More than $12 million has already been spent to sway the outcome of Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District election.
The vast majority, almost $9 million, has come from outside groups.
The parties, the PACs the interest groups have poured on the cash to re-elect Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan or replace him with Republican challenger Stewart Mills.
The result is that viewers of Eighth District television could see more than 100 ads in the district during the final week -- as well as dozens from supporters and the candidates for U.S. Senate, governor and down ticket races. There are so many ads flooding the northern Minnesota district that television stations are increasing the cost of ads.
Only some of those ads will be directly from U.S. House candidates. Both Nolan and Mills have raised significant cash but neither can compete with the horde of interest groups making their wishes known.
The outside money has largely gone to tear down Nolan and Mills. According to public data, groups have spent $4 million to oppose Mills and almost $3.5 million to oppose Nolan.
With expenditures of $3 million and $2.4 million, respectively, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are the biggest investors in the district's outcome.
The Rothenberg Political Report recently changed its rating of the race to "Toss-up/Tilt Democrat".
Here's a look at the candidates' fundraising:
Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson has far more cash banked for the final weeks of his campaign than Republican challenger Torrey Westrom has for his bid, according to fundraising reports filed on Thursday.
But in the last two weeks, as national money has poured into the western Minnesota district, Westrom has raised far more cash than Peterson.
Overall, the incumbent representative, who hold a powerful seat on the House Committee on Agriculture, has raised twice as much for the campaign.
With questions about the state's health exchange and Republican campaign ads swirling, Gov. Mark Dayton dashed from a Thursday afternoon event about housing without taking questions from the waiting press.
Dayton's decision to leave the event through a side door with his staff was unexpected. His staff had indicated he would answer questions from reporters.
It was also unusual. The DFL governor generally makes himself available to the media.
Dayton, who is up for re-election in 12 days, made remarks at the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Housing Awards announcement in St. Paul, listened to comments from two lawmakers and then, about 25 minutes in to the event got up to leave.
His spokesman, Matt Swenson, said the governor said as he left that he would not take questions from the press. Reporters who followed him out of the side door he exited saw his state vehicle exit the building's rear parking lot.
On Thursday, the Star Tribune reported that the Dayton administration had sought lower rates from an insurer that signed up to provide health insurance through MNsure, the state's health exchange. That insurer, PreferredOne, dropped out of the exchange this year.
Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson said Dayton should have stayed to answer questions about that.
"That’s part of the job of the governor whether it is him, me or someone else," Johnson said. He suggested the Dayton administration is panicking over the recent MNsure news.
He pledged that if he were governor, he would not avoid reporters.
"I will never unexpectedly run away from you," he said.
Also Thursday, the Minnesota Republican Party decided to delete the photo of a young boy who died from abuse in a television commercial trashing Dayton. That decision came after pressure from the boy's grandmother.
Thursday afternoon Dayton appeared at a campaign event with former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton. He was also slated to appear at a fundraiser with the former first lady in the evening.
Photo: The governor's caravan driving away from Thursday's housing event. Source: David Joles, Star Tribune.
(Updated 4 p.m.)
The grandmother of 4-year-old Eric Dean, whose death by abuse in 2013 exposed gaps in Minnesota's child protection services, said Thursday that the state Republican Party agreed with her request to remove the child's photo from a TV ad critical of Gov. Mark Dayton.
"Our family's trying to heal, and with this now, it's bringing everything up again and it's just so hard to move on," Yvonne Dean told the Star Tribune. "This type of ad campaign needs to stop."
Yvonne Dean said she got several calls Thursday morning from Republican Party chairman Keith Downey about the ad, after she called the party seeking to get the ad taken down. Dean said Downey initally told her the party felt within legal rights to reference the case and include an image of Eric Dean. A short while later, she said Downey called back to say the image of Eric would be removed from the ad.
Downey did not respond to an interview request. The party released a statement shortly after noon apologizing for not notifying the Dean family prior to the ad, and saying it would remove Eric Dean's picture from the ad.
"The ad is currently being revised and an edited version will begin airing as soon as possible," the party statement said. Yvonne Dean said Thursday afternoon that after some misunderstandings, she was willing to accept an ad that showed a headline about the case, but did not include the picture of Eric or a specific mention of his case.
Yvonne Dean, who lives in Starbuck, is the mother of Eric's father, David Dean. Amanda Peltier, who was married to David Dean and was Eric's step-mother, was convicted of the boy's murder and is now serving a life sentence.
Yvonne Dean's concerns about the ad were first reported Wednesday night by Michael Brodkorb, a former Republican political operative who now blogs for the Star Tribune.
Eric Dean's death in 2013 was preceded by 15 reports of maltreatment. Last May, before the details of Eric Dean's death were widely known, the Legislature passed and Dayton signed a law that forbid county agencies from considering past abuse reports that were rejected when deciding whether to investigate a new report.
The ad, titled "Incompetence" and paid for by the state GOP, began airing this week. It criticizes Dayton for his handling of several controversial issues, including the Dean case. Over dual images of a Star Tribune front page with a picture of Eric Dean on the front, and a picture of Dayton, the narrator says it was "downright horrifying when he signed a law making it more difficult to investigate maltreatment cases."
The bill at issue got votes from both DFL and Republican lawmakers when it passed last May. After details of Dean's death became publicly known, Dayton and the bill's backers said they had not foreseen that the provisions in the bill could make it more difficult for authorities to respond to multiple reports of child abuse.
Dayton, who also said he believes Pope County officials bear the brunt of responsibility for not responding properly to the abuse reports, has since convened a task force on child abuse and charged it with proposing law changes to address gaps in the child protection system.
Dayton's Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, has been critical of Dayton's role in the legislation, though his campaign was not involved in preparing the ad in question. Yvonne Dean, who described herself as a Republican, said she hoped Johnson's campaign would condemn the use of the case in the ad.
The Johnson campaign released a statement saying it was the right call to remove the image from the ad, and expressing condolences to the Dean family.
For months, Star Tribune staff has traipsed along with Minnesota's statewide candidates as they campaigned.
Here's what they found of the men who will vie in November's election:
For Minnesota governor
Democrat Mark Dayton
An A-list player in state politics for more than three decades, Dayton, 67, has had a colorful career full of highs and lows, in both public and private. On Election Day he will learn if Minnesotans are willing to give him four more years in charge of the state — or are ready to send him into retirement. -- Patrick Condon
Republican Jeff Johnson
A Hennepin County commissioner who is a former state representative and Tea Party ally, Johnson is now battling to unseat the most powerful Democrat in state office, Gov. Mark Dayton. Johnson says he offers a clear and needed alternative to the policies of a Democratic governor and Democratic Legislature that have joined forces and moved Minnesota too far to the liberal left. -- Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
For the U.S. Senate
Democrat Al Franken
Winning his first term in 2008 by the narrowest margin in modern U.S. Senate history after a brutally combative race, the former satirist has spent five years playing it safe. His standard event is heavy on policy, in front of a crowd that generally loves him, with a humorous punchline to chase. -- Allison Sherry
Republican Mike McFadden
The art of campaigning hasn't’t come easily to McFadden, an investment banker who has never held elective office, and hadn't voted in a primary in 20 years before his own. Yet McFadden beat out a field of experienced politicians for the Republican endorsement, easily won his primary and gained the backing of Independence Party leaders who chose him over their own primary winner.
McFadden says his great asset is that he's not a politician, nor was he bred to be one. He doesn't need this job, but he wants it. -- Abby Simons and Ricardo Lopez
All photos by Glen Stubbe, of the Star Tribune. Click below to see the Star Tribune's photo galleries of the candidates:
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