Posted at 8:54 AM on November 9, 2012
by Elizabeth Dunbar
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races, Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races, MN Legislature, Marriage Amendment
It didn't take long after the election results came in for opponents of the marriage amendment to announce their intentions to take the next step — make same-sex marriage legal in the state. The DFL now controls both the House and Senate plus the governor's office.
But will legislators in districts where the amendment passed back legalization? It turns out, many of them are DFLers.
An analysis of the marriage amendment vote shows that many DFL lawmakers represent districts that voted yes, and sometimes overwhelmingly so. In fact,
18 17 DFL House members and 10 DFL senators are in districts where the amendment, which would have defined marriage as between a man and woman, passed with 50 percent or more of the vote.
It's also true that many Republican lawmakers are in districts where the marriage amendment failed: 22 in the House and eight in Senate. But it's likely DFLers would feel more pressure to support a same-sex marriage legalization bill because it would be their party proposing it. Only
two four Republican lawmakers voted against putting the marriage question on the ballot.
Several other states have legalized same-sex marriage through legislation. The first was Vermont in 2009. Same-sex marriage became legal there when the Legislature overrode the Republican governor's veto.
Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith, a Democrat, said in an interview that he doesn't think DFL lawmakers representing conservative districts on the marriage issue would be voted out of office for supporting same-sex marriage legislation.
"We did not see real blowback as a result of our representatives voting for the override who were in conservative districts," he said.
Smith acknowledged that other states that have legalized same-sex marriage, including New Hampshire, did see Democrats lose seats in 2010, but he attributed that to a good election year for Republicans and not the marriage vote.
"The country is shifting very quickly on this issue. People realize that whether you're gay or straight, you should be able to marry who you want, and in some ways it's a conservative principle that people should want to get married," he said.
Smith said he's looking forward to watching the marriage debate continue to unfold in Minnesota. "I think it would be exciting if Minnesota passed a marriage equality bill," he said.
But at least one newly elected Minnesota House member isn't ready to commit to supporting an effort to make same-sex marriage legal. Joe Radinovich, a DFLer from Crosby, beat out his Republican opponent in a district where voters approved the marriage amendment by nearly 63 percent of the vote.
Radinovich said he publicly opposed the marriage amendment during the campaign. But is he ready to take it a step further?
"I don't want to anticipate what legislation may arise," he said Thursday, adding that issues including education and the tax code are top of mind.
UPDATE: Newly chosen DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk spoke on MPR's The Daily Circuit today. He said the "no" vote on the marriage amendment doesn't mean Minnesotans want to legalize same-sex marriage.
"I think what the electorate was telling the Legislature is, 'Don't go pass constitutional amendments to get around a governor.' You know, it was already against the law in Minnesota, there was no reason for a constitutional amendment, and I think most Minnesotans didn't feel that amending the constitution with those kind of provisions — social provisions — was a proper use of the constitution," he said.
Bakk said the state's budget — not policy issues — will be the priority in the upcoming legislative session.
What DFL lawmakers are in districts where the marriage amendment passed? Check out the maps below. Their districts are in light blue. Republican lawmakers in districts where the marriage amendment failed are shaded pink.
Posted at 10:55 AM on November 8, 2012
by Tim Nelson
Filed under: Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races
Here's a look at the election results from Tuesday, chopped a little more finely than on election night. Since the DFL Senate caucus is gathering for leadership elections in a few minutes, let's start with a ranking of the senators by the percentage of the vote they won, with the majority on top.
Here's a ranking of the senators by vote totals, from most to least:
Republicans in the Minnesota House are looking for a new leader now that Speaker Kurt Zellers says he doesn't want the job. Zellers made the announcement one day after Democrats won enough seats to win the House and Senate.
Zellers says a number of factors played into why they lost the House majority. He said heavy spending by Democrats and negative campaigning are two of them. But he downplayed any suggestion that opposition to the two proposed constitutional amendments sunk legislative candidates.
"Minnesotans always go out and vote," Zellers said. That's what we do really well here so whether or not it was a motivational factor for most voters, I think it was right on or pretty darn close to a traditional presidential year in Minnesota."]
On Tuesday, voters defeated a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and an amendment that would require photo identification to vote. Democratic leaders say opposition to the two amendments galvanized the DFL base especially among young and minority voters.
Zellers said Republicans will continue to stick to a no new taxes philosophy and warned a tax increase is likely now that Democrats are in control of the Legislature.
"If you're a business owner in the state of Minnesota, I would get ready for a pretty sizable tax increase," Zellers said.
Republicans will meet this weekend to elect a new Minority Leader. GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean says he's interested in the position.
It looks, as of about 4 a.m., that both houses of the Legislature are going to change hands. The DFL needed to pick up six seats in the House to take control. It got 11. In the Senate, the DFL did even better, picking up what looks to be nine seats, when they needed four.
The party did well in the suburbs and beat some senior Republicans, including Rep. Larry Howes and Sen. Joe Gimse. The DFL swept the head-to-head general election matchups that resulted from redistricting earlier this year.
Among the incumbents beaten Tuesday were, in the House:
Also of note, the DFL and the GOP each failed to contest two races in the House. The GOP left four DFL Senators unchallenged; Scott Dibble and Jeff Hayden, Minneapolis; Chris Eaton, Brooklyn Center and Kathy Sheran, Mankato.
Here's the tale of the tape, or at least as close as we could get at 4 a.m., in the Senate. (Sorry for the tiny type, but you can download larger pdf versions):
And here's the House version:
Gov. Mark Dayton isn't on the ballot this year, but it's clear that his policies are becoming key to legislative elections.
The first-term governor has been spending a lot of time over the past few weeks campaigning for Democratic candidates for the Minnesota House and Senate.
"Usually candidates say 'This is the most important election in our lifetime' when their names are on the ballot," Dayton said recently at a rally in St. Cloud. "My name isn't on the ballot, and I say this is the most important election in our lifetime."
Dayton has been characterizing the GOP-controlled Legislature as extremists who are unwilling to compromise. He points to the state government shutdown in 2011 as one of several problems he's had with the Legislature.
"They really believe 'eliminate government, eliminate taxes and let businesses run free and we'll all live happily ever after,'" Dayton said. "It doesn't happen in fairy tales and it doesn't happen in this world either."
Dayton's policy goals may depend on whether Democrats win back control of the Legislature. Republicans have criticized his plan to raise taxes on Minnesota's top earners to help fix the state's structural budget problem. They have also called for spending cuts and tax cuts for businesses - things he mostly disagrees with.
And with another two-year projected budget deficit looming, Dayton's vision for government and his re-election in 2014, could depend on whether he has a supportive Legislature.
"People need to decide, are they willing to give DFLers a chance for two years to see if we can make the kind of progress that will make a difference in their lives?" Dayton said. "If we don't, then there's a remedy for that in 2014, but at least give us that chance."
Republicans are working hard to make sure Dayton doesn't get his wish. They're also trying to use Dayton and his policies to their political advantage this election year. Republicans are warning voters and business leaders of what could happen if the governor gets his wish of a DFL-controlled Legislature.
"Hopefully, the voters will put Republicans back in charge. If they don't, they better hang onto their wallets," said Rep Greg Davids, R-Preston. "Just hand your billfold over because they're going to come and get it anyway."
Davids, who chairs the House Taxes Committee, and others are pushing Dayton to release his tax reform plan before Election Day. Dayton has convened a task force to study ways to change and improve the state's tax code, but he won't release the plan until after Nov. 6. Davids said voters deserve to know the plan now so they can ask DFL candidates whether they support it.
"Let's have the debate before the election," Davids said. "Why wait?"
In some races, Republicans are trying to get their DFL opponents to say whether they support Dayton's tax plan.
Dayton says he doesn't want to release his plan because he doesn't want it to "get mired down in politics" because Republicans would "doom it before it even gets started." He stresses, however, that he'll continue to push for a tax increase on Minnesota's wealthiest 2 percent and that his plan would keep property taxes stable.
Most DFL candidates interviewed by MPR News say they support some sort of tax increase but aren't willing to say whether they'd support Dayton's plan to raise income taxes on Minnesota's top earners.
"He's on the right track and he just needs a Legislature that will work with him," said DFL candidate Anne Nolan, who is challenging Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R- St. Cloud.
The stakes for this year's election are huge.
Republicans currently hold a four seat majority in the Minnesota Senate and a six seat majority in the Minnesota House. Update: Democrats need to pick up four seats in the Minnesota Senate and six seats in the House to win the majority. Every seat is on the ballot this year and officials with both political parties say they see a solid path to the majority.
And while Republicans are warning about tax hikes if the DFL wins the Legislature, Dayton is promising an end to the partisanship in St. Paul. It's a message that he and other DFL candidates stress repeatedly on the campaign trail. They include Kevin Dahle, a Minnesota Senate candidate looking to represent the Northfield area.
"People are sick of the gridlock," Dahle said at a recent campaign rally. "Let's try to work together. People are tired of the partisanship and the bickering."
Republicans dismiss complaints about partisan rancor. They say divided government isn't always pretty, but that it results in a good product in the end.
"In talking to a lot of voters, they like the fact that we balanced the budget working with him," GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers said. "I think the voters knew what they were doing two years ago when they sent us mixed government."
It isn't clear whether Minnesotans will head to the polls on Tuesday with thoughts about whether Dayton should have a DFL-controlled Legislature. Most legislative races focus on where the specific candidates stand on the top issues facing the state. But that isn't stopping Dayton from making his pitch.
"I always tell candidates that I'll do whatever helps the most," Dayton is fond of saying. "I'll campaign for them or campaign against them. Whatever does the most good."
MPR's Conrad Wilson contributed to this story.(3 Comments)
Redistricting, controversial constitutional amendments and a presidential election have put many Minnesota House and Senate races in flux. Here are the key races.
Click on a highlighted district below to see why the race is in play.
Thanks to MPR's Paul Tosto for putting the map together.
The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board will investigate four claims brought by the Republican Party of Minnesota contending the Minnesota DFL party coordinated campaign literature with several candidates.
"The board will conduct investigations of the complaints to determine whether any violations of Minnesota Statutes 10A have occurred," the board wrote the GOP in a letter. "The Board's undertaking of these investigations signifies only that the complaints have met the minimum threshold to require an investigation."
The GOP's complaint surrounds campaign literature sent by the DFL in favor of four Senate Democratic candidates including Jim Carlson, who is running against incumbent Ted Daley in SD 51 near Eagan, Melisa Franzen, who is running against Rep. Keith Downey for SD 49 near Edina, Vicki Jensen who is running against Vern Swedin in SD 24 encompassing part of Steele County, and Alice Johnson who is running against incumbent Pam Wolf in SD 37, which covers Blaine.
The Republicans allege that the DFL Party and the Senate DFL Caucus used photos of the candidates in mailings that are not publicly available on the internet. They argue that the party illegally coordinated with the candidates to take the pictures.
