Since the announcement that political satirist Bill Maher had selected U.S. Congressman John Kline as the focus of his “Flip A District” campaign − and that Maher himself would be hosting a panel discussion at The Grand Event Center in Northfield — it has been the talk of the town.
Tickets for the event went on sale at noon on Wednesday. Prior to the on-sale time for the 220 available tickets, a line had formed in front Northfield Olive Oils and Vinegars on Bridge Square. The business was the sole ticket seller for the event.
The oil and vinegar shop was involved simply by chance. The business happens to be hosting a ticketed event at the Grand in January, and by using the store’s iPad they could accommodate the need for tickets to Maher’s event.
By 10:05 a.m. on Thursday, the final 20 tickets had been sold.
Grand Event Center owner Chuck Pryor said he was contacted by Maher’s people at the end of September about renting out the space for the program. Staff will be on hand, but Pryor indicated that the bar will not be open and no food will be served. The Grand has a seating capacity of 300 people.
Pryor himself stated that the Grand is merely hosting the event, and this is not an indication of politics. “I’m a businessman,” he said. However, Pryor said he would be attending the event.
“I never miss a Grand event,” Pryor said. “Why would I miss this one? It’ll be interesting.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Maher said that Congressman Kline − representing Minnesota’s 2nd District − was selected because he “doesn’t represent his people.”
Mike Obermueller is the DFL candidate opposing Kline in the November election.
Obermueller also ran against Kline in 2012. He said that his strategy this time is to get out and talk to the voters. Once people take a look at Kline’s voting history, “people are a lot more open to talking.”
“The votes don’t match the district,” Obermueller stated.
Regarding Maher’s “Flip A District” idea, Obermueller stressed that (Maher) is putting the spotlight on Kline’s record, but what matters are the actual votes.
Obermueller indicated he won’t be able to attend the “Flip A District” program. He said he had a full schedule for Tuesday and that he would be out talking to voters.
Running against both Obermueller and Kline is Independent Party candidate Paula Overby.
In a statement on her campaign website, Overby says that “Maher has focused national attention on Minnesota’s Second District with an aggressive assault against our current house representative. There is a presumption that if a Republican is the problem then a Democrat must be the solution but problems in Washington run much deeper than that.”
“No one is offering any meaningful solutions” Overby said in an email. “It’s not about leadership, It’s about winning. That is the fundamental problem with our two-party system.”
Troy Young, campaign spokesman for Congressman Kline, reiterated his statements issued earlier in the week. Young declined to comment any further. Here is the original statement:
“Minutes after Bill Maher compared decorated Marine Corps veteran John Kline to “ISIS,” Mr. Obermueller embraced Maher’s comments and has been campaigning with Maher ever since. It’s disappointing Obermueller wants to take this race into the gutter and campaign with someone who was fired by ABC for saluting 9/11 terrorists and calling our troops ‘cowardly’.”
The two scheduled talking points for Tuesday’s presentation are student debt and the environment. On the Northfield News Facebook page, commenters weighed in:
• Heather Mayer ... “I know I should have gone to college, but the anxiety over the debt and no guarantee of employment was a huge wall I have yet to overcome.”
• Kerry Gervais Hjelmgren ... “You couldn’t pick a better place to have a conversation about two of the biggest issues facing the current generation of young adults. With both colleges in Northfield full of students who will spend their lives with student debt, and the amount of concern for the environment in our community, Maher has come to the right place.”
The event is non-televised, though a press release sent out mentioned portions will be filmed and used later on Maher’s HBO show “Real Time.”