The off-year elections are particularly important in Minnesota this year, where both gubernatorial and senate races are the marquee attractions. Incumbent Republican Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlwenty is running for reelection, in all likelihood against Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch. Democrat Mark Dayton is stepping down from his senate seat. The contest for the open senate seat will likely pit Democratic Hennepin County (Minneapolis) prosecutor Amy Klobuchar against Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy. It should be a lively race.
The chairman of Minnesota’s Democratic Party is attorney Brian Melendez. Melendez has a hyperbolic style that frequently lands his statements in the news. In February, as we have noted here, Melendez led a campaign to suppress the broadcast of two television advertisements that ran in Minnesota during the Olympics. The advertisements featured serving soldiers and the families of fallen soldiers speaking in support of the war. Melendez condemned the advertisements as “untruthful, un-American and a lie.” Some might have thought it a tad over-the-top for a state party chairman to condemn soldiers speaking up in support of the war they fought in as “un-American,” but Melendez never expressed any remorse about his statement or tendered an apology to the soldiers he seemed to be calling “un-American.”
This past week Melendez has been hurling brickbats again, digging deeply to find ground on which to take offense. Speaking to College Republicans at Mankato State University in support of Kennedy’s senate campaign and other Minnesota congressional campaigns, Republican Rep. Gil Gutkneckt sought to emphasize the importance of the midterm elections and inspire the students’ efforts on behalf of Republican candidates. In his remarks Gutknecht invoked the legendary heroism of the First Minnesota Volunteer Regiment that saved the day at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, by filling a momentary gap in the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. As reported by the Mankato State University student newspaper, Gutknecht said:
“We’re asked to stand in that gap and there are big stakes in this election. I’m not asking you to make the kind of sacrifices that were made on July 2, 1863 by those brave Minnesotans, but I am asking you to make your best effort.”
Melendez purports to have found Gutknecht’s motivational talk deeply offensive; he demands an apology to “Democrats across the country.” And isn’t the reason obvious? If Gutknecht’s analogy is pursued, the Democrats stand in the shoes of the Confederate forces (or “slaveholders,” as asserted in the heading of Melendez’s press release) who were charging the Union line. Thus Melendez says:
“To compare beating Democrats to defeating the Confederate Army is either an absurd display of historical ignorance or an insult to the intelligence of Minnesota…[Gutknecht] should be ashamed of himself for stooping so low…”
There are only two problems with Melendez’s pronouncement. Gutknecht didn’t compare beating Democrats to defeating the Confederate forces (or “slaveholders”). And it isn’t Gutknecht who is insulting the intelligence of Minnesota.