All four candidates are are considered strong candidates to win seats that are currently controlled by the GOP.
Additionally, the Minnesota GOP has added a fifth complaint to their roster concerning Alan Oberloh, also running for office in SD 22, which includes part of Pipestone, Noble, and Murray Counties among others.
Meanwhile, Julie Bunn, who is running for Senate District 39 near Lake Elmo and who was part of the Republican's initial complaint, has been cleared of charges.
"Board staff has verified that all of the photographs identified in the complaint are readily available to the public on the candidate's website... Consequently, the alleged facts are not supported by the website and cannot be the basis for an investigation," the Board determined according to a press release from Bunn's campaign.
Democrats in the Legislature are working to make property taxes a key issue in this year's election. Today is the deadline for homeowners to pay their property taxes. DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and DFL Senator Ann Rest held a news conference at the State Capitol today to note the occasion. Thissen criticized Republicans for cutting a property tax credit in the past budget. He said Democrats would take a different approach to property taxes if they're elected to the majority.
"Our candidates are talking to Minnesota voters and what they're hearing from them is that we need to rebalance our tax system so that leg of the stool is not out of proportion with everything else," Thissen said. "DFL majorities are going to focus on delivering property tax relief to Minnesotans next year."
Thissen didn't offer specifics as to how Democrats would reduce property taxes. The cut was a part of a budget deal reached by Republican lawmakers and Democratic Governor Mark Dayton.
Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, says Thissen's accusation is unfair because most homeowners in Minnesota didn't see large spikes in property taxes this year. Davids, who chairs the House Taxes Committee, also says the state wasn't fully funding the credit when it was in existence.
"We took away a corrupt, dishonest, fraudulant program that the former DFL tax chair had a bill to get rid of," Davids said. "The counties and cities came to us and said 'Get rid of this program."
Republicans currently control both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature. Every seat in the Legislature is on the ballot this year.
So far, the "inappropriate relationship" between former GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and former Senate GOP Caucus spokesman Michael Brodkorb has largely stayed out of this year's election chatter.
A mailer paid for by the Minnesota DFL party circulating in Senate District 22 near Luverne where Republican Bill Weber is running against Alan Oberloh reminds voters that taxpayers are footing the bill for the legal imbroglio that ensued after Brodkorb was fired late last year.
The mailer links Weber, who did not serve this past legislative session, to the Brodkorb-Koch affair.
"The same GOP Senators who are making you pay for their scandal want Bill Weber in the Senate," the mailer reads. "Don't let them get away with it."
Koch announced she was stepping down as Senate Majority Leader last December. A day later, it was revealed that she had been having an affair with an unnamed male staffer, and that she had been confronted by top Senate leadership about the relationship. Brodkorb was fired a day after Koch announced she was leaving her post, though the two were not linked romantically until much later.
Soon after, Brodkorb filed a wrongful termination suit against the Minnesota Senate, and settlement talks have foundered. Meanwhile, the Senate has paid at least $100,000 for legal representation in the matter.
Brodkorb is now speaking out about the affair and the lawsuit, saying that pressure for Koch to step down and that his termination were a "power play" by other members of the Senate.
The flier bears the Minnesota DFLs name, but the Senate and House Democratic caucuses typically funnel money intended for this type of campaign literature through the party, as it allows them to save money on postage.
Democrat Julie Bunn says there's no basis for a complaint filed Thursday against her by the Republican Party of Minnesota.
The GOP alleged in its complaint that Bunn was among five DFL state Senate candidates who improperly coordinated their campaigns with the state DFL Party. The evidence cited in the complaint was photos that appeared in DFL funded literature, photos that the Republicans said were unavailable publicly and therefore must have come from the candidates or the DFL Senate Caucus.
But Bunn issued a statement today saying that she didn't coordinate with the DFL Party or the DFL Senate Caucus over the use of photographs. Bunn, who served in the Minnesota House from 2006-2010, said her campaign website includes photos dating back several years that anyone can access.
"Any visitor to the website and Photo Gallery page can then click on the link provided and go to a Photobucket containing over 200 photos that date from 2006 until mid-August of this year," Bunn said in a statement. "There is nothing obscure about this location."
Bunn is challenging Republican Karin Housley in an open seat that includes Forest Lake, Lake Elmo and Stillwater.
The DFL Party has not released a statement or commented on the Republican Party complaint. The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board keeps complaints private until they rule on them. There's no word on if or when the board will rule.
The Republican Party of Minnesota filed campaign finance complaints today against the DFL Party, the DFL Senate Caucus and five state Senate candidates for coordinating photography and spending on campaign mailings.
The Republicans allege that the DFL Party and the Senate DFL Caucus used photos of the candidates in mailings that are not publicly available on the internet.
"The photos used on these supposed independent expenditure pieces by the Minnesota DFL are not publicly available on the candidates' official campaign websites, Facebook pages, Flickr accounts, Google images or any place else on the Internet, and are clearly taken from a staged photo shoot," Republican Party of Minnesota Chair Pat Shortridge said in a statement. "The Minnesota DFL Party's use of these images that are unavailable to the general public strongly suggests coordination with the candidate on these independent expenditures."
The DFL candidates included in the complaint are Melisa Franzen, Jim Carlson, Julie Bunn, Alice Johnson and Vicki Jensen. Those five candidates are considered strong candidates to win seats that are currently controlled by the GOP.
A spokeswoman for the DFL Party said their attorneys are examining the complaint, and that she wasn't prepared to comment. I'll post the party's response if/when they send it.
State law forbids candidates and independent groups from coordinating campaign activity. Tim Pawlenty was fined for coordinating TV ads with the Republican Party of Minnesota in 2002.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board keeps complaints private until they rule on them. It isn't known whether the board will act on the complaint before the election.
State Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, is in a dogfight of a campaign with Democrat Melisa Franzen to win a state Senate seat in the western suburbs. The race is gaining plenty of attention with outside groups spending heavily on the race. (You can read my story about the race here).
Despite that close contest, Downey isn't taking a run for higher office off the table. He's been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in 2014.
Earlier this week, Downey downplayed talk of such a run but didn't rule it out.
"We're out door knocking for a senate seat and I'm just trying to meet as many people as I can," Downey said. "I'm flattered when people mention it. If the state were ever in a position where they're looking for somebody with my kind of background and experience, and it made sense to run for something else, I might consider it."
Downey then added that he had 10 more precincts to campaign in over the next few weeks.
Downey is one of several Republicans who are mentioned as possible candidates for governor in 2014. The others include former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and state Sen. Dave Thompson.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton says he intends to run for re-election.
The House Republican Campaign Committee and The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a group working to elect DFL candidates to the Legislature, started running ads this week on cable television.
The ads are the first to target specific legislative races.
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM) started running statewide ads earlier this month, but the latest round of spots are aimed at seats held by Republican incumbents or open seats.
The group committed roughly $300,000 on the ad campaign at Comcast cable through Oct. 7. The targets include legislative districts in northwest Minnesota, Eagan, Edina and the northern Twin Cities suburbs.
ABM executive director Carrie Lucking wouldn't discuss the group's strategy, but said it is focused on helping Democrats reclaim the House and Senate.
"We don't talk about spending but you can expect to see a variety of ads in both in the metro and Greater Minnesota between now and the election," Lucking said.
Meanwhile, the House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC), which is the campaign arm of the House Republican caucus, has purchased $236,000 through the November election to help Republicans keep control of the Minnesota House.
The group spent the largest amount of money on GOP Rep. Kirk Stensrud of Eden Prairie and Stacey Stout who is running in an open seat that includes Maplewood and White Bear Lake. The HRCC committed spending about $40,000 on each race. An individual with knowledge of the buy said the HRCC confirmed the buy and they'll continue to purchase ads through November.
Officials representing both parties and independent expenditure groups say they expect a greater amount of spending on legislative races this year.
Democrats and liberal interest groups hope the spending will help them win back the state Legislature so the party can enact some of Gov. Mark Dayton's agenda.
Republicans and conservative groups want to keep control of the Legislature and prevent Dayton's priorities from passing.
Complicating this year's elections are the large number of open seats in play. A court panel designed a new set of political lines this year as a result of redistricting, and at least a quarter of the 201 seats in the Legislature will see new faces next year as a result of incumbent pairings, primary defeats and retirements.
The liberal Alliance for a Better Minnesota and a constellation of groups backed by Minnesota businesses are playing an important role in this year's legislative races, spending widely on various candidates throughout the state.
But some of the state's closest races are getting more attention than others, and the proof is in the dollars.
Take, for instance, Republican state Sen. Ted Lillie's race against Susan Kent in Senate District 53 near Woodbury. Outside groups have so far spent $55,000 there.
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, which is hoping to snag that seat for a Democrat, has so far spent nearly $13,000 on direct mail criticizing Lillie.
But Lillie is also getting an assist from groups that support conservatives, including the Freedom Club, a political fund that was created by wealthy donor Robert Cummins. The Freedom Club played a critical role in filling the state Legislature with Republicans in 2010.
So far, the Freedom Club has spent more than $13,000 on mailers touting Lillie's accomplishments.
That's on top of the nearly $29,000 the Pro Jobs Majority fund, a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce group that backs candidates with a pro-business record, has spent on direct mail supporting Lillie.
The race between Lillie and Kent is a competitive open seat that was created as a result of the once a decade process known as redistricting. Lillie elected to move into the new district after he was paired with GOP Sen. Ray Vandeveer, who eventually announced that he wasn't running again.
Candidates were not required to file their fundraising activity today. The last round of fundraising reports in July shows Lillie raising more than $15,000 and Kent with more than $17,000. While these outside political groups can't coordinate with the candidates, their spending on mailers and advertisements gives each candidate an extra boost.
Meanwhile, a race in northwestern Minnesota is also garnering attention from outside groups. Republican Rep. David Hancock's race against DFLer Roger Erickson in House District 2A, which includes Lake of the Woods, has seen more than $15,000 spent on the race through late September.
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota has spent nearly $13,000 through Sept. 25 with the hopes of electing Erickson. The Coalition of Minnesota Businesses PAC spent $3,700 in support of Hancock.
Republican Sen. Ted Daley is getting a boost from some of the same groups in his race against former state lawmaker Jim Carlson in Senate District 51 near Eagan.
Combined, the Freedom Club and Pro Jobs Majority have spent nearly $43,000 on mail favoring Daley. Meanwhile, the Coalition of Minnesota Businesses has been sending out fliers touting Daley's vote to pay back money the state owes public schools.
In 2010, Daley's race was close, too. He narrowly beat Carlson by 3.6 percentage points. It appears outside groups have not spent any money on Carlson's behalf through Sept. 25.
An Army veteran who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican U.S. Senate endorsement earlier this year has launched a political action committee designed to help Republicans win seats in the Minnesota Legislature.
