Lawn signs advocating the campaigns of candidates for various offices are strewn across Minnesota in these concluding days of the election cycle.
Perhaps none imply a more incorrect message than those of Sen. Norm Coleman and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann when they are grouped, side by side, with signs advocating "Vote no" on the proposed Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
Such groupings occur in a relative handful of cases statewide.
The combination of signs suggests that Republicans Coleman and Bachmann, both of whom generally support low taxes, oppose the amendment (the amendment, if approved, would increase the state sales tax three-eighths of 1 percent).
In fact, Coleman and Bachmann support the proposed amendment, as do most, if not all, of the Minnesota congressional delegation, including retiring Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad, DFL Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar and DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
DFL U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken is also a supporter.
Coleman, Bachmann and Franken spoke in August at Game Fair in Anoka of their support of the Clean Water amendment. Coleman and Bachmann also displayed blaze orange "Sportsmen vote yes" placards in their Game Fair booths (Franken also might have, but I was unable to confirm it).
The "Vote no" lawn signs have been problematic for some Republicans since the state Republican Party decided to distribute them. A co-chairman of Minnesota Sportsmen for McCain/Palin quit that post when he learned the signs were being distributed.
And Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he had no knowledge his party planned to distribute the signs, and was surprised to hear it.
Pawlenty still abides by his "no new taxes" pledge. But he generally has been friendly to the amendment idea during his time as governor.
Pawlenty has said -- and will say again on a special KARE (Ch. 11) broadcast about the amendment on Ron Schara's "Minnesota Bound" at 10:30 p.m. Sunday -- that he supports the right of Minnesotans to vote on the conservation proposal.
Retired Minnesota Sen. Bob Lessard of International Falls is generally considered the originator of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment idea.
A political maverick before that term was cool, Lessard has been a DFLer and independent who also introduced President George W. Bush at a Duluth campaign stop in 2000. A friend and fishing buddy of Coleman's, Lessard worries that signs linking the senator with the "Vote no" campaign could hurt his re-election bid.
"There are a lot of sportsmen who are moderates or independents who support the amendment and who might look at those signs and say, incorrectly, 'If Coleman's against the amendment, then I'm voting for Franken,'" Lessard said.
Of course, it's also possible the sign linkage could provide a net voter gain for Coleman and/or Bachmann.
In February, the Legislature placed the amendment on the ballot after 10 years of debate. The vote in the Senate was 47-17, and in the House 85-46.
An author of the amendment in the Senate, Republican Dennis Frederickson of New Ulm, said Thursday he was unaware the state Republican Party was distributing "Vote no" signs, or that the party was opposing the amendment.
"I have five signs in my yard, four for Republicans and one supporting the amendment," Frederickson said. "I know some in our local Brown County Republican Committee would be upset if there was an organized effort by our party to oppose the amendment. They are very much for clean water down here, and very pro-hunting."
Meanwhile, responding to the theft of some "Sportsmen vote yes" signs in Duluth and the Twin Cities, some hunters are weighing the use of trail cameras near the signs to snap photos of any would-be vandals.
Perhaps "Vote no" supporters will employ the cameras similarly.
Doubtless, the inventors of these gadgets never envisioned their use in this way. But technology's applications are boundless. And, ultimately, nonpartisan.
Dennis Anderson • firstname.lastname@example.org