Former DFL leader endorses Norm Coleman

posted at 9:10 am on September 29, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

If voters in Minnesota want bipartisanship, then Doug Johnson has a solution for them.  The former DFL state Senator plans to vote for a Republican for the first time in his life, and that vote will go to Norm Coleman.  He’s not reluctant about it, either:

Longtime DFL legislator Doug Johnson said he was ingrained with the political philosophy of Minnesota legendary Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey — “The worst Democrat is better than the best Republican.”

But on Nov. 4, the former chairman of the powerful state Senate Tax Commission, will split his vote for the first time ever. His ballot will be marked in a familiar Democratic way for Barack Obama for president, Jim Oberstar for 8th District congressman, Tom Bakk for state senator and David Dill for state representative. But in the U.S. Senate race, Johnson will cast his vote for incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

“I’m strongly supporting U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman for re-election, the only Republican I will have voted for in more than 40 years as an eligible  voter,” Johnson said in a telephone interview late last week. “I’ve never been a ticket splitter before, but the problems on the Range, state and country are too severe to just stick with one political party. I’m also strongly supporting Barack Obama for president and Jim Oberstar for Congress from the 8th District and have long admired Amy Klobuchar, our other current U.S. senator who is not up for re-election.”

Johnson isn’t some backbencher in the DFL, the Minnesota version of the Democratic Party (Democrat-Farmer-Laborer).  He chaired a powerful Senate committee, and ran for governor in 1998, coming in third to Skip Humphrey, who lost to Jesse Ventura — along with Norm Coleman.  johnson has long been a leader of the DFL, and his endorsement will rock Minnesota politics.

How will this affect the race?  It’s doubtful that any significant Republicans in Minnesota will endorse Al Franken, nor will Franken get many crossover votes.  Johnson’s endorsement could push a lot more DFL voters to cross over to Coleman, especially in the Iron Range.  That has been traditionally DFL territory, but much different than the Twin Cities college-town vote.  Iron Range voters are heavily working class with more traditional values, and many there will not feel comfortable with Franken.

One way to measure the impact is to see how the Star Tribune reports it.  Instead of treating it like the significant political story that it is, they use five paragraphs off of an AP report.  I’m not even sure it made it into the print version for today.  When a former party leader endorses the candidate of the opposite party for the US Senate, most people would consider that significant political news … unless the newspaper in question is more interested in getting that candidate’s opponent elected.

See my radio partner Mitch Berg for a further lesson in Minnesota bipartisanship.

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A ray of sanity. Hope this give other conservative Democrats the courage of their convictions.

davidk on September 29, 2008 at 9:22 AM

Finally there is something that is actually funny about Franken.

Right_of_Attila on September 29, 2008 at 9:25 AM

The fact that he’s not voting for Franken is hardly impressive. Anyone can see that Al is a disgusting little troll of a man.

If Johnson was smart enough to see through the Zero, I’d pay attention.

Cody1991 on September 29, 2008 at 9:27 AM

The Star and Sickle is a joke, a rag that is barely worthy of being called a “news”paper. They tried long ago to claim a makeover, that they were getting back to hard news. Whatever.

Coleman is barely a Republican and if Franken weren’t such a complete effin disaster, Norm might be on his way out.

Bishop on September 29, 2008 at 9:28 AM

I could be wrong, but I think Franken’s support is not nearly as strong at the polls suggest. Franken’s bad temperament (including physical violence on occasion) and his foul mouth are just non-starters for most of rural Minnesota. They either don’t know much about Franken, or they’re not being polled accurately. If Franken can win in rural Minnesota, then he’s a much better actor than I ever imagined.

RBMN on September 29, 2008 at 9:33 AM

Is there any problem that Minnesota faces where a credible individual would say, “We need a man like Franken on this!”.

Franken brings nothing to the table that separates him from your garden variety DailyKos commenter. He’s a one trick pony and that trick is unhinged hatred for anyone who doesn’t agree with his far-left, lunatic vision for this country.

It’s farcical that a major political party is running such a complete clown for the Senate. Democrats should be walking around with bags on their heads for nominating clown Franken.

I would have more respect for the Democrats if they ran an Irish Setter, than I do for their choice in Al Franken.

And we could pay the Irish Setter in ham bones and chew toys, rather than what Al Franken can steal with both hands.

NoDonkey on September 29, 2008 at 9:35 AM

NoDonkey on September 29, 2008 at 9:35 AM

This is Minnesota.

We elected Wellstone twice and he was a stone-cold communist, we elected Ellison the wife-beather, we almost elected Patty Wetterling who is famous only for her son disappearing, we almost elected Mike Hatch who has a temper which would scare the shit out of Franken.

This is Minnesota.

