Last night was a big change for me. Coming in to the debate I was voting for Smathers, with Besse as a close second, Hampton a distant third and Dalton dead last.
I left with Dellinger and Dalton changing places. I am still pissed at Dalton for many of his votes, but there were two very important parts of the debate for me.
First, early on, during the opening statements and the first two questions, Hampton was relentless in his attacks. I am sure DFL and others will say that it was simply raising important issues. Frankly I thought the attacks looked mean spirited and childish. By the end of it Dalton could have stood up and said "I am pro-life" and I wouldnt have cared. Thankfully he stayed in his seat and talked about being pro-choice. But Hampton's method of bringing up the differences was mean spirited and off-putting.
I knew it was not going to be a fun evening when every chair had a piece of paper on it, one side of which was Pro-Hampton, the other side of which was purely negative Dalton. When someone campaigns like Hampton has, I dont care where he stands on the issues. Its destructive and divisive.
Second, Dalton impressed me. First of all he is an encyclopedia. With people like me, his ability to take credit for everything the Democratic legislature has done in the last 10 years is a mixed bag. Recently the state Senate has made some horrible decisions especially in the budget, by giving help to the rich at the expense of the rest of us on taxes. But ultimately this state is well managed, and Dalton knows that most people are happy about what they have done. His encyclopedic knowledge of what has been done is not just impressive, its important.
Additionally, the key moment for me was the question on minimum wage. An audience member’s question argued against the minimum wage. And, while all the candidates had a good answer, Dalton’s impressed me. The thing that annoyed me about some recent decisions in the state Senate has been the disregard for working people. Dalton brought up a debate that he had on the floor with Senator Fred Smith. His recalling of that debate was the only time I saw him really animated during the debate, and his argument won me over. Not only was he able to display a deep knowledge able to shut down any Republicans, but he was also able to show some real concern for the people of this state who struggle every day to make a living.
Overall, the debate was great, but the crowd size was disappointing to say the least. I hope that many more people come out to the future events. What I will say is that all of these candidates want to be Lt Gov, and they all want to do what is best for this state.
I don’t have my notes in front of me (so forgive the paraphrase), but Pat’s response on electability sums it up best. “I’m not running to the left to win this primary. We are talking about traditional Democratic values. Who can argue against good education, good jobs and putting people first?”
Ultimately, I believe that the LG's office will look signifigantly different after this years election than it has the prior 4 years. Mike Easley's now famous reluctance to be a very public figure has left an opening for a public face of the executive branch. That opening has been filled fully by Bev Perdue.
I see Perdue and Moore being signifigantly different if they are elected. The situation will also be signifigantly different if a Republican wins. Dalton's style makes sense if you assume that Perdue is going to be the next Governor. Besse's style would be very similar. While he isnt as knowledgable about the details, I think he would learn quickly, and I would be very happy with the decisions that he would make.
On the other hand, I believe that Smathers would be a different change, and would be the best choice no matter who is the next governor. I know that he could dive right in and change minds in the legislature. And I know that he could go to local communities and be the face of the state for those who need assistance to succeed.
Ultimately, any Lt Gov will only be effective if they are able to use the bully pulpit to change public opinion and to make deals in the legislature. Frankly, after his performance last night (on top of the other times I have seen him) I think Dellinger would be unable to be effective as Lt Gov.
So there you go. Pat Smathers is my number one still, based more upon his personality and his unique and innovative ideas. Dan Besse is still my number two, because I think I would agree with him on almost every issue. Walter Dalton is now my number three, based upon his experience and his passion for an issue I care deeply about. And Hampton Dellinger is relegated to number four, due to his personality and his campaign strategy.