Candidate Johnson improving

Minnesota Republican governor candidate Jeff Johnson is recovering after a Monday abdominal surgery.

Megan Fasching of Maple Grove Hospital Tuesday said that Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner, “had successful surgery to treat a fairly common GI condition. He tolerated the surgery well and is on the road to recovery. He should be back to normal health in a matter of days with no-long term effects.”

Johnson’s campaign sent reporters a Web link to a Mayo Clinic peptic ulcer page, which described the condition as “open sores that develop on the inside lining of your esophagus, stomach and the upper portion of your small intestine. The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is abdominal pain.”

He went to an urgent care clinic with pain on Monday and was sent to the Maple Grove hospital.

Johnson is in a three-way race against state Rep. Kurt Zellers, former state Rep. Marty Seifert and businessman Scott Honour. Republican voters will pick their party’s nominee to face Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton during the Aug. 12 primary election.

Political chatter: U.S. House races bring in money, too

By Don Davis

Everyone knew that U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Mike McFadden will run rich campaigns if they face off in November, as expected, but a couple of mostly rural U.S. House races involve more money than usual.

Northern and east-central Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District race between Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan and Republican challenger Stewart Mills is a financial barnburner.

Nolan reports $1 million raised in April, May and June, with $579,000 in the bank. First-time candidate Mills says he raised $989,000 in the same time period and has $429,000 available.

Mills, of the Fleet Farm supply store family, gave his campaign $121,000.

In the 7th district, taking in a huge area of western Minnesota, incumbent Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat, raised $1 million and has most of it in the bank: $717,000. State Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, surprised many observers by picking up $430,000 during the quarter, with $328,000 cash on hand.

National Republican groups have picked Westrom and Mills as two GOP candidates with bright futures and are helping them financially. Both districts are expected to attract lots of money from groups other than the campaigns.

Other incumbents hold massive leads over rivals, such as in southern Minnesota where Democrat Rep. Tim Walz collected more than $1 million for the quarter as two Republicans combined got little more than $200,000.

In the 2nd Congressional District, just south of the Twin Cities, Republican Rep. Kline amassed more than $2 million, with Democrat Mike Obermueller reporting less than $600,000.

For the Franken-McFadden race, incumbent Franken, a Democrat, reported that he took in more than $3.3 million during the quarter and had $5 million in the bank. McFadden, the Republican challenger, says he raised $1.1 million in the same three months, leaving $2 million in the bank.

Auditor race on TV

Minnesotans expect to see television commercials for governor, U.S. Senate and maybe even the U.S. House, but state auditor not so much.

In what may be a first, the two Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party auditor candidates have TV commercials looking for votes in the Aug. 12 primary election.

In what normally is a quiet, or maybe even invisible, campaign, incumbent Rebecca Otto and long-time DFL politician Matt Entenza are competing.

Entenza’s commercial clearly is looking for DFL votes.

“Matt Entenza, progressive for auditor,” his commercial ends.

“Progressive” often is used as another word for “liberal Democrat.”

He promises to “end unnecessary tax giveaways to big corporations,” something traditionally outside the bounds of the state auditor’s office, which usually is thought of as just auditing local governments’ books.

Otto’s commercial closely matches how most in government view the auditor.

She begins her commercial saying that she ran because she discovered “hundreds of millions of dollars in errors” in local government audits. She ends it with: “I will make sure the numbers add up.”

Pre-registration ending

Today is the final day for Minnesota voters to register before the Aug. 12 primary election.

They still may register at the polls, although that could result in a delay casting ballots.

Minnesotans may register online, at, for the first time this year. They also may see who is running at that Website and download pre-registration applications.

Nearly 5,700 voters have registered online.

Where’s spell checker?

Republican governor candidate Jeff Johnson pointed to an embarrassing spelling error by the campaign of the man he hopes to replace, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

Johnson wrote on his Facebook page about his son Thor and a visitor:

“A young man knocked on our door. Thor answered. The young man said, ‘Do you know who your household is voting for in the governor’s race?’

“Thor: ‘Jeff Johnson is my dad, so probably him.’

“Young man: ‘Dude, that’s so cool — I actually got Jeff Johnson’s house on my list. You should give this brochure to your dad; he’ll think it’s funny that they misspelled Minnesota on the top.’”

The young made handed Thor an item headlined: “Help us continue to build a better Minnesta.”

Separately, the Dayton campaign sent a tweet about his running mate: “Red Lake Senior High School on Red Lake Indian Reservation hosted a visited by @Tinaflintsmith today.”

Both campaigns and journalists fear such misspellings and misused words (the fear is especially bad for a journalist writing about someone else’s misspelling).

Thursday a bad day

Thursday was a rough day for those around Minnesota government.

