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Come Saturday Morning: Tacos, Toms, and Hitting His Mark – The Minnesota Governor’s Race

Mark Dayton tops the Two Tommies

Those of you who remember my earlier posts on Republican Party of Minnesota Chair Tony Sutton, the Man Who Would Be Taco King, will know that his “fresh-Mex” Baja Sol/Baja Joe’s chain hasn’t been doing all that well lately. So it was with great interest that I followed up on a tip from a local correspondent of mine that the Eden Prairie Baja Sol cantina — the one franchised by Minnesota Taxpayers League founder and Freedom Club co-founder Michael Wigley — had been closed for over two weeks. It turns out the Eden Prairie location, being a “cantina” (which in BS-speak means a somewhat fancier sit-down restaurant with a larger menu and table service, as opposed to the more common fast-food “grill”), is getting a makeover to fix flat sales:

Following some industry research and customer feedback, Baja Sol recently altered the Cantina concept, shifting it away from other sit-down Mexican restaurants like Don Pablo’s and closer to traditional sports bars like Buffalo Wild Wings. It uses the tagline “Southwest sports bar” in its marketing.

Baja Sol has added a line of half-pound Angus hamburgers and an expanded array of appetizers to the menu, while scaling back on enchiladas and other higher-end entrees. It also installed more televisions to attract sports fans and various kids’ games to attract families.

Wait a minute: Tony, didn’t you say a while back that the whole reason you and Bill Cooper bought the chain four years ago was because you thought Mexican food was going to be a big hit thanks to immigration?

Minnesota. Home of 10,000 lakes and, if NPR radio–host Garrison Keillor is to be believed, prairie land populated by the descendents of pensive Lutheran Scandinavians.

But immigration begets expanding tastes and now Minnesota is also home to a Mexican restaurant chain poised to take on Chipotle, Qdoba and other national brands.

At least that’s Baja Sol Restaurants Group CEO Tony Sutton’s gameplan.

So now, instead of trying to move towards a more authentic Mexican-Latino style, which actually would take advantage of the expanding tastes of Minnesotans and other midwesterners, you’re going in the other direction? You’re turning the two last cantinas into sports-bar versions of your failed “Baja Joe’s” watered-down dreck-Mex concept? As if there aren’t enough sports bars out there doing virtually identical food to what you’re planning to serve up? Hoo boy.

Then again, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, considering that the Minnesota Republican idea of Mexican food is the nearly inedible slop served up at Restaurante de ol’ Mexico, which is owned by a local Republican Party stalwart and hosted a recent event for waitress-hatin’ Tom Emmer — the one where he was famously greeted with a bag of pennies.

Moving from Republican tacos to Republican Toms, one of the bigger surprises of the latest Minnesota Public Radio News/Humphrey Institute poll, the one showing DFL (Democratic) candidate Mark Dayton with a commanding 38% to 27% lead over his Republican counterpart Tom Emmer, is that third-party candidate Tom Horner takes twice as many votes from Emmer as he does from Dayton. Then again, it may be that Republican voters recognize Horner as one of their own.

Horner, who until a few months ago was a lifelong movement Republican who had served as former Senator David Durenberger’s press secretary and chief of staff, seems to be picking up votes from those Republicans who a) can’t stand the unspeakable Tom Emmer (who is so bad, at least one endorsed Republican state legislative candidate won’t commit to voting for him), b) understand that taxes must be raised to deal with Minnesota’s state budget crisis, but c) prefer Horner’s plans to regressively raise taxes off the backs of poor and middle-class Minnesotans via increased sales taxes on things like clothing even as he calls for eliminating the corporate income tax.

Of course, there’s a better way to raise the revenue needed to deal with the state’s deficit, and that’s by raising taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans, as is the plan of the Democrat and front-runner Mark Dayton. Since the rich have actually done very well over the past few decades of Republican general political dominance even as the rest of us have been lucky to tread water, it’s only fair they should give a bit of it back to us, eh?

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