Bishop on September 29, 2008 at 9:40 AM


Don’t forget Jesse Ventura…

WI-Hawk on September 29, 2008 at 9:44 AM


Well I’m from Pennsylvania and my wife is from Louisiana, so my family knows all about worthless politicians who do not belong in government.

As I’ve gotten to the age where I can really see what unaccomplished, inexperienced, corrupt jackasses so many of these politicians are, including the entire Democrat Congress, it’s not hard to see why we face so many of the problems we have.

I mean really, Al Franken? Can’t we get down to some granularity here, who would seriously solicit this guy for advice on anything at all relevant? Much less, asking this child to run anything?

Franken has done nothing in his life remotely adult or serious. He’s a circus clown, a carnival act. Not only has he not performed serious work, he’s probably never witnessed it being done. Kind of like Barack Obama.

Yet millions of voters are seriously considering putting these juvenile jackasses into elected office, where they will have influence over all of our lives.

Unbelievable. I would have more respect for a voter who writes in Lassie for President or for the Senate.

NoDonkey on September 29, 2008 at 9:52 AM

Well…I don’t personally see all that much difference between Franken and Obama, or Coleman and McCain for that matter.

Perhaps it’s just me.

Bob's Kid on September 29, 2008 at 9:59 AM

Outside of the Cities, Minnesota is, as an earlier poster noted, fairly conservative. But they keep voting in DFL candidates, since that’s what good little Socialists do. There is a strong history of Socialist-leaning politics in Northern Minnesota (Duluth was a hotbed of it during the 30’s, especially among Finnish immigrants who lived on the Iron Range).

Funniest thing I heard so far: I was speaking to a client last week who is an East-Coast Academic (Prof at a NYC-based university). When he found out I was in MN, he very excitedly asked me “Do you think Al Franken has a chance?”.


“Really? You really think that?”


Took the wind right out of his sails…..

Blue-eyed Infidel on September 29, 2008 at 10:04 AM

Bishop on September 29, 2008 at 9:40 AM

I was not a fan of Wellstone’s ideology, but Sen. Wellstone was always a gentleman, always fought against the policy he opposed–not the people. He was a much better man than most of his supporters. But Al Franken is no Paul Wellstone. I think Wellstone won in Minnesota to a great extent on style points alone. Wellstone was a nice friendly guy, and unfortunately a socialist kook.

RBMN on September 29, 2008 at 10:28 AM

The rest of the story:

Johnson is a registered lobbyist for Excelsior Energy, which is trying to build a controversial $2.3 billion “clean coal” energy plant on the Iron Range that has earned Coleman’s enthusiastic support for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants and loan guarantees.

Coleman helped secure $36 million in Clean Coal Power Initiative funding for Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Energy Project from the Department of Energy in 2004. The following year, Coleman authored a provision in the 2005 Energy Bill that authorized loan guarantees for the project and also ensured that the technology the plant would use will qualify for tax credits.

One of 18 lobbyists for the company registered in Minnesota. It didn’t take long for Johnson to hit the revolving door and start cashing in on his 32-year legislative career after he left the state Senate in 2002. He registered as a lobbyist for several entities less than a year later in August 2003, and currently represents 10 clients at the state level.

Quid Pro Quo. Gotta hand it to Coleman, at least he is consistent. Turning his back on Minnesotans . . . one lobbyist at a time.


anokaflash on September 29, 2008 at 11:26 AM

The amount of people (%) that vote for Franken, will determine the % that will vote for anything, rather then a Republican.
This race will show the true “dyed in the wool” liberal.
This will be an interesting study in the mindset of the liberal.

right2bright on September 29, 2008 at 11:43 AM

There’s not really much of a choice there.

TooTall on September 29, 2008 at 11:48 AM

This is good for Coleman, and I salute Johnson for being a stand up guy.
The Mayor of St. Paul in 2004, Randy Kelly, a lifelong DFLer also crossed party lines and supported George Bush for re-election. I shook his hand at a campaign stop and told him I respected his putting country above party. Of course, Kelly was defeated in the next election, but he went out with a clear conscience, having opposed what would have been a terrible Kerry Presidency.

Doug on September 29, 2008 at 12:00 PM

There’s not really much of a choice there.

TooTall on September 29, 2008 at 11:48 AM

There’s a famous Abraham Lincoln quote that applies here.

RBMN on September 29, 2008 at 12:03 PM

RBMN on September 29, 2008 at 10:28 AM

RBMN-I also liked Wellstone, even though he was a far left socialist. He was sincere, which is a commodity as rare and precious as the tears of and angel when referring to politicians.
I saw Franken about a month ago on the campaign trail and he continues to evoke Wellstone’s memory, even though Franken suffers in the comparison. Paul Wellstone was a good man.

Doug on September 29, 2008 at 12:07 PM