Pete Hegseth, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, calls the effort MinnesotaPAC. He said the mission is to "mobilize Minnesota conservatives to win elections."
Hegseth says the PAC will focus on using small donor money to organize volunteer efforts to get out the vote for Republican candidates rather than focusing on TV ads and direct-mail pieces. The new PAC will also target giving to certain candidates with so-called "Money-bomb Mondays."
Hegseth said his new PAC will work on behalf of Republicans in 12 state House and Senate races it has determined are competitive.
In May Hegseth lost the GOP U.S. Senate endorsement to state Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount.
For the first time in recent history, a group is starting to run television ads targeting the Minnesota Legislature. The liberal group, The Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM), says it will start running the ad to try to convince voters to back DFL candidates for the Legislature.
The effort is unique, since candidates and outside groups rarely spend the large amount of money needed to air commercials on broadcast stations like KSTP, KARE, FOX9 and WCCO. Most candidates and outside groups run ads on cable TV because they can be more targeted to specific legislative districts. In a news release, ABM said it would start running ads on broadcast TV and then take a more targeted advertising approach on cable. A spokesman won't say how much the group is spending on the ad campaign.
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota is a group funded by wealthy DFL donors, labor unions and other groups. Democrats lost control of both the House and Senate in the 2010 election. ABM spent most of its time and energy helping elect Democrat Mark Dayton governor in 2010 and did little to influence the races for the Legislature.
ABM is just one of several outside groups that are targeting legislative races this year. Other groups include the GOP-leaning Freedom Club and the MN Chamber of Commerce, which endorses candidates of both parties but supports the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Every seat in the Legislature is on the ballot this year.
Eleven Republican state senators and a top Senate employee who were involved in printing and handing out fliers at precinct caucuses earlier this year violated state law, according to a ruling from the Office of Administrative Hearings.
The legislators, Senate Leader David Senjem, Al DeKruif, Chris Gerlach, Gretchen Hoffman, Benjamin Kruse, Ted Lillie, Claire Robling, Ray Vandeveer, Pam Wolf, Michelle Fischbach and John Pederson, will each have to pay a $75 fine.
Senate Communications Director Steve Sviggum, who drafted the fliers, will have to pay a $200 fine.
The controversy centers around fliers created for the GOP's precinct caucuses earlier this year and paid for with taxpayer dollars. The materials described some of the Senate's legislative accomplishments, outlined some of the GOP's priorities for the coming legislative session, and criticized Gov. Mark Dayton.
The fliers also included links to the Senate Republican Caucus' political website, which solicits campaign donations.
The Minnesota DFL Party subsequently asked for an investigation.
The Office of Administrative Hearings found that Sviggum and the senators violated state law because the fliers constituted campaign literature, but did not provide any information about who prepared them or how they were paid for.
The Senate Republicans say that the fliers were not campaign material and were not meant to influence the way people vote.
But the three administrative law judges who investigated the matter said that the fliers were not intended for a general audience but rather voters at precinct caucuses, "inherently political events."
"The Legislative Updates were disseminated at the precinct caucuses for the purpose of influencing voting in the coming election and constitute campaign material within the meaning of the statute," the lawyers concluded.
In a written statement, DFL chair Ken Martin said the conclusion comes as no surprise and represents an "escalating pattern of lawlessness that has come to define this Republican legislature."
Here's the entire Office of Administrative Hearings finding:5 Comments)
Retiring state Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, has been named the next Metro Transit Chief of Police.
Harrington was elected in 2010. Before that he was chief of the St. Paul Police Department from 2004 to 2010 and was with the department for 30 years, according to a press release announcing Harrington's appointment.
Harrington replaces former Chief Dave Indrehus, who retired in January. Deputy Chief A.J. Olson will continue to serve as Acting Chief until Harrington assumes his duties Sept. 4.
"I'm thrilled to bring John on board as chief," said Metropolitan Council Regional Administrator Pat Born. "John is deeply knowledgeable about law enforcement. He is a demonstrated and experienced leader. And, having served with Metro Transit Police for more than a decade, he is familiar with policing transit. I have every confidence that John will continue the Council's commitment to a safe and secure transit system."
Lawmakers who supported the new Vikings stadium are getting an assist from the team this election year.
Minnesota Momentum, a new political fund created earlier this month by the Vikings, will be used to spend on behalf of Minnesota legislators who helped get the stadium bill signed into law, said team spokesman Jeff Anderson.
"We have several tens of thousands of fans signed up for Minnesota Momentum," said Anderson. "What we did during the primary election and what we'll do during the general election is let those fans know who their elected official is and if they voted 'yes' on the stadium."
Minnesota Momentum has existed since 2006 as a network of Vikings fans. But the political fund is necessary for the team to legally spend money in support of various legislative candidates.
Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine, is among those the team is helping.
"After taking the difficult but necessary vote, Representative Sanders faces a challenge heading into the primary, August 14, and the general election on November 6," reads an e-mail the Vikings sent out urging fans to vote for Sanders during last week's primary. "Opponents are highlighting his stadium support as a reason to vote against him. Therefore, just as Representative Sanders stood with Vikings fans and stadium supporters last spring, we need to stand with him during this campaign."
Anderson said to expect more such e-mails throughout election season.(2 Comments)
Posted at 3:25 PM on August 16, 2012
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races, Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races, Campaign 2012: U.S. House, MN Legislature, Mark Dayton, Redistricting
A five member panel of judges tasked with redrawing the state's political lines has awarded $345,000 in attorney's fees.
The judicial panel ruled that attorneys representing the DFL Party, Republicans in Minnesota and a group of DFL citizens are entitled to $115,000 each for the work on the redistricting case. The court ruled that the funds should be made available as a result of the Civil Rights Act. Attorneys for the three groups were seeking a total payment of $691,131.
The attorneys were hired to represent the parties in court after Democratic Governor Mark Dayton failed to agree to a set of political boundaries with GOP leaders in the Legislature. A five member judicial panel was then tasked with taking testimony on how the new set of political lines should be drawn as result of the 2010 census. The court released the new set of maps in February.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie asked the panel to deny attorneys fees because he said taxpayers should not bear the expense of redistricting.
Here's the order:
A110152Order - Taxation of Costs-Disbursements Andor Atty Fees
Senate Tax Committee Chair Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, will face-off against Democrat James Weygand in this fall's elections to represent Senate District 47.
Ortman defeated Bruce Schwichtenberg in a heated primary battle.
After an endorsement fight at the district's May convention, neither Ortman or Schwichtenberg had secured support from the party.
Ortman said that the convention's unusual outcome had a lot to do with high turnout among delegates who support Ron Paul, and who supported Schwichtenberg.
For his part, Schwichtenberg said Ortman was not conservative enough for the district.
"Leading into November I hope we're going to have a very courageous conversation with the resident of the state of Minnesota about the issues that matter most," including the economy, Ortman said.
If she wins the general election in November, Ortman said won't change the way she legislates despite the turn further right her primary race took.
"This was a very important election to provide all the authority I need to go back to the state capitol and continue the work that I've been doing," Ortman said.
Republican endorsed candidate David Osmek has narrowly defeated incumbent Rep. Connie Doepke of Orono by 107 votes in the primary for the state Senate seat in District 33.
Osmek will face DFL candidate Judy Rogosheske this fall to replace retiring Republican Sen. Gen Olson.
"I think what the people saw was a true, honest conservative with the convictions and the integrity that they wanted to see in a state senator," Osmek said of the race. "I appreciated Rep. Doepke's work and I think that she has been a good representative, but they were looking for a change."
Doepke could not immediately be reached for comment.
In recent weeks, the primary race between Osmek and Doepke attracted spending from two conservative outside groups: The Freedom Club and Americans for Prosperity Minnesota.
Both organizations sent mailers targeting Doepke's record on spending and President Barack Obama's health care law. Doepke said the mailers distorted her record.
If he wins the general election, Osmek said his legislative goals are simple: spend fewer taxpayer dollars, change state taxes to make Minnesota more attractive to businesses and champion a bill that would make union dues voluntary.
"Right to work will be the first thing on my list," Osmek said of the union bill.
Both Osmek and Cindy Pugh, who won the GOP primary in House District 33, tracked further right than their Republican opponents.
While Osmek said it's too soon to tell if his district is a bellwether for how the Legislature will look after the November election, "in this district, the representation will be more conservative."
Posted at 8:00 PM on August 14, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races, Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races, Campaign 2012: U.S. House, Campaign 2012: U.S. MN CD1, Campaign 2012: U.S. MN CD8
It's 8 p.m., and the polls have closed across Minnesota.
Tonight, we'll be keeping tabs on several important primary races on the Capitol View blog, including contests in the 1st and 8th congressional districts, and several hotly contested legislative districts.
If you haven't been following these races closely, here are a few to watch:
Minnesota's 1st Congressional District:
In southern Minnesota, Republican state Sen. Mike Parry and Allen Quist are competing to challenge incumbent DFL Rep. Tim Walz in November.
In recent weeks, the Parry-Quist race became more interesting after Parry brought up comments Quist made years ago about social issues, including the roles of men and women in the home.
Last week, Parry got more attention when he called Gov. Mark Dayton "scary" and said that he saw Dayton "pop 15 to 16 pills" during a meeting.
Minnesota's 8th Congressional District:
Jeff Anderson, Tarryl Clark and Rick Nolan are in a three-way contest to challenge Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack in November.
Nolan, a former Minnesota congressman, has the DFL endorsement, but Clark has the fundraising advantage among the three candidates. Since she entered the race, Clark has raised $1.1 million, much of it coming from her wide fundraising network outside the 8th District and the state. Nolan has so far raised $357,655 and Anderson has raised $172,359, according to their most recent campaign finance filings.
The race heated up in recent weeks when Women Vote!, the political spending arm of Emily's List, a group that supports female candidates who support legalized abortions including Clark, sent out a mailer to voters in the 8th questioning Nolan's voting record on abortion issues.
And the Clark campaign released an ad challenging Nolan's work as founder and chairman of the Minnesota World Trade Center. Nolan called the ad "gutter-dirty politics."
Senate District 33:
State Republican Rep. Connie Doepke of Orono and GOP-endorsed David Osmek are both vying to replace retiring Republican state Sen. Gen Olson.
Doepke lost the endorsement to Osmek earlier this year, and the race has since attracted attention from outside groups including the Freedom Club and Americans for Prosperity Minnesota.
Both organizations have a conservative bent, but both have also sent out mailers challenging incumbent Doepke's record on spending and President Barack Obama's health care law. Doepke said the mailers distorted her record.
Meanwhile, Doepke has been forced to clarify her endorsements. After including 3rd Congressional District Rep. Erik Paulsen on a campaign mailer, Paulsen sent out a statement reiterating his endorsement of Osmek.
Also worth watching: House District 33B, where incumbent Rep. Steve Smith, R-Mound, lost the GOP endorsement to Cindy Pugh, who has views tend to be more conservative than Smith's.
