MN-02: Steve Sarvi interview
DFL candidate Steve Sarvi might just be the perfect storm to dislodge Rep. John Kline's (R-MN) from his MN-02 seat. Sarvi is an Iraq vet and will point out how wrong Kline has been on the Iraq war. He'll point out how Kline has provided no oversight of a Bush Administration running amok. He'll point out how Kline has been lousy on healthcare. He'll point out how poor Kline has been about delivering the things his district needs. Especially after Kline promised to forego any earmarks in 2008 -- and with Minnesota's and MN-02's infrastructure is crumbling.
Kline was in Iraq this weekend getting another "dog & pony show" and will return spouting press releases about how rosy things are in Iraq and how we just need another six months and victory will be right around the corner or some such nonsense. Here's a sample from last September.
While in Iraq, Congressman Kline’s delegation will observe Iraqi Security Forces and visit with U.S. troops who have led successful surge operations. The Congressional Delegation will also meet with leaders in Afghanistan to discuss political and economic reconstruction.
“As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am particularly interested in ascertaining the status of the Iraqi security forces, the political system, and current conditions on the ground,” Congressman Kline said. “We are working toward an independent Iraq and the reports I heard last week indicated that we are moving in the right direction.”
(Kline press release about 9/22/07 Iraq trip)
Steve Sarvi was a Sergeant in the Minnesota Red Bulls, the guard unit that had the longest deployment of any unit in the military, and needs no "dog & pony show" as he has 16 months of boots on the ground. Contrast this with Kline, a retired Marine Colonel, who somehow doesn't understand vet issues. Vet groups like the Disabled American Veterans gave Kline a rating of zero in 2003 & 2004. The vet groups don't like a retired Marine Colonel ... go figure.
Steve Sarvi may have the perfect background to represent the 2nd district. He has been the city administrator in Lanesboro, Watertown and Victoria and was elected Mayor of Watertown three times. From these experiences he understands the needs of the small towns and rural communities. Steve staged a listening tour to open his campaign holding 14 town hall forums in one week. He wants to know what the people think and say. He wants to work for them. Contrast this with Kline's aloofness -- its very difficult to actually speak with Kline. Kline has also refused to meet with constituents on numerous occasions. When Kline does hold meetings, they are staged so that unfriendly questions do not get asked.
As a vet, Sarvi can call Kline on his lousy record when it comes to supporting our troops in a way Colleen Rowley couldn't. He can point to Kline's votes against armor for the troops, cutting VA funding, voting against more research into traumatic brain injuries (TBI) among Iraq vets. TBI is the #1 injury Iraq troops come home with. He can point to Kline's voting for blank checks for a war that the vast majority of Minnesotans no longer support. He can point to Kline's inability to provide any oversight to a poorly planned, horribly executed occupation of Iraq. A lack of oversight especially egregious as Kline sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
What's particularly strange about John Kline is that he is a Vietnam Vet and also served in Somalia. He claims to be an expert on military issues. You'd think that he'd have learned a little from mistakes that were made in Vietnam and Somalia. Unfortunately, he didn't and he has blindly supported President Bush's failed occupation in Iraq.
As Sarvi was doing his best in Iraq, he began thinking about running against Kline. He talked with his family during leave around Christmas of 2006. He contacted Wellstone Action about running and they promptly sent him their candidate training materials. After pouring over their materials, he had yet another reason he could hardly wait to get home. Then his unit's tour was extended to July 2006. He personally witnessed the effects of the Bush Administration's poor planning on the men he commanded.
Upon returning home, he put the poli-sci degree he earned from the University of Minnesota to use as well as the many contacts he'd built up over the years to begin building his campaign. He is running a grassroots campaign, criss-crossing his district pointing out how he would do a better job listening, responding to and representing the 2nd district.
The demographics are improving, too. The delegation to the State House and Senate are split 50-50 and this is a recent change. Sen. Klobuchar won MN-02 by some 30,000 votes. With the Republican brand tanking, Minnesotan's dissatisfaction with the President Bush's Iraq policy, with almost weekly revelations of Republican corruption, incompetence and greed, Steve's timing couldn't be better.
Steve wants timelines set for the withdrawal of troops. "I'm hesitant to set an exact timeline at this moment, but the Pentagon needs to draw up a plan for withdrawal. When the Italians announced they were going to withdraw [they withdrew very quickly], all projects in their sector stopped immediately. So we need to plan our withdrawal. Its going to be bad when we withdraw, but we have to get out."
"I was talking with an Iraqi village elder," Steve told me. "He said when the last drop of oil has been squeezed out of the sand, the US will leave. Iraqis want everyone out -- the US, al Queda, Iranians, everyone." He explained that we are going to need a residual force of some kind to train Iraqis and make sure that al Queda cannot operate in the open with some kind of special forces contingent.
On healthcare, Steve calls out Kline for doing nothing for real healthcare reform and his most recent vote against kids on the SCHIP bill. Minnesotans want healthcare reform and overwhelmingly support the SCHIP bill.
On transportation, Sarvi asserts that Kline has not done the job needed. Republicans have neglected our infrastructure at the state and national level and Kline has gone along with it. Kline's vow to forego any earmark's in 2008 particularly baffles Steve.
"We've got a bridge in Hastings over the Mississippi that's in danger of falling down and now is when we need a Representative in Congress who will deliver the district an earmark and get this bridge rebuilt. Our infrastructure is crumbling all over the district and Kline has done nothing. This wouldn't be some kind of bridge to nowhere, it's desperately needed."
"Look, I'm not scared of spending money," Steve stated. "There are many things we need to spend money on like that bridge in Hastings. I'm more concerned with wasting money."
Maybe this is so self-evident it needs no further explanation, but I'm going to elaborate just to make it crystal clear (just in case). The Republicans are wasting billions in Iraq. They've lost billions and billions of dollars ... its unaccounted for ... nobody knows where all the cash disappeared to. Their incompetence is virtually unparralleled. Yet Republicans like John Kline will neglect his district in a fit of so-called fiscal conservatism yet vote for blank checks for Iraq.
On global warming, I can sum up Steve's position with one point he made to me: "There is no reason to import wind turbines from Germany." We have lots of wind. He elaborated on wanting to make Minnesota a exporter of green hardware and technology. He realizes we have an opportunity to make Minnesota a hub of green manufacturing and technology. We need to make jobs in rural Minnesota and he wants to bring green jobs to the district.
On taxation, he wants to fix the the AMT and not just with a band-aid. He thinks the tax cuts that Kline has been voting for that benefit the richest 1% of the population is wrong. Everyone should pay their fair share and the tax burden shouldn't be so heavy on the middle and working class families.
On farming, "I'm for the little guy. Farmers that need the subsidies should get the subsidies not the corporate farms." He wants to see a focus on sustainable agriculture and family farming.