That is when word came of three deaths: President David Olson of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, former state Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba of Long Prairie and Rueben Simpson of New York Mills, the 99-year-old father of Dean Simpson, a former state representatives Kurt Zeller’s lieutenant governor candidate.

Thompson becomes manager

Former Republican governor candidate Dave Thompson has become Scott Newman’s attorney general campaign manager.

Both are GOP state senators.

Thompson, of Lakeville, lost his party’s endorsement for governor to Jeff Johnson. Newman, of Hutchinson, faces token opposition in the Aug. 12 primary. He wants to replace Democratic Attorney General Lori Swanson.

Wage poster ready

Minnesota’s minimum wage is to rise on Aug. 1, and the state Department and Labor and Industry is ready with a new poster employers must display.

The poster is available at

Workers in large businesses will be paid at least $8 an hour, with those at small firms getting $6.50. It is the first step in boosting big-company wages to $9.

Capitol notebook: Renewable fuels group blasts big oil

By Don Davis

The Renewable Fuels Association says major oil companies strong-arm retailers that sell gasoline under their brand names to avoid using any more plant-based ethanol than legally necessary.

Independent gasoline stations are four to six times more likely to sell higher blends of ethanol, usually made from corn, than those that carry major oil company names, the association reported.

At stake is whether high ethanol blends will be readily available to consumers. Those blends include E85, which features 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent petroleum-based gasoline. Also being hindered, the association says, is the sale of E15, with 15 percent ethanol; most gasoline today contains 10 percent ethanol.

The association claims that contracts major oil companies make retailers sign construct roadblocks to selling anything other than what big oil wants, which is to sell their petroleum products.

“This new report underscores the need for the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to look into these allegations, and I will continue pushing to ensure that consumers have access to the cheaper, cleaner fuels they deserve,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel.

Reuters news agency reports that oil companies, which long have called for repeal of a federal biofuel mandate, say retailers have been reluctant to sell E15 due to concerns that it could harm engines in older vehicles, and that consumers do not want to buy the product.

Klobuchar and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have pressed the FTC for almost a year to investigate whether oil industry practices regarding ethanol violate antitrust laws. It is unclear whether the agency has taken action on the matter.

Where are the farmers?

The New York Times is sponsoring a conference this year called “Food for Tomorrow,” promising that it will discuss how to “farm better, eat better, feel better.”

But the Daily Yonder online rural newspaper points out that U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine is the only farmer and only rural resident on the speaker list: “She has an organic operation that supplies her restaurant and lodge, and she sells a good bit of wool on line.”

While Times officials tell the Yonder they are adding speakers, they did not promise any farmers would speak from the dais.

Times columnist Mark Bittman is to be keynote speaker at the New York event, with a couple of Times reporters on the agenda.

Yonder reports: “There’s a panel discussion on who will farm (with no full-time farmers) and a group talking ‘sustainable scale,’ with no farmers and nobody who has had to deal directly with food monopolies.”

4 lane or 2 lane?

Republican governor candidate Jeff Johnson’s running mate told a southern Minnesota newspaper that it was a mistake to turn a northern Minnesota highway into four lanes.

The Owatonna People’s Press reported on Bill Kuisle’s visit: “Another issue for Kuisle is how the MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) and lawmakers interact. In general, he said that the Legislature has a ‘hands-off’ approach to choosing transportation projects. But a strong legislator can lobby to get work done in his or her region, which can be a misplaced priority.

“As an example, he mentioned U.S. Highway 2 in the northern part of the state. He said it was made into a four-lane roadway under the watch of former (federal) Rep. Jim Oberstar, who died earlier this year. Kuisle said that the highway should have stayed at two lanes.”

Another Republican candidate, Marty Seifert, jumped on the comment and said he thinks the highway should be four lanes so grain can be delivered from Minnesota farmers and all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles can be shipped from Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls to the Duluth port.

Seifert spends a lot of time reminding GOP voters of his rural background.

Other candidates also can claim a rural background. Johnson grew up in Detroit Lakes and Kuisle is a lifelong farmer south of Rochester. Candidate Kurt Zellers grew up on a North Dakota farm and his running mate, Dean Simpson, owns two grocery stores in Otter Tail County communities.

The fourth major Republican governor candidate, Scott Honour, and running mate Karin Housley are suburbanites who have not pushed any rural roots.

Senate race costly

Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race is becoming an expensive contest.

Republican-endorsed candidate Mike McFadden reports that he raised $1.1 million in the second quarter of the year, bringing the Twin Cities businessman to $4 million since he began his race to challenge Democratic Sen. Al Franken.

Franken, meanwhile, reports that he raised more than $3.3 million in the quarter with more than $5 million in the bank.

Health leader to pitch

Being Minnesota health commissioner is the pits.

The horseshoe pits, that is. Commissioner Ed Ehlinger is bringing back his “pitch the commissioner” event after introducing it two years ago. He starts this summer’s horseshoe-pitching stops July 22 in Worthington.

