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Etter uses blog to run write-in campaign for Northfield mayor

<u might assume that someone whose campaign blog makes repeated reference to his “smoky sensuality,” proclaims his ability to “listen to stupid things other leaders say,” and pledges to “avoid conflict of interest issues by not being interested in anything” was not waging a serious campaign. And though Brendon Etter, textbook manager in the Carleton bookstore, promises he will serve as mayor if elected, and says he would be better at it than a lot of people, his objective in running a write-in campaign for mayor of Northfield does not seem to be to get as many votes as possible.

This is not to say that his campaign is purely frivolous and lighthearted. Like Paul Hager, another Carleton faculty member running for mayor, Etter was motivated to declare his candidacy by the scandals enveloping current mayor Lee Lansing and his often-contentious relationship with the City Council.

Etter is a bit more pointed in his criticism than Hager. Etter said he grew tired of the “vicious” factions that arose around certain issues. He decided to confront this divisive atmosphere with parody: to turn around the mayor’s and council’s words so that people could “laugh about it in a not-so-painful way.”

He sees himself like a small-scale Jon Stewart, communicating the essential truth in ways that the mainstream media, wrapped up in political spin, often cannot. Unlike Jon Stewart, however, Etter sees the people he makes fun of every time he goes into town.

Exactly how serious is the Etter campaign? He said that his blog gets about 100 hits a day when he updates regularly. He also said that many people have approached him on the street pledging to write his name on their ballots in the general election (write-in candidates are not eligible to run in the primary, so there is not yet any indication of how Etter will do against the more traditional candidacies of Hager and Rossing).

“I do want people to vote for me,” he said, “but at the same time I kinda don’t.” He said some people may vote for him in order to register a complaint with a system that rewards oversized egos and makes room for greed, but that others may write in his name just to be funny.

He added that the other candidates are aware of his satirical campaign and realize that it is all good-humor. Furthermore, he said he has no problem with either Hager or Rossing, only with the current mayor.

He has a campaign manager of sorts: Britt Ackerman, a lawyer in town, who often leaves messages on his blog with advice. But Etter confesses to never having met Ackerman in person. He has not gotten much attention from the Northfield News, so the main medium for dissemination of his campaign remains his blog (, as well as a small “Brendon Etter for Mayor” group on Facebook.

Etter said that the biggest issue facing the next mayor will be “making peace” in the town and in government. He said that the mere presence of a new mayor and new council members will go a long way towards dispelling tension. Beyond that, the mayor will have to close the gap in the city budget while encouraging business growth, as well as making a renewed effort to integrate Latino immigrants more fully into the Northfield community.

Etter graduated from Carleton in 1992 and came back to work here in 1997. As both a Carl and a Northfield resident, he said he has a good perspective on relationships between the two interdependent communities. There is no “rampant hatred,” he said, but there is some insecurity related to class issues.

He said that Carleton students are often too busy in their academic lives to pay much attention to town politics but stated that any argument to deny students’ moral right to participate in town elections is “bogus.” Sometimes, he said, conservatives in town complain that students at Carleton, typically progressive, swing the elections unfairly. But students are residents of Northfield to the same extent as anyone else who might settle down here for three or four years and then move on.

Does Etter then plan to vote for himself? He said he had become “disillusioned with his own candidacy” — he had believed that he stood for change, but now he sees himself as just more of the same. Then he explained that he was only joking. But he added that he wouldn’t say who he was going to vote for.

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