Archive for April 2010

South Dakota Wages Lowest in Nation

Posted: Friday, April 30, 2010 at 6:25 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Funny Dakota Roots doesn’t mention that…

Put an R after that B—Anna Bahney writes a bang-up article on South Dakota’s last-in-the-nation wages, $16.53 an hour. Ms. Bahney knows whereof she speaks: marriage brought her to Sioux Falls after living and journalizing in New York City (NY state: $25.48 an hour, fourth highest in the U.S.) and Washington, D.C. ($32.37 an hour, best wages). Even our neighbors in North Dakota, where they have a state income tax and crappier weather, kick our butts at $18.75 an hour.

Why do our wages suck? Bahney finds South Dakota economists to lay out some reasons:

  1. Low brain power: “…what we’re missing is the high knowledge-based and high human-capital type services,” says USD economist emeritus Ralph Brown. Bahney cites Richard Florida, who finds a corrleation between high wages and high education levels. (Note to folks hoping to raise SD wages: Russ Olson and the Republicans voted to balance our state budget mostly by hacking education.
  2. Bad policy: “We attract out-of-state firms with our low corporate and low personal income tax. But it is a development strategy that will leave us in last place,” says Augie econ prof Reynold Nesiba. He says we need to quit chasing smokestacks and focus on “economic gardening,” growing our own entrepreneurs. (That’s what I’ve been saying!)
  3. Wide open spaces: Doc Brown says this is the biggest factor. Bahney explains: “greater density leads to greater worker productivity and higher wages attributed to what economists call ‘agglomeration.’ In cities, there is a knowledge spillover as a result of greater specialization.” (Now explain how equally desolate North Dakota beats our wages by over 13%.)
  4. Low taxes: Again, Doc Brown: “The results indicate that state differences in tax burden are capitalized into wages. This indicates that workers living in high-tax states receive a compensating wage to account for the higher tax burden.” Tax increases don’t automatically kill growth; the market compensates.
  5. No unions: Says Nesiba, “Power matters in economics, and workers have very little power here…. Workers able to come together and bargain collectively for higher wages and benefits is an important factor.”

Brainy stuff: read the full Bahney article.

South Dakota’s average 2008 wage was 76% of the national average. Our cost of living generally floats around 90% of the national average. So even if you factor some of our lower costs, South Dakota still comes out behind. I don’t have 2008 cost-of-living data handy, but when I factor by the current COL, I find South Dakota wages only go 84% as far as the national average.

You can thus say that our low cost of living means we don’t really have the lowest average hourly wage in the nation; factor in cost of living, and we tie with Mississippi for the fifth lowest purchasing power by hourly wage, at 84% of the national average. By cost-of-living adjustment, worse off than South Dakota are Montana, Vermont, Maine, and, worst of all, Hawaii, where folks have 58% of the national average purchasing power. Pierre’s propaganda about our great low cost of living misses the fact that people moving here will find it harder to make ends meet in South Dakota than they will in all but four other states.

Speaking of moving here, check this out: South Dakota has the second lowest number of foreign-born immigrants in the country. Just 1.9% of our population has come from another country. The only state with a lower proportion of foreign-born immigrants is West Virginia, with 1.3%. Nationally, 12.5% of us are from elsewhere.

The Migration Policy Institute data I’m looking at includes estimates of illegal immigrants. The data show states with higher immigrant populations tend to have higher wages. This makes sense: if people are coming to America, they may tend to pick states with more economic opportunity. And they apparently aren’t picking South Dakota.