Ehlinger is a horseshoe enthusiast who invites the public to talk to him while pitching horseshoes.

“Pitching horseshoes is a fun and easy way for people to be physically active and engage in conversation at the same time,” Ehlinger said. “It’s great to get out and visit people around the state, and hear their thoughts on what their communities need to be healthy.”

Besides Worthington, he plans to be in Eveleth on Aug. 13, Cook on Aug. 14 and Marshall on Aug. 28.

Political notebook: It’s truckers vs. farmers on biodiesel mandate

By Don Davis

Adding something to a petroleum-based fuel always has been controversial, so it should be no surprise that soybean-based biodiesel brings disputes.

“It’s blatantly unfair and costly to the trucking industry,” President John Hausladen of the Minnesota Trucking Association said about a law that took effect Tuesday requiring diesel fuel to contain 10 percent biodiesel.

His association’s chairman, Daniel Svaloja, complains that truckers are being forced to use the biodiesel blend even though other industries, such as mining companies, are exempt. Giving some industries a pass on the mandate proves the fuel blend has problems, Svaloja said.

“I believe the biodiesel industry is mature and can stand on its own” without a state mandate, said Svaloja, a Wadena native, who made a stop at Lund Boats in New York Mills and now is a Blaine-based transportation attorney.

Minnesota instituted its first biodiesel mandate in 2002, when a 2 percent biodiesel blend was ordered. It was raised to 5 percent, which on Tuesday was upped to 10 percent (but only during Minnesota’s warmest months).

From the time ethanol was first debated long before biodiesel came into the spotlight, opponents have complained that blending plant-based fuel with petroleum products would hurt performance or damage engines. While corn-based ethanol is blended at 10 percent levels in gasoline with few problems, truckers and other diesel engine users say that is not the likely outcome for biodiesel.

However, Bill and Karolyn Zurn of Calloway, Minn., told Agweek magazine that biodiesel works and is good for the state’s agriculture industry.

Karolyn Zurn said the Minnesota Soybean Growers association took the opposition seriously when lawmakers debated the issue earlier this year. The association added part-time lobbyists during the legislative session in its effort to get “B10″ approved.

Some legislators didn’t understand biodiesel and needed to be educated about it, she said.

Legislation was proposed to scrap the higher mandate, but failed in committee.

A survey by a trucker’s association member late last month found that the 5 percent blend then sold in Minnesota cost 4 cents to 6 cents per gallon more, before tax, than diesel sold in North Dakota and Wisconsin. Hausladen attributed that to the presence of biodiesel in fuel sold in Minnesota, and worried that diesel fuel will cost even more.

Bill Zurn said concern about B10 is unfounded.

“B5 has been working for quite a few years, with very minor issues,” he said. “Moving now to B10 in the summer months, we don’t feel that will be a problem.”

Senate race gets attention

Several organizations recently have taken note of Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race, including at least one that labeled it a “sleeper” contest.

A relatively few national reporters have written about the campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Al Franken, a nationally known writer and “Saturday Night Live” star before he ran six years ago. But since the Democrat beat sitting Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman by just 312 votes, and that only after nearly eight months of counting ballots, the race now is getting some attention.

NBC News wrote: “The race bears watching because either 1) it becomes more competitive in the fall, which could signal a potential GOP tsunami come November or 2) it doesn’t become competitive, which would be AMAZING considering that Sen. Al Franken won this race by about 300 votes. …”

What makes the race look interesting is Franken’s likely November Republican opponent is well-heeled businessman Mike McFadden, who surprised many by picking up his party convention’s endorsement about a month ago.

Franken is using recent press accounts to drum up donations.

“My race has just been labeled the ‘sleeper’ Senate race of 2014,” he wrote to supporters. “But unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we all get to take a relaxing nap; there are very few siestas involved in grassroots campaigning. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

“We have to be ready for anything. Because there is no telling how much my opponent or his special interest allies will throw at us. According to the same press account referenced above, my opponent ‘has the personal wealth to at least partially self-fund a campaign.’”

Propane help becomes law

It is summer and not much propane is being used for heating Minnesota homes these days, but the news for next year is good, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.

A bill the Minnesota Democrat helped write is now federal law.

It gives governors more ability to declare a fuel shortage emergency for more than 30 days. The law also requires federal authorities to provide governors with early warnings if propane, natural gas or home heating oil supplies appear likely to be in short supply.

“Frigid temperatures and soaring propane costs hit Minnesota hard this winter and put a big strain on families who struggled to stay warm,” Klobuchar said. “This bill will cut red tape to help states quickly address propane shortages in the future, and I’m pleased that this commonsense measure has now been signed into law.”

Absentee voting open

The push is on by Republicans to cast primary election ballots.

