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March 19, 2004
Even DFL Standardbearer Hates New Ads

Yesterday, I posted about the new DFL ads targeting Tim Pawlenty on the early release of sexual offenders, a problem that has been decades in the making and on which the DFL has proposed no solutions on their own. The new ads are so stupid, even uberliberal Doug Grow initially thought that they were satires of political advertisement before DFL officials said, "No, we're serious."

Now, former DFL gubernatorial candidate and current state Senator John Marty has called for the ads to be pulled from the air and an apology issued to Minnesotans, invoking a bogeyman from the Democrats' past:

"I am ashamed to see my party produce a mean-spirited attack ad that is no better than the infamous Willie Horton ad," Sen. John Marty, Roseville, wrote to state DFL Chair Mike Erlandson. "Political consultants may think such an ad is clever. I think it is sick." ...

"It cheapens the political debate on a complex issue, and it will undoubtedly encourage others to respond in kind," he wrote. "This ad should be pulled immediately. I believe Minnesotans deserve an apology."

Erlandson and the DFL are sticking to their guns. They will continue airing the ads at least through the weekend, although a plea on their website for donations to continue the ad campaign has disappeared, indicating that DFL leadership are now in face-saving mode. They spent a lot of DFL money for this, most of which was provided by Attorney General Mike Hatch (he gave the DFL $41,000), who is so desperate to be governor here that he's probably already hired an interior designer for the mansion.

Hatch's desperate longing for Pawlenty's job has pushed the DFL into a logically untenable situation. The problem that creates the early-release issues is the current sentencing guidelines for felonies in Minnesota, and not just for sexual felonies. Minnesota doesn't even guarantee a life sentence for first-degree murder; thirty-year sentences are more common, on those rare occasions that charges don't get bargained down to second-degree murder or manslaughter. In the one cause celebre, Alfonso Rodriguez, the sentence given for his third rape and second kidnapping was 23 years, when it should have been life without parole. In almost any other state, that would have been an option, but not here.

Why? Because reform-minded DFLers have controlled the legislature for decades, and LWOP sentences don't fit in with their philosophy. Instead, the constitutionally suspect and exponentially more expensive civil-commitment process had to be tacked on a few years ago to keep predators like Rodriguez off the street. Rodriguez slipped through, based on evaluations made in the last administration, but neither governor oversaw each sex-offender release decision, and to imply they did is simply a lie.

And as I wrote yesterday, the DFL has control of the state Senate. If they want to make the system tougher on sex offenders, all they have to do is introduce legislation to change sentencing rules. Senator Marty and most of the DFL, and for that matter most Minnesotans, know this. Minnesotans won't be fooled by Mike Hatch's personal Pawlenty vendetta, and they will express their displeasure with finger-pointing, do-nothing DFLers like Hatch in November. All Erlandson's done is to produce an advertisement for continued Republican administration of Minnesota by demonstrating that the DFL is run by unserious people.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 19, 2004 6:26 AM

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