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, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

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Dayton said he is unsure if release of MNsure rates would add light

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: July 21, 2014 - 7:21 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton said the idea of releasing the health insurance rates on the state's health exchange before the election may just add political heat without shedding any light.

"The Republicans will make a political issue out of MNsure between now and the election for anything and everything. And, you know, we're taking it one step at a time," Dayton said.

State law requires the rates for MNsure, the Minnesota version of the health exchange created in the wake of the federal Affordable Care Act, to be released in mid-November. Republicans in the Legislature and those who hope to unseat Dayton see politics in that post-election release, which one has called a "cover up."

On Monday, the DFL governor said that the Commerce Department has received preliminary rate estimates from plans and is now negotiating them down. Dayton said he has not seen those preliminary rates and is not sure if they should be released before the November election.

"I think they are going to be so badly distorted for political purposes that I don't think they will shed any light for consumers," Dayton said. "I don't think it is going to shed any light on it. It is going to add a lot of heat to the lambasting that goes on."

An early release would likely require sign off from the health plans.

"Throwing MNsure farther into the thick of the all the political shots that are going to be taken to me is not (serving any purpose,)" Dayton said.

The governor said he has not made a final decision on whether he believes the rates should be released early but is disinclined to move toward release because of pressure from Republicans to do so.

"We will see how it unfolds," Dayton said.

On Tuesday, a state legislative MNsure panel will discuss the rate release schedule.

"Gov. Dayton should put politics aside, and give Minnesotans the time they need in order to make an informed decision as to the healthcare coverage they need," the Republican Party of Minnesota said in a news release Monday.

Photo: Star Tribune file photo

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar heads back to Iowa

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: July 21, 2014 - 10:11 AM

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is heading to Iowa in August.

The senator has plans to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley who is vying against GOP state Sen. Joni Ernst in an open seat.

A Klobuchar aide confirmed over the weekend that Minnesota's senior senator would be campaigning for Braley Aug. 23. 

Iowa is the first-in-the-nation presidential primary contest, which always means the state is a veritable runway for presidential hopefuls and those with higher ambitions -- even in off-years.

The Iowa precinct caucuses are the first week of January in 2016.

Democrats add Nolan to vulnerable incumbents list

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: July 21, 2014 - 9:37 AM

National Democrats are calling in reinforcements for U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan’s re-election campaign in the Eighth Congressional District.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added Nolan to its Frontline program — a support system for House Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents.

Nolan returned to Congress in 2013 after a 32-year hiatus, defeating a first-term GOP incumbent to win the seat representing northeastern Minnesota.

Republicans are looking to flip the seat once again, returning it to GOP control. Their candidate is Republican Stewart Mills III, a vice president in his family’s Fleet Farm retail chain.

Mills has raised outraised Nolan in three of the last four fundraising cycles, but Nolan still holds an overall cash-on-hand advantage.

Mills has reached the top level of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” candidate training program. As challengers ascend the ranks, they’re more likely to receive financial and campaign aid from the NRCC, the campaign arm of House Republicans.

The Rothenberg Political Report and Cook Political Report rate Nolan as a slight favorite to win re-election.

As Election Day nears, outside groups are expected to step up their spending in the race. In 2012, party committees and political action committees invested nearly $10 million in the Eighth District race. This year, conservative groups have already spent more than $500,000 backing Mills’ campaign.

Nolan’s assignment to the Frontline program will pair him with a familiar face: Fellow Minnesota U.S. Rep. Tim Walz chairs the initiative. As part of the effort, Nolan’s campaign will have to ramp up its fundraising, volunteer recruitment and online networking.

Rep. Ellison leads call for Middle East cease-fire

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: July 18, 2014 - 2:39 PM

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is pressing President Obama to ramp up diplomatic efforts to reach a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a letter to Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, Ellison and several other House Democrats call for an immediate end to the “cycle of violence” in the region.

“Past experience indicates that the current conflict will likely end with a new cease-fire. Ground troops, air strikes, and rockets do not lead to permanent peace in the Middle East,” the letter reads. “The United States government, together with international partners, must redouble our efforts to urge all parties to avoid further loss of life on both sides by coming to a cease-fire.”

The lawmakers praised Israel for its “willingness to agree to the terms of the [cease-fire] agreement” proposed by Egypt, which Hamas has rejected. Their letter also criticizes Hamas for “indiscriminately launching thousands of rockets into Israel.”

The lawmakers also urge the Obama administration to reopen peace talks in the Middle East.

“Additional diplomacy is necessary to save lives and create lasting peace,” the lawmakers write. “… a final status agreement in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security is urgent and necessary.”

High-ranking Republicans back Mills, Westrom

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: July 16, 2014 - 3:12 PM

The Republican challengers in Minnesota’s two most competitive congressional races are attracting more donations from high-ranking members of Congress.

During the months of April, May and June, Eighth Congressional District candidate Stewart Mills III attracted contributions from the leadership PACs of new House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa of California and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, chair of the House Republican Conference.

In the state's Seventh District, state Sen. Torrey Westrom picked up donations from the PACs of Scalise, Camp, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan and outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

House Speaker John Boehner’s campaign committee also donated to the Mills and Westrom campaigns.

Westrom and Mills had the best fundraising stretches of their campaigns after the National Republican Congressional Committee promoted them to the top tier of its “Young Guns" program. The designation sends a signal to sitting members of Congress that the challengers are promising candidates.

The incumbents in the races, Democratic Reps. Rick Nolan in the Eighth and Collin Peterson in the Seventh, also had their best fundraising quarters of the election cycle and still hold cash-on-hand leads over their challengers.

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