The GOP is pushing its activists to vote now for party-endorsed governor candidate Jeff Johnson, U.S. Senate hopeful Mike McFadden and attorney general candidate Scott Newman. Johnson faces a trio of strong candidates, McFadden’s challenger did not do well in seeking the party’s endorsement and Newman’s opponent is a perennial candidate who has had little success.

A change in Minnesota law means absentee voters do not need to be busy on election day to cast an early ballot.

“Hectic schedules are often cited as the reason voters don’t get to the polling place on Election Day,” Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said. “Now that all voters can vote early by absentee, Minnesotans have greater freedom to cast their ballots on their own schedule.”

Absentee ballots are available by mail or may be cast in person at a local election office.

More absentee information is at

Obama to spend time with Minneapolis letter writer

A Minneapolis women who wrote to President Barack Obama about her financial struggles will share her thoughts with him when he visits the Twin Cities Thursday.

The president’s Thursday visit originally was announced to be for a Thursday evening fundraiser, but it has expanded into a full day and also will include a public Friday event.

“I know staying silent about what you see and what needs changing never makes any difference so I’m writing you to let you know what it’s like for us in the middle of the country and I hope you will listen,” a woman the White House identified only as “Rebekah” wrote to Obama.

In a White House video, the president said Rebekah’s letter told about the cost of living and the cost of raising children.

“I think it’s going to be wonderful for me to let Rebekah know not only am I listening (but) that she’s not alone out there…”Obama said. “She is not alone out there.”

The White House Tuesday announced that Obama will hold a town hall meeting in Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Park Thursday afternoon. He plans to attend a congressional fundraiser Thursday night.

On Friday morning, Obama will speak about the economy at Lake Harriet band shell, also in Minneapolis. The public may get tickets for the Lake Harriet event beginning at noon Wednesday at the band shell, 4135 W. Lake Harriet Parkway. The White House reports a limited number of tickets will be available.

Obama senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer said in an email that the Minneapolis trip will feature a first.

“When the president travels to Minnesota, he’ll launch the first in a series of day-in-the-life visits across the country this summer,” Pfeiffer wrote. “He’ll spend a day with Rebekah, and he’ll meet with her family and community members to discuss the issues that matter to them, host a town hall and talk about the steps we need to take as a country to help more Americans like Rebekah get ahead.”

Rebekah’s letter was one of 10 a day that the presidential staff gives to Obama from thousands that arrive at the White House. He responds to each of the 10 letters he reads a day, but Rebekah will get more than the usual response.

In his video, Obama said that Rebekah’s letter “in some ways is typical of a lot of letters I get every single day.” He said that Americans work hard, “but it feels like it is hard to just get ahead.”

He said that he plans to tell her: “I am not only listening, I am paying attention.”

“There are actually policies out there that could end up making a difference in her life if we could get Washington to work on her behalf,” Obama added.

Busy end to political filing


By Don Davis

The final day Minnesotans could file for political offices was a busy one Tuesday: A gas leak forced the secretary of state’s office to accept paperwork outside, a western Minnesota congressional candidate rushed to St. Paul to meet the deadline, a one-time Democratic governor candidate criticized his party’s state auditor when he filed to replace her, and there will be a Republican primary election race for U.S. Senate.

The Minnesota secretary of state’s office closed at exactly 5 p.m. despite the late flurry of activity. The minutes preceding that were hectic, made worse by a minor gas leak in the State Office Building, home to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s elections office.

Office workers were ousted from the building for about 40 minutes in the late afternoon. They set up a table outside to accept paperwork from candidates who were filing for office, and two candidates signed up in 73-degree temperature under sunny skies.

After the building reopened, state Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, went to the elections counter to sign paperwork and pay $300 to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson in a massive western Minnesota district.

He beat the deadline by about 20 minutes, but had not planned it to be that close.

Westrom said he checked in advance with the Grant County auditor’s office, and was told he could file his paperwork there. But when the office tried to send it to the secretary of state’s office, it was rejected because congressional candidates must file in St. Paul.

“Our county never had a congressional candidate,” Westrom said.

In hindsight, he added, maybe he should have filed for office earlier to avoid the rush.

Westrom took the incident with good humor. “We will tell this story over and over.”

He also made a geographic political comment: “Rural Minnesota, it’s always a long drive.”

As Westrom was leaving, Matt Entenza stepped into the secretary of state’s office and filed paperwork to run in the primary election for state auditor against Auditor Rebecca Otto, a fellow Democrat.

He said Minnesota needs an auditor who “does more than balance the books. We need an auditor fighting to protect pensions that are under attack, who will go after corporate giveaways at the local level.” He said the auditor should “scrutinize” education spending, “focusing on why Minnesota schools have such an achievement gap.”

Entenza, who started and then aborted an attorney general campaign and four years ago lost his party’s governor nomination, said officials “must act on progressive DFL values.”

