MinnPost reporter Cyndy Brucato is breaking the blockbuster news that 2010 Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner is, gasp, crossing party boundaries to support Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson! The reporter breathlessly reports:
Another leader in the Minnesota Independence Party is gravitating toward support of a Republican statewide candidate. Tom Horner, the Independence Party candidate for governor in 2010, is meeting this week with GOP candidate for governor Jeff Johnson to discuss joining his campaign.
Wow, if that happens, that does sound like huge news!
Unless you pay close attention to politics.
If you do pay close attention to politics, you know that Tom Horner is a long-time Republican staffer, supporter, consultant and pundit. Before Horner spent one year as a right-leaning Independence Party candidate for Governor, he was the head staffer for Republican U.S. Senator Dave Durenberger, has advocated for Republican candidates like Norm Coleman his entire adult life, has long counseled Republicans, and served for many years as the Republican voice on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) and other news outlets.
In short, for decades Horner has been one of the most visible Republicans in Minnesota. Reporter Brucato is aware of this because she was a lead staffer for Republican Governor Arne Carlson and Norm Coleman. But she mentions none of Horner’s GOP bona fides in the article.
In other words, the real headline here is actually a wee bit less newsworthy. It’s more like:
GOP Activist Reveals That Veteran GOP Consultant Is Supporting A GOPer for Governor
I like and respect Tom Horner a great deal. Though we disagree on many policy issues, Tom is intelligent, has integrity, and Mr. Johnson is lucky to have his policy and PR counsel. But let’s get real. This hardly qualifies as the blockbuster news the reporter makes it out to be.
I support MinnPost relying on a ex-staffers of politicians for opinion pieces. That’s an appropriate role for an ex-staffer. But they shouldn’t rely on ex-staffers from either party for news reporting like this, because their advocacy background naturally calls their objectivity into question.
While the lede was blown way out of proportion, I did find a few things intriguing about the article that left me hungry for deeper reporting. On taxes, Horner says:
“I wasn’t opposed to raising more revenue, but the way the governor went about it is not in the best long-term interest of Minnesota. Just adding fourth tier only reinforces a tax system that isn’t suited to a global market. Maybe we need more revenue but tilt the policy much more to tax consumption and more to reward investment.”
And on health care, Horner says:
“MnSure is where Republicans could play an effective role. It’s good that we’re expanding access and covering children and have a more robust marketplace. Now how do we control the underlying drivers of health care?”
The fact that Tea Party-backed Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson may be bringing in a pro-tax, pro-Obamacare consultant for policy advice raises additional questions that were not posed by the reporter:
- Does Horner think tax increases were only needed in the past, or does he think that more may be needed in the future? If so, which taxes would he favor increasing?
- Which parts of health reform would Horner favor retaining? Medicaid expansion? Tax credits? The insurance exchange system? Pre-existing condition reform paired with the insurance mandates? Other? How would Horner propose Mr. Johnson could better control health care costs?
- Does candidate Johnson share Horner’s opinions on taxes and health reform?
- What do key Tea Party-friendly supporters of Johnson think of bringing in Horner to advocate for these positions?
The answers to those questions would have been informative, and would have qualified as actual news.