here for PDF format
here for participants' responses to this summary.
of Meeting with David Dillon,
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, April 4,
entrepreneur and former Independence Party candidate for the Minnesota’s
third congressional district.
Verne Johnson, Chair; Wayne Popham (phone), David Broden, Marianne Curry,
Paul Gilje, Jin Hetland, Dan Loritz, Tim McDonald
Context of the meeting—Election
reform has been an ongoing interest of the core and electronic members of
the Civic Caucus. David Dillon can speak with the experience of a third
party candidate for major office, and advocate for election alternatives
such as Instant Runoff Voting
Welcome and introductions—In
introducing Dillon, Verne is happy to draw attention to the famed race of
1952, when an underdog
expected to come in third of three, beat Gerry Dillon, David Dillon’s
father, for the state House. No hard feelings, and they had a great
professional relationship from then on.
Comments and discussion--During
Dillon’s comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus the following
points were raised
1. On the quality of political candidates--A
member opened with this question: Do you think that you can increase the
likelihood of third parties winning major office?
Our top priority,
Dillon replied, should be opening the election process so that the most
able members of our community are encouraged to run and can have a chance
to win, should they present a serious candidacy. Right now the best people
are not finding their way onto the ballot. The caucus process doesn’t give
them a chance, and most people do not take part in them.
Does the population in
general have less sense of civic duty, or feel a need to understand
candidates separate from their party?
Dillon said that
people are busier in a modern economy and have more opportunity for
entertainment today, and so are less involved with the meat of politics.
There are more single-issue voters. Pragmatic, centrist, and independent
voters are discouraged by the caucus process. They elect to stay home
until election day, which allows for the parties to put forth more radical
You can think of races
where candidates better representative of their parties were blown out at
the caucus level because of candidates who had more appeal among the far
left or far right base attending the caucuses.
2. How to get better candidates: Ranked Choice
Voting or Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)--The
Chair asked: We are cursing the darkness—is there a way to light a candle?
Dillon offered that
Ranked Choice Voting is an important mechanism for opening up elections to
candidates who do not wish to run as part of the other two major
parties. With Ranked Choice Voting voters rank candidates in order of
preference, with voters' second and third choices used as needed to
provide the winning candidate with a majority vote.
Ranked Choice Voting
will encourage better candidates, Dillon said, and encourage more
attention to be paid to those outside of the principal political parties.
A member voiced his
concern about Ranked Choice Voting: I see, he said, Ranked Choice
necessitating a need to form coalitions, leading to a dynamic we see
presently in the Knesset in Israel (at this time Netanyahu was in the
final stages of piecing together his coalition government). This is the
Another member worried
that people would be confused about Ranked Choice Voting.
How about Ranked
Choice Voting in the primary, a member asked, but not for the general
Dillon responded that
he is not opposed to that idea, and that he is generally conservative:
crawl, walk, run. It is good to try the system at a smaller scale, first.
3. More pay?--
Dillon said that in general compensation for public office is inadequate
to attract many really talented candidates. There are always a few but if
we want to encourage more of our most talented citizens to run for office,
we need to stop asking them to make a large personal financial sacrifice
in order to serve. Particularly so when competitive pay for public office
would have an infinitesimal effect on the overall budget.
Another reason people
don't choose to run is exposure of one’s family to unfair public scrutiny.
4. On the
Independence Party faces some challenges, Dillon said, both from within
Branding is not well
understood, but is crucial for political parties. People are so busy that
brand becomes highly relevant for a political party because it can be the
short hand that people have time to absorb that speaks to a range of
issues. The Independence Party has potential here.
The problem is that
the party is unable to control its own brand: Candidates can run on a
ballot under the Independence Party name, even if the party decides to
endorse a candidate of the other major parties—which it sometimes does.
The Independence Party endorsed Tinklenberg, for example, for Congress,
and might well have endorsed one of the two Senate Candidates if it had
had the ability to control its own ballot line. But others chose to file
for those offices on the Independence Party ballot. The result was that
candidates appeared on the Independence Party ballot for offices where no
Independence Party endorsee appeared.
When the Independence
Party chooses to endorse a candidate of another party, then the
Independence Party should have the right to block---or in Dillon's words,
to "roll up" its ballot line for that office---to prevent non-serious
candidates with a few dollars for a filing fee from running as an
Independence Party candidate for the office in question, Dillon said.
party’s brand is weak. A brand takes a consistent message. It takes years
to build a brand, which includes not allowing non-serious candidates to
represent it. The party needs to be able to control its ballot line. This
would be good for both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party and
encourage them to run fewer extreme candidates.
A member asked, How
does the Independence Party approach the hot single-issues of abortion and
gay marriage? Dillon responded that the Independence Party rests,
essentially, on two pillars: Fiscal responsibility and social
5. On the caucus process--Extremists
in both parties run the caucuses, Dillon said. Being ‘pro-gay marriage’
can alone doom an otherwise strong Republican candidate. Being
‘pro-maintain the right to a secret ballot’ in union elections can doom a
Democrat. This is just not right.
Because extremists are
the gate keepers in the caucus, he continued, we need to shore up the
middle or else the best people will look at the situation and, as they are
now, and decide not to run.
A member asked whether
the solution, as Dillon sees it, is to drive parties to the center or to
start a third party?
Neither, exactly: The
goal should be to get the most able people for the job, regardless of
A member asked, Should
we get rid of the caucus system?
Sure, Dillon replied,
but that’s not a legislative question—it is something the parties need to
6. On term limits--
Term limits are another problem, he said. What about that, a member
asked—why doesn’t the
party take on term limits? It's back to the branding question, Dillon
said. As good and powerful as brands are, most people don’t know that they
are worth billions but can only say one or two things. Think about major
products—Coke, Ford—they can claim one or two things at most. Rarely
three. Never more.
But term limits are a
serious concern, because they affect the quality of our public servants.
We need people who ground themselves in real life, instead of the
synthetic life of politics.
7. Final thoughts--The
Chair asked Dillon if he had any final thoughts that he would like to
In parting, he said,
he would like to emphasize the importance of providing the Independence
Party control over its ballot line, giving them the opportunity to roll it
up for an office if it so has endorsed another party’s candidate. This
will provide Independence Party centrists the real opportunity to
influence for the common good, placing their endorsement behind a superior
candidate of anther party if they so choose. Otherwise they risk remaining
the image of a spoiler.
Term limits are
important, as is Ranked Choice Voting. These are tangible things that can
be done, now.
Thank you, from the