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Gordon’s Drebin Gaffe & Tea Partiphobia

Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 11:31 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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frank-drebin_288x288The big news from the mother country over the last couple days was Labour PM Gordon Brown’s gaffe.  Brown had a conversation with Gillian Duffy, a 66 year old woman and lifelong Labour voter.  Ms. Duffy was worried about crime and immigration, among a number of issues.  Brown handles the exchange pretty well and treats her with apparent grace, so long as the cameras were rolling.  But when he climbs into his Jag and speeds away, he calls Ms. Duffy “a bigoted woman.”  He forgot that his mike was still on.  I name this a “Drebin gaffe” after Leslie Neilson’s Frank Drebin in the Police Story movies.  Check out that clip to find out what I mean.  Here is the PM’s actual gaffe.

Michael Barone calls this “one of the most amazing unforced errors in the history of English-speaking politics.”  That might not be hyperbole.  The problem of course is that now we know for certain what Gordon Brown really thinks about Gillian Duffy.  She is worried about the effects of immigration and crime in Britain, two issues that are not unrelated, and Brown thinks that makes her a bigot.

It occurs to me that the same is true of the American left in its reaction to the Tea Party movement.  The charge of racism has been incessantly hurled at the Tea Partiers, in spite of almost no evidence.  Now comes a poll from University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality that illustrates the straining that this accusation requires.

The Washington Institute survey tests “racial resentment” among Tea Party believers by asking questions like this [hat tip to Powerline]:

• “Irish, Italians, Jewish, and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without special favors.”  [78% agree].

• “Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.” [72% disagree].

• “Over the past few years blacks have gotten less than they deserve.” [83% disagree].

• “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.” [73% agree].

Is this evidence of “racial resentment,” as Newsweek alleges?  It is in fact evidence that strong majorities of Tea Party activists reject liberal positions on these issues in favor of conservative positions.  Like Gordon Brown, Newsweek apparently regards disagreement with the Left as bigotry.

In fact, these results prove the opposite of racism.  The respondents view African Americans as being exactly the same as other ethnic groups.  To say that blacks would be as well off as whites if only they tried as hard means you think that blacks have the same natural capacities as whites.  One might argue that these sentiments are unfair; one cannot logically claim that they amount to racism.

Another set of questions in the poll have not received the attention it deserves.  Tea Party “true believers” favor laws protecting homosexuals against discrimination in the workplace and believe that homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the Armed Forces, by 62% and 69% respectively.  On the other hand, only 36% agreed that homosexuals should be allowed to adopt children.

It is clear that the Washington Institute was looking for evidence of racism among Tea Party believers.  What they found, and what Newsweek tried to fit in the frame of “racial resentment,” in fact proves the opposite.  The Tea Party activists are hardly a bigoted bunch, unless you mean by “bigot” what Gordon Brown means: anyone who challenges the views of the Left.

Nelson, Noem, Curd — Who’s Best for House?

Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 5:42 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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New Madville Times poll! After your great enthusiasm for the GOP gubernatorial poll, it’s time for a GOP House poll: “Which Republican is best qualified to represent South Dakota in Congress?

Once again, I’m not asking which one will win in June. I’m also not asking which one you’ll vote for in June or November. Even if you’re a Herseth or Marking voter, I’d like your assessment of the qualifications of the three Republican candidates for South Dakota’s lone House seat. Chris Nelson, Kristi Noem, or R. Blake Curd—which one’s best qualified to represent our fair state in Washington?

Vote in the poll in the right sidebar at this address, then leave your comments below. Voting ends Saturday night, so click now!

Epp Staggers to Predict Huether Victory

Posted: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 3:37 pm
By: Todd Epp
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I pretty much nailed it yesterday in my statistical analysis that Mike “The Heat” Huether would defeat Kermit “Dr. No” Staggers.

It wasn’t even close:


   PRECINCTS COUNTED (OF 58) 58  100.00
   BALLOTS CAST - TOTAL      32,272
   VOTER TURNOUT - TOTAL          35.19

          Vote for  1
           Kermit L. Staggers  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    13,968   43.34
           Mike Huether  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    18,264   56.66
              Over Votes .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        13
             Under Votes .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        27

I did go the wrong way on the voter turnout. I predicted a 4% drop off and instead there was an increase of 1.5% to 35%.  So I missed the turnout by a ways which reduced my “Win Number” significantly.  I said the Win Number was about 13,000 votes.  The actual Win Number was 16,137 votes, so I was 3,000 votes off, which is not so good.

