Voters sent mixed message, now disappointed with results

Lifelong Republican Jeanette Gilbertson
Lifelong Republican Jeanette Gilbertson of Northfield said the shutdown is worsening Minnesota's fiscal problems because of related expenses and lost revenue from closing the state lottery and parks.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Minnesota voters sent a mixed message last fall when they elected a Democratic governor who campaigned on a "tax the rich" theme, at the same time they gave anti-tax Republicans control of the Legislature.

Now many are dismayed by partisan bickering that led to the state government shutdown. That's particularly true in some corners of closely divided House District 25B.

Voters in the district, which spans an area from Belle Plaine to Northfield, narrowly choose Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer over DFLer Mark Dayton. A recount determined that first-time Republican candidate Kelby Woodard beat the Democratic incumbent David Bly by just 37 votes.

Eight months later, voters are frustrated by the gridlock spawned by their choices. That was clear during a visit to the Main Street Cafe in Lonsdale, which is in the heart of the district.

Lonsdale resident Judy Davis voted Republican in both the gubernatorial and House elections. She is not taking sides in the shutdown battle, and things both parties are at fault.

Davis is not happy that the people Minnesotans sent to St. Paul to run state government are unable to get the job done.

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"They came in January knowing we have a budget problem," she said. "Why in the world didn't they come with some solutions? This is ridiculous. They are acting like school-age kids in a playground. You know, grow up."

Both in the wrong
Craig Schuster, who leans left politically, believes that both parties are in the wrong.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Rosie Stepka, who also lives in Lonsdale, voted for Dayton. She thinks the battle over how lawmakers should solve Minnesota's $5 billion deficit should never have led to a government shutdown. But like her neighbor, she has no interest in pointing her finger at the other party.

"I blame both sides, and I don't think they should get paid while they're, you know, discussing this," Stepka said.

Patrons at the restaurant seem to agree that Democrats and Republicans are both to blame -- and that they wasted time during the regular session and are now hurting Minnesota.

In downtown Northfield, lifelong Republican Jeanette Gilbertson offers a blunt assessment of who failed to solve the budget crisis.

"Stupid Republicans, stupid Democrats and stupid politicians," she said.

Gilbertson said the shutdown is worsening Minnesota's fiscal problems, because of shutdown-related expenses and the lost revenue from closing the state lottery and parks.

Won't point fingers
Rosie Stepka voted for Gov. Mark Dayton but has no interest in pointing her finger at the other party.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

"They need to sit down and both give a little bit, and not be so greedy," she said.

Across Division Street, Craig Schuster, who described himself as left leaning, said he feels badly for people who are directly affected by the shutdown.

"I just wish they could compromise and come up with a solution," he said.

Schuster said as a younger man he would probably have singled out the opposition as the cause of the problem, just as the politicians in St. Paul are doing. Not anymore, though.

"I would have been quick to go after the right wing, but today, being older, having a little better understanding, now I realize there's more to it," he said. "You can't pin this down on one person, one party. They're all in this together and it's been a breakdown on both sides. That's the sad part of it."

Voters in District 25B acknowledged that they had no idea how to solve the budget problem. But they say that's what politicians are supposed to do. They're disappointed, in many cases angry, that the people they hired with their votes to do the job aren't getting it done.