Senate District 47:
Bruce Schwichtenberg of Carver is trying to unseat Senate Tax Chair Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen. After a two-hour fight at the May convention, delegates in Senate District 47 left without endorsing a candidate.
Ortman said that the convention's unusual outcome had a lot to do with high turnout among delegates who support Ron Paul. They backed Schwichtenberg over Ortman.
For his part, Schwichtenberg said Ortman is not conservative enough for the district.
House District 4A:
Here, three Republicans and two Democrats want to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Morrie Lanning of Moorhead.
House District 6B:
Three Democrats and two Republicans filed for DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia's seat, who is retiring after 13 terms.
Just before the primary election, voters in Senate District 33 got more mailers from an outside group.
This week, Americans for Prosperity Minnesota (AFP-MN) sent out fliers targeting Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono, that say she stands with President Barack Obama on health care.
"Obamacare is bad medicine," the mailer states. "Yet Representative Connie Doepke refused to help fight it."
It's not the first time the SD 33 primary race between Doepke and GOP-endorsed David Osmek to replace retiring state Sen. Gen Olson has attracted outside attention. Last month, the Freedom Club, a conservative group linked to GOP donor Robert Cummins, funded mailers targeting Doepke on her spending record.
The Doepke-Osmek battle to win a spot on this year's ballot is turning out to be one of the most contested races of this year's primary election. It's among several contests that pit an incumbent Republican against a challenger who leans further to the right.
Doepke, who has Olson's endorsement, said those ads weren't true, and she's saying the same about the AFP-MN mailer, said her spokesman Jonathan Aanestad.
The mailer concerns an amicus brief in support of a suit the state of Florida filed challenging the health care law. It was signed by 68 Minnesota House members, including Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Majority Leader Matt Dean, and 23 members of the state Senate.
"[Doepke] was never offered it, she didn't know anything about it," said Aanestad. "It's hard to sign something that's not offered."
Doepke "absolutely in opposition to [the law] from the very beginning," Aanestad added.
AFP-MN director John Cooney said his group hasn't polled or seen any polling that suggests Doepke is vulnerable in this race.
"Anytime there is heightened interest within a community relative to the actions of policymakers, this is an opportunity for AFP to bring issues to the forefront of discussions amongst neighbors, friends and co-workers," Cooney wrote in an e-mail. "We want people to talk about taxes, regulations and the health care overhaul. Therein lies our interest in 33."
AFP-MN is the local branch of the conservative national group backed by major Republican donors Charles and David Koch. The group supports small government and lower taxes, and in Minnesota, it has sounded off about the health care law before.
Earlier this year, AFP-MN sent out mailers opposing incumbent state house Republicans for their votes on the Vikings Stadium.
For her part, Doepke has had to clarify her own list of endorsements. After including 3rd Congressional District Rep. Erik Paulsen on a campaign mailer, Paulsen sent out a statement reiterating his endorsement of Osmek.
Posted at 3:59 PM on August 13, 2012
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races, Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races, MN Legislature, Mark Dayton, State Government
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, is criticizing the proposed state employee contracts. Gov. Dayton and the state's two largest public employee unions have agreed on new contracts that provide an across the board pay increase of 2 percent. The contracts also require employees to pay higher health insurance co-pays. Zellers appeared on conservative radio host Scott Hennen's program, where he criticized the proposal.
"When you look at how many folks out there haven't had a raise or haven't had an increase in their paycheck or maybe took a cut in their paycheck, asking for a pay increase at this point in the economy, at this point where our nation in rebuilding, I think is overstepping the bounds," Zellers said.
The legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations met last week to discuss the contracts. The subcommittee has to act on the agreement within 30 days or the contracts will be enacted on a temporary basis. If the subcommittee, which is scheduled to meet again on August 23, rejects the contracts, they will not go into effect until the full Legislature votes on the contracts when it returns for the 2013 session. Zellers hinted that Republicans would not be inclined to support the contracts if they retain the majority.
"From a cost standpoint, we have a two year budget that we already negotiated, we've already planned out," he said. "Adding this on top of that, is an unexpected expense for that next legislative body. We still think we're going to be in the majority so you're asking us to add on to that next budget cycle."
An official with Minnesota Management and Budget says Zellers is incorrect when it comes to the cost of the contracts. He said the expected increases were already factored into the current state budget. He said agencies would have to cover any added costs within their existing budgets. MMB says it will cost the state $13 million more if the new contracts are approved.
Posted at 3:03 PM on August 9, 2012
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races, Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races, Campaign 2012: U.S. MN CD1, MN Legislature, Mark Dayton
State Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, had hoped to use today's Subcommittee on Employee Relations hearing to criticize new state employee contracts but he instead took fire for calling the meeting and how he ran it.
The contract proposals were agreed to by Governor Dayton's administration and the state's two largest public employee unions. The contracts call for an across the board 2 percent pay raise and higher health insurance co-pays. If the subcommittee approves the contracts they go into effect immediately.
Democrats repeatedly questioned why Parry called the hearing now. Several Democrats and union members said the timing is suspicious, given Tuesday's GOP primary in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District that pits Parry against Allen Quist.
"I question that you're using this committee as a different sort of tool than it's been historically used," Rep. Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul said at the outset of the hearing.
Parry repeatedly defended himself. Other lawmakers objected when Parry pounded his gavel and called the audience out of order for guffawing at Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, for saying he wanted to treat people fairly.
"Excuse me folks, don't make me clear the room," Parry told the audience. Listen
Lillie later questioned why Parry continued to interrupt and editorialize "when other members were asking questions" about the contracts.
"Is that how you work it in the Senate?" Lille asked
"When you're chair it is,' Parry responded.
"So all's good and fair in love and war in the Senate," Lillie said. "It's probably a blessing your down to your last three meetings. I figure you'll milk this for three days of per diem (legislative pay), perhaps." Listen
Parry quickly called a 10 minute recess and left the room. As he walked out, a member of the audience hollered "pop some pills!" in reference to Parry's recent comments that he saw Gov. Dayton take 15 to 16 pills during legislative negotiations.
The committee returned the focus to the state employee contracts after the recess.
But GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, said they were unhappy that performance-based pay wasn't included in the contract proposal.
"We're still left with length of service and steps as a proxy for value and performance and I don't think that's ultimately where we need to be to get the most out of our state workforce and to encourage innovation and to engage our workers in this difficult process of redesigning and restructuring what we're doing here for the future," Downey said.
Several union leaders and DFL lawmakers called the contract proposal a modest pay increase. Minnesota Association of Professional Employees said Republican opponents of the deal are being vindictive to state workers.
"It's time to move off of pettiness," Monroe said after the hearing. "It's time to get Parry and crew to recognize the work that state workers do and to ratify our contract and move on, so we can move on providing services to the state of Minnesota."
No matter how the subcommittee votes the full Legislature must accept or reject the contracts when the 2013 session starts in January.
Parry said he intends to hold a subcommittee vote on the contracts on Aug. 23. That's nine days after he'll know whether he's on the ballot for Congress in November or will be out of elected office altogether.(4 Comments)
GOP legislative leaders have scheduled a joint House-Senate hearing to focus on flood relief for northeastern Minnesota. Tuesday's hearing will focus on the infrastructure and individual damage caused by the summer flooding that affected Duluth and surrounding communities. Gov. Dayton and legislative leaders say they hope to call a one-day special session later this month to appropriate funding for affected communities.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has already declared the area a disaster area which will allow federal money to pay for 75 percent of the recovery. Dayton says he'd like to see the state pay for the rest of the clean-up costs.
Dayton has also appealed a decision by FEMA to reject flood recovery funds for individuals. The agency said the damage was not widespread enough to merit those funds.
The legislative hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 11:30 at the State Capitol.
State Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono, is pushing back against a mail campaign paid for by an outside spending group that typically supports candidates on her side of the aisle.
In a letter to Freedom Club founder Robert Cummins, Doepke, who is running in a GOP Primary in Senate District 33, says that her opponent and others have been spreading misinformation about her record on "right-to-work" legislation that would have made unions voluntary.
She's concerned that the Freedom Club's support of her GOP-endorsed primary opponent David Osmek, who also supports right-to-work legislation, hinged on that misinformation. Right-to-work legislation has been a top issue for the Freedom Club and, reportedly, for Cummins.
"I've been distressed that my opponent and others have distorted my vote and record on this issue, and especially in this past session when we came so close to putting this issue on the ballot," Doepke quoted from a letter she wrote Cummins on July 17.
Doepke says her support for right-to-work is clear, pointing to a letter Rep. Steve Drazkowski, a chief proponent of the bill, wrote thanking her for her support on the issue.
Doepke said that Cummins is one of her constituents and that he has been supportive of her campaigns in the past. The Freedom Club has also donated to Doepke in the past
But this time around, the Freedom Club, which is backed by wealthy Republican donors including Cummins, who is the organization's most generous financial benefactor, has been sending mailers to voters in Doepke's district near Lake Minnetonka targeting her spending record and praising Osmek .
"Connie Doepke voted to waste our tax dollars in Latin America for tropical bird habitats," says one mail piece sent by the group.
"Politicians like Connie Doepke's fiscally irresponsible leadership and wasteful spending is pushing out state and nation to the brink," the mailer goes on.
The same message is echoed on a website also set up by the Freedom Club.
But Doepke says those accusations aren't true, and so does retiring Sen. Gen Olson, the Republican both Doepke and Osmek are vying to replace this fall.
Olson, who has endorsed Doepke, came to her defense in an opinion piece posted on Doepke's website.
"Residents of the new Senate District #33 have received two literature pieces recently trashing Connie Doepke for wasteful spending of your tax dollars on tropical birds," Olson wrote. "They have been generated and paid for by the Freedom Club PAC with money given by business people for whom I have had great respect. These allegations, however, are not the truth."
Doepke voted in favor of the environment, energy and natural resources funding bill, which included a provision that allowed the DNR Commissioner to set aside money to improve habitat in Costa Rica for Minnesota songbirds, Olson wrote. That money comes from the Non-game Wildlife Fund, which Minnesota taxpayers voluntarily contribute to on their tax return. The check-off has been around since 1980, Olson explained.
For her part, Doepke is surprised by the amount of money the Freedom Club has so far spent on a primary race between two conservative candidates.
"I think that the unprecedented spending in a primary, this is amazing," Doepke said.
According to a recent finance report, the Freedom Club has spent more than $7,000, roughly split between mailers in support of Osmek and in opposition to Doepke.
The group has also spent about $2,500 against Republican Rep. Steve Smith, who is running for re-election in House District 33B. Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers recently endorsed Smith's opponent Cindy Pugh over Smith.
With the start of a tough election season nearing, the Senate DFL Caucus has more cash than Senate Republicans.
So far, the DFL has raised $1.36 million, largely coming from large dollar donations from individuals and groups. Among the party's largest individual donors is Alida Messinger, Gov. Mark Dayton's former wife and daughter of John D. Rockefeller III, who gave $50,000.
