By Don Davis
A dozen mostly rural Minnesota state House districts could decide which party controls the body the next two years.
The Republican-oriented Minnesota Jobs Coalition Legislative Fund announced 12 districts Democrats now hold that it is targeting for the Nov. 4 election.
Coalition leader Ben Golnik said the Democrats “who despite promises of working across the aisle, being independent voices for their regions and other appeals to their moderate districts, voted lock-step with Minneapolis and St. Paul Democrat leadership for higher taxes on all Minnesotans, a crushing regulatory environment and billions of dollars of wasteful spending.”
The lawmakers are Reps. Tom Anzelc of Balsam Township, Zachary Dorholt of St. Cloud, Roger Erickson of Baudette, Andrew Falk of Murdock, Tim Faust of Hinckley, Patti Fritz of Faribault, Ben Lien of Moorhead, Jay McNamar of Elbow Lake, Joe Radinovich of Crosby, Shannon Savick of Wells, Mary Sawatzky of Willmar and John Ward of Baxter.
The Jobs Coalition list is a bit larger than some other lists of key districts.
Republicans and Democrats all along have said there are some key rural districts that could decide House control. Top Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party House leaders have talked a lot about rural issues in the past year, knowing some of their incumbents face tough races.
Republicans need to take away a net six seats from Democrats to regain control of the House.
Who controls the House is especially important this year for Republicans who want to eliminate all-Democratic control in the Capitol, holding the House, Senate and governor’s office.
Senators are not up for election this year, so that body will remain under Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party control at least two more years.
Klobuchar in Africa
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has returned from an 11-day visit to Tanzania, Ethiopia, Senegal and Rome.
The Tanzania Daily News reports that the Minnesotan was accompanied by four other Democratic women senators, including Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. The delegation was headed by Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the Senate agriculture committee chairwoman. The State Department funded the trip.
The Daily News reported that delegation traveled to Africa to “have an opportunity to witness conservation and natural resources management in promoting sustainable economic development.”
The senators found time to tour the Serengeti National Park, made famous on public television for the opportunity of close encounters with lions, zebras, giraffes and other animals.
Two can talk
Gov. Mark Dayton’s trip to the Moorhead area a few days ago uncovered stories that some state Department of Natural Resources people were saying things not approved by the governor or Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr.
The revelation came up during discussions about a water diversion project planned to protect Fargo and Moorhead from Red River flooding. People told Dayton in meetings what DNR employees said.
“I think in a project of this magnitude and this sensitivity and this controversy, that from this point forward, the only two people authorized to speak on behalf or represent the state of Minnesota are Commissioner Landwehr or myself,” Dayton said.
The diversion is very controversial, and Dayton had harsh words for the governmental body responsible for the project.
High drama court race
Judicial races generally produce little drama and little interest among voters.
One this year between Justice David Lillehaug and Michelle MacDonald is producing drama, but probably not much voter interest.
Republican state convention delegates overwhelmingly endorsed MacDonald last spring. Most judges not wanting political ties, but Republicans like to endorse conservatives to the high court.
Things changed when some GOP leaders discovered she was awaiting trial on a drunken driving charge. She also faces a count of violating terms of her driver’s license that was restricted due to her drunken driving charge.
At first, Republican governor candidate Jeff Johnson said he still supported MacDonald. Now, however, he has backed away and says she needs to run a serious campaign before getting his backing.
GOP attorney general candidate Scott Newman withdrew his support early and went so far as to endorse Lillehaug, a longtime Democratic activist who Gov. Mark Dayton appointed.
MacDonald has filed documents requesting the state Office of Administrative Hearings (an agency similar to a court) to take up her case against Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey and other GOP leaders for not following through and backing her after the party endorsed her. She was barred from the Republican State Fair booth by two volunteer security guards.
8,000 online registrations
More than 8,000 Minnesotans have registered online to vote.
More than 5,000 of them updated their addresses or names, while nearly 3,000 registered for the first time in Minnesota.
“This tool makes it convenient for eligible voters to register, and helps reduce costs to local governments,” Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.
He launched the online registration tool last year, a judge found it illegal and the Legislature established a system that is much like Ritchie started.
Voters must register for the Nov. 4 election by the end of the day Oct. 14.
Minnesotans head to the polls this fall to pick a U.S. senator, statewide officials, all eight U.S. representatives and all 134 state house members. Many local offices also are on the ballot.
Voters do not need to wait until Nov. 4 to cast ballots. They may vote absentee by mail or at local election offices starting in about two weeks; this year for the first time anyone may vote absentee, not just those unable to go to the polls Nov. 4.
Ritchie’s office offers more voting information at at www.mnvotes.org.
Next to the trains
One of the reasons Gov. Mark Dayton traveled to Moorhead early last week was to discuss oil train safety, a subject of meetings he is holding along railroad tracks that transport oil from western North Dakota.
While in Moorhead, Dayton stayed in the modest Travelodge motel. Ironically, it is next to tracks where more than 40 trains a week haul oil through the area. At one point during his stay, an oil train was parked next to the motel.