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Congress selects State of the Union guests with message in mind

Posted by: Corey Mitchell under 1st District, 2nd District, 3rd District, 4th District, 5th District, 6th District, 7th District, 8th District, Minnesota U.S. senators, Minnesota congressional, Democrats, Republicans, President Obama Updated: January 28, 2014 - 6:45 PM

Seats at President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night will be filled with the legislative priorities of the 113th Congress.

On a night when the president lays out his blueprint for the year, members of Congress often choose their guests to convey a message of their own: the person often symbolizes a policy or issue the lawmaker is promoting.

In Minnesota, those issues range from job training and fighting poverty to ending child sex trafficking and repealing President Obama’s health care law.

Here’s a member-by-member look at the guests of the state’s congressional delegation:

U.S. Sen. Al Franken will host Erick Ajax, vice president and co-owner of E.J. Ajax and Sons, a Minneapolis-based metal-stamping company. Franken has introduced legislation that would create a multi-billion dollar grant program to fund partnerships between businesses and two-year colleges to fill job openings in high-demand fields.

Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. John Noseworthy will be U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s guest. A supporter of Mayo's partnerships to help match students' skills with jobs, Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would fund 100 new science, technology, engineering and math-themed high schools and support scientific research.

Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz will be U.S. Rep. Tim Walz's guest. Walz and Kuntz released a joint statement this month calling for passage of transportation funding bills in both houses of Congress in 2014.

U.S. Rep. John Kline will host Keith Anderson, vice chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The tribe is the largest employer in Scott County, which is part of Kline's district in the southern suburbs and exurbs of the Twin Cities.

U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen’s guest for President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday will be Vednita Carter, founder and executive director of Breaking Free, a St. Paul-based organization that helps women escape prostitution. Paulsen, the author of two bills designed to combat child sex trafficking, wrote a letter to Obama this month, requesting that he address the issue during the speech.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum’s guest will be Clarence Hightower, executive director of the Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties, an anti-poverty agency. This year, McCollum plans to push for more federal grant money to be distributed to not-for-profit agencies, such as the Community Action Partnership, to tackle poverty.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges will attend President Obama’s State of the Union speech as the guest of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. The two are working on plans to close the achievement gap in the city’s schools and radically reduce the amount of garbage the city sends to landfills, with the eventual goal of reaching "zero waste."

Dr. Julie Anderson, a family physician from St. Cloud, will be U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s guest. A University of Minnesota Medical School graduate, Anderson has concerns about how the Affordable Care Act will affect her practice. Bachmann has been one of Congress’ most vocal critics of the health care reform law.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who will not bring a guest, gave his pass to U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, according to staff.

As a result, Nolan will have two guests – Carri Jones, chairwoman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and Melanie Benjamin, executive director of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Nolan's northeastern Minnesota districts includes five of the six Minnesota Chippewa Tribe bands.

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