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Election 2012 should be a lively one

Why let the political junkies of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have all the fun? The calendar has turned to election year 2012 and it’s time to ruminate, deliberate and flat-out speculate about central Minnesota politics.

Question No. 1: Will there be a repeat of the three-way race for Senate District 12?

The 2010 totals were Republican Paul Gazelka 49 percent, DFLer Taylor Stevenson, 38 percent and independent Paul Koering, 9.9 percent as a write-in candidate.

Sen. Paul Gazelka of rural Brainerd has indicated he’s going to run for re-election, He’ll do so with a stronger resume in the wake of his recent election as assistant majority leader by his colleagues in the tumult that followed Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch’s forced resignation. Stevenson, who was still finishing up his collegiate career at Darmouth when he announced his legislative bid in 2010, has remained in the area despite a poor job market for Ivy League graduates. He has been substitute teaching, coaching and volunteering in a variety of community organizations. Sounds like political resume building to us.

Then there’s the political wild card, former Sen. Paul Koering of St. Mathias. He lost to Gazelka in the GOP primary race but decided to run as a write-in candidate in 2012. Write-in candidates face a huge challenge in garnering votes but Koering made a respectable showing, almost reaching double digits.

There’s talk that Koering might be interested in another run and that he might not seek any party endorsement. If he files as an independent candidate he would automatically get on the November ballot. Koering, who served multiple terms in the Senate, might be able to count on his name recognition to help return to the Legislature in a district that currently represents much of Crow Wing and Morrison counties.

Three-way political races can produce interesting results. Just ask Norm Coleman and Skip Humphrey, two big-name political veterans who were blind sided by a plain-spoken Jesse Ventura.

Let’s face it, political parties don’t hold as much sway as they did years ago. The money they’re able to raise is often dwarfed by special interest organizations that often target candidates they don’t want to win by weighing in with independent, negative advertising expenditures. We also don’t see the blind party loyalty we saw years ago. Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street activists have placed the Republican and Democratic parties on notices that their votes will have to be earned and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Question No. 2: What about redistricting?

It happens every 10 years and it almost always gets thrown into the court system since Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature can’t agree on what would be fair. No one knows precisely what changes will be made when all the various possibilities are considered by a judicial panel that is expected to release its own plan by the end of February.

On this topic does the revolving door shuffle of former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice strike anyone else as just a little tacky?

A former law firm colleague of the man who appointed him to the Supreme Court, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Magnuson served on the 2008 state canvassing board that handled the U.S. Senate recount. He left the court and two years later was gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer’s lead negotiator during the 2010 recount won by Gov. Mark Dayton. Now he’s representing the Republicans as they present their plan to a redistricting panel made up of judges.

It doesn’t do much for the public’s confidence in judicial impartiality when the state’s top jurist can so easily shift roles.

There will be plenty of politics in the upcoming year. Political caucuses are Feb. 7 so brace yourself for both the good and the bad that a long campaign season offers us.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or