A conservative group based in Iowa is singing the praises of Republican Norm Coleman, but a local union leader and the DFL chairman see things differently.
An Iowa-based group has launched a TV ad in Minnesota that promotes Norm Coleman's record in the U.S. Senate, but the ad is drawing criticism from a union local and from the DFL Party.
The American Future Fund will run the ad in Minneapolis and Mankato for three weeks, according to Larry McCarthy, a Washington media consultant who produced it. He put the cost of the ad buy at "well into six figures."
The ad touts Coleman's work in securing federal money to rebuild the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, as well as other accomplishments.
DFL Party chair Brian Melendez issued a statement saying Coleman's supporters "are politicizing the tragic I-35W bridge collapse" for his benefit.
The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 49 -- one of whose members, construction worker Greg Jolstad, died in the collapse -- also criticized the ad. In a statement, business manager Glen Johnson said it was a "shameless exploitation of this tragedy for political purposes." He urged Coleman, out of respect for Jolstad, to condemn the ad and demand that it be pulled off the air.
In a statement, Coleman campaign spokesman Tom Erickson said: "We have had nothing to do with these ads or their content." He noted that several groups have sponsored negative ads against Coleman.
"There was never any call for removal of these ads by Al Franken and his Democrat allies," Erickson said. "The fact is, Norm Coleman has worked across party lines to get things done for Minnesota."
The American Future Fund describes itself as a "multistate issues advocacy group designed to effectively communicate conservative and free market ideals."
Coleman criticizes Franken
Also on Wednesday, a week before he officially begins his reelection campaign, Coleman questioned whether Franken has the experience and temperament to be a senator.
Coleman said that matters of character will be major issues in the race if Franken gets the DFL nomination. Franken is the favorite to be the nominee, although Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Darryl Stanton and Dick Franson also are vying for the party nod.
The state Republican Party, conservative bloggers and Coleman himself have criticized Franken, a satirist, over remarks that were part of old TV skits, in books he's written and on a radio show he used to host.
"The reality is I'll run against somebody whose temperament has been such, whose style has been such of being incredibly divisive and incredibly angry," Coleman told reporters.
Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr said that it's clear Coleman is trying to shift the focus from his Senate voting record by drawing on Franken's past.
"For the campaign that has been relentlessly negative to the exclusion of any substance, to be complaining about temperament is more than a little ironic," Barr said.