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Kautz Gets Nasty October Surprise—Opponent Denies Involvement

Mayor Elizabeth Kautz says her opponent is behind an anonymous group called the "Coalition of Better Business in Burnsville," which recently targeted her in a smear campaign, but foe Jerry Willenburg says he has no part in it.

With the election right around the corner, a shadowy anonymous organization has taken aim at long-standing Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, or so it would seem.

According to a recent article in the Star Tribune, her opponent Jerry Willenburg said he knows nothing about the mass mailing that went out on Oct. 29, which takes Kautz to task for her support of the Burnsville Performing Arts Center, allegedly pulling strings to get a stoplight installed in front of her condo and conflict of interest, among other things. He told the Star Tribune that he had no relationship with the group behind it, which calls itself the "Coalition of Better Business in Burnsville." Little is known about the "Coalition," which has no Internet presence, no known address and does not appear in campaign finance records.

The mailing does not mention Willenburg. Nevertheless, Kautz said she believes he is behind it.

"I am kind of a victim in this myself," Willenburg told the STRIB. "When I get accused of bullying, that upsets me."

"If I have a statement to make, whatever it might be, I will put my name on it," he added.

In the past, Willenburg has not been shy when leveling criticism at Kautz. He didn't mince words when he challenged her in 2008.

"People are sick and tired—angry, in fact—at a city government that is not listening to what they have to say...This mayor has been in office a long time," Willenburg said during a debate in 2008. "I don't drive the same car I drove 14 years ago. I don't have the same job or the same house I had 14 years ago. And I don't want the same mayor I had 14 years ago."

The mailing has roiled others in Burnsville's political establishment, including County Commissioner and former City Council Member Liz Workman, who stated that the mailer was "full of lies" on Burnsville CommonPlace.

"These kind of ‘11th hour’ political tactics are nothing new but as a voter ask yourself: Do I want someone who would lie and cheat just to win represent me?" Workman wrote. "What does this say about the character of the person who wants to win at any cost? If this type of person is willing to spend lots of money smearing someone, are they going to care how they spend my tax dollars? I’m disgusted by this kind of campaigning." 

Whatever the case may be, Kautz is striking back. She charges that the mailing could be a violation of state campaign law and asked Burnsville City Clerk Macheal Brooks to investigate. Typically, any group funding a campaign would have to register their spending with her at the city within 14 days if the total cost amounted to more than $750. If no one has claimed the mailer before two weeks is up, Kautz may be able to file a complaint.

To read the full Star Tribune article, click here.

