Quick wit factors into Dem choice
When I started my quest, there were six Democratic candidates for Congress. Six Democrats wanted to challenge Republican Sean Duffy next November. Now, there are just two candidates left. I interviewed all six. And during my interviews, one fact stood out: Bernie Sanders has definitely changed the Democratic Party.
Although the party apparatus may still be in the hands of Clinton loyalists, all the candidates I interviewed favored positions championed by Sanders rather than Clinton in 2016.
But, now that we are down to just two Democrats it should be easy for me to pick a favorite. I have done so, but it was not easy. There are qualities to like about both these candidates.
Margaret Engebretson is inexperienced in politics, yet her heart is in the right place. And, I must confess that I favor seeing more women in politics.
Brian Ewert is also inexperienced in politics. But, Ewert, unlike Engebretson, has been active on the political sidelines over the years. Moreover, he has the depth of experience that would allow him to easily step into the role of congressman.
I think Margaret has little experience thinking on her feet — something Ewert seems to excel at. I asked Engebretson a soft-ball question once — how she would persuade the Trump voters who voted for Obama to switch back to the Democrats. She should have had a ready answer. Instead, she was stumped.
Ewert, on the other hand, was able to explain how financial interests "tipped" the system leaving many Americans financially behind and how Trump exploited that. Ewert then explained in detail how he would work to reinstate fairness in financial regulations and the tax code, among other changes.
In short, Ewert demonstrates the depth of preparation and speaking ability that is essential for a successful candidate.
Margaret Engebretson is a lawyer. But, she appears to have few debate skills — the skills that get sharpened by years of courtroom battles. That's too bad. Sean Duffy is a four-term incumbent. He has a ready answer for the toughest questions.
Brian Ewert, on the other hand, is intelligent, well-read and, as the former CEO of Marshfield Clinic, a skilled public speaker. Ewert would be a capable opponent to Duffy.
Both are new to politics. Margaret Engebretson is not only new to political campaigning, she's new to any sort of political activism. She never joined a party before and she sat out the Hillary vs. Bernie battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.
Ewert, on the other hand, has been active in financial support of Democrats and circulating petitions if not a candidate himself. Frankly, for me, Brian Ewert has a comforting political track record.
Then there is the matter of money. Ewert seems to be better able to raise the sums needed to challenge Duffy. Sorry to say it, but the ability to raise money is crucial.
My biggest fault with Ewert is that his intelligence and ability to parse complex issues detracts a bit from his humanity. That's a small political liability. I'm not sure how he can fix that. We tend to want our leaders to be a man (or woman) of the people — intelligence usually comes in second. But, for me the stakes are high this election season.
Between Ewert's quick mind and Engebretson's good intentions, I have to go with Brian Ewert.
Dan Hannula is former chairman of the Douglas County Democratic Party as well as a former elector of the Electoral College, and a delegate to several national conventions.