But I did say The Heat would likely win comfortably.  He did, by 13%, which is a landslide.

Not bad for a political newcomer, a banker, a Democrat, and a nice guy!  South Dakota, a political star was born last night.  His name is Mike Huether.

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Astrophysicist sends dingbats into orbit

Posted: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 10:31 am
By: David Newquist
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British astrophysicist Steven Hawkings has UFOers spinning around the moon.  People who discuss UFOs, aliens on earth, and space abductions crowded the talk radio airwaves in recent days to vilify Hawkings for saying that he believes there must be life on other planets in the universe, but we should not attempt to contact them.

“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

The reason the dingbat caucus is so enraged is because Hawkings’ statement implies that no one has met a space alien in reality up to this time, despite the fact that some spend so much time recounting their encounters.  His statement suggests that they are telling stories.

But some people are offended about this characterization of the human race.  He is not the first to suggest that we might not want to encourage visits by space aliens because they might be just like us.  One of the myths (used in its perjorative sense) they circulate is that space aliens came centuries ago and taught humankind to build the pyramids in Egypt, the temples in Maya, and crawler tractors in Peoria.  They see space aliens as a superior species that came to earth and attempted to raise the human race out of its primordial muck.

Of course, the same might be said of Jesus Christ, whose life-story fits the pattern of space creatures who invade the earth by adopting human form.  Whatever story one prefers to believe, the main idea is that humanity needs to acquire some redeeming virtues.  The teachings of Christ called for a total revision of the precepts of condemnation and vindictiveness on which humankind did and continues to operate.  His teachings are, indeed, alien to the principles that humankind prefers.

One of the things that distinguishes American literature from other world literatures is its sardonic take on the nature of humankind.  The protagonists in most of America’s better literature are what is sometimes called anti-heroes.  They refute the notion that mankind, even at its most pretentious, is noble.

Mark Twain was less than subtle when he confronted “the damned human race.”  He thought that when a person was called an animal, it was a complement because it was likening a person to a behavioral superior.  No  other species, he claimed, was as malicious, perverse, cruel, and obstinately stupid as the human.  A lot of  people do  not like Mark Twain because he makes fun of humanity and its pretenses toward superiority.

One of my correspondents made the point that if there are space aliens out there who are actually superior to humankind, why would they want anything to do with us?  Do you find virtuoso musicians and poets hanging out in biker bars?  He reverses Hawkings comments a bit.

But he also asked if space creatures observed the mass killings taking place on earth under the name of Islam, or drug cartels, or even read the kind of thought–actually the lack of it–in blog posts and the comments following them, why would advanced creatures not do everything to avoid getting involved with humanity?   If they coveted the earth’s resources, they might just wait until humanity has destroyed itself with its own malicious foolery.  Then they can take over, if there is anything left.

Ironically,it may be those orbiting dingbats who survive and carry on the traits of the race.

Mayor Huether: My Ambivalence

Posted: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 6:39 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Mike Huether won the Sioux Falls mayoral race yesterday. After finishing less than a percentage point behind Kermit Staggers in the main election two weeks ago, Huether beat Staggers 57% to 43% on a wave of higher than expected voter turnout (more Sioux Fallsians came out to vote in the runoff than in the first vote—what voter fatigue?). No word yet from Camp Huether on when the new mayor will conduct his first gay wedding ceremony….

I could get excited about Huether’s victory. Sioux Falls friends told me that Huether appreciates the role of the city in supporting the arts and cultural events that make Sioux Falls a relatively attractive place to live, unlike Staggers, whom my friends portrayed as a cultural neanderthal.

