The two leading candidates for governor fulfilled a long tradition of politicking at the Minnesota State Fair, showing up on opening day to ask for votes and take a few swipes at one another.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton called the Fair "a great Minnesota tradition" -- and an ideal spot for candidates. "You stand in one place and the rest of the state comes passing by," Dayton said.
The governor shook hands, posed for pictures and chatted with supporters for about 45 minutes at the DFL booth. Later in the day he was scheduled to be doused with a bucket of ice water while live on the radio, after accepting the "ice bucket challenge" - a fundraiser for ALS that has been popular and high-profile nationwide in recent days.
Meanwhile, Johnson kicked off the first of what he said would be at least 10 State Fair appearances with a press conference at his campaign booth. He challenged Dayton to 13 debates between now and Election Day, and suggested that two should be held at the Fair.
The Dayton campaign had previously agreed to six debates, and said it would not go beyond that. Johnson said that's not enough. There has been a tradition of political debates at the Fair, and Johnson called it the perfect setting to talk issues.
"You'll not find a broader cross section of Minnesotans than at the State Fair," Johnson said.
But Dayton pointed out that his predecessor, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, participated in seven debates as a candidate in 2002 and six debates as an incumbent in 2006. He said that would be plenty for voters to draw distinctions between himself and Johnson.
"It's a contrived issue. I think he should focus on things people really care about," Dayton said.
The six debates the Dayton campaign agreed to are: Oct. 1 in Rochester, the week of Oct. 6 in Moorhead, Oct. 14 in Duluth, the week of Oct. 20 in Minneapolis or St. Paul, Oct. 31 in St. Paul and Nov. 2 in St. Paul.
Johnson said if six debates are all that Dayton agrees to, then he'll be there as well.
Johnson said he'd be at the Fair on at least 10 of its 12 days, sometimes for multiple visits. Dayton, too said he'd make multiple visits to the Fair. He has plans to be back Friday for several Fair events.
Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald vowed to return to the Minnesota Republican Party's State Fair booth Thursday after she was banned and ordered by security to leave.
"We may as well look for justice on a stick because we can't find it here!" MacDonald told a handful of supporters as she left the booth following a 10-minute confrontation with a security guard that began as soon as she showed up.
MacDonald, a family law attorney, was endorsed at the party's state convention in May to run against Justice David Lillehaug. She drew ire from party leaders who said most delegates were not aware of a drunken driving charge at the he time of endorsement. MacDonald stands trial next month in Dakota County.
This week, the party's executive committee revised its State Fair Policy to restrict access to candidates with pending criminal cases, and moved to bar MacDonald from the booth. MacDonald, who said she was notified Wednesday of the resolution, showed up anyway.
After GOP staffer briefly pleaded with her to leave, a pair of plain-clothed "conflict resolution experts" intervened.
"I'm an endorsed candidate," she said while filming them with her camera.
"I was supported by the people at the Republican convention. The people want this."
MacDonald eventually left, urging State Party chair Keith Downey to resign. Supporters then gathered outside the booth to plot their next move.
Today marks the beginning of the Minnesota State Fair, a perennial stop for candidates to shake lots of hands, pitch their platforms and feast on fatty foods.
Today at noon, Gov. Mark Dayton will sit down with Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist Lori Sturdevant for a live interview at the Star Tribune Booth. Dayton's Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, is also working the fair crowds this morning.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken greeted fairgoers as the gates opened. Franken’s Republican challenger, Mike McFadden, stopped by to challenge him to six debates this fall.
According to a release from the McFadden campaign, three of the proposed debates would be broadcast on either television or radio from the Twin Cities, while the remaining debates would take place in Duluth, Rochester, and Moorhead.
Franken declined an invitation from Minnesota Public Radio to debate his Republican and Independence Party challengers at the state fair.
A version of this item appeared in Morning Hot Dish, the Star Tribune's daily political newsletter. To sign up, go to StarTribune.com/membercenter, check the Politics newsletter box and save the change.
The congressional campaigns of Republicans Stewart Mills III and Torrey Westrom are picking up more national attention.
An ABC News piece on the five “most interesting” 2014 GOP U.S. House candidates features Mills, labeled the “Republican Brad Pitt,” and Westrom, whom the piece dubbed “the sightless [state] senator who’s never lost an election.”
Mills is challenging Democrat Rick Nolan in the Eighth District and Westrom faces Democrat Collin Peterson in the Seventh District.
Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call ran a story on the Westrom-Peterson race Tuesday suggesting this could be the toughest re-election race yet for Peterson, who’s seeking a 13th term in Congress.
This item originally appeared in the Star Tribune's daily political newsletter. To sign up, go to StarTribune.com/membercenter, check the Politics newsletter box and save the change.
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