Other major donors include some of the state's Indian tribes, unions and political action committees.
The Senate DFL Caucus gave more than $215,000 of their cache to other parties, among other expenditures. That leaves the caucus with $1.25 million going into the election.
Meanwhile, the Senate Victory Fund, the pot of money used to raise and spend on behalf of Republican Senate candidates, has raised $410,332 so far this year. Nearly $20,000 came from Stanley Hubbard, chairman of Hubbard Broadcasting and reliable GOP donor.
Among other expenditures, the Senate Republicans spent a little over $18,000 on polling.
Still, the Senate GOP has about $860,400 in the bank, largely due to the nearly $700,000 it had saved up end of 2011.
The House DFL and House Republican caucuses are on more equal footing when it comes to cash in the bank.
House Republicans raised nearly $673,000 so far this year, and they have a little over $1 million saved up.
House DFLers have raised nearly $1.3 million this year, and have $1.2 million in the bank.
Neither House fundraising operation has so far spent money on mailers or other advertising for individual campaigns.
The Minnesota DFL Party has a big lead in this year's fundraising race, which could be crucial in deciding which party ends up controlling the state Legislature.
The numbers are stark: since the start of the year, the DFL Party has raised $2.2 million from individuals and groups, while the Republican Party has raised only $99,240 during the same period from individuals and groups.
At this time in 2010, the last election year, the Minnesota GOP had raised nearly $600,000 from individual contributors.
All told, the DFL's fundraising totaled nearly $2.3 million, which includes miscellaneous income, while the Minnesota GOP brought in nearly $400,000, with some of that cash coming from party convention registration fees and some coming in the form of in-kind contributions and unitemized income.
Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin says the numbers show his side is in a good position going into what's expected to be a tough fight for control of the Legislature.
"We're in a better position than we've been in a long time here at the DFL, and it's definitely a sign of things to come," Martin said.
GOP Party Chairman Pat Shortridge said the party is still rebuilding its coffers after learning it was deeply in debt last year. He said he's happy with how his party is doing on small dollar donations. The opposition, he said, is making its money from wealthy Minnesotans and unions.
"We're digging out of a hole and we're making progress," said Shortridge. "We always want it to go faster. We don't have Gov. Dayton's ex-wife, Alida Messinger, writing us $300,000 checks. Basically she's giving him a blank check to get a blank check Legislature that's going to give Gov. Dayton what he wants. They have more of the super wealthy donors writing great big checks to them."
Both parties are burning through cash quickly. Though the DFL has raised more than $2.2 million this year, it has spent almost all of it, leaving the party with only about $46,000 in the bank. Republicans did the same, and now have about $24,400 in the bank. The GOP also has a loan of $30,000.
Though the DFL has already spent a lot of the money it raised through its state fund, Martin points out that his party had more than $437,487 cash-on-hand in its federal fundraising account as of June, which can be transferred to the state account. For its part, the Minnesota GOP had about $40,600 cash-on-hand in its federal account at the end of June.
Martin added that the money spent is another sign his party is doing well.
"If you really dig deep into these reports I think the thing you'll see is just how robust our activity is compared to the Republicans," Martin said. "We have lots of activity going on out there, and Republicans are just paralyzed right now."
Most of the DFL's donations came from big names in the world of Minnesota Democratic politics and loyal contributors who have supported the party for years. Education Minnesota, the state's teachers' union gave nearly $230,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. Other unions, including the Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota gave generously as well.
The single largest individual donor to the DFL Party is Alida Messinger, Gov. Mark Dayton's former wife and the daughter of John D. Rockefeller III. She gave the party $302,500. She's a primary contributor to other fundraising campaigns set up to help Democrats take control of the state Legislature as well.
Other major DFL contributors include both the House and Senate DFL caucuses.
Meanwhile, some of the Republican Party of Minnesota's most generous donors do not appear on the party's roster, including Primera Technology owner Robert Cummins.
Cummins is one of the wealthiest and most influential GOP donors, who has largely funded his own outside spending group, the Freedom Club, and has been a reliable contributor to Republican campaigns and the parties for many years. Between 2010 and 2011, Cummins gave the Republican Party more than $700,000. And Cummins gave $30,000 to a special fund set up by the party to pay for Tom Emmer's legal fees during the 2010 gubernatorial recount. He was the only donor.
This year, Cummins has given nothing to the party's state account and only $10,000 to the party's federal account.
Other reliable Republican donors seem to have slowed their giving. For instance, Stanley Hubbard, Chairman of Hubbard Broadcasting, and his wife have so far given the party about $25,500. At this time in 2010, Hubbard had given the party $35,000.
The GOP's single largest individual donor this year is Robert Ulrich, the former CEO of Target, who gave $40,000.
Shortridge said the party still has some work to do with donors.
"Most of our donors have come back, and even some new ones," Shortridge said. "We're cognizant of the fact that we have more work to do. It's a daily process. You get up every day, you put one foot in front of the other and we're restoring confidence with our major donors. More importantly, we're explaining the plan that we have to get our work done as a party."
The state GOP is still dealing with the sudden resignation of the party's former chair Tony Sutton, the revelation that the party was $2 million in debt, and fallout from a scandal involving former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and her top aide Michael Brodkorb.
Most recently, the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board fined the party and the recount fund nearly $30,000.
That's only a fraction of the $848,708 the Minnesota GOP still owes vendors from prior work, including legal fees stemming from the recount, according to its state report.
The Minnesota DFL also has unpaid bills. According to the report, the party owes vendors $310,456, including $111,831 to law firm Fredrickson and Byron for their assistance during the redistricting process.
The two parties are on more equal footing when it comes to how much they have spent to assist individual candidates.
The Republicans have invested nearly $3,000 into individual races, including mailers in support of Cory Jensen, who is running for an open seat in Senate District 46, which encompasses Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park, Gregg Kulberg running in Senate District 20, which includes Chippewa and Lac Qui Parle counties, and Bruce Lundeen, who is running in Senate District 61, which includes parts of Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, the DFL party has spent roughly $3,800 on Sen. Kari Dziedizic's re-election campaign in Senate District 60, including parts of Minneapolis.
The Freedom Club, a conservative group backed by Minnesota business and wealthy Republican donors, is wading into the GOP primary battle in Senate District 33.
In the last two weeks, the organization, which typically helps out conservative candidates, has sent out two mailers - one in favor of David Osmek, the GOP-endorsed candidate, and one opposing incumbent Republican Rep. Connie Doepke, who already represents constituents who live near Lake Minnetonka.
"They apparently like me better than they like Connie Doepke, and they're showing it rather publicly," said Osmek of the tri-fold mailers that have been showing up in mailboxes around his region.
It's a slight shift for the Freedom Club, which gave Doepke $500 in 2008 for her House race, according to finance records.
Doepke did not return a call for comment.
Both Osmek and Doepke are seeking to replace retiring Sen. Gen Olson in the Minnesota Senate.
The Freedom Club has been around for years, but has recently become an important player in Minnesota elections, spending several hundred thousand dollars in 2010 to usher a new class of Republican legislators into Minnesota Legislature.
The group's founder and primary benefactor, Robert Cummins, is the state's most generous Republican donor. He shuns public attention and traditionally has influenced Minnesota politics through donations to the Freedom Club, the party or directly to specific candidates.
The law prevents the Freedom Club from coordinating its direct mail or any other advertising with the candidates.
But Osmek has seen both mail pieces.
"One is a really well-designed - frankly, I think it was better designed than my first piece," he said. It focused on a "message about Dave Osmek being the Republican endorsed candidate and that I'm the right choice to lead Senate District 33."
The second piece goes after Doepke's votes on a number of issues, including her spending record, Osmek said.
Osmek has not been formally endorsed by the group, which typically invites select candidates to speak to the organization as part of its vetting process.
Nevertheless, Osmek has had informal conversations with individual members of the Club who live in his area, and says that among the topics of discussion is his support for right-to-work legislation that would make unions voluntary. It's a top issue for the Freedom Club and reportedly for Cummins.
Osmek isn't the only candidate in District 33 that's getting an assist from the Freedom Club. The group has also sent out a mailer opposing Rep. Steve Smith, Osmek said. Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers recently announced that he's backing Smith's opponent, Cindy Pugh, who won the party's endorsement earlier this year.
A handful of business-backed groups that played an instrumental role in supporting Republican legislative candidates in 2010 have stepped up fundraising in the last month, according to a recent round of finance reports.
For instance, the Freedom Club, a group that spent generously in 2010 to help elect new Republican legislators in the Minnesota House, has raised roughly $44,000 since June, when the last round of finance reports were filed.
As it has in the past, the cash came from a relatively small group of Minnesota business people giving $1,000 or $2,000 at a time. So far, the Freedom Club hasn't invested any cash in specific races.
Noticeably absent from the Freedom Club's donor list so far is Robert Cummins, the group's founder and the state's most generous GOP contributors. But Cummins, who is known for shunning publicity and keeping a low profile, gave the Freedom Club more than $200,000 in 2011, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the $321,550 the group has in the bank.
Minnesota's Future, a group largely funded by the Republican Governors Association in 2010 that spent $1.4 million to help Tom Emmer in his unsucessful run for governor, has started padding its election-year coffers, too. Since the start of the year, the group has raised $175,000, with $100,000 coming in on June 22 from Davisco Foods International.
Chris Tiedeman, who works for PR shop Weber Johnson and runs the fund, says to expect more from the group this fall when it comes to state legislative races.
"We haven't locked down all of our plans for the late summer and fall, but we've been active the last couple of cycles and we'll continue to participate in the electoral cycles," Tiedeman said.
Minnesota's Future is already figuring out the lay of the land: the House and Senate GOP caucus fundraising arms shared polling data with group in June, an assist listed as an in-kind contribution Minnesota's Future's report.
The Minnesota Business Partnership's fund has raised nearly $132,000 since the start of the year with about $47,000 of that coming in since early June.
Meanwhile, a small coalition of liberal organizations determined to win the Minnesota Legislature for the DFL has so far raised more than $1 million since the start of the year.
Together, WIN Minnesota PAC its sister 2012 Fund have brought in $1.3 million, money that is meant to help the Alliance for a Better Minnesota Action Fund advertise on behalf of DFL candidates or against their opponents.
But since early June, WIN Minnesota PAC and the 2012 Fund have raised little cash compared to their haul in the first six months of the year. Still, the groups have a combined $1.2 million in the bank.
A political organization that backs DFL candidates is launching an advertsing campaign tied to the one-year anniversary of last summer's state government shutdown.
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota said today that it will run newspaper and online ads in targeted legislative districts. According to a news release, the ads will blame Republican legislators for causing the shutdown, which lasted 20 days.
"We must remember the extremism that caused legislative Republicans to reject fair compromises on the road to the state shutdown," wrote ABM executive director Carrie Lucking.
