Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Shopping for an Office

While some politicians seek public office to simply satisfy their egos or personal ambitions we still often see average citizens seeking office after becoming famous for their civic involvement. Here in Minnesota a clear example of this latter example of a politician is Patty Wetterling, a children's safety advocate from St. Joseph, Minnesota who "transformed the 1989 abduction of her 11-year old son, Jacob, into a national crusade for child safety" (Source - Pioneer Press newspaper, January 25, 2006).

By no means would I write anything to undermine Mrs. Wetterling's civic work but I do want to offer her some political advice based on today's newspaper story entitled -- "Hatch makes offer" -- which focused on Minnesota Attorney General/Democratic candidate for Governor Mike Hatch's offer to Mrs. Wetterling to become his Lt. Governor running mate. This offer was made offer Mrs. Wetterling dropped out of the Democratic nomination process for the vacant US Senate seat in Minnesota (current Senator Mark Dayton is retiring) to endorse Amy Klobucher's candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

None of these developments are surprising but what concerns me is that according to this same newspaper article Mrs. Wetterling is considering several political offices along with some "interesting offers from the private sector." Personally I want my public offices to stay out of my life and my wallet but I also want them to have some passion and skills for the actual job duties of the public office they pursue. My concern (and editorial comments) about Mrs. Wetterling's wide range of political options is noted below:

US Senate -- This job comes with a fundamental need for an understanding of the national economy and foreign relatiions. She dropped out of the Democratic nomination process this week.

Lieutenant Governor -- Mike Hatch asked her to become his running mate seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty in November 2006. This job (around the country) is typically a VERY limited job in terms of authority and job duties unless the presiding governor grants the Lt. Governor some key job in state government.

US House of Representatives -- She is considering running again for the 6th District Congressional seat. Obviously this is not a state-wide job so perhaps a much more manageable political campaign for her to wage. Job duties are primarily "bringing home the pork" for constituents but she could potentially create a "Child Safety Caucus" should she win this seat to leverage his new House colleagues into action.

Secretary of State -- Duties include registering businesses to operate legally in Minnesota and managing our elections. Here is the key point -- given the HUGE difference between the job duties/range of issues that US Senators work on versus what a Secretary of State works on does anyone really think Mrs. Wetterling has the passion for such administrative duties given her past civic work and her aborted race for the US Senate?

Personally I want to see more people in the private sector versus in public office so I would encourage her to pursue her "interesting offers from the private sector" but if she insists she has heard a "calling to public service" let me suggest she run for her local school board where her child safety experience could be better utilized assuming she utilizes such a position to network with school board members nationally.

Act locally,


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