After a morning spent talking on radio shows about "how it felt to be crushed" in Minnesota's Republican gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, a tired but proud Sue Jeffers took a few minutes to tell me about the experience, her reluctant support of Tim Pawlenty, and her disappointment at Minnesota conservatives.
Sue Jeffers is funny--with a directness and humor that have probably served her well in the nearly 30 years she's owned Stub and Herb's bar on the university campus, it's surprising she garnered only 11 percent of the vote. But that figure was one she kept bringing up, her disappointment at the results clear.
"For heaven sakes, that guy in Italy who just put his name on the ballot got 35%!" she says, citing the candidacy of the Rome-based fugitive felon Jack Shepard for the 4th Congressional District seat. "Dean Johnson got elected again! Where were all the conservatives? They. Stayed. Home."
Calling voter turnout "pathetically low"--the Secretary of State's office puts it at just under 16 percent--Jeffers was surprised the issues that pushed her into the race didn't drive more people to the polls. The backlash against the new Twins stadium, which will be paid for in large part by tax increases not approved by voter referendum, didn't materialize as planned. Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Humphrey Institute told the Star Tribune that the "people who turned out were the party faithful -- the angry voter doesn't turn out for a primary."
Jeffers' beef is, in part, with those party faithful. She says she was surprised at how hard the Republican Party worked to silence her. She was excluded from the endorsing conventions, ommitted from the delegate list to the state convention and fairs, and Tim Pawlenty refused repeated requests for debates. "Even the CD conventions I’d been invited to, they had a conference call and Ron Carey [chair of the state Republican party] made them uninvite me. One out of the eigth allowed me to come in and talk."
She's particularly peeved that Pawlenty refuses to be held accountable, and she agrees that if a gubernatorial candidate can't get the ear of the governor, then chances an average citizen can are essentially nil. “Pawlenty let us down when he refused to debate me all those times. And he expects people to come out and vote for him now that he’s let us down. When you’ve promised people you were going to do one thing"--not raise taxes, not use tax dollars to support a sports stadium or the Hiawatha corridor--"and then you do something different, it surprises me that they actually expect people to support them—and then people do support them.”
Jeffers, who worked on Pawlenty's campaign in the past, admits, however, "I’ll have to vote for Tim Pawlenty because he’s the closest thing we have to a conservative on the ballot."
Jeffers isn't sure if she'll return to politics; at the moment, trimming the hedges and getting back to golf ("Politics killed my golf game.") are higher on the priority list. She has no regrets about running, and aside from some naivete, she says she's made no mistakes. "I’m very proud of myself for standing up against a political machine. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and there must be other avenues for me out there to try to make changes."
She continues, "I’m pretty good at running my small business and raising my kids, but obviously I’m not very good at being a politician. I got 11 percent, in case you didn’t notice! I did think I was going to get a lot more [votes]. Sometimes I even truly believed I was going to win, that I could’ve made a difference. I would’ve been the best governor Minnesota ever had. Nobody would’ve looked after taxpayers better than me. Maybe I need a different line of work than politics.”
Like serving beer and French fries?
“Yeah, but I tell ya, every time I’m serving someone a beer and they talk to me about high taxes or congested roads or how expensive healthcare is or how much they hate the new Hiawatha train and the new Twins stadium, I’m going to say, 'Oh, did you vote in the primary?'”
[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor. Image credit.]