The newspaper ads will also feature the names of Minnesotans who have signed the organization's "No More Shutdowns" petition.
Attorneys for a former GOP staffer have set a deadline for the Minnesota Senate to settle its case. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, attorneys for Michael Brodkorb requested the two sides try to reach a settlement.
"Prior to filing a Summons and Complaint in this case in District Court, to save on expenses and avoid unnecessary publicity, I suggest that we sit down for early mediation on this matter in order to try and reach a global settlement," wrote Brodkorb's attorney Phil Villaume.
Villaume also said he wanted attorneys representing the Senate to notify him whether they are open to mediation before July 16.
The letter notified the Senate that Brodkorb intends to also sue Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman for invasion of privacy.
"Mr. Brodkorb's unemployment information is 'absolutely privileged' and by releasing said information, Cal Ludeman and the State of Minnesota are liable to Mr. Brodkorb for invasion of privacy."
Ludeman confirmed to MPR News in April that the Department of Employment and Economic Development rejected Brodkorb's application for unemployment benefits. He declined comment today. Ludeman has previously said that the Senate will not settle with Brodkorb.
The Notice of Claims was filed yesterday, the same day that Brodkorb met privately with GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem and Deputy Senate Majority Leader Julianne Ortman. Senjem and Brodkorb declined to say what was discussed at the meeting.
Brodkorb is planning to sue the Senate for wrongful termination, defamation of character and invasion of privacy. He's seeking at least $500,000 in damages. He claims that he was fired in December for having an affair with Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch even though female staffers who had affairs with their male employers were treated differently. Koch resigned her leadership position after being confronted about the affair. She is not running for re-election.
Brodkorb's attorneys say they're waiting for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to weigh in on the matter before they file suit.
Last week the Senate Rules Committee approved $85,000 in taxpayer money to pay for an outside attorney to help prepare for the pending litigation.
Here's the Notice of Claims:2 Comments)
Republican Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem and Deputy Senate Majority Leader Julianne Ortman met privately today at a St. Paul coffee shop with former Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb. MPR News learned of the meeting, which was later confirmed by Senjem. Brodkorb has said he plans to sue the Senate for wrongful dismissal after he was fired from his job last December.
Senjem would not say what was discussed at the meeting.
"We had a brief conversation," Senjem said. "I can't go any further than that because it's a private conversation."
Ortman didn't return calls. Brodkorb said in an e-mail that he no comment about the meeting.
Brodkorb's attorney, Phillip Villaume, was surprised to hear of the meeting.
"It's news to me," Villaume said. He said he had "no clue" when first asked about the focus of the meeting. Later Villaume said it was a 10 minute "by chance meeting." He said there was a discussion about Brodkorb's suit against the Senate. Another person with knowledge of the meeting said Brodkorb, Senjem and Ortman met for roughly 30 minutes.
Villaume said he didn't know what specifically was discussed at the meeting and said Brodkorb would not discuss the issue further. Villaume also stressed that the meeting was "not a lawyer authorized meeting." He said Brodkorb is still his client. Brodkorb's attorneys had been pushing for an outside mediator to settle the issue, but that idea was later rebuffed by Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman.
The meeting between Senjem, Ortman and Brodkorb comes less than a week after the Senate Rules Committee approved $85,000 in legal fees to an outside attorney who is preparing to defend the Senate in Brodkorb's pending lawsuit.
Brodkorb filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming he was dismissed because of gender discrimination. Villaume said he expects the EEOC to issue a what's known as a right-to-sue letter in two weeks. That letter could pave the way for Brodkorb to file a lawsuit in federal court.
Villaume says Brodkorb will seek at least $500,000 in damages. He claims that he was wrongfully dismissed for having an affair with Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. His attorneys say he dismissed even though female staffers remained in their jobs even though they had affairs with male lawmakers.
Koch stepped down from her leadership position in December after being confronted about the affair. She is not running for re-election.(4 Comments)
An early peek at the finances of a tight-knit group of liberal donors and political committees shows that fundraising and spending on a campaign to flip the Legislature in the DFL's favor is already underway.
Groups expected to do a great deal of fundraising to win seats for Democratic lawmakers have together raised $1.3 million.
Leading spending on the effort to win the Legislature is the Alliance for a Better Minnesota Action Fund, a special fund set up by the Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM), which has raised $136,000 in cash since the start of the year, and has collected an additional $19,900 in in-kind contributions during the same period.
That's compared to roughly $93,000 the group had collected in cash and in-kind contributions around this time in 2010, when ABM was gearing up to help elect a DFL governor.
ABM has already started spending the cash on a few legislative races it thinks Democrats can win, including mailers opposing Republicans Keith Downey, who is running in state Senate District 49 in Edina area, David Hancock, who is running in House District 2A in northwestern Minnesota, Ted Lillie, who is running in Senate District 53 in the east metro, and Doug Wardlow, who is running in House District 51B in Eagan.
ABM Executive Director Carrie Lucking said the early round of mailers focused on property tax increases, an issue that is at the core of ABM's election-year messaging.
"Unlike a statewide race, this was a situation where we had the ability to point out some key votes in the Legislature that were very out of step with the values of certain legislator's constituents, and we felt we needed to take that opportunity," Lucking said.
All told, the ABM Action Fund has spent more than $51,500 on independent expenditures.
Most of the ABM Action Fund's cash came from WIN Minnesota Action Fund, which collects substantial amounts from wealthy donors and, in the past, has given almost exclusively to the ABM Action Fund.
WIN Minnesota Action Fund reports bringing in more than $652,000 so far. By far the group's top donor is Alida Messinger, who helped launch WIN Minnesota and is Gov. Mark Dayton's ex-wife. This year, she's given $500,000 to WIN Minnesota.
Messinger also gave $50,000 to the 2012 Fund, which two years ago also funneled much of its cash to the ABM Action Fund. Attorney Sam Heins, one of President Barack Obama's top Minnesota fundraisers, also gave $50,000 to the 2012 Fund, as did investor Vance Opperman. So far, the group has raised a total of $695,000.
Meanwhile, there's been less action so far among a constellation of business-backed political funds that supported Republican Tom Emmer's campaign for governor in 2010, and that helped elect state lawmakers who back pro-business initiatives.
For instance, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Leadership Fund has raised $42,240 since the start of the year. Among its expenditures are a $10,000 to the state House Republican re-election fund and a $5,000 to the state Senate Republican re-election fund.
The Chamber's Pro Jobs Majority fund, which collects dollars mostly from businesses, raised more than $94,000 so far this year and ended the reporting period with nearly $225,000 in cash. But so far, it hasn't spent any of that money on specific candidates.
Another Chamber of Commerce fund that spent largely on legislative races in 2010 has raised more than $20,800 and has so far spent very little of that cash.
The Minnesota Business Partnership also played a significant role in the 2010 elections. The group's political fund has raised $84,700 this year, in addition to the $121,204 it had in the bank Jan. 1. It's spent $42,000 so far with $40,000 going to the House and Senate Republican re-election committees.
Minnesota Business Partnership Communications Director Mark Giga said it's still early for his organization to be raising and spending lots of cash.
"I don't think our inactivity or activity is any different than past election years as far as our political action committee goes," he said. "People don't really pay attention until after the State Fair."
Noticeably absent from the money race so far is the Freedom Club, an organization started by prominent conservative donor Robert Cummins. In 2010, the group spent all its money on electing Republican lawmakers to the state Legislature, and Cummins contributed substantially to the effort.
This year, the Freedom Club has raised $3,000 on top of the more than $285,000 it had in the bank at the start of 2012. Its expenditures have been so far limited to nearly $9,000 consulting, accounting and legal fees.
Americans for Prosperity Minnesota, the local arm of the conservative Americans for Prosperity, is targeting three state Senate incumbents for supporting the new Vikings stadium.
In an unusual twist, two of those targets are Republicans: Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont who is running in SD 23 and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria who is running in SD 8. The third, Sen. Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka, is a Democrat running in SD 44.
"We simply don't agree with publicly funded stadiums," said John Cooney who is state director of Minnesota's branch of Americans for Prosperity (AFP).
"A nearly half a billion dollar boondoggle taxpayers can't afford. Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen sided with corporate special interests and his policies are costing taxpayers," an example of the flier reads. It calls the Vikings stadium deal a "give away" to corporate special interests.
The Vikings stadium will cost the state $348 million paid for with new, expanded electronic pull tabs and bingo. The City of Minneapolis will kick in $150 million paid for with existing sales and hospitality taxes.
All three senators were instrumental in writing and passing the Vikings stadium deal.
Bonoff is running against former Republican Sen. David Gaither, and the race is considered competitive by both parties.
The fliers also highlight the senators' other votes, including one against allowing voters to decide on the so-called right-to-work constitutional amendment.
AFP supports small government and low taxes. It was founded by David Koch, a well-known name among conservative donors and co-owner of Koch Industries, a conglomerate that operates oil refineries and owns several household goods brands.
Koch serves as chairman of the organization's tax-exempt educational arm, according to recent tax filings. A separate arm of AFP is allowed to pay for political advertisements, such as the fliers showing up in Minnesota.
The AFP-Minnesota mailers may raise some eyebrows; it's unusual for a right-leaning organization to oppose the records of right-leaning lawmakers.
But Cooney said that political affiliation doesn't always mean much to AFP.
"The votes that they took certainly weren't conservative in nature," he said. "We believe that you don't just fight for conservative issues, but you hold our public representatives accountable for the votes they take."
AFP has chapters in more than 30 states, including Minnesota, but the group here has kept a relatively low profile since it opened up shop in 2011. It weighed in on the right-to-work debate, it hosted a rally for tax cuts featuring former GOP contender Herman Cain, and it commissioned a poll about the Vikings stadium.
Cooney estimates that the group has roughly 17,000 members. And its funding currently comes from donors in the state.
Cooney isn't sure which legislative races or which issues AFP-MN will be weighing in on next, but added that the group will be focusing on the legislative performance of any number of state lawmakers.
"Our hope is that we won't be seeing bills like [the Vikings stadium bill] come up again in the near future" he said. "We want to be part of the dialogue in the state on how we spend our taxpayer dollars."
The Office of Administrative hearings ruled today that a case accusing Republicans in the Minnesota Senate of using taxpayer money for campaign literature may go forward.
An administrative law panel ruled that all but one of the complaints against the Senate Republican Caucus, 15 Senate Republicans and the spokesman for the Senate GOP may continue.
The DFL Party filed the complaint in February after several senators handed out pamphlets at precinct caucuses. Those leaflets outlined the legislative successes of the first year in power for Senate Republicans but also linked to websites that solicited political contributions. Democrats argued the pamphlets violated state law that prohibits using taxpayer money to campaign for office. Republicans wanted the charges dismissed because they said the leaflets were constituent services pieces.