Politically, I could look at a Democrat governing the biggest city in South Dakota as a plus. Yes, I know the mayoralty is a non-partisan office, but let’s change out of our Mayberry pants: Mayor-elect Huether will directly govern a fifth of our state’s population in our biggest media market. Having a Democrat in that visible position helps the party and puts one more heavy hitter in the chute for future races. Republicans do the same calculus. Deal with it.

I could also get excited about Huether’s practical repudiation of local Teabagger power. His stunning Epp factor of 2.5 showed that Teabaggers don’t yet have the organizational power to form a winning local majority. Staggers espoused the sort of low-tax, minimal-government positions that should have gotten the Glenn Beck masses excited. So much for “We surround them!” The tricorner hat crowd stands a chance of lucking out against multiple opponents who divide other constituencies, but they can’t win a straight up, mono e mono campaign.

Now I left a few comments on some other blogs (including, which had already deleted its comment before I hit the sack last night) that could have been construed as support for Huether. But I never came out and advocated for Huether… because for all the reasons I might be glad he won, I still can’t trust him. Not yet.

Huether is the kind of politician I wish my Teabagger neighbors could beat. He’s the Sioux Falls version of a Wall Street fat cat, the corporate big shot who buys an election with the fortune he made in South Dakota’s usury industry. Huether comes from First Premier Bank, which has the gall to assert that charging people 79.9% interest wasn’t their choice but something forced on them by credit card reform. Huether comes from an industry that thrives on deceit and wage- and labor-crushing anarcho-capitalist deregulation (see also South Dakota, Russia).

Had I the pleasure of voting in Sioux Falls yesterday, I might have had to think long an hard about where to put my graphite smudge. Kermit Staggers represents a lot of things I disagree with… but so does Mike Huether. I can often trust a Republican political science professor like Staggers (I’m thinking of you, Ken!) more than I can trust a rich corporate Democrat like Huether.

South Dakota’s financial status quo stinks (more on that later). A poli-sci prof arguably has less interest in preserving that status quo than an elite product of that corporate system. Sioux Falls just elected the latter.

That’s why I can’t greet Huether’s victory with three cheers. I hope his practical actions in office will prove me wrong… and will get those potholes filled!

Immigration Politics and the 2010 Elections

Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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The MSM is on a full court press to convince us that the recent legislation in Arizona turns that bit of Painted Desert into a police state.  See Linda Greenhouse’s piece “Breathing While Undocumented” for a sample.  That none of this is in good faith is evident from the fact that no one seems to be asking how the law would actually work.  Arizona has decided that its own law officers ought to do the work that federal officers ought to be doing but clearly aren’t.

Maybe this will be done in a way that unconstitutionally burdens all citizens of Latino decent, and maybe not.  I would like to see someone with the necessary expertise tell us what documents are necessary to prove that one is a legal resident.  A driver’s license?  A social security card?

Meanwhile the majority party in Congress has put immigration back on the agenda, just in time to wreck negotiations on a Cap and Trade bill.  Why?  The answer is that the President has given up on the “non-minority” vote for this November.  Or at least non-young, non-male voters.

Maybe the Arizona business will help with Hispanic voters.  That would explain the MSM’s attention.  But he has his work cut out for him.  The Examiner explains:

Last week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) wrote a very angry op ed for the Huffington Post in which he assailed President Obama for everything from allowing federal agencies to lawfully deport criminal aliens, to not acting to stop the Arizona state legislature from passing a law which makes it a crime for illegal aliens to be present in Arizona.

In his rant, the Illinois Congressman even griped about the breakup of human smuggling networks, notorious for abusing and kidnapping their human freight.

What Rep. Gutierrez wants is “comprehensive” immigration reform.  In case you don’t know what that means, let me enlighten you.  It means legalizing people who entered this country illegally, in exchange for empty promises to control the boarders in the future.  So far, so good.  But he wants President Obama to actually arrange this.

