Jesse Mortenson's Green bid for 64A Macalester legislative district featured in Star Tribune

 Files Announcement GroupI had heard that my former Macalester classmate Jesse Mortenson '05 was considering a run for the State House — and indeed, he is not the only recent Macalester grad to consider a run. Apparently, Jesse is the first Green Party candidate to shoot for a spot at the Capitol, which makes me wonder what the hell the rest of them are doing. (official Green Party press release on it)

Fortunately for Jesse, his campaign got some good press with a Doug Grow column in the Star Tribune today ('Pol's fundraiser won't be typical DFL bean feed'), mentioning a planned vegan fundraising dinner next month. The column rambles on about the difference between Republican and Democrat food fundraisers, mentions the Al Juhnke "hotdish law."

Anyway, I think it is great that Mortenson is going for this. Certainly in 64A, he has a better shot of winning Green than almost anywhere else in the state, save Dinkytown or the relative Green strongholds of Minneapolis.

He is only two years younger than the House's youngest, freshman Rep. Andy Welti (D) of the Rochester countryside area. And his core platform — anti-Wal-Mart & Big box retail organizing, single-payer health care, more renewable energy and demanding an end to the Iraqi occupation — all of these issues will certainly find their supporters around Macalester. (needless to say, I pretty much agree with his take on these issues)

The main potential problem is that some older, richer Macalester graduate in the neighborhood could likely snap up the DFL endorsement. If s/he is not such a hot candidate, Jesse would certainly have a sporting chance in November. City Hall Scoop reported that Ian Keith, an elementary school teacher, announced for the race in November. In that case, with no other contenders (?), Jesse is the more interesting candidate, hands-down.

In our time at Mac, Jesse and I found ourselves aligned in cliques that were sometimes mutually hostile — namely his occasional spats with some in The Mac Weekly, in particular during my time as an editor there during the controversial 'need-blind' days. Mortenson was criticized for talking too much at Macalester College Student Government LB meetings, for throwing monkey wrenches rather than working constructively, in other words all the usual accusations leveled against the activist set around Mac. I secretly never saw any of this as a problem, because the MCSG is often something of a farce, and I supported anything improving the quality of the theatre therein. In any case, he did a lot to raise awareness of broader problems that many preferred not to face.

So Jesse had a mixed public image among some at Macalester. In person, I always found him friendly, informed and connected, a kind of utilitarian progressive who took a keen interest in the activities and structures of governments and corporations. There are quite a few protesters-of-the-week at Macalester, who talk a lot of talk. Jesse is not of that class: as a grassroots progressive, he seriously walks the walk.

After the Brian Rosenberg wars, I can only imagine the fun of seeing Jesse squaring off against Phil Krinkie and Steve Sviggum. With a little luck and a lot of elbow grease... If he has been up at Midway building some kind of stealth coalition among small business owners and activists at the Midway Citizen Consumer Community Coalition and Metro Independent Business Alliance, he might be able to pull off an unlikely pro-business Green campaign that other progressives could try nationwide. Where did all the people on that stage come from?

200601071610Naturally, Sociology chair Terry Boychuk had nothing but glowing things to say about Jesse's candidacy in the Dec. 9 (or Dec. 2?) Mac Weekly story that announced his campaign.

After all, Macalester students only end up running the whole world, so what chance could Mortenson have in one of Minnesota's most liberal districts? My grandfather, Daniel S. Feidt, was elected to the Minnesota House in 1936 at age 28, on his second try. He got to the Senate two years later, where he stayed until 1961. Like Mortenson, he was of an independent streak and was wary of party machines, preferring the independent structure of the Legislature in those days.

I'll add a bit from his 1957 pamphlet, Minnesota's Non-Party Legislature, an ode to the dead nonpartisan system. I think that Mortenson would appreciate it:

It is understandable why party leaders desire to increase their power by gaining control of the Minnesota legislature, but the view of the independent voter is different, he does not want his legislator, alderman or school board member, to be subject to party responsibility.

He does not want a political climate to develop where there might be brought back to Minnesota's scene the paid political hack, the ward healer or the ward boss.

The independent wants Minnesota to remain as it is -- the cleanest political state in the nation and the independent wants his public official, be he legislator or alderman, to be responsible to the voters, not to some party boss.

…Minnesota has the opposite of the party boss system; it has its own system -- a non-boss system, in which every legislator is free to decide what is in the best interest for his constituents and what is in the best interest of the state on each issue. The Minnesota system, in my judgment, is infinitely more in the interest of the public.

So my warmest regards to Jesse Mortenson's independent effort in 64A. It will be a difficult year, but surely a rewarding one. I'll be following this one closely.

(Campaign photo shamelessly ganked from Jesse's official announcement entry on his campaign site, JesseMortenson.com)

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