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chairman was not happy.

“Although he was a one-time House DFL leader, Matt Entenza has a history of running in DFL primaries,” Chairman Ken Martin said. “His last-minute filing is an insult to the hard-working DFLers he has to win over.”

Also Tuesday, state Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka kept his promise to run in the Aug. 12 primary election for U.S. Senate, even though he gained little support at last weekend’s Republican state convention.

After filing his paperwork, Abeler said the candidate who won the convention endorsement, Mike McFadden, did not receive enthusiastic support. That, he said, was proven by the 10 ballots over two days that it took Republican delegates to endorse him.

The 16-year veteran state lawmaker said he has newfound energy with more experience and qualifications than McFadden.

Several long-shot candidates also are in the Senate primary races to face incumbent Democrat Al Franken.

The Independence Party has a full slate of statewide candidates for the first time in years. Libertarian Party officials say they, too, will contest statewide races, but the secretary of state first needs to verify signatures on petitions they delivered Tuesday.

Democrats and Republicans filled most state House races, although Reps. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center; Duane Quam, R-Byron; Kim Norton, D-Rochester; Joe McDonald, R-Delano; Marion O’Neill, R-Buffalo; Kurt Daudt, R-Crown; and Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, do not have opponents. State Senators are not up for election until 2016.


The secretary of state’s office reports this list of candidates for statewide and U.S. House offices:

U.S. Senate: Mike McFadden, R; Jim Abeler, R; David Carlson, R; Patrick Munro, R; Ole Savior, R; Al Franken, D (i); Sandra Henningsgard, D; Tom Books, I; Steve Carlson, I; Jack Shepard, I; Kevin Terrell, I; Stephen Williams, I.

1st Congressional District: Jim Hagedorn,  R; Aaron Miller, R; Tim Walz, D (i).

2nd Congressional District: Paula Overby, I; John Kline, R (i); Mike Obermueller, D; Michael Roberts, D.

3rd Congressional District: Erik Paulsen, R (i); Sharon Sund, D.

4th Congressional District: Dave Thomas I; Sharna Wahlgren, R; Betty McCollum, D (i).

5th Congressional District: Lee Bauer, I; Doug Daggett, R; Keith Ellison, D (i); William Brownell, D.

6th Congressional District: John Denney, I; Tom Emmer, R; Rhonda Sivarajah, R; Joe Perske, D.

7th Congressional District: Collin Peterson, D (i); Torrey Westrom, R.

8th Congressional District: Eric Meyer, I; Stewart Mills, R; Rick Nolan, D (i).

Governor-lieutenant governor: Hanna Nicollet-Tim Gieseke, I; Scott Honour-Karin Housley, R; Jeff Johnson-Bill Kuisle, R; Marty Seifert-Pam Myhra, R; Kurt Zellers-Dean Simpson, R; Merrill Anderson-Mark Anderson, R; Bill Dahn-James Vigliotti, D; Leslie Davis-Gregory Soderberg, D; Mark Dayton-Tina Smith, D (i).

Secretary of state: Bob Helland, I; David Singleton, I; Dan Severson, R; Gregg Iverson, D; Steve Simon, D; Dick Franson, D.

State auditor: Patrick Dean, I; Randy Gilbert, R; Rebecca Otto, D (i); Matt Entenza, D.

Attorney general: Brandan Borgos, I; Sharon Anderson, R; Scott Newman, R; Lori Swanson, D (i).

Supreme Court 2: John Hancock, Wilhelmina Wright (i).

Supreme Court 3: David Lillehaug (i), Michelle MacDonald.

Appeals Court 1: John Rodenberg (i).

Appeals Court 3: Carol Hooten (i).

Appeals Court 4: John P. Smith (i).

Appeals Court 9: Michael Kirk (i).

Appeals Court 10: Edward Cleary (i).

Appeals Court 12: Margaret Chutich (i).

Races with more than one candidate in a party will be involved in an Aug. 12 primary election unless candidates withdraw by Thursday. Candidates who have announced their intent to withdraw are not listed. The secretary of state’s office also does not list candidates who filed by petition until signatures are verified, probably later this week.

Key: R, Republican; D, Democrat; I, Independence; (i), incumbent.


Campaigns underway

By Don Davis

Minnesota’s 2014 election campaign really got underway Monday.

Republicans were looking to make a dent in Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party domination of state government, while Democrats sought ways to keep almost total power in state government.

Both sides expressed optimism as they launched campaigns after weekend state political conventions. Statewide Republican-endorsed candidates flew around Minnesota, visiting the state’s major media markets.

Today is the final day candidates may file for office, but most races already are locked in.

The most interesting race may be a four-way contest to get the Republican governor nomination, a rare GOP primary fight.

