WASHINGTON -- Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson says he has two fundraisers scheduled and he's "running at this point" for re-election next year.
"They energized me last time, they got me fired up," said Peterson, in a phone call this week.
By "they" Peterson is referring to national Republicans who, sensing Peterson's Republican-leaning district in a Republican-leaning year, decided to pour more than $8 million into the 2014 race in attempts at unseating the popular 24-year incumbent.
Despite all the outside spending, Peterson walked away from that race with an almost nine point lead over Republican state senator Torrey Westrom. It was one of the biggest National Republican Congressional Committee losses nationally.
"They had the opposite effect of what they thought they were going to," Peterson said.
The state campaign finance board has thrown out a complaint by the Republican Party of Minnesota against Gov. Mark Dayton’s campaign and the state DFL party, which alleged that both coordinated to produce a campaign commercials.
The complaint, filed Oct. 31 with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board just days before the 2014 election, accused Dayton’s gubernatorial campaign committee, Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota, and the Minnesota DFL of colluding to create the advertisements, which aired in July, September and October. Each featuring footage of Dayton speaking to a pair of students.
Republicans alleged it was a violation of campaign finance law’s “approved expenditure” clause, which prohibits any expenditures on behalf of a candidate other than his main campaign committee. The party alleged that the use of the video in both the DFL and Dayton advertisements amounted “to a campaign contribution of hundreds of thousands of dollars." The complaint cites case law spurred by a similar 2002 complaint against the Minnesota Republican Party and the campaign of then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty. In that case, the board ruled that probable cause existed to support an “approved expenditure” complaint.
“This matter is nearly identical,” The Republican party alleged of Dayton’s case.
The case was dismissed Tuesday for lack of probable cause that a violation had occurred, saying that there is no evidence that the material was shared beyond the YouTube posts, or that the material fit the criteria of "approved expenditures" The full opinion is below:
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.
Digging into the data from the House election last week, we came up with some interesting tidbits.
More voters in the tony Hennepin County suburban of Edina voted in the Minnesota House race than voters of any other district. Nearly 20,000 people cast ballots for the two candidates vying for the 47A seat. Democratic Rep. Ron Erhardt, a former Republican member of the House, bested Republican candidate Dario Anselmo garnering 51 percent of the vote.
Hello, St. Paul?
Just four miles from the Minnesota Capitol, voters in St. Paul’s 67A gave the House race a pass. Fewer than 7,500 voters cast ballots in that House race. DFL Rep. Tim Mahoney, who has long represented that St. Paul district, still did well. He got 72 percent of the vote, or 5,400 votes, for a vote total and a vote percentage that bested most of his colleagues.
You’re the tops
Highest percentage of the vote: Rep. Tim O’Driscoll, R-Sartell. He got 97.48 percent in an unopposed race.
Most votes: Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis. He had a Republican opponent but still received 15,026 votes, more than any other House candidate.
In southern Minnesota, 459 voters of House District 23B wrote in candidate names, more write-in votes than any other districts. The high number may not be surprising – Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, was unopposed so voters there had the choice of voting for him or penciling in another option. The write-ins were little blow to Cornish’s vote total. He won 11,339 votes, or 96 percent of the votes in the House race.
Minnesota-House Speaker Designate Kurt Daudt will start his term in January with only three terms under his belt. He is the first speaker with that little seniority since the 1930, according to figures compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.
There and back again
Current House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, was selected by his DFL colleagues last week to lead them in the minority next year. It's a role that's familiar to him. He was the DFL's minority leader from 2011 to 2012 and became speaker in 2013, when the DFL took over the House. The reference library could find just one other case of a leader making that journey -- Aubrey Dirlam did it about 40 years ago. But, the library found, unlike Thissen, there was a time gap between when he served as minority leader then speaker then minority leader again.
In 2008, Democrats won the House. In 2010, Republican took it over. In 2012, Democrats took it back. And in 2014, it flipped to Republicans again. The quick turnaround of party power -- four times in four election cycles -- is the speediest the Star Tribune could find on record.
Photo: Archive photo of House Speaker Paul Thissen speaking to Minority Leader Kurt Daudt in 2014. Next year, Daudt will be speaker and Thissen will be minority leader. Source: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune.
Updated to remove a map of speakers' hometowns that was not properly listing all speakers and correct a party designation.
Minnesota Rep. Tony Cornish said he is very interested in running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in 2016.
Cornish, of Vernon Center, will begin his seventh term in the Legislature next year. He was unopposed in his re-election and netted 96 percent of the vote.
Walz, a former teacher and National Guard member, has held the southern First Congressional District since defeating longtime Rep. Gil Gutknecht in 2006. He won re-election on Tuesday with 54 percent of the vote.
Cornish, a straight-talking former lawman, said he is "seriously considering" a run against Walz in two years.
"I am just waiting to see what the donors and Republicans think," Cornish said. "I'm thinking about it still."
But, he said, he won't think about it for long.
"I'm always one that believes in coming out early," he said.
His interest was first disclosed by the Mankato Free Press.
Photo: Rep. Tony Cornish in 2011, chairing the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee/ Source: Dave Brewster, Star Tribune
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