Election Notebook: DFL, GOP Trade Jabs Over Late-campaign Mailings

GOP mailing
DFL mailings

By Don Davis

It is the time of a campaign when things get a little rough, as shown Thursday when Minnesota Democrats and Republicans criticized each other for mailing inaccurate and inappropriate literature in state House races.

Democrats, led by House Speaker Paul Thissen, complained that the Republican Party sent out mailings critical of a drunken driving bill that even most Republicans supported. GOP Chairman Keith Downey countered by pointing out that Democrats mailed literature in poor taste, including one with a photo of “a clenched fist in front of a cowering child.”

Mailings in the days before an election often bring complaints, in part because that is when the most aggressive literature is unveiled. Two years ago, for instance, then-House Speaker Kurt Zellers complained about Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party mailings, much like Thissen did Thursday.

“They are trying to influence voters against candidates who vote for these bipartisan bills,” Thissen said.

Thissen brought Jon Cummings, founder of Minnesotans for Safe Driving, to a St. Paul news conference Thursday to attack the GOP mailings.

“To use this for political gain, just so wrong,” said Cummings, who added that he has not been active in partisan politics.

Cummings, attorney Bob Speeter, Thissen and Rep. Dan Schoen, D-St. Paul Park, said the bill Republicans are using in the literature allows drivers convicted of multiple drunken driving offenses to get behind the wheel sooner than before, but they must be sober enough to engage an ignition interlock system designed to be unusable by someone who had too much to drink.

Speeter said that prevents more drunken drivers from getting behind the wheel than an old law that revoked driver’s licenses. He said that studies show those whose licenses had been revoked drive anyway.

“Minnesota Democrats have to use these tactics because their ideas don’t work,” Downey said in a statement.

A GOP statement added: “Absent from the discussion so far is the sensational imagery and disgusting content of recent Democrat mailings depicting a candidate holding a weapon and breaking into a home, a clenched fist in front of a cowering child and a person sharpening a straight razor.”

Democrats said their House members who have been subject of GOP mailings, all in competitive districts, include Reps. Joe Radinovich of Crosby, Mary Sawatzky of Willmar, Jay McNamar of Elbow Lake, Sandra Masin of Eagan, Will Morgan of Burnsville, Zachary Dorholt of St. Cloud and Yvonne Selcer of Minnetonka.

This tops it all

The cap of a tough and tumble U.S. Senate campaign is a dispute about, well, caps.

Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s campaign against Republican Mike McFadden Thursday emailed a news release headlined: “McFadden campaign gear MADE IN CHINA.”

The release was accompanied by three photos, including two showing a tag proclaiming that the cap, indeed, was made in China.

Franken’s release, which said his campaign gear is made by union members in the United States, said that McFadden’s campaign T-shirts worn at the Republican state convention were made in Nicaragua.

“The fact that McFadden outsources his campaign gear to workers in China and Nicaragua shouldn’t be surprising given his profits-over-people philosophy,” the Franken release said. “McFadden also supports tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas to places like China and he would prefer to build the Keystone XL Pipeline with Chinese steel — not American-made steel — if it were cheaper. Chinese steel would undercut an American industry that supports thousands of jobs in Minnesota.”

McFadden campaign spokesman Tom Erickson presented a photograph taken at the campaign’s cap vendor warehouse. It was on top of Thursday’s USA Today, showing that the Giants won the World Series. A tag showed the cap was American made.

Erickson said that if any caps came from China, “we are truly sorry. However, it’s looking more and more likely that Al Franken concocted this story to turn attention away from his 97 percent voting record with President Obama.”

8th race gets tighter

Nationally prominent political observer Stu Rothenberg has joined the list of people saying Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District race is too tight to call.

He had termed the race “tossup-tilts Democratic,” but on Thursday changed the label to “pure tossup.”

The 8th is the district that covers all of northeastern Minnesota and much of the north-central and east-central parts of the state. First-time Republican candidate Stewart Mills, of the family that owns Mills Fleet Farm, is giving U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan all he can ask for in the race.

Overall, Rothenberg said, U.S. House Republicans are expected to expand their control of the chamber in Tuesday’s election.

Early voting popular

More than 125,000 Minnesotans have voted early this year, the first time they did not have to give an excuse such as they would be out of town on election day.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s office reported that the number is a 61 percent increase compared to the number of absentee ballots cast four years ago in a comparable election. However, the 2012 election, which featured a presidential contest, attracted nearly 184,000 ballots at this time in the campaign.

Last week was a busy time to vote, with nearly 56,000 ballots cast.

Ritchie said local elections officials can process the ballots now, and the votes will be folded into precinct tallies election night.