Robert Novak has a column this morning in which he reports that Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page was interested in replacing Senator Wellstone as the Democratic candidate. Based on anonymous Democratic sources, Novak reports that “the DFL apparently did not want to risk running the African-American Page in an overwhelmingly Caucasian state, and Page was swiftly discouraged.” The column is “Mondale gambit shows Dems’ audacity.” Novak’s strength as a columnist is his shoe leather reporting, and he may well be right. But I wonder if this story has any basis in fact.
Alan Page is the most popular Democrat in Minnesota. Unlike every other Minnesota Supreme Court justice, he was originally elected–not appointed–to his position on the court. Did he really want to resign from his position on the court to undertake the race against Coleman? Novak fails to report that Justice Page declined to resign and enter the race to be the Democratic candidate against a weak Rod Grams in 2000. Justice Page has never run for political office, and a short campaign as the party’s endorsed nominee would help cover his weaknesses as a novice candidate, but I doubt (based on no information) that he would have been willing to leave the court to take a flier.
Novak refers to Justice Page as a “law-and-order” liberal. Novak provides no evidence for this characterization of Justice Page, and I am aware of none. The “law-and-order” part is pure hokum. Only the description of him as “liberal” is correct. Novak sounds to me like he’s making this stuff up as he goes along.
The imputation of racism to Minnesotans as the Democrats’ reason for not selecting Page also rings false to me. When he most recently stood for reelection, Justice Page was the leading vote-getter in the state. He is personally popular; as a Minnesota Viking, he was the NFL’s first defensive Most Valuable Player–around the time Fritz Mondale last ran a statewide campaign. The imputation of racism to Minnesotans as a reason for rejecting Justice Page as a candidate sounds like something Democratic bigwigs would say in this context to justify dissing Justice Page, so Novak’s story is plausible in that sense. But without some evidence to support the story, I don’t believe it.
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