How to Talk So Minnesotans Will Listen

Panel on Messaging an Inspiring Success

As a major part of the Fall Conversation, four thoughtful and articulate community leaders came together to share their thoughts on what Republican candidates need to do to get our message across.


The panelists (pictured r-l) were: 

  • Rep Dario Anselmo, Representative of Minnesota House District 49A (Edina). 
  • Amy Koch, Chair of the Minnesota Conservative Energy Forum and the former Senate Majority Leader. 
  • Cam Winton, Director of Energy and Labor-Management Policy at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and former Minneapolis mayoral candidate,
  • Meredith Schultz, moderator, a rising leader at a national policy think tank.

Our panelists addressed five current topics:  minimum wage, renewable energy, education, criminal justice, and advice for Republican candidates.

$15 Minimum Wage

Winton:  When asked about the minimum wage, Republicans should stress their support for both “wage ladders” and “safety nets”.  We value free enterprise.  We hold that everyone should “climb that ladder.”  We recognize the importance of income safety nets.  However, the safety net is there to bounce people back onto the ladders, not permanently support them.

Koch:  Small business owners are the backbone of our economy.  They care deeply for their employees.  We need to stress that they also must work very hard to keep their doors open.  We need to support them in balancing these two concerns.  Some of the current minimum wage initiatives actually hurt the people that they are meant to help.

Anselmo:  The minimum wage laws are like performing surgery with a butter knife.  A better alternative is the Earned Income Tax Credit, which targets workers without penalizing small business owners.  We need to support means of expanding the credit.

Renewable Energy

Koch:  By their very nature, utilities are most concerned with their own financial return.  So it makes sense that alternative energy sources must be economically competitive.  Solar and wind power are becoming viable options.  Polling solid GOP voters, 68% felt that renewable should be in the U.S. energy portfolio. Among soft GOP voters, 81% agreed.  Our candidates should seriously look at the arguments for clean energy. 

Anselmo:  private energy companies are doing a lot more for clean energy than subsidized companies have done.  Remove all energy subsidizies.  Call them a form of corporate cronyism.  Consider carbon taxes.

Winton:  There is a ground swell among young voters for renewable energy and carbon reduction.  To gain their attention, recognize that reducing carbon emissions is important.  Technological improvements are real and competitive.  Subsidies should be ended at the federal level.


Anselmo:  Message: Choice is important for all people.  Things get better with choice.

Winton:  The GOP message cannot be “the teachers union is awful.”  Instead, acknowledge teachers' work – Yes, educating students today is important & a challenge. AND (never “but”) charter schools are a lifeboat for students and a proof-point for ways schools can be successful.

Charter schools such as KIPP in North Minneapolis, and private schools have shown they can change the trajectory of African-American children in homes below the poverty level.  These schools make use of longer school days and longer school years.  They set higher expectations for their students.  They are totally transparent with individual student achievement.

Criminal Justice Reform

Koch:  The GOP message is:  “We are all about getting people to work, establish themselves, have hope, be redeemed after making mistakes, come back for a better future.”  The un-check-the-box initiative is a positive thing that’s happened in MN to help those who’ve committed a crime and completed their sentence not face the automatic filter of noting their criminal past on job applications.

Anselmo:  What child at age 5 ever said “I want to be a criminal”?  But that’s what’s happened to more than 23 million people in the USA who are in jail or were in jail.  In many households, there’s no one working or who has ever held a job. Strong families make a difference – homes with 2 parents and kids.  We need to advocate “safety net” policies that will re-nuclearize African-American families.

Winton: We should continue to advocate reforms for occupational licensing.  The costly and time-consuming formal education needed for licensing is a barrier for those who want to enter the work-force.  Lee McGrath and the Institute for Justice have highlighted this need, nation-wide. For example, South Dakota requires 2,100 hours of education and a cosmetology license to braid hair — a popular entry point into the labor force for African-American women. South Carolina demands only a six-hour course.

Advice for Republican candidates

Winton:  It’s not enough to highlight problems.  You need to give hope and solutions.

Koch:  Listen to each other respectfully, carefully.  Listening to opponents has made her even more certain of her own conservative principals.  And don’t assume that a voter who disagrees with you on 1 or 2 key issues is a lost vote;  if you are articulate, well-prepared to consider and discuss important topics of governing, voters will respect your expertise and will vote based on overall qualifications.  Prediction:  the influence of women will be huge for the 2018 elections.

Anselmo:  Your message should be 1) Inclusion 2) Opportunity 3) Build bridges & roads (both actual infrastructure and in relationships with those who hold different viewpoints).  Say it with a smile – it’s hard to be disagreeable to a person who is kind.

Communications Team Note:  Regrettably, the video of the panel discussion did not capture audio so will not be available.