to...ignore them. Just teach people how to think critically in an ethical framework and let them figure it out, knowing they're prepared to do so because they know how to think and have been trained to be decent citizens and humans.)

I asked Pawlenty to evaluate the Trump presidency:

A: I agree with much of what President Trump is trying to do. If you look at the need for tax reform and getting the economy moving and following the rule of law of immigration and much more. It’s just the way he says things and his behavior that’s concerning.

Also, icymi: hypothesis from a GOP source, that if Pawlenty picked Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens as his running mate and gets her 10-15 percent of state convention delegates, he could block a Jeff Johnson endorsement. Which likely would be fatal for Johnson. My editor played a little six degrees of GOP operative Gregg Peppin, who is with Stephens: Peppin-->former House Speaker Steve Sviggum, who was speaker when TPaw was majority leader. (And of course Peppin is the spouse of the current majority leader.) Minnesota is a small town.

Gov. Mark Dayton with the opening gambit in the tax debate Friday; plan would mean an increase in taxes for companies with foreign investments, and a small tax cut for most filers, topping out at $240 for a family of four. Jessie Van Berkel had our story, and expect more this week.

As legislative deadline approaches, very busy day in committees, with lots of interesting bills up. See the full sked here.

Icymi: Great reporting by Stephen Montemayor on the men who are alleged to have bombed the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center. It's the American Beserko, basically:

During a custody dispute with his ex-wife, Hari fled to religious communities in Mexico and Belize with his teenage daughters in 2005. The case spawned several TV appearances on the “Dr. Phil” show, and resulted in a child abduction conviction and 30 months of probation.

Essayist Leslie Jamison writes powerfully in this piece on drunken writers and fears that her own recovery would extinguish her creativity. Minnesota's own great drunken poet John Berryman comes up. She eventually finds her way to David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest," whose brilliance, she writes, "depended on what sobriety had wrought." (I realize it takes amazing chutzpah to say how "Infinite Jest" should have been edited, but it should have stuck to the halfway house story. Tell me why I'm wrong: patrick.coolican@startribune.com.)

Jamison finishes this way:

Charles Jackson [writer of "The Lost Weekend," about an epic bender] wondered about the myth of the tormented artist: “Are we really all that tormented? Or is it something we hang onto, foster, even cherish?” During days spent in the archives and during the midnight hours of my own attempts to write, it was liberating to start questioning the ways I’d understood torment as a prerequisite to beauty. It was liberating to start imagining that there could be meaningful stories told about wreckage, sure, but also meaningful stories told about what it might mean to pull yourself out from under it: stories about showing up for work, for intimacy, for other people; stories about getting through ordinary days without drinking enough vodka to forget yourself entirely. The lie wasn’t that addiction could yield truth. The lie was that addiction had a monopoly on it.

Baby needs his Cheerios. Gotta run.

Correspond: patrick.coolican@startribune.com.

Have a great day all!

-- J. Patrick Coolican

Sign up for the Hot Dish newsletter here or forward this email to friends and family so they can click on the link and sign up, too.