here for PDF format
for Participant Responses to this summary
of meeting with Craig Swaggert
8301 Creekside Circle,
Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, August 29,
speaker: Craig Swaggert,
Independence Party of Minnesota
Johnson, chair; David Broden, Bill Frenzel (by phone), Paul Gilje, Jim
Hetland (by phone), Jim Olson (by phone), and Wayne Popham (by phone)
Context of the meeting--Today's
meeting is one of several the Civic Caucus has been conducting on the
subject of the current structure of elections in Minnesota.
Welcome and introduction--Verne
and Paul welcomed and introduced Craig
Swaggert. Swaggert is the chair of the Independence Party of
Minnesota. Occupationally, he 's been involved in real estate and
construction. He became active in the Independence Party when Tim Penny
and later Peter Hutchinson ran for Governor as members of the Independence
Party. He then was asked to run for chair of the party in
He was reluctant because he's not been heavily involved in politics. He
has a passion for changing the system and making the system more appealing
to the moderate majority.
Comments and discussion--During
Swaggert's comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus the following
points were raised:
1. A voice for the moderate middle--Swaggert
contends that the Republican and Democratic parties have been hijacked by
activists on the left and right. The Independence Party tries to be a
voice for the moderate middle. In the last two elections for Governor in
Minnesota the presence of a third, Independence Party, candidate made the
Independence Party a spoiler, but the system itself is spoiled, he said.
2. Reluctance to cast a "wasted" vote--A
Civic Caucus member asked why the third party candidate seems to do better
in public opinion polls than in the actual election. Swaggert said much
of the reason lies with the voters knowing that the third party candidate
won't win, and, anxious not to waste their votes, decide to vote for one
of the others. Responding to a question, Swaggert said that Tim Penny,
Independence Party candidate, received 17 percent of the vote in the 2002
election for Governor and Peter Hutchinson received 6.4 percent in 2006.
This year's Independence Party candidate for
Senator, Dean Barkley, now is around l0 percent in the polls, Swaggert
3. Ranked choice voting would help--Ranked
choice voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), would help
Independence Party candidates, Swaggert said, because persons could vote
for their hopes not their fears. Such a change would have great influence
on quality of candidates, he said. A questioner wondered whether IRV is
readily understood by voters. Swaggert contended the concept is very
straightforward. One ranks candidates in order of preference, meaning
that a voter could choose a third-party candidate as the voter's top
choice, without feeling that the vote would be wasted.
4. Reducing the need for a third party with
more open primaries--Swaggert said he has no problem with being
out of a job if primary elections for Republicans and Democrats were more
open. Currently, the two major parties aren't receptive to others filing
against candidates endorsed by the parties. If the primaries were more
open, he said, that would reduce the need for the third party.
5. Future of precinct caucuses--Precinct
caucuses play a significant, official, role in the process of selection of
party candidates in Minnesota, a Civic Caucus member said. But the
precinct caucuses seem to attract mainly the activists on the right and
left. While agreeing that moderate voters don't participate that much,
Swaggert said he doesn't have a proposal for changing the precinct
6. Importance of candidate selection--The
best way to enhance the prospect of more moderate voter influence is
through the recruitment of more candidates, Swaggert said. He noted that
Independence Party candidates are running in about 10 to 12 legislative
races. This year, with a presidential contest, is a very difficult time
for third-party candidates in state races to gain support, he said. This
year, he said, the Independence Party has endorsed a few major-party
candidates whose agendas seem closer to those of the independent voter.
7. Substantial influence from the major party
legislative caucuses--A Civic Caucus member noted that in the
last several years the majority and minority legislative caucuses in the
Minnesota House and Senate have become very major players in the
selection, endorsement, and nomination of legislative candidates and in
the financing of their campaigns. Such a role, when combined with the
influence that the legislative caucuses can exert over candidates, tends
to produce candidates whose philosophical orientation is very close to
that of the leadership of the legislative caucuses, the member said.
Swaggert said he doesn't have a proposal for reducing the influence of
legislative caucuses. (Point of clarification: Legislative caucuses are
permanent, on-going organizations of the majority and minority parties in
the state House and Senate. By contrast, precinct caucuses are
once-a-biennium grass-roots small-area gatherings used by the parties as
the first step in the endorsement process.)
8. Possible changes in primary elections?--Swaggert
said he supports moving the date for the state primary election to a time
earlier than September. Moving the date forward, he said, would give
voters a chance to know the candidates better. On the matter of a
presidential preference primary for Minnesota, Swaggert said he's not
spent a lot of time thinking about such a change. A Civic Caucus member
noted that some advocates for IRV see greater potential for IRV in primary
elections, where the list of candidates is narrowed, than in general
elections, where the final choice is made.
9. Looking to future elections--The
Independence Party today is looking mainly to elections in 2010 and
beyond, Swaggert said. In the meantime, the party will concentrate on
strengthening its voter base and in finding quality candidates.
10. Too little coverage by the media of serious
public affairs--Responding to a question, Swaggert said he is
largely discouraged by media coverage of issues and candidates. Too much
attention is devoted to the sensational, he said.
11. Focus of
Independence Party platform concentrates on four issues: health care,
education, environment and transportation, he said. The Independence
Party doesn't deal in more divisive issues that often highlight
differences between Republican and Democratic candidates. Detailed
discussion of the Independence Party platform can be found at http://www.independenceminnesota.org/about-the-ip/positions
. The platform lays out broad principles, within which candidates are
free to develop specific proposals, he said. To work effectively on
issues, the Independence Party needs to get people elected.
Party candidates from special interest influence--Independence
Party candidates to not accept political contributions from Political
Action Committees (PACs) or from lobbyists, he said. A Civic Caucus
member commented that such a step would seem to give opponents of
Independence Party candidates substantially greater access to campaign
said he doesn't see any changes in campaign finance laws on the horizon.
13. Retain party designation of state
candidates?--Not knowing what
the situation was like before 1973 when the Legislature enacted
party-designation, Swaggert said he doesn't have a position on whether the
non-partisan Legislature should be reinstated.
14. Attracting moderates requires good
candidates--Asked how the Independence Party can build its base
of moderate voters, Swaggert said the key is the enlistment of high
quality candidates. One needs good candidates to attract voters, he
said. Swaggert acknowledged difficulties the party encounters because it
relies entirely on volunteers, of which Swaggert himself is one.
15. Where responsibility for legislative
redistricting should lie--Swaggert
said he has no position on the question of whether the Legislature should
hand over legislative redistricting to an outside body.
16. Opposition to constitutional amendment--Swaggert
said he personally is opposed to the constitutional amendment on outdoors,
water and the arts being voted on this November. It represents a failure
of the Legislature and Governor to settle such issues themselves, he
said. That's why they were elected in the first place.
17. Support for changing judicial selection--The
Independence Party supports a proposal from a commission headed by former
Governor Al Quie to move to merit appointment of judges, with retention
elections, he said.
18. Importance of solving health care problem--Asked
for any point of emphasis he'd like to make, Swaggert replied by
highlighting the importance of action on assuring affordable health care
for all Minnesotans. An essential component, he said, must be to get the
rising costs of health care under control.
19. Attracting young voters--The
best way to attract young voters to the Independence Party is through
finding candidates that will appeal to young voters, he said.
20. Thanks--On behalf of the Civic
Caucus, Verne thanked Swaggert for meeting with us today.