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.