What do the 2010 election results mean for the possibility of making progress with animal protection issues in Minnesota during the next biennium?
There’s definitely some good news to report. Eight of the nine incumbent legislators that Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection selected as Recommended Candidates won re-election: Sen. Marty, Sen. Dibble, Sen. Berglin, Sen. Pappas, Rep. Tilberry, Rep. Greiling, Rep. Mulberry, and Rep. Hornstein. These candidates were recommended by MVAP on the basis of their exemplary efforts to write and pass pro-animal legislation in the Minnesota House and Senate in the past biennium, so there is every reason to expect that animals in Minnesota will continue to have some strong allies in the state legislature.
Moreover, Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection’s first targeted candidate, Barb Goodwin, won election to the State Senate, replacing one of the most outspoken opponents of animal protections in the legislature (Sen. Chaudhary). MVAP decided to support Goodwin in both the primary and the general election because of the belief that she would represent a far more humane, more compassionate, and more ethical voice than her predecessor. We wish Senator Goodwin the best of luck in her new role in the legislature.
There is also bad news to report. MVAP’s ninth recommended candidate, Sen. Don Betzold, narrowly lost re-election to his Republican challenger (Pam Wolf). During his time in the legislature, Sen. Betzold was a champion of legislative protections for animals, and worked very hard to write and pass a bill regulating puppy and kitten mills. His support on these issues will be sorely missed.
Other than that, however, it’s very difficult to tell how animal issues will fare in the next legislative session. The national and local news media have made much of the fact that Republicans achieved significant gains in the State Senate and State House (both of which will now have an unprecedented Republican majority), but it is not obvious that this will mean any real change for the state of animal issues in Minnesota. On the one hand, it’s true that the staunchest supporters of animal protections in the Minnesota legislature are Democrats: see all 10 of MVAP’s recommended candidates. However, some of the staunchest opponents of animal protections in Minnesota are also Democrats: see outgoing Sen. Chaudhary. (If you consider the incumbents in the State Senate who were defeated by Republican challengers, and look at how well they had performed on MVAP’s Humane Scorecard, they averaged a score of 64, which is exactly the average for the State Senate as a whole during the 2009-2010 biennium.)
Also, much depends on the governor’s race, which has generated an automatic recount: Mark Dayton currently seems to have the edge over Tom Emmer by about 9000 votes, but we only know so much about either Dayton’s or Emmer’s views on animal issues.
Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection congratulates newly elected state legislators, and looks forward to working with them- whatever their party affiliation- in the coming years.
On the national scene, some ballot measures won protections for animals. In Missouri, Proposition B was passed, which was a statewide ballot initiative to establish basic standards for the care of dogs in large-scale commercial breeding facilities. In Arizona, another ballot initiative Proposition 109, was defeated. Prop 109 would have given the Arizona Legislature “exclusive” authority over wildlife issues, and also would have threatened voter rights regarding the initiative process when it came to inhumane and unethical wildlife treatment.