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Smart Politics Exclusive: Interview with House Minority Leader Marty Seifert

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Smart Politics recently conducted an exclusive interview with Minnesota House Minority Leader Marty Seifert (District 21A). Seifert was first elected to the legislature in 1996, and has been a formidable, vocal opponent of the House DFL agenda, becoming a media favorite for his quick wit, consistent political message, and colorful, memorable quotes.

Smart Politics: You have sometimes commented that Governor Pawlenty's veto pen will 'run dry' this session, rejecting many DFL-backed legislation. Is there any piece of DFL legislation in particular that you are most concerned about fellow GOP House members drifting to the DFL's side to override a gubernatorial veto?

Rep. Seifert: I think that our caucus will stay together. We don't need to be unanimous, but just hold the threshold below 90 votes to over-ride. Most observers would argue that a 5-cent gas tax might be vulnerable, but I would argue that we will stay together on each veto.

Smart Politics: You have railed against many of the tax increases proposed by the DFL this session, claiming they are out of step with both the wishes of the average Minnesotans and what the DFL promised in Election 2006. Other than taxes, what piece of legislation do you feel, if passed, would be most damaging to the DFL in their bid to keep the House in 2008—that is, what other issues are they trying to push through that you feel are also out of step with the average voter in the Gopher State?

Rep. Seifert: The proposals to repeal welfare reform are very unpopular. Work requirements, reasonable limits on eligibility and keeping Minnesota in line with welfare attractiveness are important. My guess is that 80% or more of Minnesotans disagree with the DFL on their repeal of welfare reform.

Smart Politics: You represent an out-state District (21A) but work in a media market arguably dominated by coverage of Twin Cities issues. Do you think the Twin Cities media puts extra pressure on legislators in St. Paul to address metro concerns, and, if so, does this make your role as Minority Leader and Representative of District 21A much more difficult?

Rep. Seifert: I don't sense any undue pressure. The media has been very friendly to me and I think pretty fair. Generally, a Minority Leader does not get much attention for views of his caucus and I don't see any bias or problems in media communication.

Smart Politics: As a follow up, what issue(s) do you feel present the greatest challenge for you to hold out-state and metro area Republicans together as Minority Leader?

Rep. Seifert: There's always some issues relating to local government aid, nursing home spending and transit/roads. However, the DFL has done a great job of uniting my caucus, the Senate Republicans, the Governor and most Republicans with the tax, spend, regulate agenda they are promoting.

Smart Politics: Contrary to conventional wisdom, historical election trends in recent years show that lower voter turnout in Minnesota is actually correlated to greater DFL success in House elections. Since Watergate, in the 6 elections in which voter turnout has fallen below 60 percent in the state, the DFL has won or kept the House in 5 of them (with the GOP and DFL deadlocked at 67-67 in 1978). What factors are you hoping will come about in 2008, other than it being a presidential election year, to insure high turnout in the state generally, as well as to bring out your GOP base?

Rep. Seifert: There's no doubt that turnout will be driven by the presidential and to a lesser extent, Senate races. I believe firmly that the Democrats will nominate Hillary Clinton for President and Al Franken for U.S. Senate. This will be one of the worst top of the tickets for the Democrats in Minnesota for years. This is the key factor that will help. My best hope is that our positive agenda will drive turnout in our favor, but it's tough to drive it in lower-ticket races.

Smart Politics: Your major at Southwest Minnesota State University was political science. What book, political theorist, or statesman do you feel has had the greatest impact on you in your now decade plus years service as an officeholder in Minnesota government, and why?

Rep. Seifert: Surprisingly, I'd say Calvin Coolidge and his autobiography. He was willing to serve, quiet and never eager to be a "climber" or as ambitious.

Smart Politics: You can have 1 ticket: the Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, or the Wild—which do you choose?

Rep. Seifert: Probably Vikings, because that's what my wife and family would love the most.

Previous post: Minnesota House Gas Tax Increase In Step With Statewide Majority View
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Remains of the Data

Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

Political Crumbs

Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


Home Field Advantage?

When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


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