ST. PETER Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz held a rally aimed at motivating Gustavus Adolphus College voters to turn out and vote today for DFL candidate Clark Johnson in the Minnesota House District 19A special election.
Other candidates are Republican Allen Quist and Tim Gieseke of the Independence Party. The 19A district includes all of Nicollet County and portions of Blue Earth and Le Sueur counties.
The winner will take the seat vacated by Terry Morrow, who resigned Jan. 7, to take a job in Chicago.
The two major figures in the Minnesota DFL party made the trip to campaign for Johnson because Gustavus students could make a difference in the race. The students represent the single biggest voting precinct in 19A with 1,570 voters in last November's election and the precinct most heavily weighted towards the DFL.
The college's DFL group used the 2012 constitutional amendments to motivate high turnout by the students, resulting in 77 percent of voters in the precinct opposing the Marriage Amendment.
Megan Nelson, the leader of the Gustavus DFL, said her group has been working extensively with the Johnson campaign on phone banks and voter database targeting. She said today's election will be much more challenging to generate high turnout than the 2012 general election. She estimated student turnout would be 30 to 40 percent lower. Efforts will be made to bring that percentage up throughout the day by targeting students through social media.
Johnson touted as change
At the rally, Johnson repeated his campaign message of seeking a balanced, long-term funding structure that combines progressive tax codes with targeted budget cuts. He said the Republican approach of "no new taxes" only resulted in underfunding education and costs being passed on to taxpayers.
Johnson also said the current session of the Legislature represented a special opportunity to pass "marriage equality," which is also known as same-sex marriage. Up to this point, he has avoided any mention of same-sex marriage except when asked about it by the press.
"It's fitting I'm spending election eve at a college campus," said Johnson, who is faculty member at MSU-Mankato.
Walz spoke about Johnson representing rejection of extremist ideology of only seeing issues in terms of partisan goals. He also said he was very proud of how many Vote NO T-shirts he saw at Gustavus when the Marriage Amendment was voted down, adding that voting for Johnson was an opportunity to continue that work.
Dayton spoke in support of Johnson's campaign. He said his work with the Republican-controlled Legislature that last two years was the most extreme politics he has ever experienced. He said the Republicans were completely unwilling to see any other viewpoint in the discussion, and that Minnesotans voted out their extremism because it did not match with the Minnesotan way. He said that gaining DFL majorities to work with was so gratifying that he "could not bear the thought of even one seat being returned [to Republicans]."
"Rightly or wrongly, [the special election] will be judged by the press as a barometer of my agenda. It's not about that; it's about your future," said Dayton.
Johnson concluded the rally by praising Dayton and Walz as key factors in generating progress last year on a four-lane expansion for Highway 14, along with Morrow.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at email@example.com)