COL Going to the polls one way to counter 'stealth candidates'

The term "stealth candidates" conjures up sinister images, doesn't it?

It describes what is becoming increasingly prevalent in local and state elections. In an article, "Guerillas in our midst," Holly Gunner of the Lighthouse Institute for Public Policy enumerates the nature of stealth candidates.

While the focus of her article is on what she describes as "stealth campaigns" of the Religious Right, what she has to say applies equally well to others who have hidden, or not so hidden, agendas. The point is for stealth candidates to be elected to public office with as little scrutiny as possible.

In times such as mid-term elections, when people may be apathetic or complacent, the stealth candidate might just prevail. In fact, the stealth candidate is counting on your not going to the polls for the crucial primary or general elections.

Of course, there are other ways in which stealth candidates work. It may not be just to win at the polls but to prevent someone else from winning. For example, in Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District race between Democrat Bill Luther and Republican John Kline, Sam Garst, a Democratic activist, also chose to enter the race under the banner of the "No New Taxes Party." It appears Garst was seeking to take votes away from John Kline. According to an article in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis Luther's campaign manager has said he encouraged the filing by Garst, who has acknowledged that he is running with the intention of taking votes away from Kline.


This is a disgraceful piece of chicanery and it could well rebound on Bill Luther now that the truth has been revealed.

Is there a message in the above activities for people in southeastern Minnesota? I think there is. Sheila Kiscaden has served in the Minnesota State Senate for 10 years with distinction. Her tenure in office has not always been easy because the more conservative factions of the Republican Party perceived her as too moderate. In fact, this year, Lynn Zaffke was granted the Republican endorsement.

After she was denied Republican endorsement, Sen. Kiscaden was forced to re-evaluate her situation and decided to run for the District 30 Senate seat on the Independence Party ticket. She chose the party she perceives as the sensible center, and unlike stealth candidates who keep their agendas private, her record is an open book.

When Sen. Kiscaden decided to run under the Independence Party umbrella, she was initially unopposed -- until the last day of filing for the District 30 Senate seat, when Howard Ives threw his hat into the senatorial ring for the same seat and with the same party, thus forcing a primary election. However, as recently as last month, Ives supported the endorsed Republican candidate Lynn Zaffke for that Senate seat.

An op-ed piece in the Post-Bulletin on Aug. 7 describes Ives as having been a member of the Constitution Party, but now at the twelfth hour, he has abruptly chosen to file as an Independence Party candidate. He is reported to have said he made this decision, in part, because "both he and the party share a fundamental belief." (Post-Bulletin, July 23). If the Independence Party is looking for people in the sensible center, they are not going to find it in an advocate of the Constitution Party platform. It is right wing to the extreme. Check it out on the Internet and then ask yourself if you really would want to live in the America it envisions.

The evidence suggests Ives' adoption of the Independence Party is to force Sen. Kiscaden into a primary election on Sept. 10. If supporters of the sensible center do not show up at the polls and the extreme right gets out the vote, Howard Ives may well win the primary, and Lynn Zaffke will not have to face Sen. Kiscaden in the November election. In other words, I believe Ives is a stalking horse, a decoy. If I am wrong and his candidacy is legitimate and Ives becomes the senator who represents Rochester and the surrounding area, the sensible center from southeastern Minnesota will be catapulted to the extreme right of the political spectrum.

Whether stealth candidate, stalking horse or legitimate candidate, Howard Ives should send every thinking voter scurrying to the primary election booth on Sept. 10.

James M. Russell is a European historian and retired chair of the Social Science Division of Rochester Community and Technical College.

What To Read Next
Get Local