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, and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

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Rep. Collin Peterson: I am planning on running again next year

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 27, 2015 - 9:46 AM

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.

Medical device company executive to challenge GOP Rep. John Kline

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 26, 2015 - 3:30 PM
Angie Craig

Angie Craig

WASHINGTON -- Angie Craig, a vice president at a medical device company, announced Monday she was planning to run against GOP Rep. John Kline in the Second Congressional District next year.

Craig told the Star Tribune that next month she planned to step down from the executive leadership team at St. Jude Medical to prepare to seek the DFL nomination in 2016. She plans on staying with the company, where she has worked in various management positions for a decade, in a strategic capacity.

She has never run for political office before.

Craig, 42, said she felt compelled to challenge Kline, who is serving his seventh term and chairs the House Education Committee, because she is increasingly disappointed in his voting record.

Craig called him "out of touch" with residents of the Second District. She cited two recent votes: one to defund President Barack Obama's executive immigration order and another GOP measure requiring the work week to be defined as 40 hours, rather than 30 hours.

"I don't think that represents who we are," she said. "I believe we need new perspectives and leaders willing to work toward progress more than ever."

Minnesota's Second Congressional District is slightly Republican leaning and is dubbed an R+2 by political observers, meaning a generic Republican would beat out a generic Democrat by two points in a hypothetical election. Kline beat Democrat Mike Obermueller by 17 points last year.

Craig said she hopes to build a platform that "further strengthens the economy and make sure we have economic security for the middle class."

Craig is married to Cheryl Greene and together they have four sons, two 17 year-olds, a 16 year-old and an 11 year-old. They live in Eagan. She said she was raised by her mother and grandmother in a trailer park in Arkansas. She has lived in Minnesota for 10 years.

"I'm incredibly fortunate and humbled," she said. "I believe my business background and my life experiences make me uniquely qualified to advocate for policies for every family in America."

Republican David Gerson, who has twice before challenged and lost to Kline in the primaries, said Monday he hoped to challenge him again next year. 

A Kline spokesman declined comment on Craig or Gerson.

St. Paul mayor at White House, talks up paid leave for city employees

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 23, 2015 - 9:51 AM

WASHINGTON -- St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is talking up the city's paid leave policy at the White House Friday -- an idea generating popularity nationally and touted by President Barack Obama in this week's State of the Union address.

St. Paul started giving opportunities for its 2,700 employees to take paid paternity as of Jan. 1. Non-birth parents get two weeks and birth parents get four weeks. St. Paul was among the first cities nationally to adopt the plan.

The policy will cost the city about $200,000 annually, though Coleman says he expects to make that back in retaining talented staffers amid the state's booming economy.

Coleman says it helps the city stay competitive with the private sector.

"Everyone says you should run government like a business," he said. "We'll never be able to offer the benefits that Google does ... but this helps."

On Tuesday's State of the Union address, Obama touted the plan.

"Today, we're the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers ... And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I'll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own."

Coleman shares a panel with the mayors of Knoxville, Tenn and Atlanta, Georgia. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez will also be there.

Rep. John Kline: No new federal programs for community colleges

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 21, 2015 - 4:07 PM

WASHINGTON -- Less than 12 hours after President Barack Obama touted an idea to provide free community college to some students, the chairman of the House Education Committee had a message: No new federal programs.

Republican Rep. John Kline, who represents Minnesota's Second Congressional District and is at the helm of the Education Committee, said he wasn't interested in taking on the president's proposal to make community college free. Kline said he didn't agree with the how the White House planned to pay for it -- by increasing capital gains taxes -- and he didn't think a new federal program was the way to move forward.

In his annual address to both chambers of Congress, Obama proposed free community colleges to students on track to graduate and who had good grades. He said higher education was in the nation's interest and helped strengthen the middle class.

"Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy without a load of debt," Obama said.

But Kline noted existing Pell grants and federal financial aid packages were available for low-income students. In Minnesota, 130,048 people were undergraduates at community and technical colleges. Of those 63 percent sought financial aid and about 35 percent were eligible for Pell grants. The average community college tuition in Minnesota is $5,370 a year.

Kline called the idea too lofty and rhetorically questioned why the president stopped at community colleges. "Why not say all college is free?" he said, in a press gathering in his office Wednesday morning.

Kline said his first priority is getting a No Child Left Behind overhaul to the House floor within the next eight weeks. He said he is optimistic, with a Republican-controlled Senate this time, that they could find common ground and send a bill to President Obama this year.

The chairman also noted he wants to reauthorize the higher education act, but that "we can't just create a new program that we can't pay for."

Community college proposal gives two free years to good students

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 20, 2015 - 8:34 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Obama wants to make two years of community college free for responsible students, those on track to graduation with good grades. The two years of free colleges would be “as universal as high school” according to White House officials.

In Minnesota, in 2013 there were 130,048 undergraduates at community and technical colleges enrolled. Of those, 14,675 were high school students (ineligible for financial aid) and 17,041 were non-Minnesota residents.  In that same year, 63 percent sought financial aid and about 35 percent were Pell Grant eligible. The average tuition is $5,370 a year.

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