Dan Gustafson November 03, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Turns out Minnesota (and other states) have laws against campaign lies. 
"A person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor who intentionally participates in the preparation, dissemination, or broadcast of paid political advertising or campaign material with respect to the personal or political character or acts of a candidate, or with respect to the effect of a ballot question, that is de- signed or tends to elect, injure, promote, or defeat a candidate for nomination or election to a public office or to promote or defeat a ballot question, that is false, and that the person knows is false or communicates to others with reckless disregard of whether it is false."
(Section 211B.06, subd. 1)
Dave S. November 03, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Doesn't have same car, job, or house as 14 years ago? So the mayor, Elizabeth Kautz, who has been in office for 14 years is an object? No human being is static, we all change and grow, none of us are the same people that we were 14 years ago. The mayor would certainly grow and become wiser with her experience, unlike a newbie. And I bet if Jerry was in that office for 14 years he would continue to go beyond. And is he unstable? To not have at least a same career or house for 14 years? This guy seems weird. Based on his silly, irrational, and illogical comments, he's lost my vote.
Bryn Collins November 03, 2012 at 06:12 PM
This election season has been one new low after another. Mr. Willenberg, you and your friends have managed to take it one step lower.
Andrea Morisette Grazzini November 03, 2012 at 07:36 PM
I spoke with Mayor Elizabeth B. Kautz's opponent via Facebook. Our exchange: Hi Jerry, I hear some rumblings about a group called "Coalition for Better Business in Burnsville." Do you know the group? Jerry Willenburg Andrea, The literature that was sent out earlier this week was without my knowledge or my involvement in any way. I have heard all of those points before but I don't have direct information on some of the items listed, and as such don't comment on anything that I don't have first hand information. It would appear to be a group of business people who want change and fear retaliation. 11:09pm Andrea Morisette Grazzini Thanks, Jerry. Do you have any idea who the business people are and what retaliation they might fear? Thursday 6:06am Jerry Willenburg Andrea, Fear of retaliation is only speculation on my part as to why they did not identify themselves. Since I don't know who they are all I can do is speculate. The fact of that matter is that I was no more involved with this than you were, and so your guess is as good as mine. 7:44am Andrea Morisette Grazzini Thanks, Jerry. What are you hearing from your supporters regards this group/their agenda? (SInce I'm out of comment space, I'll copy the rest of the conversation to another comment, following). Andrea Morisette Grazzini SEE NEXT COMMENT
Andrea Morisette Grazzini November 03, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Con't of Jerry WIllenburg exchange: 9:27am Jerry Willenburg Andrea, There are as many opinions as there are voters. Andrea, I know that you are a supporter of Elizabeth and that's great that she represents your views. I have respectfuly answered your questions but I have really told everything that I know on this matter. I wish you, as I have to Elizabeth, the best of luck and good wishes. Thursday 1:08pm Andrea Morisette Grazzini Thanks, Jerry. I'm new to this kerfuffle and am not known for being a "blind follower" of anyone. (as the Mayor will be the first to attest--she has long been wary of me because I haven't always agreed with everything she does as a leader) I like to get a sense of all players. And, I apologize that until now, I haven't gotten a good sense of you and what your followers support. I felt the fair thing to do was to understand your position before I make any judgements one way or another. (Other than that I will always speak against clearly agenda-driven brutalities.) So, I guess what I'm really/mostly seeking from you is a better sense of what you and your campaign stands for. In other words, what do I (and Burnsville) 'get' if you are elected Mayor? Why are you running? What do is your vision and plan? It would be great to know this so I can have a more balanced understanding of you/your capacities. So, can you fill my in on this? Thanks, Andrea Thursday (Out of comment space, again. More to follow in next comment).
Andrea Morisette Grazzini November 03, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Con't exchange with Jerry Willenburg: 6:57pm Andrea Morisette Grazzini Jerry, It appears(?) you've unfriended me. I'm wondering how I can learn more about your political positions. I have looked at your website and assorted letters to the editor, etc. But, would like more detail. Can you please help me out with this? Thanks, Andrea Seen Thu 7:00 PM (I have not heard back from Mr. Willenburg since.) I have 'fact checked the mailer with non-biased citizens. One has been involved with the City for many more years than either Willenburg or Kautz has been in politics here. Each says the mailer is at best a significant stretch of the facts, that doesn't tell anywhere near the 'whole' story. All, to a person, used the phrase 'smear campaign' each said it did make them look closer at the issues, and each candidate. Each said they are left with more confidence in Kautz than in Willenburg. As was my experience, most found little evidence of how or what Willenburg would do to be an asset to our community as Mayor. All said they feel Kautz is the Mayor they will vote for. I have the sense the mailer might have done more good than harm for Kautz. I am deeply troubled by the anonymity of the accusers. This is NOT how Burnsville citizens like to operate. I'd rather 'business people' like these find a different city to practice their cloak and mirrors business. We don't want them, and we don't need them. Andrea Morisette Grazzini
Andrea Morisette Grazzini November 03, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Finally, I want to weigh in on my views about both candidates for Mayor. I'll start with Mr. Willenburg. Mr. Wilenburg speaks in the little campaign materials of his I can find, of his commitment to listen with respect and openness to all citizens. His lack of providing me any more information on his platform and his plans for our city belies this rhetoric. Which, if he can't demonstrate it prior to the election, and in a situation he claims to have nothing to do with -- when he needs to put his best face forward -- I have no confidence he'll do so after the election. And, with supporters like his who appear to be on a campaign to smear Kautz, but do little else good for our community, he is the last person I'd want as my Mayor. In my next comment, I'll provide an endorsement I've previously submitted for Mayor Kautz.
Andrea Morisette Grazzini November 03, 2012 at 07:58 PM
(From THISWEEK Newspaper): Kautz gets people working together By LETTER WRITER on October 4, 2012 at 9:18 am To the editor: My father, Gene Grazzini Jr., a Republican and chairman of Grazzini Brothers and Co., and I, a progressive, agree we want Elizabeth Kautz to continue leading our Burnsville. Here are some reasons why: First, Kautz is a longtime citizen who has maintained her focus on Burnsville’s evolving needs. Second, she has demonstrated commitment to maximizing all sectors of our community – from youth to seniors, businesspeople to immigrants. Third, her leadership style has proven effective. She balances sustaining collaborative leadership by convening diverse voices and energies, with pragmatic decisiveness orienting her actions to the larger vision of our community, without ceding to extraneous distractions. In recent years we’ve seen Kautz as at ease dancing with elementary school children in the healthy community initiative Paha Sapa: Play it Forward, as she’s been catalyzing fiscal policy attention to Burnsville with presidents and prime ministers at national and international levels. And through the toughest recession of our times, Burnsville has retained an AAA credit rating and continues drawing commerce, including 150 new businesses since 2009. (to be con'd, next comment)...
Andrea Morisette Grazzini November 03, 2012 at 07:59 PM
(THISWEEK endorsement, con't) Meanwhile, Kautz navigated partisan tensions around the Burnsville Performing Arts Center defending its long-term cultural value, while successfully stimulating its short-term financial performance. While many polarizing political positions undermine our collective success, responsive stewardship is critical. Other citizens and I with the cross-partisan initiative DynamicShift witnessed it when we told Burnsville leaders to stop fighting and start working together. Kautz moved quickly to bridge the divisions, pairing differing leaders to cooperate on projects to solve the problems. These are among many reasons my father and I, coming from opposite political viewpoints, believe Kautz is the best equipped candidate to keep Burnsville on track into the future. Has Kautz always done everything we think she should? No. We know no leader can perfectly address every citizen’s every desire. But those who mix passion, pragmatism, commitment and cooperation – combined with proven leadership, get close. We’re convinced Kautz has that rare, right blend. Follow our bipartisan lead and re-elect Mayor Kautz. ANDREA MORISETTE GRAZZINI GENE GRAZZINI JR. Burnsville
Jerry McCoy November 05, 2012 at 06:11 AM
I would like to know where the Mayoral candidates stand regarding adding fluoride to our city water. The warning labels on toothpaste warn us against swallowing toothpaste as the fluoride contained in it is considered poisonous. Yet we continue to add fluoride to our drinking water?
Candace November 05, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I Live in Burnsville and received a mailer....Do PEOPLE NOT watch TV to see ALL the accusations?? & By the way----How about her addressing the accusations instead of the legality of it?? I have never seen a rebuttal to the things she has done. I would feel better about that!

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