Gov. Mark Dayton visited an Brooklyn Park school as classes started Tuesday, where he emphasized his push for state funding to provide all-day kindergarten classes at every school in the state.
Dayton, who faces a November challenge from Republican Jeff Johnson, visited with a handful of teachers and school administrators at Garden City Elementary before stepping out to the courtyard to greet students streaming in for the first day of the school year.
"My first day ever as a teacher in New York City, I experienced a level of terror that I haven't reached again in my lifetime," Dayton said during a brief, organized discussion with kindergarten teachers and Osseo School District officials.
Spending on K-12 education is a major responsibility of the state, and a point of contention in the race between Dayton and Johnson. While the DFL incumbent has touted the $134 million for all-day kindergarten, and other enhanced school funding he championed, Johnson has said that leaders and parents from one school district to the next should get more direct say in how they spend state money.
Johnson called all-day kindergarten an example of the kind of strings-attached funding increase he would try to stamp out. Still, his campaign said if elected he would not seek to repeal the recent funding boost for the program.
In a statement released Tuesday by his campaign, Johnson sought to highlight Minnesota's "achievement gap" -- the well-documented lag in test scores between white students and students of color in the state.
"I will have a 'let's try everything' mindset when it comes to closing the achievement gap," Johnson said in the statement.
Both Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken are leading their Republican challengers, Jeff Johnson and Mike McFadden, in a new poll released this week.
The SurveyUSA poll was commissioned by KSTP-TV. The poll of 600 likely voters was taken Aug. 8-21.
In the governor's race, DFLer Dayton led Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, 49 percent to 40 percent. Hannah Nicollet, the Independence Party's candidate, had support from 3 percent of respondents, while 5 percent were undecided.
Franken is sitting on an even wider lead over McFadden, a first-time candidate. Franken, first elected by an extremely thin margin in 2008, is backed by 51 percent of respondents compared to 42 percent for McFadden. The Independence Party's Steve Carlson was backed by 2 percent while 3 percent were undecided.
The margin of sampling error in both cases was plus or minus 4.1 percent.
Franken's approval rating in the poll was 56 percent positive, while 35 percent disapproved of his performance. But the news wasn't all good for Democrats: the poll found that 52 percent disapprove of President Barack Obama's performance, while just 38 percent approve. The margin of error in those cases was plus or minus 3.7 percent.
The state of Minnesota will help underwrite DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's re-election bid to the tune of $534,000 and give Republican challenger Jeff Johnson a nearly $400,000 cash boost.
Both gubernatorial hopefuls agreed to abide by spending limits and proved they gathered sufficient financial support from Minnesota donors in order to qualify for the state subsidy payments for their campaigns.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on Tuesday released the information about the exact subsidy amounts the candidates for governor would receive.
It said the Independence Party candidate for governor, Hannah Nicollet, will not get a subsidy. But 236 other candidates for constitutional office or Minnesota House will be getting subsidies.
Read the list and the amounts below:
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.
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