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Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

August 20, 2018

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Aug. 17

Lindsay Whalen: A homegrown basketball star who made Minnesota proud

Her retirement marks the end of an exemplary playing career.

She’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a six-time WNBA All-Star and four-time WNBA champion, and the winningest player in league history. The former Golden Gopher is one of the state’s greatest homegrown athletes and an exemplary leader.

Thousands of young basketball fans who have proudly worn No. 13 jerseys over the past two decades have had an outstanding role model in Minnesota’s own, Lindsay Whalen.

Earlier this week, the college and high school basketball standout from Hutchinson announced her retirement at the end of this season. She has been a professional player for 15 years — the last eight with the Minnesota Lynx — and has helped generate attention, attendance and interest in women’s basketball.

The way Whalen played and talked about the game demonstrated her heartfelt, authentic commitment to teamwork. In just about everything she said and did, “I″ was rarely part of her vocabulary. It was always about her teammates, coaches, family and the fans — whom she frequently credited for the Lynx’s success. During her retirement news conference, she said that this is what she’ll miss most — playing and being with her teammates.

That spirit has made following No. 13 and the rest of the Lynx both fun and inspirational. Whalen and her teammates are down-to-earth, accessible athletes who give back to the community and openly appreciate each other and their fans.

As much as the great point guard emphasized team play, it was a thing of beauty to watch Whalen be the closer — those too-many-to-count times when she put her head down and drove past defenders or let a three-pointer fly to make the money shot herself.

A celebration of Whalen’s stellar career will be held after Sunday’s last regular season game on what Gov. Mark Dayton has designated as “Lindsay Whalen Day.”

Although she’s retiring from pro ball, Whalen will continue to be a major player in the Minnesota sports scene as coach of the University of Minnesota women’s team. Minnesota fans who will miss seeing her on the court will watch her lead the next generation of young athletes, many of whom came of age wearing No. 13 on their backs.

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Post Bulletin, Aug. 16

Strong primary turnout creates real choices

The big winners in Tuesday’s Minnesota primary elections: November voters.

Far more voters turned out for the primaries than expected, and the general election matchups that voters created in some races have the potential to generate meaningful debate and real choices.

For governor, DFLers favored 1st District Congressman Tim Walz, a tried and tested politician who has a long record and is articulate in defending it. He wasn’t the party’s endorsed candidate, but judging by his margin of victory over party-endorsed Rep. Eric Murphy and Attorney General Lori Swanson, Democrats appear comfortable with his record and like his chances in November.

Republicans turned away from former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and chose Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the 2014 candidate who was defeated by incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton. Johnson won the party’s endorsement in June and ran what many observers say was an impressive and generally positive campaign. He’s a well-known conservative from the state’s most populous county, and he already has President Trump’s full endorsement.

Walz and Johnson don’t agree on much, and that’s what elections are for. Both can explain and defend what they stand for, we and other news media can interview and fact-check, and we’re confident voters will have a clear-cut choice in November.

By choosing Walz and Johnson, Tuesday’s electorate also made it likely that the state will have its first Native American lieutenant governor: DFL Rep. Peggy Flanagan or Republican Donna Bergstrom.

There were no surprises in the primaries for the 1st District U.S. House seat that Walz will vacate: Republican Jim Hagedorn easily cruised past state Sen. Carla Nelson, of Rochester, and will make his third straight appearance on a November ballot. DFLer Dan Feehan, an Army combat veteran and political newcomer from Red Wing, will present a strong contrast to Hagedorn, in what’s expected to be a close contest — and a closely watched contest nationally.

In Rochester, former state Rep. Kim Norton took the lion’s share of votes in the mayor’s race — more than three times as many as runnerup Charlie O’Connell. But O’Connell showed during the campaign that he’s a well-informed and articulate candidate who can draw some distinctions with Norton.

We’re encouraged that Norton and O’Connell will run substantial, issue-oriented campaigns, and voters will have a real choice when deciding who can best lead and represent the city as mayor.

Though recounts are possible in both the Rochester City Council races, the top vote-getters in both wards don’t have huge margins over the runners-up. Those races will remain competitive into November, and all the remaining candidates will have to prove themselves to voters this fall.

And in the Rochester School Board races, the only surprise was the ample size of the vote margins between the winners and runners-up. Still, Melissa Amundsen and Cathy Nathan can take nothing for granted as they head for November, with Bruce Kaskubar and Greg Gallas presenting clear, district-challenging alternatives.

Tuesday’s turnout was amazing. More than twice as many people voted as in the 2016 and 2014 primaries. About 893,000 people took time out of Minnesota’s warmest and most luxurious month to cast ballots — the most since 1994 and the third-highest total ever.

In Olmsted County, 27.3 percent of registered voters turned out, and Goodhue County had 30 percent. Is that good enough? No, but it’s double the 2014 turnout.

For anyone concerned about the health of our democracy, that’s a good sign.

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Mankato Free Press, Aug. 17

Social media enables dirty campaigning

Why it matters: The primary eve allegations against Keith Ellison may portend a new era of late attacks — but early voting may blunt them.

Politics ain’t bean-bag, as the saying goes, and the Minnesota primary election of Tuesday certainly had its share of nastiness.

The weekend allegations of domestic violence against Keith Ellison, six-term congressman and now the DFL’s nominee for attorney general, provided a modern twist on late-campaign surprises.

Karen Monahan, the divorced Ellison’s ex-lover, had been hinting for some time that she had a tale of abuse, but she had declined to go public with that story. It broke late Saturday night when her son published a post about it on Facebook. That post was quickly amplified by two of Ellison’s rivals in the primary field for the attorney general’s job.

Mainstream media outlets rarely want to break a scandalous story about a politician that close to an election. But the timing was not up to any editor. Social media — unedited, immediate and devoid of fact-checking — shoved the sordid tale before the public virtually on the eve of the primary.

If the goal was to sabotage Ellison’s primary chances, it failed. Ellison has built an impressive voter turnout operation in his Minneapolis power base, and he won a majority of the primary vote even with four significant opponents.

But the allegations, denied by Ellison but not disproven, remain. This is a story that figures to reverberate for the three-plus months leading to the general election.

The question arises: Is this episode the beginning of a trend toward dumping explosive allegations right before an election?

The mechanism to do so is obviously readily available.

There is, however, a competing trend that might work against that tactic: early voting. Thousands of Minnesotans had already cast their ballots when the Ellison allegations became public, and those votes already run though the counting machines.

The popularity of early voting may well have blunted the attack on Ellison, although his margin victory was considerably wider than the number of early votes. While many of the early voters may regret they voted before the allegations came to light, those early votes may ultimately force those who want to throw mud to do so earlier in the campaign, when there is time for voters to evaluate the claims.

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