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Update: Candidate, League Clash Over Stands on Marriage, Voter ID Amendments

Republican House 66A candidate Mark Fotsch says he won't participate in League-sponsored debates, saying the group is "no longer non-partisan." League's director defends her organization.

State legislative candidate Mark Fotsch, of Roseville, said Friday he doesn't plan to participate in any debates hosted by the League of Women Voters this fall because the organization is taking  stands against the proposed Marriage and Voter ID constitutional amendments.

In a letter to the editor to Roseville Patch, the Republican candidate for new state House District 66A asserted the League's positions on the Marriage amendment and the Voter ID measure are in sync with the state Democratic Party's platform. The Marriage Amendment would define marriage as only being between a man and woman while the Voter ID amensment would require that citizens have photo ID in order to vote.

"They (the League) have truly moved to support the DFL Party in Minnesota and should no longer be considered “non-partisan"," Fotsch contended.

But Laura Wang, executive director of the League of Women Voters Minnesota, defended her organization, insisting it is non-partisan but has studied many issues and taken positions on them over its 92-year history. 

"We do not – and never have – considered the positions of political parties or candidates for office when we arrive at our positions." Wang said in a statement. "It is beyond our control if one party or another finds themselves in agreement with the positions that we have held for decades."

Earlier Friday, Patch posted a story about the League's Roseville-Maplewood-Falcon Heights (RoMaFH) chapter's plans to host a forum on the two proposed amendments on Sept. 18 at the Roseville city maintenance building. to see that story,

Fotsch is facing Alice Hausman, a current DLF state House iegislator, in the new District 66A, the result of legislative redistricting last spring.( To read more about Fotsch's candidacy, .)

Here is Fotsch's full letter to the editor

The League of Women Voters Minnesota (LWVMN) is now soliciting requests for candidate debates in Roseville and Saint Paul.  The League of Women Voters claims to be a non-partisan political organization, encouraging the informed and active participation in government, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
 
However, their stance on every ballot amendment this November is in full support of the Democratic Party’s platform.  They oppose the Voter ID amendment and they filed as the Lead Plaintiff in Petition Challenging Voter ID Ballot Language.  LWVMN also partners with Parents United for Public Schools, which is a heavily Democrat-leaning organization.  This is very different for an organization that once was actually non-partisan when it formed on October 29, 1919.
 
I am a candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives who looks forward to a few debates with my opponent this fall.  However, I will not participate in any debates hosted by the League of Women Voters.  They have truly moved to support the DFL Party in Minnesota and should no longer be considered “non-partisan.”  And that is a tremendous shame.

But Wang, in her statement, countered, "It is important to note that requirement that nonprofit organizations be nonpartisan does not preclude them from taking positions on issues or advocating for those positions. Quite the contrary – many nonprofit organizations have taken policy positions based on the experiences of the people they serve and their members, and they can play a valuable role in issue debates.

"They are, however, forbidden to use their resources to support or oppose parties or candidates for office, which LWV Minnesota never has done and never will," Wang concluded.