The candidate endorsed by GOP state convention delegates on Saturday, Jeff Johnson, faces three others in an Aug. 12 GOP primary election before any Republican can go up against Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. Kurt Zellers and Scott Honour planned all along to run in the primary, and Marty Seifert told the state convention Saturday night that he also would be in the race.

In a St. Paul appearance before GOP candidates took off on their fly-around, Johnson emphasized his electability in rural, suburban and urban areas. He lives in the suburbs, is a Hennepin County commissioner and grew up in western Minnesota’s Detroit Lakes.

“We can actually bring in new voters from all regions of the state,” Johnson said. “The key is we have to bring in more independents.”

Seifert, however, said he has a head start with backers in all 87 counties.

On Monday, Seifert looked back at the controversial end of the GOP convention and said he would have done better had the convention started voting for governor in the morning, as planned, but since the U.S. Senate race still was not decided, that delayed governor balloting until late afternoon.

Seifert spoke to the convention Saturday evening, stopping short of withdrawing from the endorsement race. That angered GOP Chairman Keith Downey, who said it was an effort to prevent an endorsement of anyone, one of the harshest comments political observers remember a party chairman making about a fellow Republican.

“I love Keith Downey,” Seifert proclaimed Monday, indicating that he was sorry how the convention ended.

“Over a third of the convention were missing,” Seifert said, with many of the missing his supporters.

Seifert and Honour filed paperwork Monday to run for governor.

There was a glitch when Honour running mate state Sen. Karin Housley did not have the $300 filing fee after they signed papers in the secretary of state’s office.

“We will see what cash we can round up,” said Honour, a wealthy Twin Cities businessman.

After they paid the fee, Honour told reporters that the two would be good for Minnesota because they both come from the private sector. That background, he said, “is really going to resonate with Minnesotans.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden, still hoarse from the weekend convention, said Minnesotans are tired of Democrats holding all statewide offices.

“I want to compare records” with incumbent Sen. Al Franken, McFadden said. “I’m going to be positive.”

McFadden still could face a Republican challenger. State Rep. Jim Abeler pledged to run in the primary regardless of the state convention outcome.

Republicans were in the spotlight most of Monday after their governor and U.S. Senate battles during the weekend, but about 60 Democratic House candidates appeared in the state Capitol complex, too.

“We are really, I think, feeling the momentum that is behind us,” House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, D-St. Paul, said, indicating that Minnesotans like what has happened with Democrats in control of the House, Senate and governor’s office.

While Republicans criticize Democrats for raising taxes more than $2 billion last year, first-time House candidate Laurie Driessen of Canby said taxes do not need to be boosted again to support her causes, issues such as improved care for the disabled and better rural education funding.

Minnesota Republicans go with McFadden for Senate


By Don Davis

The Republican U.S. Senate endorsement came down to money vs. party tradition.

Mike McFadden, the moneyed candidate, won.

Candidate Chris Dahlberg had about $40,000 in his campaign bank account and led through the first eight state convention ballots. McFadden, who said he immediately can put $2 million into Republicans’ effort to unseat U.S. Sen. Al Franken, came from behind to beat Dahlberg at Saturday’s GOP state convention.

On the convention’s 10th ballot, McFadden got more than the 60 percent vote requirement and Dahlberg conceded.

“I look forward to taking the fight to Al Franken,” a hoarse McFadden said nearly a day after the Senate balloting process began.

McFadden, a wealthy Twin Cities businessman in his first campaign, said he is not the usual type of candidate. He said he has 20 years’ experience creating jobs.

McFadden is the candidate Democrats appear to most fear, and they quickly criticized him.

“From the day he jumped into the Senate race, Minnesotans have known that investment banker Mike McFadden has a record of making millions on business deals that in many cases cost American workers their jobs,” Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin said.

Martin said that McFadden won the endorsement only after right-wing U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann endorsed him.

Within the Republican Party, the remaining question was whether McFadden will be alone on the Aug. 12 primary election ballot. State Rep. Jim Abeler was forced out of endorsement competition Friday when he could not reach the threshold of votes to continue.

Before the convention he pledged to run in the primary regardless of the convention outcome; after the convention, Abeler’s intentions were unclear.

McFadden said it did not matter if another Republican faced him in the primary. In nearly a year since he announced he was running, he has focused on Franken, not other Republicans, he said.

The McFadden-Dahlberg race had turned into a virtual tie Saturday morning after state convention delegates resumed balloting they suspended at 2 a.m. Dahlberg had led in previous ballots.

Balloting began Friday afternoon at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center and ended early Saturday afternoon after 15 hours of campaign speeches and voting.

McFadden said money is the key to beating Franken.

“You have to be able to raise money …” he said. “I worked my tail off to raise money. You support me and we will have $2 million to train on Al Franken on Monday.”

Dahlberg disagreed.

