Outside spending on state Leg. races at all-time high, Arrowhead Region exception

By KBJR News 1

Outside spending on state Leg. races at all-time high, Arrowhead Region exception

September 11, 2013 Updated Sep 11, 2013 at 1:33 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - In 2012's Minnesota House District 5B race between DFL–backed Thomas Anzelc and Republican Carolyn McElfatrick, the candidates spent a combined total of about $61,000.

Meanwhile, outside party expenditures both for and against the two candidates spent a whopping $351,000 in areas like television ads.

In large, Political Action Committees also known as PACs and parties are to thank for the massive increase in outside spending on these state legislative races.

Political experts say it's part of a relatively new approach to winning back control: turning the tides of state politics in an era of massive Congressional gridlock.

In the state's Arrowhead Region, however, that's not the case.
Spending from outside parties on state House and Senate races is a fraction of what the rest of the state is seeing.

That was the case in the race for House District 6B, which DFL–backed Jason Metsa won with just $2,000 in outside spending.

"I really think it's unfair that one organization can come in and drop more money than someone like me, who's a community member from this area," said Metsa during a stop in Virginia to discuss health care with senior citizens Tuesday.

Representative Metsa says, so far, the Arrowhead Region is fortunate to have a lack of PAC–related spending on television ads that acts as the smoke between candidates and constituents.

But it's not black and white, as he also says the money that PACs bring in to finance campaigns, particularly in the production of literature "is absolutely necessary."

As to why there's such a stark contrast, Political Analyst Wy Spano says it's a combination of sorts.

First off, Spano says the region is still considered a DFL political stronghold, and PAC money spent on ads may not go as far as changing that on the state level.

"If they don't think they can, they don't bother," said Spano over Skype Tuesday.

Secondly, the impact of retail politics—going door–to–door on the campaign trail—still resonates in a big way on places like the Iron Range.

"We still are a much more involved legislative group than almost any other state—door to door work, and meetings with people, and that kind of thing," added Spano.

Representative Metsa agrees, adding that door-knocking was a major part of his campaign: "People should be able to talk to their politician that they voted for directly, or didn't vote for, if they need help with something."

But the Arrowhead Region could see all of that change next state election season.

Spano says there's still frustration from anti–gay marriage districts that had state legislators vote pro–gay marriage in the last session.

"And that means that they're going to come after that particular thing. Gay rights organizations and anti–gay marriage organizations will be putting extra money in the next round," said Spano.

...issues that will only become clearer in the coming months.

According to the Star Tribune, PACs, parties, and candidates spent nearly $24 million on state House and Senate races in 2012--over double the spending in 2002's legislative races.

Billy Wagness

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