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The best Capitol Retorts of 2016

Editor’s note: Welcome to a special edition of Capitol Retort, our year-end review of issues in state and national news featuring political people in the know. These best-of selections are based on levity, political prescience or just because, to us, they sounded kind of smart.

Question 1 (Dec. 2): Tensions and theatrics over Civil War paintings in the Capitol grew so heated that Gov. Mark Dayton walked out of the last Capitol Preservation Commission meeting, saying Republicans had hijacked the issue. Does this bode ill for the coming legislative session?

Greg Davids, GOP House Tax Committee chair: He needs to calm down, catch his breath and get his act together. My advice would be don’t worry, be happy. Uncle Greg says, “Governor, just cool it. Calm down. It’ll be OK.”

Question 2 (Nov. 9): Where do you want your party to be four years from now?

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis: I want our party to be very muscular and vocal and unapologetic in its advocacy for people’s hopes, dreams and aspirations, for themselves and their families and their community. We really do need to build an authentic movement around people claiming their own power to improve their own lives.

Question 3 (Oct. 21): There has been tremendous fallout after the GOP presidential candidate bragged on tape about abusing women. In response, a cascade of women have publicly shared their own shattering stories of abuse at the hands of men. Is something good actually coming of this?

Mary Liz Holberg, former GOP House member: I find myself scratching my head and I can’t think that anything is good. I’m sitting here wondering, has anything changed? I’d like to think that we are better than we were in how we treat women in the workplace … but I am not sure that is the case. And to me, it’s alarming.

Question 4 (Oct. 7): Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman recently declared the MNsure program to be, in effect, in a state of emergency and asked lawmakers to step in and fix it. Will they? Can they?

Sarah Janecek, lobbyist, former Politics in Minnesota publisher: Well, as one of the people who is currently going to be without insurance, they damned well better fix it.

Question 5: (Sept. 23): House Speaker Kurt Daudt has complained loudly about Gov. Mark Dayton’s decision to offer sizable severance packages to three commissioners who quit their jobs. What do you think? Big deal? Little deal? Or no deal?

Pat Garofalo, Republican state representative: It’s a big deal. But if the governor wants to give me a severance package to have me leave the Legislature that would be fine.

Question 6 (Sept. 23): Star running back Adrian Peterson is out for three to four months with a knee injury. Are the Vikings done before they’ve barely begun?

Garofalo: I’m a Minnesota Vikings fan and I have come to accept the fact we are never going to win the Super Bowl. There is some sort of ancient Egyptian, Hindu and/or Martian curse on the Vikings and we just need to accept it and move on.

Question 7 (Aug. 26): What’s the best use of the State Fair you’ve seen on the part of a politician?

Ryan Winkler, former DFL legislator: You have a booth, you show up, you wear a plaid shirt, shake hands and show that you don’t mind eating State Fair food. I’ll always remember state Auditor Pat Awada had a booth and she was calling herself the watchdog and she had “Who Let the Dogs Out?” playing endlessly at high volume outside of her booth. She lost.

Question 8 (Aug. 19): Donald Trump shook up his campaign staff again. What do you make of that?

Annette Meeks, founder and CEO, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota: I know [new campaign manager] Kellyanne Conway. She’s very gifted and probably a good person to have traveling with him and trying to keep him on message. But it’s a little late to be making major changes in your campaign. But I’ve been wrong about everything else this year, so it’s probably genius.

Question 9 (Aug. 5): U.S. Bank Stadium is now open. What does it look like to you and will you be going there anytime soon? 

Jeff Kolb, Republican activist, Crystal City Council member: It’s clearly a Jawa Sandcrawler. Unless Journey or REO Speedwagon announces a concert there, I can’t imagine I’ll ever see the inside of the people’s stadium. Maybe a monster truck rally, when my kid gets a bit older.

Question 10 (July 29): How will the historic nature of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy play with Minnesota voters? 

Davids: Most people care more about where you stand on the issues rather than what your gender happens to be. She did not play well in Minnesota during the caucuses; Bernie Sanders won quite decisively. Trump will be very competitive in Minnesota. Because she is the candidate, Minnesota is in play for Republicans.

Question 11 (July 8): Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith proclaimed Tuesday “Adele Day” in Minnesota. Earlier we had Beyonce Day and Prince Day. What day do you want to see next?

Ann Lenczewski, former DFL representative: The governor should declare Replacements Day and give Paul Westerberg a key to the Capitol city.

Question 12 (June 17): Transit is a sticking point, if not the sticking point, in special-session negotiations. If you were Transit God, what would you make happen? 

Garofalo: I would appeal to a higher god and ask to be a new god of something. Like maybe, the god of alcohol, professional sports or some low-level vice.

Question 13 (June 10): General Mills, based in Golden Valley, is introducing its first new breakfast cereal in 15 years. Will you try Tiny Toast?

Carleton Crawford, Minneapolis GOP activist, former 5th Congressional District GOP chair: I did look into the description of the cereal. My mindset is, if I wanted something that tasted a blueberry muffin, I’d probably buy a blueberry muffin.

Question 14 (May 27): The Legislature was unable to pass a comprehensive transportation bill. What road, bridge or transit project would you like to be No. 1 on the list?

Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing: Anything not in Pat Garofalo’s district.

Question 15: (May 20): Donald Trump’s list of 11 potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees includes Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice David Stras. What job would you like to be shortlisted for in a Trump administration?

Javier Morillo, president, SEIU Local 26, and Democratic Party superdelegate: Minister in Charge of Migration to Canada. I will facilitate that for people.

Question 16 (May 13): Workdays are getting longer at the Capitol. What tricks do you have for successfully burning the candle at both ends?

Garofalo: Action-adventure movies, Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” album on repeat and illegal stimulants.

Question 17 (April 22): Harriet Tubman will bump Andrew Jackson off the front of the $20 bill. What change would you like to see in our currency? 

Meeks: I thought it was cool. Of all the people they picked, that was really a home run. It goes to show you if you want to stay on the currency you better have a long running musical. Two years ago, Alexander Hamilton was dead. He’s been revived by Broadway.

Question 18 (March 4): What do you think will happen by the end of the short 10-week session?

Melin: Probably not much.

Question 19 (Feb. 19): Pope Francis said building walls between countries is not Christian. Donald Trump called that comment disgraceful. Whose side are you on?

Winkler: I am on the Christian side, and that is to love thy neighbor. Just because Donald Trump believes he’s the Messiah doesn’t make him a Christian.

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