Thursday, May 29, 2008 By Aaron Brown
This is not surprising. Bakk has been hinting at this for a while. He's getting out early probably to shore up union support and carve his piece of the pie for what will likely be a very large field of candidates. I know some members of the Iron Range DFL delegation very well, but I have never gotten to know Bakk very well. On one hand I like the idea of an Iron Range governor, but on the other I have my doubts that Bakk is the guy who can pull it off.
I was a delegate and 100-plus hour volunteer for Doug Johnson's campaign for governor in 1998. Most non-Rangers don't even remember Doug Johnson's run for governor, but it's where I faced my first political fires. Back then, the thinking was that with so many "city folk" running in the primary, we could run a pro-life Iron Ranger, snap up the non-metro vote and squeeze through to the general election. Unfortunately for Doug, as I've written before, the Range is built around a political coalition like any place and our '98 Range coalition was split between the Range power structure backing Johnson and the unions which backed Mike Freeman that year.
So why is Bakk out so early? He wants to get the unions and keep the Range power structure. Let's say he is able to unite Johnson's and Freeman's people from 1998 ... that's good for about 40 percent in a primary. It also puts 40 percent on the first ballot of the convention in the conversation. BUT, this is not 1998. The party has changed in 10 years and I seriously doubt the Obama movement folks are going to be lining up for Bakk as a first choice.
So Bakk is in. He's a contender, but I need to see more before I list Bakk as top tier. I have poured a lot of my time and heart into Iron Range campaigns and saying this is not something I take lightly. Bakk is re-elected by wide margins in his 6th SD but a guy like Tim Walz or even someone like Margaret Anderson Kelliher could walk in and take a chunk of the Range vote. Probably not a majority, but enough to neutralize the regional appeal.
God, it ain't even November '08 yet. What are we coming to?