(Note: Senate GOP spokesman Steve Sviggum apologized in February and said he would refund the state of Minnesota).
The administrative law panel said there is enough evidence to proceed with a hearing but did dismiss a complaint against Senator Doug Magnus. He said he didn't prepare or distribute the materials.
A hearing date on the matter has not been scheduled yet.
Here's the ruling:
David Carlson says he's challenging the Republican-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate because he thinks State Representative Kurt Bills' tie to Ron Paul will make Bills unelectable in a general election.
In 2008, Carlson had the Republican endorsement in the state house race in district 67-B, but lost.
In a news release announcing his U.S. Senate campaign, Carlson stated that he thinks Bills is the wrong candidate for Minnesota Republicans.
"I wholeheartedly believe that if we nominate Kurt Bills to represent the Republican Party, leading the state ballot, his radical affiliation with Ron Paul will crush any chances the Republican Party has of maintaining the Minnesota State House and State Senate," stated Carlson.
Carlson, 30 years old, planned a Friday morning State Capitol news conference to talk about his campaign.
Minnesota Republicans endorsed Kurt Bills at their state convention in St. Cloud on May 18, 2012. Texas Congressman and GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul backed Bills over Republicans Dan Severson and Pete Hegseth who were also seeking the endorsement. Severson and Hegseth ended their campaigns.
The Bills campaign said it had "no comment" on Carlson's primary challenge.
According to information on the Minnesota Secretary of State website, Carlson filed his campaign papers on June, 5.
The winner of the Republican primary will run against DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the November general election.
You can listen to Carlson's speech here: Listen
MPR's Tom Scheck contributed to this report.
At a campaign stop in Rosemount Kurt Bills didn't sound too concerned about the primary challenge.
"I have never met David Carlson. I'm sorry I don't really know who he is. I'll have to look into him, we'll investigate, but I'm a Kurt Bills Republican and that's who were going to go out and talk to Minnesota about," Bills said. "And once they get to know me, they're going to vote for me in November. I just know it."
Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, announced today that he's not running for reelection. Vandeveer, who already filed for office, announced that he's reversing his decision. He said his declining health played a huge factor in deciding to not run again.
"I was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2000 and my thought at that time was that I would serve until it started impacting my ability to represent my constituents," Vandeveer said. "In the wake of a grueling session I decided that the time has come."
Vandeveer was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2006. He was first elected to the Minnesota House in 1998. Vandeveer said he put off his decision until the last minute and said it was an extremely difficult.
"Campaigning has been a huge part of my family for my last 15 years and they'd walk on nails to see my get reelected but I don't want to put them through that again."
Vandeveer is one of the more conservative members of the Minnesota Senate. He said he wanted to be remembered for fighting against government spending, less government intervention and for personal freedom and opportunity.
Republicans now have to scramble to find another candidate on the final day of filing. Former Rep. Julie Bunn, DFL-Lake Elmo, is running for the seat. Update: Two Republicans have filed for the seat. Karin Housley and Eric Michael Langness. Housley failed in her bid for the Minnesota Senate in 2010. She lost to Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport.
Redistricting paired Vandeveer and Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo. Lillie decided to move into an open seat rather than to challenge Vandeveer for the GOP endorsement.
Vandeveer's decision means there are 16 members of the Senate not running for reelection.
Here's the list:
Democrats not running for re-election:
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon
Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights
Sen. Ken Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis
Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis
Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul
Republicans not running for re-election:
Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas
Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton
Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca (Running for Congress)
Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo
Sen. Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley
Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel
Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina
Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan
Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista
Sen. Al DeKruif, R-Madison Lake
Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake
Incumbent state Rep. Steve Smith, R-Mound, filed today to run for re-election in House District 33B.
Smith is serving his 11th term in the Minnesota House. He is
currently a former chairman of the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee.
Smith will face the endorsed GOP candidate, Cindy Pugh of Chanhassen, in the Aug. 14 primary. After waiting until the last day to file, Smith said he thought long and hard about the decision.
"I want to continue to do good work at the Capitol," Smith said. "I think I've served well for 22 years, and I want to continue."
Other incumbents who waited until the last day to file included Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, and Rep.Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley.
Posted at 1:28 PM on June 4, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races
Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono, announced today that she will run in the primary election in August against the GOP-endorsed candidate in Senate District 33.
Doepke is serving her second term in the Minnesota House. She decided earlier this year to run for the Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista. But at the district endorsing convention last month, Doepke lost to David Osmek of Mound.
After filing her paperwork with the Secretary of State's office, Doepke explained that she felt the endorsing process was "taken over" by a "small group of activists."
"I didn't feel that my constituents had the representation at the endorsing convention that they deserved," Doepke said. "People have called me and said they want me to run in the primary."
Osmek, a longtime member of the Mound City Council, said he was disappointed by Doepke's decision. He said she respected the wishes of GOP delegates twice before but is now turning her back on them.
Osmek said he had the support of more than 40 percent of the delegates on the first ballot in a three-way race. The other candidate was backed by Ron Paul supporters, but Osmek said he eventually won their support.
"I certainly do not espouse to all of things that those supporters are, but I think I best next matched what they were looking for in a candidate," Osmek said.
Posted at 10:29 AM on May 29, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races
State Sen. John Harrington, DFL- St. Paul, says he has decided to not seek re-election this fall.
Harrington will step aside after just two years at the Minnesota Legislature. The former St. Paul police chief was elected in 2010, replacing retiring Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul. But the DFL lost its Senate majority for the first time in nearly four decades. Harrington says the just completed session was particularly frustrating as a member of the minority party, and he began questioning his passion for the office.
"Four more years of gridlock, of an incredibly short-sighted agenda wasn't something that I could get up in the morning and look forward to going down there and battling those dragons," Harrington said.
The announcement is expected to trigger more interest in the East side seat, which already had another DFL candidate planning to challenge the incumbent in a primary. Harrington did not win the DFL endorsement in March, but he insists that was not a factor in his decision.
"That's how I got here. I got in here with not being endorsed and having run in a large primary. So no, that wasn't really a factor at all. This is really about service and about where do you want to plant your flag and where do you want to be. That's what the decision came down to."
Harrington said he plans campaign this fall in opposition to the marriage and voter ID constitutional amendments that are on the statewide ballot.
Harrington's announcement means there are 15 members of the Minnesota Senate that have decided to not run for re-election. Here's the list.
Democrats not running for re-election
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon
Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights
Sen. Ken Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis
Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis
Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul
Republicans not running for re-election
Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas
Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton
Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca (Running for Congress)
Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo
Sen. Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley
Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel
Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina
Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan
Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista
Sen. Al DeKruif, R-Madison Lake
There are 27 members of the Minnesota House who aren't running for re-election.
Nathan Atkins of Minneapolis has an interesting take on those who question his love for Ron Paul - a tin foil hat. Atkins crafted a hat out of tin foil to mock those who say Paul supporters are believe in black helicopters and wear tin foil hats.
"A lot of people say the Ron Paul people are conspiracy nuts," Atkins said. "This is a play on that."
Minnesota Republican Party officials are urging Republican delegates and voters to unify behind U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills.
Bills tried to showcase that unity this morning as he hosted a breakfast fundraiser for the Republican Party of Minnesota. The featured guest was Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a presidential candidate who has quite a following at this year's convention. Paul urged the party to rally around Bills' campaign, which he says stands conservative principles similar to his own.
"He can't even get their without your support and your money and your work and your effort," Paul said. "But he's the kind of individual who will stand strong."
The event attracted 600 people and raised $12,000 for the Republican Party of Minnesota. Minnesota Republican Party Chair Pat Shortridge thanked the audience, which was dominated by Paul supporters. But Shortridge said he wanted to see them work for all Republican candidates in November.
"This breakfast would not be successful and will not be successful if you're not taking this same passion, this same energy, this same enthusiasm, back to communities, back to where you live and to persuade people to get on the bus," Shortridge said.
But unity could face a big test later today as supporters of Paul and likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney battle to decide which candidate will win the 13 remaining delegates to represent the state party at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL.
The state party will have a total of 40 delegates at the national convention. They include party Shortridge, the state's National Committeeman and National Committeewoman. Twenty of the 24 delegates already selected at earlier conventions are backing Ron Paul over Romney.
And even though Romney is the presumptive nominee, he has little presence at this year's convention. Despite a handful of signs plastered on the convention walls, there are few people vocally supporting him. Romney surrogates, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, are not at the event speaking on his behalf. The party did play a 43-second video message from Romney's wife, Ann.
"President Obama has our country headed in the wrong direction, and it is up to us, together, to get this great nation back on track," Ann Romney said on the video message. "Mitt and I would appreciate your support for the Conservative Unity Slate endorsed by Romney for President."
That Conservative Unity Slate features GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, Deputy Party Chair Kelly Fenton, former Congressman Mark Kennedy and several state lawmakers. The Romney campaign is trying to create a slate that could be attractive to supporters of Ron Paul.
But Paul supporters have been working behind the scenes to ensure that their delegates make it to Tampa. Mark Santelman of Winthrop is one of the Paul supporters who wants to be a national delegate. He said one of the reasons he wants to be at the convention in Florida is to force Romney and other national candidates to adhere to constitutional principles.
"If Romney is the candidate, I'm going to vote for him and work for him, but we want to bind him down," Santelman said. "That's my goal as a delegate is to just get a Republican Party that says OK, we're going to vet our candidates better."
Will be updated...
From MPR's Conrad Wilson...
Texas Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul spoke at the Republican state convention in St. Cloud today.
Paul affirmed his support for state Representative Kurt Bills, who earlier won the GOP's endorsement to take on US Sen. Amy Klobuchar in November.
Paul's support helped propel Bills to winning the endorsement. As he talked to delegates about his message of limited government, personal liberty and a less aggressive U.S. foreign policy, Paul also struck a chord of bi-partisanship.
"Whether liberals or conservatives or modest Republicans, come together and do the right thing. What don't we just all come together and all obey the Constitution," Paul said. "That would be a unique idea."
Four years ago Paul was not allowed to speak to the state Republican convention.
You can listen to Paul's speech here: Listen
With MPR's Conrad Wilson...
ST. CLOUD - Former Minnesota Rep. Dan "Doc" Severson took the stage in St. Cloud pushing a platform backed by "new American's and minorities." A former Navy pilot, Severson was the first Republican to announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate a year ago.
"I'm the only one running with a proven track record," Severson said. "I'm the only candidate with name recognition and an effective state-wide ground game."
Severson also mentioned that he received 1 million votes in his 2010 campaign for Minnesota Secretary of State. He lost that bid to DFLer Mark Ritchie. Severson also mentioned that Republicans haven't won a statewide election since 2006. He said Republicans have to reach out to nonwhite voters in the Twin Cities.
"We need to reach out to conservative groups in the inner city," he said. "I'm the only candidate who has reached out those minority communities. And in fact I've spent the last two years forging relationships."