“Some people say it is all about the money,” Dahlberg told the convention Saturday, echoing earlier comments that his ability to attract independents and Democrats is more important.

Once a candidate gets the endorsement, he added, money will follow.

Dahlberg emphasized that he would abide by convention delegates’ decision on a candidate, while McFadden all long has said he will run in the Aug. 12 primary election.

Dahlberg, a St. Louis County commissioner and Army veteran, said the key to winning in November is a united party, not money.

“This is about boots on the ground, this is not about throwing money at it,” Dahlberg told delegates.

State Sen. Julianne Ortman was removed from the endorsement ballot Friday when she failed to reach a 20 percent support threshold.

In the meantime, Franken was in Duluth receiving the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement unopposed.


DFLers celebrate as Dayton nominated for second term


By John Lundy, Forum News Service

Four years after his party denied Mark Dayton access to its state convention floor in Duluth, DFL delegates welcomed him to the same floor Saturday with a riotous celebration.

“This is a great time to be a Democrat in Minnesota,” the first-term governor told a pumped-up crowd of 1,200 delegates in the old arena at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center after accepting their unanimous endorsement. “Aren’t you proud to be a DFLer? I sure am.”

With the governor’s seat open in 2010, Dayton chose to bypass the endorsement process and take his case to Democratic voters in the primary. Then, he was left to chatting with convention delegates and reporters in the DECC’s hallways. The party endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher, but Dayton had the last laugh, sweeping to victories in the primary and general elections.

Dayton’s first two years in office were challenging because of Republican obstructionism, he told the party faithful, boasting that he vetoed 57 GOP-sponsored bills.

But after voters gave control to the DFL two years ago, “We produced what I had promised: progress,” Dayton said.

He cited improvements to early childhood education, all-day kindergarten, a two-year tuition freeze in the state’s public colleges and universities, marriage equality, the $9.50 minimum wage indexed to inflation, anti-bullying legislation, higher income taxes on the top 2 percent and “Republican deficits turned into DFL surpluses” as among their accomplishments.

“That’s a pretty good beginning,” Dayton said.

Then Dayton turned to Republicans, who were in Rochester deciding who to endorse to run against him.

“Republicans’ problem is that they’re against everything,” Dayton said. “They have a one-word political vocabulary: No. … And, oh, how it upsets them to see Minnesota get better. Well, they’re going to have a lot more to get upset about.”

Franken endorsed

With only the endorsement for secretary of state in contention and a potentially fractious platform debate on mining mostly put off until the next day, Saturday was a Democratic-Farmer-Labor “love fest,” in the words of delegate Wayne Pulford of Proctor.

They were in such good spirits that in the midst of unanimously endorsing Sen. Al Franken for re-election, they didn’t mind poking fun at his narrow win — determined by a recount — over then-Sen. Norm Coleman in 2008.

“Driving up here from Minneapolis, there were more people in Tobie’s than Al’s margin of victory,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar joked, referring to the popular diner in Hinckley. After a little more teasing, she gave Franken a glowing introduction.

Franken responded that he had promised DFL delegates six years ago that he would win, “and I did. I just didn’t say by how much. … This time I’ll even tell you the margin: by more than last time.”

Franken said that he, unlike a Republican senator, would represent the middle class, not the wealthiest Americans. As an example, he cited his opposition to the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, saying it would give Americans fewer choices, poorer service and higher rates.

Comcast, he said, has 114 lobbyists in Washington, and he understands it’s their job to protect their company’s bottom line. But, he added: “Minnesota families have a bottom line, too, and protecting their bottom line — that’s my job.”

Mining resolution

If there was a shadow over the festivities, it was cast by the festering dispute over a proposed resolution to change the party platform, declaring the DFL to be supportive of “responsible mining.” The Duluth News Tribune reported Saturday that some delegates see that as coming too close to endorsing potential copper mining in northeastern Minnesota.

Pulford said he already had turned in his ballot, marked in favor of the resolution.

But he said he wouldn’t be overly concerned if the resolution were voted down.

“If there’s no resolution either way, the party’s neutral on it,” Pulford said. “That might actually be the best thing.”

But Tom Rukavina, the retired state legislator from Virginia who was one of the candidates for governor four years ago, said he thought Dayton should take a strong pro-mining stand.

“Mark Dayton has always been for the steelworkers; I wish he’d come out a little stronger on the copper-nickel mining,” said Rukavina, who is running this year in a nonpartisan St. Louis County Board race. “I am a little disappointed about that. I think that might have some repercussions on the Iron Range.”

Retiring state Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, took a nuanced view, saying that “different parts of the state feel differently about it.”

But Dayton will have to pay attention to northeastern Minnesota, Huntley said.

“If we don’t do well in the 8th Congressional District for Gov. Dayton, we’re not going to do well anyplace in the state,” he said.

