State Sen. Torrey Westrom is stepping up to vie against Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson.
The Republican will hold campaign appearances to announce his bid on Thursday in Elbow Lake, his hometown, and Moorhead, according to a release.
Westrom is attorney who joined the Minnesota House in 1997 and was elected to the Senate last year. According to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, he is the first known blind member of the Legislature.
Republicans have long eyed Peterson's district.
Last year, Republican Mitt Romney picked up 54 percent of the vote in the western Seventh Congressional District Peterson has long represented. That same year, Peterson won 60 percent of the vote. In 2010, which was a very good year for Republicans, Peterson won 55 percent of the vote to Republican Lee Byberg's 38 percent.
FBI agents have searched the home of former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, a top official in U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign, his lawyer told the Star Tribune Wednesday.
The search, conducted two weeks ago, appeared focused on communications between various campaign operatives and Sorenson, who abruptly quit as Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chairman in the closing days of the Iowa Republican caucuses and threw his support behind Ron Paul.
“It was a very thorough federal criminal search warrant,” said Des Moines attorney Ted Sporer, who represents Sorenson. “It’s pretty obvious they are looking for communications with a presidential campaign, or third parties working for a presidential campaign.”
Both the Bachmann and Paul campaigns have come under scrutiny for allegedly making secret payments to Sorenson, a Christian conservative and Tea Party activist who recently resigned from the Iowa Senate under an ethics cloud.
According to Sporer, agents took computers and other mater materials connected to Sorenson’s work with both campaigns, suggesting that the federal probe into Bachmann’s campaign finances is far from over. A person who answered Sorenson's phone Wednesday said he was not available for comment.
The FBI field office in Omaha referred questions about the raid to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Iowa, which did not immediately respond to an inquiry from the Star Tribune. A spokesman for the Justice Department in Washington said he could provide no information.
Two former aides to the Minnesota Republican told the Star Tribune in May that they had been questioned by FBI agents from the bureau’s public integrity section. Central to the FBI inquiry were alleged payments to Sorenson.
But recent allegations of payments by Paul operatives appear to have broadened the scope of the federal inquiry.
“It’s hard to unravel,” Sporer told the Star Tribune. “I don’t know if it’s a series of related investigations, or if it’s one big investigation, or multiple unrelated investigations. My gut instinct is it’s one investigation.”
Sporer said Sorenson, now working in real estate, cooperated with the agents while his wife took their home-schooled children and left the house during the search.
“I wouldn’t call it a raid,” Sporer said. “It wasn’t unanticipated….It’s our intention to cooperate at all stages. Obviously, we don’t think Mr. Sorenson was involved in any wrongdoing.”
An account of the raid was initially reported online Wednesday by libertarian economist Robert Wenzel in the Economic Policy Journal. Wenzel, citing two unnamed sources, said agents spent seven hours in Sorenson’s Des Moines area home scouring through family computers.
A special investigator for the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee found “probable cause” earlier this year that Sorenson broke state rules by taking money for presidential campaign work, including a $7,500 monthly salary from Bachmann’s political action committee and an uncashed $25,000 check from an operative in the Paul campaign.
Among the allegations swirling around Sorenson are reports that he could provide the Paul campaign with a pilfered list of Iowa home school activists taken from the personal computer of Bachmann campaign staffer Barb Heki, who later settled with the Bachmann campaign for an undisclosed sum.
Bachmann initially accused Sorenson of switching allegiances for money. Bus she remained publicly silent about whether he was paid for work he did on behalf of her own campaign. Neither her campaign attorney nor her congressional office responded to requests for comment Wednesday.
Sorenson has steadfastly denied being paid by either campaign.
The alleged payments are now the subject of inquiries by the FBI, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and the House Ethics Committee.
The Star Tribune also has obtained documents indicating a federal grand jury probe of several top Bachmann campaign operatives, including Bachmann’s husband, Marcus. Among the records that have been subpoenaed by the Justice Department are financial registers of the National Fiscal Conservative (NFC) Political Action Committee, which allegedly agreed to help raise funds for a campaign mailer ahead of the Iowa caucuses.
Federal authorities also are looking at allegations of potentially illegal coordination between the Bachmann campaign and the NFC PAC, as well as with Bachmann’s own political action committee, MichelePAC, which reportedly paid Sorenson through Bachmann fundraiser Guy Short.
Bachmann announced last spring that she would not seek another term in Congress.
The Minnesota Republican Party and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann favored Domino's. Ron Paul's presidential campaign preferred American Pie.
And last year, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and northern Minnesota Democratic congressional hopeful Jeff Anderson went for Pizza Luce while U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who bested Anderson in a primary, bestowed Sammy's Pizza in both Hibbing and Duluth with his business.
Since Minnesotans can get as passionate about pizza choices as they are about politics, Hot Dish asked the Center for Responsive Politics to generate a list of all the pizza purchases from Minnesota's federal campaigns of late.
Check out the map of pizza payments below and perform your own pizza partisanship on the data here.
Three years early, Gov. Mark Dayton is taking a stand for his 2016 presidential pick.
The DFL governor joined Ready for Hillary, the political action committee supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton's potential run for president, the group said Thursday and Dayton's staff confirmed.
"Everyday, Minnesotans from all over our state and from all walks of life tell me that they want to see Hillary Clinton run for president in 2016," Dayton said in a release. "Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to be the next president of the United States."
The governor has long been a Clinton fan. Back when Clinton was battling in Iowa in 2008, Dayton has said one of the Clintons would go to speak to any large group of Iowans but if two or three were gathered Dayton would go to sing Hillary Clinton's praises.
There is a lot of time and challenge between now and the 2016 election. Dayton, in his first term, first has his own race to run and win next year. Recent polling found that fewer than half of Minnesotans approve of the job he is doing.
Despite that, Dayton said: "I am proud to join the national movement that Ready for Hillary is leading to show her that, if she runs, she will have a huge grassroots army behind her."
Dayton served in the U.S. Senate with Clinton and he also helped fundraise for her presidential campaign in Minnesota..
The governor has a history of picking Hillary Clinton for early backing. As early as 2005, he introduced her as "the next great president of the United States of America." Three years later she lost her presidential bid to now president Barack Obama, who handily won Minnesota's presidential caucus that year.
Gov. Mark Dayton jumped into the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins' name on Thursday, saying the NFL team’s name is “racist” and “offensive.”
“I believe the name should be changed,” the DFLer said at a news conference. “It’s antiquated and offensive in our present context.”
This is the latest flare up in a decades-long fight over the name, a racial description for indigenous people that many find offensive.
Dayton made the statement hours before Washington was set to take on the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. American Indian Movement activists plan to host a rally to protest the arrival of team owner Daniel Snyder, who said he has no plans to change the name.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he didn't think the name needed to change. He attended the University of North Dakota, which caved to pressure from the NCAA to scrap a Fighting Sioux moniker and logo that many found offensive.
The governor said those who don’t like the Redskins name should focus their attention squarely on Washington.
“If you want to put an end to the name, get every member of Congress to sign a statement that they won’t attend a Redskins game in Washington or across the country until the name is changed,” Dayton said. “Put pressure on Congress. The team isn’t run by Congress, but it certainly is sensitive to the external pressures there.”
The fight has a key ally in Minnesota. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota’s Fourth Congressional District, is co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus and is a leading voice in the fight to change the name. (Read this).
Dayton has spoken with the stadium authority, which controls the stadium, and believes “every effort is being made today and tonight to not use the term Redskins.”
He also hopes the moniker is eliminated or minimized in the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, unless the team changes its name.