I noticed the decision of St. Paul mayor Randy Kelly (DFL) to endorse George Bush made Drudge today. Pretty exciting for us locals. And kind of pathetic to think that the actions of such a low level Democratic functionary can make national news like this. It goes to show you how little bipartisan activity ever occurs in this day and age.
Although I'd like to think Kelly's decision was made on principle (and he makes a plausible case for this in his comments), I wouldn't ever assume principle to be the motivation of a career politician like him. Instead, his motivation is most likely to stay a career politician as long as he can. He correctly reads the political winds in St. Paul as contrary to his future electoral prospects. He knows he won't get the support of the DFL in the 2004 mayoral election, and he needs to motivate as many Republicans and 9/11 Democrats in St. Paul as possible to support him.
It's true that Kelly didn't get much DFL support in his mayoral race in 2001 either. The party's endorsement and financial support went to his challenger, DFL City Councilman Jay Benanav. It turned out to be a very close election, decided by only 400 votes out of 60,000 cast.
But Ol' Jay doesn't figure to be a factor in the race next year. But a more formidable candidate has emerged, former Police Chief William "Corky" Finney. A wildly popular local figure and a man sure to get the support and financial aid of the Democratic party and its activists. My guess is that Kelly knows he can't beat Finney operating within the traditional political machinery of St. Paul, so he needs to reach out to the burgeoning conservative base. He'll run on a perceived record of accomplishment in St Paul and against the radical nature of the St. Paul Democratic establishment.
If that plan sounds familiar to you, you're right. It's the same strategy used by Kelly's predecessor, Senator Norm Coleman. When he realized political advancement wasn't possible in the Minnesota DFL, he switched parties, survived to fight another day, and is now an ascending star on the national GOP scene.
I don't think Kelly has the higher ambitions of Coleman, therefore a party change isn't necessary for him. If he is remaining in St. Paul, he'll need as many Democrats as possible to vote for him. So he'll endorse Bush in an attempt to attract the conservative vote next year and hope that's enough. It's a desperate move for a life long Democrat like Kelly, but not surprising coming from a guy fighting for the only career he's ever known.