The President can do nothing of the sort.  Congress has been trying to pass immigration reform for decades.  It isn’t going to do it in the middle of an election year.  The sole purpose of raising the issue now is to try to drum up enthusiasm among Hispanic/Latino voters.  But such voters want action, and they can see that the President can’t deliver.  FiveThirtyEight shows that enthusiasm for Obama among such voters has fallen precipitously.  Only 55% now support the President.

This is in line with polls showing lackluster enthusiasm among other key Obama constituencies.  Just at the same time comes this from Gallup:

On the heels of yesterday’s report showing nearly half of young voters aged 18-29 – a critical piece of Obama’s 2008 coalition – are “not enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s election, Gallup is out with another body blow for Democrats today with a survey showing that the GOP leads Democrats by 20 points among those voters most enthusiastic about the 2010 midterms.

Among all registered voters, the GOP leads in the generic congressional ballot in the current Gallup survey by just one point, 46 to 45. But among those who are “very enthusiastic” about voting in November, the GOP lead over Democrats balloons to a 57/37 gap.

A twenty point gap in enthusiasm!  I have never seen anything like this before.  There are two obvious questions: are these polls accurate, and will the situation change between now and this November.  If the answer is no, no exactly, and yes, the Democrats may be in for a pleasant surprise.  If the answer is yes and no, they are looking at a disaster of Biblical proportions.  I make no predictions; but if these polls are accurate and noting much changes, the Republicans will sweep everything that isn’t tied down.  The President will wake up after the election to find the GOP in control of both houses of Congress.

ChiCom’s Recycled Body Parts “e-Bay”

Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 10:53 pm
By: RadioActive Chief
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“Paging Dr. Mengele, Dr. Mengele, stat!”
And we’re supposed to keep negotiating and doing business with the ChiComs?

Chinese accused of vast trade in organs
Harvests come from religious dissidents

China’s hidden policy of executing prisoners of the forbidden quasi-Buddhist group Falun Gong and harvesting their organs for worldwide sale has been expanded to include Tibetans, “house church” Christians and Muslim Uighurs, human rights activists said Monday.

In a news conference on Capitol Hill, several speakers, including attorney David Matas of B’nai Brith Canada and Ethan Gutmann of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said their investigations have unearthed a grisly trade in which an estimated 9,000 members of Falun Gong have been executed for their corneas, lungs, livers, kidneys and skins.

They likened the practice to the Nazi treatment of Jewish prisoners in World War II concentration camps, which included using them for sadistic medical experiments and taking the gold fillings from the teeth of corpses.

The newest wrinkle, they said, is that organs from other religious prisoners — specifically dissidents from China’s Christian, Muslim and Tibetan Buddhist communities — are also being harvested to satisfy an insatiable global demand.

“These groups are useless to the state,” Mr. Gutmann said. “They are toxic, so you can’t release them. But they’re worth a great deal of money in terms of their organs.”

Organs from just one person can fetch a total of $100,000 on the worldwide market, he added.

Remember the investigations on corporations who were in bed with the Nazis?

So what about the same or worse with the ChiComs…or is a business one that’s deemed “too big to fail”?

Is violence the legal equivalent of obscenity?

Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm
By: Tim Gebhart
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Whether violence is a functional equivalent of obscenity may be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday, the Court agreed to rule on the constitutionality of a California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, a law predicated in part on the Court’s obscenity jurisprudence.

The California statute defines a violent video game in part as one in which a player can kill, maim, dismember or sexually assault an image of a human being if those acts are depicted in a manner that a reasonable person would find appeals to “a deviant or morbid interest” of minors, is “patently offensive” to prevailing community standards of what is suitable for minors, and causes the game as a whole to lack “serious, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.” The quoted language echoes the Court’s prior definitions of obscenity. Similar language was used in a statute the Supreme Court upheld in 1968 in Ginsberg v. New York, where it said material constitutionally protected for adults could be deemed obscene for minors. Although the Court said it was not ruling on “the totality” of regulating First Amendment values when it comes to minors, California is urging the Court use the case to uphold the video game law.

