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.
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.
Just a dozen hours after Jeff Johnson won the Republican primary for governor, both he and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton turned their sights to fundraising for the election ahead.
"Will you give $5 or more now to stop the GOP and keep building a Better Minnesota?" Dayton's campaign pleaded in an email fundraiser.
"The message really isn't’ going to change," Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, told reporters Wednesday. "We’ll probably focus more heavily than ever on fundraising because we gotta raise a lot of money in the next 12 weeks.”
Both men will need that focus. Although Dayton has raised and spent more money so far than Johnson, neither has huge cash banked for the November battle.
But will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in state subsidies for their campaigns for agreeing to abide by spending limits that allow them to raise around $4 million.
Here are the cash they had as of their last reports. Both have raised and spent more money since then but the exact amounts are not available.
And here are more details:
Ricardo Lopez contributed to this report.
His Republican opponent now set, Gov. Mark Dayton has a busy schedule of appearances around Minnesota this week as he celebrates local building projects made possible with state dollars.
Dayton spoke Wednesday at a ceremony marking the start of a $32 million expansion project at the Mankato Civic Center. The state is covering $14.5 million of the project's cost in the bonding bill Dayton signed earlier this year, with local taxpayers paying the rest.
Mankato-area politicians sought state money for the expansion over the last six years, and several Republican lawmakers joined Dayton at the event including Rep. Tony Cornish and Sen. Julie Rosen.
Dayton said the project "will add hundreds of new jobs, and bring thousands more visitors to Mankato every year." Jeff Johnson, Dayton's newly chosen Republican opponent, has said he believes bonding bills should focus spending on projects with statewide economic benefits.
Jobs and the economy will be a central theme in the election debate between Dayton and his newly chosen Republican opponent, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. Republicans have acknowledged the recent healthy performance of Minnesota's economy, but Johnson said in his Tuesday night victory speech that he would try to convince voters that less government spending and regulation would benefit private employers.
Dayton also planned a Wednesday stop at MTU Onsite Energy in Mankato. On Thursday, he's scheduled to attend another groundbreaking, this one in Marshall. The southwestern Minnesota city got $4.3 million in the bonding bill to build a regional sports center, and will provide a 50 percent local match.
These appearances are under the auspices of Dayton's day job. But he's also making time for politics. The governor planned to attend a Tuesday afternoon meet-and-greet event with state House candidate Jack Considine, the DFL-endorsed candidate in the Mankato-area seat being vacated by Rep. Kathy Brynaert.
Dayton's campaign aides have said political stops will remain light on Dayton's schedule until after Sept. 1.
"I'm focused right now on being governor of Minnesota," Dayton said Wednesday at the Mankato groundbreaking. "I have five months left in my term, so that's my focus for now."
Flanked by his former rivals, Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson said the morning after winning the GOP primary that he was ready to unite the party and raise the campaign funds he’ll need to mount a credible challenge to Gov. Mark Dayton.
In short remarks, his former rivals -- Rep. Kurt Zellers, former lawmaker Marty Seifert, and business executive Scott Honour -- all said they would support Johnson in the general election.
"We have to be united as a Republican party," Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner said.
Johnson drew 30 percent of the vote in a primary that drew less than 10 percent of eligible voters to the polls. The GOP nominee told reporters Wednesday that the primary's low turn-out wouldn't dampen Republican's enthusiasm for the fall election.
"Republicans aren't accustomed to primaries," he said. "We haven't had one for twenty-something years...[but] all of us can attest to this, there was a lot of excitement."
Going forward, he said he would he would focus on contrasting his style of governing with that of DFL incumbent Dayton. He said that as governor, he would focus on making government work more efficiently with less money. He said that in the weeks ahead, he would seek to contrast his ideas and style of governing with those of DFL incumbent Dayton.
He said if he were elected governor, he would halt construction on a $90-million Senate office building, criticizing it as a symbol of excessive state spending. Johnson also said he opposed automatic increases to the state's minimum wage.
Photo by Star Tribune photographer Glen Stubbe.
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