Tim Penny for Governor

Although Minnesotans have four fine major-party candidates to choose from for governor, Independence Party candidate Tim Penny stands out above the rest. Penny offers the voters a true alternative: someone with experience and knowledge that is sufficient to intelligently address broad questions of policy, yet not beholden to any ideology or party line. Fiscally conservative yet socially progressive, Minnesota would be fortunate to have Penny serve as its next governor.

Tim Penny brings many years of public service both at the state and the federal level. After serving in the Minnesota Senate for six years, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served for another 12 years. After taking a four-year break from politics, he began to serve as an adviser to Gov. Jesse Ventura in 1998 and continued to do so until deciding to run for governor himself. His experiences in St. Paul and Washingtonn, D.C., serve him well in understanding what can be accomplished by the state and what problems lie beyond its powers.

He brings a pragmatic dynamism which the other candidates lack. One of the weaknesses of the winner-take-all democratic system we have is a tendency toward two parties. Too often, this polarization forces politicians to step into line with the party agenda, sacrificing their own individual beliefs. This is an issue with the other candidates. Both Republican Party candidate Tim Pawlenty and Democratic Party candidate Roger Moe would cling to their traditional party issues and maintain “in-the-box” thinking. They will address problems as their party always addresses problems: Pawlenty by fighting taxation, Moe by state spending. Penny, on the other hand, shows a willingness to consider avenues of problem solving outside the traditional paradigms. Similarly, he tempers his ideology and solutions with pragmatism. When his desired outcome simply will not work, he is frank and upfront in admitting it. Despite his libertarian leanings, he realizes the deficit facing Minnesota in the next biennium might require increasing taxes. Being a leader involves more than instilling your values into policy; it also requires the recognition of when your values are not in the interest of the public good. Penny’s flexibility in this regard makes him a favorable choice.

Penny has progressive views in line with the populous of Minnesota. He supports alternative energy sources. He believes transportation problems are not fixable merely by the expansion of highways, and he is an advocate for light rail. He believes civil partnerships and legal equality for same-sex couples are a “no-brainer.” Although he stays out of the abortion debate, he supports state funding for family planning to help minimize unwanted teenage pregnancies.

There are some areas that cause concern. It is unclear whether Penny would be able, as a third party governor, to build the caucuses needed to pass strong legislation. He supports the right of individuals to carry concealed weapons. He believes in students funding their education through a model which operates primarily on loans. Despite his support of ciil partnerships, he is not supportive of same-sex marriage.

A vote for Penny is a vote to continue a viable third party. Although the Green Party gained momentum and local government positions during the 2000 elections, it has not enjoyed similar success in this election’s statewide races. The Independence Party stands, at this time, as the best vehicle to challenge the two-party system. No other state has elected, in successive terms, governors from minority parties. Interestingly, the last time this happened was in Minnesota in the 1930s. Encouraging third parties pushes the major two to consider what needs of the people they are not addressing, and it challenges whether our current election methods are the most equitable. It would be unfortunate if this trend of bringing politics back to the people suffered a damaging blow by the election of Moe or Pawlenty.

With the election of Ventura, Minnesotans acquired a governor from outside the system who promised to shake things up. Sadly, Ventura’s tenure never lived up to his rhetoric, as his personality dominated policy. In Penny, however, voters have the chance to elect an individual who is informed on the issues, is familiar with the processes and mandates to get effective legislation passed, yet is still independent from the system. Voters should not choose anything less.