The law was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1, 2006, but was blocked by a federal court. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that it would not extend Ginsberg beyond obscenity cases and found the law unconstitutional. Although six other states have adopted similar laws, all have been blocked by the courts after being challenged.

Interestingly, the decision to review the case comes the week after an 8-1 decision holding unconstitutional a federal law banning so-called “crush videos,” videos featuring the intentional torture and killing of helpless animals. That law created an exception for videos with “serious religious, political,scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.” The Court rejected the government’s argument that, like obscenity, such videos should not be entitled to First Amendment protection, akin to what California is arguing in the video game case. It said it has never held that the “serious value” of expression was a precondition to being protected by the First Amendment.

As a result, the California case appears to be asking whether violence is the equivalent of obscenity for First Amendment purposes, at least insofar as minors are concerned. Personally, I’ve long said we’d be far better off if parents were more concerned about the amount of violence their children see than whether they see others display their “private parts.” That does not, however, translate into believing someone else’s freedom of expression should be restricted because some fail in their parental duties.

Survey Says! Statistical Analysis Suggests Huether Will Beat Staggers for Sioux Falls Mayor

Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 9:59 am
By: Todd Epp
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Mike Huether and Brain AssamImage by Sioux Falls Green Project via Flickr

In today’s runoff for Sioux Falls mayor against The Heat (Mike Huether) and Dr. No (Kermit Staggers), there are no more votes (or at least not many more) for Dr. No.

Let’s go to the statistics.

The first thing we need to figure is the “Win Number.”  How many votes will it take to win?

There are approximately 92,605 registered voters in Sioux Falls.  In 2006, there was a 3.5% drop off from the first election (37%) to the runoff (33.5%).  In 2010, the first election had a turnout of 32%.  If we assume a 4% drop off in turnout (28%) x 92,605 voters, that equals 25,929 votes will be cast today.  Divide that by 2 and add one vote and the Win Number is 12,965.

So, The Heat or Dr. No will have to get about 13,000 votes to win.  In 2006, Mayor Dave Munson beat Dr. Bruce Halverson 13,983 (52%) to 13,092 (48%).

However, in 2006, also in a crowded field, in the first election Mayor Munson received 8,423 votes (27%) and Dr. Halverson received 6,374 votes (21%).  Two weeks ago, Dr. No had 49 more votes (7,364) to The Heat’s 7,315 votes.

Dr. Halverson, though he lost, had an “Epp Factor” of 2.0 (6,374 votes/13,092 votes) versus Mayor Munson’s Epp Factor of 1.66 (8,423/13983).  In other words, Halverson captured 2 votes for every 1.66 votes that Munson captured in the general vis-a-vis the runoff (In other words, Halverson picked up more support from the defeated candidates at a higher rate than Munson did).  The differential was in Halverson’s favor but he had too much ground to make up.

Tonight, if Huether has an Epp Factor of 2.0, he’ll win in a landslide.  Even if he has an Epp Factor that outstrips Staggers by a ratio of only 1.01 to 1.0, Huether wins.  A .01 differential based on my projected turn out is 130 votes.

2006 featured a political newcomer versus a well known, many times elected incumbent.  2010 is very similar, the differences being that Staggers is not an incumbent mayor but an incumbent councilor and that Huether, the newcomer, has even less ground to make up than Halverson had to.  The 2006 election was about the status quo v. change, with the status quo eeking out a victory.  Here, put your money on change and The Heat.

I’m not a statistician by any stretch.  However, given the numbers, history, and expected turnout, look for a comfortable Mike Huether victory tonight.  But that’s why they play the game.  Citizens have to vote, God only knows what’s really on people’s minds, and what have the candidates done to assure victory or plant the seeds of their own demise?

And also remember: there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Stay tuned.

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