In a colorful speech delivered at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs on Wednesday afternoon, Minnesota House Minority Leader Marty Seifert (HD 21A-Marshall) discussed some of the differences between a 'Marty Seifert Republican' and a 'Washington, D.C. Republican' as well as drew some policy distinctions between himself and Governor Tim Pawlenty.
Seifert acknowledged, from the start, that he's "unusual," because he's a Republican who was a former school teacher.
With regards to the Governor, the Minority Leader stated he was on board with the "basic framework" of Pawlenty's policies, and that he's with the Governor on "most" of his budget proposals. He added:
"I think the Governor is popular. I'm not sure if all his programs are as popular as he is personally, but I think he is a good standard bearer for our side."
Seifert then drew some clear distinctions between the two GOP leaders, such as on education policy:
"I come from a different background than the Governor. I'm a rural kid, and I was a teacher, a public employee. No Child Left Behind - let's be honest - it was a dumb idea. It was a horrible program in terms of trying to improve schools that weren't broken in Minnesota. By and large - there's problems in Minneapolis and some other schools - but, by and large I thought it was a big waste of time and money. The Governor's kind of a fan of it - accountability and all that."
Referring to the difficulties a Minority Leader faces at the State Capitol, and having to "beg" to get hearings on his issues, Seifert playfully likened his job as Minority Leader as being "Somewhat at the little kid's table." He later added, "I'm the waterboy and it's a very heavy bucket at times."
But when talking about the message of conservatism and how it has been delivered by Republicans in the Gopher State in recent years, Seifert said he has been "bold" in getting his message of conservatism out. However, he had some criticisms for the party's leadership in D.C.:
"The message gets muddled. Washington D.C. Republicans are probably not the same as a Marty Seifert Republican from Minnesota. And I think that's part of what's poisoned the well: George Bush, Tom Delay, the scandals, the overstepping, the deficits, the war - all the things that kind of came to a big head. That had people who were longtime supporters back home that are like, 'Is there a reason to vote for Republicans anymore?,' because of all that's going on in Washington - and that's a difficulty we face."
Seifert says the Republican Party needs to do more to "marry" libertarian conservatives and social conservatives together like Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s:
"That's part of the problem the Party has faced. It needs to broaden the message, not change its philosophy and all the rest, but broaden its message to make sure people understand the main thing is the main thing: that we believe in opportunity, freedom."
Seifert said the residual effects of the problems coming out of D.C. are related to image:
"There's a lot of people I think that feel that Republicans are mean. They don't care. Greedy. Lack of priorities. And scandals."
Representative Seifert believes, however, it is the center-right coalition that will determine elections in Minnesota. It's this coalition that the Minority Leader says reelected the Governor in 2006 and elected Erik Paulsen to Congress in 2008.
But, in the end, the ever humble Minority Leader revealed what it's really like being a Marty Seifert Republican:
"The only person that agrees with Marty Seifert 100 percent of the time is Marty Seifert. My goodness, my wife doesn't even agree with me all the time."
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