Severson said, if elected, he'll work to repeal the federal health care law, the Dodd/Frank financial regulation bill and push to audit the federal reserve.
Severson also said his fingerprints were on the two proposed constitutional amendments that will be on the November ballot. He was an author of the definition of marriage amendment when he served in the Minnesota House. He also pushed for requiring people to show photo identification to vote.
During a video presented to the delegates, Severson touted his work on the so-called photo ID amendment.
"In 2010, I fought for photo ID and narrowly lost that battle to a [George] Soros funded incumbent but we won the war," Severson said. "Photo ID will be on the ballot in November."
Listen to Severson's speech here: Listen
About 2,200 Republican delegates gathered in St. Cloud today. Their main job is to endorse a candidate for U.S. Senate. They will also vote on Saturday to parcel out the remaining 13 delegates that will represent Minnesota at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
The morning's session got bogged down as delegates debated convention rules and how the convention will operate.
Some shouted "you're wrong" when Republican Party Chair Pat Shortridge announced that the party rules were mailed to every delegate. Others argued over the proper disclaimers on signs being raised on the convention floor.
Party officials are hoping that the U.S. Senate endorsement contest will start at noon.
There are five candidates vying for the party's endorsement but there are three that are getting the most attention.
State Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount, is the expected front-runner. Bills has the backing of presidential hopeful Ron Paul, Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, and Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers. Bills is a high school economics teacher serving his first term in the state House.
Minnesota National Guard Army Captain Pete Hegseth is also running. Hegseth has garnered plenty of national support including Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He was also executive director for Vets for Freedom, which supported former President George W. Bush on the war in Iraq.
Former state Rep. Dan Severson is also running. Severson is also a military veteran and has the most election experience, running as the Republican nominee for Minnesota Secretary of State in 2010. He lost that race to Mark Ritchie.
Harold Shudlick and Bob Carney are also running.
The endorsement contest is expected to start around noon. A candidate needs to win 60 percent support to win the endorsement.
Some delegates are still weighing their options. Fred Wright of Moorhead said he's not sure who he'll support for the Senate nomination.
"I think we've got three very good conservative candidates right now," Wright said. "Politically, ideologically they're all good. So I think then it becomes a question of who's got the strongest committee, who's done the most leg work, who a lot of the delegates feel is the most electable. It's going to an interesting day."
Bills, Severson and Hegseth have all agreed to step aside if one of the others wins party backing.
As MPR's Mark Zdechlik reported this morning, Ron Paul and his backers are exhibiting some strength at the convention.
Paul has announced that he's no longer actively campaigning for the White House but is still seeking delegate support at state conventions. Paul is expected to address the convention tonight. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to win the presidential nomination.
Party leaders are hoping that any disputes between Paul supporters and Romney supporters is handled amicably. Arguments betwen factions at some other state party conventions resulted in shouts and fighting.
Shortridge started the convention by suggesting the group leave the convention unified and end "Republican on Republican violence."
Will be updated....
The Deputy Majority Leader of the Minnesota Senate didn't win her party's endorsement for re-election on Tuesday night.
Republican delegates in Senate District 47 chose not to endorse a candidate after neither incumbent Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, nor auto mechanic Bruce Schwichtenberg could win 60 percent delegate support after five ballots.
No endorsement means primary voters will decide which candidate should represent the party in the November election.
Schwichtenberg says he believes his work as vice chair of the Carver County Republican Party will help him win the August primary. He said he's concerned that Ortman authored plans to tax internet purchases and make other changes that he considers tax increases.
"There's a lot of tax bills that she's authored that, quite frankly, a lot of Democrats would be proud of," Schwichtenberg said.
Ortman, who chairs the Senate Taxes Committee, did not respond to an interview request but said in a text message that she has no plans yet except to take a couple of days off.(1 Comments)
Minutes after the gavel went down on the end of the 2012 legislative session, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota went live with a new website that will serve as a landing pad for the liberal group's campaign for Democrats to take back the Legislature.
"A Better Legislature" is "an online and paid media campaign to hold legislators accountable for their misplaced priorities and to make the public aware of the negative impacts of Republican leadership on Minnesota," a press release on the new website states.
The campaign will highlight homes and schools, the website says - two issues that the Republican-controlled Legislature has "consistently ignored" by "increasing property taxes on middle-class families and borrowing billions of dollars from Minnesota's schools."
If this video is any indication, "A Better Legislature" provides an peek at what ABM's strategy will be over the next few months: hammer the GOP for last year's government shutdown, two constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot this fall, and former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch's affair with former staffer Michael Brodkorb.
With financial assistance from a handful of wealthy donors, including members of Gov. Mark Dayton's family, unions and other interest groups, ABM poured all its resources into electing Dayton in 2010.
But Democrats lost control of the Legislature that year, and ABM leaders have said they plan to make winning seats for DFLers their priority in 2012.
Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul will speak at the Minnesota Republican Convention in St. Cloud on May 18.
Having the Texas Congressman speak "will highlight our common Republican purpose of restoring limited government and individual liberty by electing Republican candidates who believe in those core party principles," said Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Pat Shortridge.
"It will also establish the Republican Party as the growing party that is welcoming new people and new ideas and preparing to be a long-term, conservative governing majority," Shortridge said.
Paul is scheduled after the conclusion of the U.S. Senate endorsement, according to a party statement.
Paul's Minnesota supporters are already expected to be well represented at the convention. That could help Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount, as he seeks party endorsement to challenge DFL incumbent Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Bills endorsed Paul earlier this year, and Paul returned the favor.
Bills' opponents Dan Severson and Pete Hegseth have been playing up Bills' association with Paul. The two say that Bills and Paul's anti-establishment politics are out-of-step with most Republicans, and that Bills won't be able to beat Klobuchar in the general election as a result.
The campaign for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills reports raising "more than $50,000" in the "first three weeks of fundraising." The campaign said he raised the money from more than 500 donors.
"The number of motivated, regular people contributing to our campaign is so encouraging because that is ultimately the key over the long haul," Bills' campaign chair Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, said in a statement.
Since Bills report hasn't yet been published on the FEC site, it isn't clear whether the fundraising totals released by the campaign include money raised in the 2nd quarter of the year. Federal candidates are required to report their fundraising activities from January 1 through April 1. Bills announced his candidacy on March 8 of this year.
Update: Mike Osskopp, the campaign manager for Bills, says the FEC report will show BIlls raised $47k from 470 donors during the 1st Quarter of the year.
The Bills campaign also announced in a press release that Bills has the support of 34 legislators. His campaign has not yet provided specifics on which members are backing the Rosemount Republican.
Bills is the last Republican U.S. Senate candidate to release his fundraising reports. Army veteran Pete Hegseth reported raising $160,000 in the first quarter. Former state Rep. Dan Severson reported raising $53,000 in the same time period.
Whoever wins the GOP nomination will challenge DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar in November.
The chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee announced this morning that she's not running for re-election. Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, says she made the decision after thinking about it for the past year.
"Sixteen years in this position is long enough," Robling said in a statement. "I find my enthusiasm for doing this job for another four years is waning. I think it's time to let someone else step into this spot."
Robling also said that she's becoming more concerned that the Legislature has become more partisan over the years.
"I fear that statesmen are vanishing as partisanship deepens," Robling said in a statement. "It is very difficult to pass common sense measures into law these days because special interest groups block or promote agendas that only benefit themselves."
Robling was first elected in 1996 and didn't face a serious challenge in the upcoming election. She has represented Scott County over the past ten years.
Robling is one of the most senior members in the Senate Republican Caucus. She's also the 14th member of the Senate to announce that they're not running in November (10 Republicans and four Democrats). A court panel released a new set of political boundaries in February.
Update: Here's an interview MPR's Tom Crann did with Robling:
Here's the list of retirements:
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon
Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas (opted to run for Congress in the 7th District but lost the endorsement to Lee Byberg)
Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton
Sen. Al DeKruif, R-Madison Lake (announced retirement after he was paired with GOP Sen. Julie Rosen)
Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca (running for Congress in the 1st District)
Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo
Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel(lost endorsement battle with GOP Sen. Michelle Benson)
Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista
Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina
Sen. Clair Robling, R-Jordan
Sen. Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley
Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis
Sen. Ken Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis (lost endorsement battle to Michelle Wikilund)
Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights (lost endorsement battle to DFL Sen. John Marty)
Posted at 9:43 PM on April 10, 2012
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races, Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races, MN Legislature, Mark Dayton, Redistricting
State Rep. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, has won a special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Gary Kubly. Koenen received 54 percent of the vote. Republican Gregg Kulberg received 40 percent and Independence Party member Leon Greenslit was third with five percent of the vote. The district includes Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Renville, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties.
Gov. Dayton called the special election to fill the vacant seat after Kubly died from ALS in March. Koenen will serve out the remainder of Kubly's term but will also challenge GOP Sen. Joe Gimse in a newly configured Senate district. A court-appointed panel paired Gimse and Kubly when they designed the new political boundaries in February.
Koenen announced he would challenge Gimse after he was paired Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock in the new political boundaries.
Update: Gov. Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci says Dayton will not call a special election to fill Koenen's seat. She said it's not possible to fill the seat this legislative session (based on timing). She said the seat will be filled on the Nov. 6 general election.(2 Comments)
Posted at 1:28 PM on April 9, 2012
by Mark Zdechlik
Filed under: Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races
Republican Pete Hegseth's U.S. Senate campaign says Hegseth raised $160,000 in the first three months of the year. The campaign said it ended the quarter with $130,000 cash-on-hand. The campaign says the fundraising totals beat expectations and notes that Hegseth had only been in the campaign for one of the quarter's three months.
"Our fundraising success is a sign that voters are ready for new leadership," Hegseth said in a statement. "I'm honored and humbled that -- in this economy -- so many Minnesotans and Americans are willing to donate their hard-earned dollars to stand with me."
Former state Rep. Dan Severson and current state Rep. Kurt Bills are also seeking the GOP endorsement to take on DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar this fall. Bills and Severson have not released their fundraising totals yet. The deadline is Sunday April, 15.
Bills got into the race last month. According to Federal Election Commission records, Severson raised just under $90,000 last year. He entered the race in May, 2011.
Klobuchar has not yet reported her 1st quarter fundraising numbers. FEC records say Klobuchar ended the year with more than $4.6 million in campaign cash on-hand.
Vice President Joe Biden will hold a fundraiser for DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar at The Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis on April 11. The fundraising letter is asking donors to give $10,000 for VIP seating, program recognition and a photo with Biden. Those who give $25,000 will be considered chairs of the event. There are a variety of other suggested contributions. The lowest cost donation to get into the fundraiser is $125.
The fundraising letter says Klobuchar's campaign will split the money raised from the event with the Minnesota DFL State Central Committee.
The White House has not announced Biden's visit yet, so it's unknown whether the fundraiser will be public. It also isn't known whether Biden will hold any other events during his time in Minnesota.