The issue will be unavoidable today, as the party platform is the major remaining item on the DFL agenda.

Simon endorsed

On Saturday, delegates endorsed Tina Flint Smith for lieutenant governor along with Dayton. Smith, his chief of staff, was Dayton’s choice to replace Yvonne Prettner Solon of Duluth, who did not seek re-election.

Also unanimously endorsed for re-election were state Auditor Rebecca Otto and Attorney General Lori Swanson. In the one contested race, state Rep. Steve Simon of Hopkins was endorsed over state Rep. Debra Hilstrom of Brooklyn Center for secretary of state. The incumbent, Mark Ritchie, is stepping down.

McFadden wins endorsement

By Don Davis

Twin Cities businessman Mike McFadden took the Republican endorsement to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken in a come-from-behind victory this afternoon.

“I look forward to taking the fight to Al Franken,” he said after being declared the winner.

Vote totals between him and the only other remaining candidate, St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg, were not immediately released.

The win came on the Republican state convention’s 10th ballot. On the ninth ballot, McFadden had taken a lead with 53 percent, seven points short of the 60 percent needed for victory.

The race had turned into a virtual tie this morning after state convention delegates resumed balloting they suspended at 2 a.m. Dahlberg had led in previous ballots.

Balloting began Friday afternoon at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center.

State Sen. Julianne Ortman was removed from the ballot Friday when she failed to reach a 20 percent threshold. She did not publically endorse either remaining candidate.

State Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka also was eliminated from the endorsement process, although before the convention he and McFadden said they plan to go on to the Aug. 12 primary election regardless of the convention endorsement outcome.

McFadden continued his campaign today barely able to speak. His staff was working to keep him from talking any more than needed.

In the meantime, Franken was in Duluth receiving the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement unopposed.

After Republicans finished work on the Senate race, they began voting on governor candidates.

Dahlberg holds Republican Senate lead as convention recesses


By Don Davis

A little-known St. Louis County commissioner emerged early today as the Republican leader to take on Democratic Sen. Al Franken before tired and cranky state convention delegates decided to recess.

Commissioner Chris Dahlberg’s lead was slim enough that the outcome was uncertain.

Delegates are due back at convention hall at 9 a.m. After they decide on a Senate candidate, they begin considering which of four governor candidates to back.

Republicans were looking ahead to Aug. 12 even before they began casting ballots Friday night and early today.

Two of the Senate candidates had said they would run in the summer primary election, regardless of the state GOP convention endorsement vote.

Balloting began Friday at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center and with 60 percent needed to win endorsement, Dahlberg surprised many by taking the seventh-ballot lead with 54 percent. Twin Cities businessman Mike McFadden followed with 44 percent.

State Sen. Julianne Ortman was removed from the ballot when she failed to reach a 20 percent threshold. She did not publically endorse either remaining candidate.

Dahlberg said he was somewhat surprised by his lead because he was the last major candidate to enter the race.

“A lot of people, we already knew, were wavering,” Dahlberg said.

During his presentation to the convention, Dahlberg said that other candidates in the race “are changing their positions.”

The former military man said: “You will not see me waver on the Second Amendment” to protect gun ownership.

He said Republicans need to help pave the way for copper and nickel mining in his northeastern Minnesota area.

Dahlberg said he is electable, beating an entrenched Democratic incumbent in his 2008 run for county commissioner in heavily Democratic St. Louis County.

“I am the only one tested in battle,” he said. “I have won three times in northeast Minnesota.”

McFadden and state Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka said before the vote that while they wanted the convention’s endorsement, they would run in the primary even if delegates picked someone else. Others said they would abide by the convention’s wishes.

The only way that the race would not end up in the primary election would be if McFadden would win the endorsement and Abeler changed his mind and closed his campaign.

McFadden was the biggest question mark since he was making his first run at public office.

Dave Van Loh, a Cottonwood County farmer, stood in the back of the convention hall as former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman spoke, saying that if big-city boy Coleman could learn rural issues, so could McFadden.

Van Loh said McFadden “has a broad knowledge” of many issues and can learn to fill in the blanks as he goes on.

“You can learn,” Coleman said in an interview. “The reality in this state is you have to learn.”

McFadden, whose personal wealth is bound to make him a primary candidate to take seriously, began his video presentation showing farm scenes.

While rich today, McFadden said that as a young man “the closest I got to a country club was working there.”

“I always had a job since I was a little kid,” he said.

McFadden was critical of the federal government, but laid blame on both major parties.

Ortman defended Republicans, who Democrats say only have one answer: “No.”

“We are not the party of ‘no,’ ” Ortman said. “We are the party of solutions.”

Like others at the GOP convention, Ortman criticized the federal Veterans Affairs Department, whose leader resigned Friday.

“The VA scandal is a very dark preview of what lies ahead in Obamacare,” she said.