Anon September 07, 2012 at 09:53 PM
It’s sad that Mr Fotsch doesn’t understand that two people or organizations can agree in one or more areas without there being a blanket endorsement of all aspects of the others views. This simplistic, divisive, “your either with us or against us”, approach does not help find solutions to the myriad of complex issues we are facing. It’s even sadder, and more telling of his views, that he sees civil rights, voting rights, and public education as strictly partisan issues.
Brandon Lancaster September 08, 2012 at 12:35 AM
It's about time someone publicly takes a stand from this left-leaning organization. Thanks for standing up for fair elections and common sense.
John Kysylyczyn September 08, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I have supported the League candidate forums in the past and have encouraged candidates to participate. I have participated in them myself. It appears that have a much greater time perspective than the mysterious Anon. Over the last 15 years, in my opinion, there has been a shift in this organization to one that is more partisan. I have to agree with Mr. Fotsch's posiiton. These recent constitutional amendments, and the League's decision to not only take a stand, but to actually sue in court, has moved this organization into partisan political activity. I would have to say that this is the straw that broke the camels back and I applaud Mr. Fotsch for his position.
Shari Dion September 08, 2012 at 06:21 PM
I appreciate Mr. Fotsch’s willingness to serve. Naturally, I am interested in learning more about how well he understands important issues. His shallow comments regarding Parents United for Public Schools, LWVMN, and the two proposed amendments concern me. Should he ever get elected I can only hope that he would seek and achieve a much deeper understanding of the issues and that he would expand his beliefs to include the possibility that organizations and individuals can have similar positions on matters without being exclusively aligned with each other. His comments raise more questions about him than they do about either Parents United or LWVMN. Is Mr. Fotsch really surprised that a non-partisan organization dedicated to encouraging citizens to be informed and actively engaged in the political process would demonstrate great concern regarding an amendment that would create roadblocks for people to exercise their right to vote? Does he really believe that LWVMN would have a different reaction if the amendment had been proposed by members of another party? Does he honestly believe the LWVMN would be supporting the proposed marriage amendment if it had been proposed by members of a different party? Mr. Fotsch should consider joining LWV. He and his perspectives would be welcomed, and he could learn a lot.
Shari Dion September 08, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Similarly, Mr. Fotsch should consider becoming involved with Parents United for Public Schools if he has any interest in Minnesota’s public education system. It is disappointing that all he can say about this organization is that he believes it to be “a heavily Democrat-leaning organization.” It makes me wonder if he has been paying any attention to what this organization has been doing and to education issues in Minnesota in general. While we won’t get to learn more about Mr. Fotsch through his participation in a local LWV debate we have learned some things about him through his refusal to participate.
John Kysylyczyn September 08, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Fotsch's comments about Parents United and LWVMN are spot on. Both of these organizations have identity problems. They want to be considered non-partisan and issue oriented, but they fail because they push forward selected information that fits the personal goals of certain members. Wang's statement clearly show the problem that exists within the LWVMN. She says that they don't support candidates and she hangs her hat on that. Big deal. A lot of groups spend money and claim not to support candidates. What makes an organization rise above the fold of partisanship is whether they choose to present all the information on a given subject and promote balanced discussion. This same concept defines an excellent city department head from a marginal one. An excellent city department head brings forward all options and information to the council. They provide pros and cons for all options. They leave the decision to the elected officials. The marginal department head brings forward some of the options. Often times they leave out options they personally don't like. Then they bring forward only that information that supports the options they personally agree with. They steer the council to a certain outcome. Both are department heads, and both receive a salary for their work. But clearly one is better than the other. There are lots of organizations out there. LWVMN and Parents United are simply in the marginal category like most, not the excellent category.
duane September 10, 2012 at 01:32 AM
It seems the League wants to hide behind the skirt of non-partisan and then fight for partisan issues. The two Constitutional Amendments were seen as Partisan and the League has taken a partisan side. Sorry but if it swims like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, its a partisan. The league just needs to come out and say they are for the DFL and Liberalism.
John Lutter September 10, 2012 at 01:42 AM
No, candidate Fotch's comments are not spot on. They represent partisan thinking - the same thinking as the Republican Party. The League of Women's Voters simply does not hew to the Republican Party line. That doesn't make them partisan.
John Kysylyczyn September 10, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Instead, the LWV hews to the DFL Party line on these issues. That makes them partisan. Thinking differently from Republicans doesn't make you non-partisan. That seems to be what you are implying. LOL...
roger b hess jr September 10, 2012 at 01:01 PM
i have no opinion on the League, but it doesn't help mr. Fotsch's campaign if he only "preaches to the choir". if he is confident in his stand on issues, then he should debate/speak in front of groups that do not currently hold his views, explain his positions, and sway those people/groups to his way of thinking. if he can not do this during a campaign, then he won't get anything done at the legislature if he were elected. he needs to prove his skills in the lion's den!
Jerry Buerge September 10, 2012 at 02:18 PM
The argument offered here suggesting that the League of Women Voters is no longer acting in a non-partisan manner because of a position on these proposedammendments has absolutely no merit. The invitation to a Republican candidate known to be in favor of this particular proposed amendment to our constitution has to be viewed as an opportunity for that individual to convince the attendees of the merits of this subject with an opposing Democratic candidate. has to be considered as a non-partisan action in itself. What else would this candidate by compelled to walk away from if elected? How can any reasonable person deny that any organization promoting intelligent voting NOT be interested in clearing the air regarding any subject involving the act of voting itself? Particvularly this issue that is claimed will eliminate a vote by people now fully qualified to do so? This issue needs a sound airing. The same situation applies to the marriage amendment to our Minnesota constitution which is clearly included in our statutes. making this issue clearly a political ploy. If not, why not debate and prove your point? The LWV position on these issues is NOTa dedicated political act, but rather one of appropriateness and, in the case of the photographic ID, in my opinion, of effectiveness.
N Riano September 10, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Shari, the problem is that the LWV-MN does not fully inform the citizens on the issues. I went to a presentation recently about the voter ID issue by the League, and first hand heard misinformation from the League. Tell us, if you can, is there any issue that the League advocating that was a "right leaning" position?
N Riano September 10, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Jerry, the problem is that the league does not present both sides of the issue they advocate. Only giving their side is NOT promoting intelligent voting, it is promoting exclusively one side (not intelligent) voting on any particular issue.
Luke September 11, 2012 at 02:36 AM
N Riano, I explained to you on the earlierarticle about this on why the LWV position is the intelligent position. Voter fraud do esn't exist in Minnesota or anywhere in this country in large enough numbers to justify these actions. LWV should be opposing all voter suppression. If they didn't, I'd be complaining as much as you are now. If Fotsch wants to be our legislator, he needs to be able to defend himself. The House isn't exaclty non-partisan. If he believes in his positions, let him defend them.
N Riano September 19, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Luke, a democrat that was running for office was just charged with voter fraud because she voted in her home state and Florida, in her words, in order to help her friend get elected. So don't go spouting the lie that voter fraud doesn ot exist. How, exactly do you know how much voter fraud is occurring? Is it because not many are prosecuted? Well, in that case not much speeding goes on in the country (even though it is seen everyday) because a relative few (compared to the amount of drivers there are") are prosecuted for speeding, right?
N Riano September 19, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Luke, and why isn't it "justifiable" to make sure people are who they say they are when they vote? What, exactly are you afraid of?

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