With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

In '14, state voter turnout hits nearly 30-year low

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota governor Updated: November 25, 2014 - 3:29 PM

Voter turnout in Minnesota this year fell to 50.5 percent, the lowest in a general election in the state since 1986. 

The five-member State Canvassing Board, chaired by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, met Tuesday to officially certify the results of the Nov. 4 election. 

The board certified that 1,992,566 people cast a ballot in the election. Weighed against Minnesota's estimated eligible voter count of 3,945,136 resulted in a turnout rate of 50.51 percent. 

That's very low compared to presidential election years, when Minnesota's turnout rate typically hovers above 75 percent. Turnout in 2012 was 76.4 percent, and in 2008 it was 78.1 percent. 

But the 2014 turnout even suffered against recent off-year elections, which is when Minnesota elects its governors. In 2010 the turnout was 55.8 percent, and in 2006 it was 60.4 percent. 

Minnesota voting hit a low mark in 1986, when 48.2 percent of eligible voters turned out. That year, DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich was re-elected over Republican challenger Cal Ludeman. 

This year saw the first use of so-called "no excuse" absentee balloting in Minnesota, and Ritchie's office said the number of absentee ballots cast rose 55 percent compared to 2010. However, the 2014 figure was still lower than the total number of absentee ballots cast in 2012. 

Ferguson demonstration expected at capitol

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican Updated: November 25, 2014 - 12:57 PM

Demonstrators are expected at 7 tonight on the state capitol grounds in St. Paul, according to Lt. Eric Roske, a State Patrol spokesman. Police have not heard from organizers, and there is no permit as of yet, he said. 

Protests are also planned for Minneapolis. There were peaceful protests at several area high schools today, with hundreds engaging in a sit-in at Minneapolis South High School before moving to a local police precinct. 

Demonstrators are protesting the decision by a grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed unarmed teen Michael Brown. 

See a photo gallery from last night's events. 

Klobuchar highlights airbag defects

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican Updated: November 24, 2014 - 3:20 PM

Sen. Amy Klobuchar met with a woman in North Oaks today who is completely blind, following a 2013 car accident in which her passenger-side airbag deployed. 

Shashi Chopra, who at the time of the accident managed the family's India Palace restaurant in Plymouth, now relies on her husband and two adult children to help her cope with day-to-day life as a blind person. 

Klobuchar is highlighting the issue following recent high-profile Senate hearings about defective Takata airbags. Automakers have recalled millions of cars with the airbags, which are believed to be responsible for at least 139 injuries and four deaths. 

GOP lawmaker asks for AG look into MNsure contract with Gruber

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Health care, Minnesota legislature Updated: November 24, 2014 - 4:05 PM

State Rep. Greg Davids has asked Attorney General Lori Swanson to review details of a 2011 contract between MNsure and Dr. Jonathan Gruber, a consultant whose work related to the federal Affordable Care Act has become the subject of controversy. 

"In light of troubling remarks by Dr. Gruber and MNsure, I believe that a review of Dr. Gruber's work, and payments made to him, is necessary," Davids, R-Preston, wrote Monday in a letter to Swanson. Davids is a veteran lawmaker and in January is set to resume chairmanship of the powerful House Taxes Committee. 

Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology health economist, worked with Minnesota officials in 2011 and 2012 in assessing options for the venture, then in planning stages, that later became MNsure. He earned $340,000 from the contract. 

Gruber also advised President Obama during development of the Affordable Care Act. He came under new fire earlier this month when comments he made at a 2013 conference resurfaced, in which he suggested that "the stupidity of the American voter" made it possible for Congress to approve the law. He has since apologized for what he called an off-the-cuff remark. 

Davids suggested Swanson should look further into why Gruber's report to the state of Minnesota was delivered later than initially promised. Some of Gruber's enrollment projections for MNsure have since fallen short, and Davids said he also wants to know whether MNsure still considers Gruber's enrollment predictions for future years valid. 

A spokesman for Swanson had no immediate comment on David's letter. 

(This post has been updated.)

Dayton promotes Minnesota turkeys in Thanksgiving week ritual

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton Updated: November 24, 2014 - 11:53 AM

As two white-feathered turkeys looked on from a small coop, Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday he couldn't muster too much sympathy for the fact that within a few days they'd be the main course in someone's Thanksgiving feast. 

Pointing out that Minnesota produces about 46 million birds a year -- more than any other state -- Dayton put the perspective of the two 20-pound, 16-pound hens in perspective: "Forty-five million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-eight other turkeys are headed on to the same fate," he said. 

Pardoning a turkey is a presidential tradition going back years. But it's equally a tradition for a Minnesota governor to send them on to slaughter.

"The president can pardon turkeys but governors don't have that clout," Dayton joked at his annual turkey press conference, which traditionally promotes Minnesota's nation-leading turkey industry.

John Gorton, president of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and a turkey farmer from Pelican Rapids, said 2014 was a good year for Minnesota growers. "The price of turkey is up and our input costs are down," Gorton said. 

Dayton has kept a low profile since his recent re-election victory. He said Monday that he was taking some personal time for the Thanskgiving holiday, with plans to spend the long weekend in San Francisco where one of his sons now lives. 

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