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.

Posts about Minnesota U.S. senators

U.S. Senate candidates aim crosshairs in advertisements; Franken apologizes for 2012 video

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: August 28, 2014 - 3:10 PM

After months of running a relatively-low key campaign, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken has for the first time called out his Republican challenger Mike McFadden in a broadcast advertisement, saying that the businessman’s attempts at humor disguise his lack of substance.

Meanwhile, the McFadden campaign is firing back at Franken’s claims of bipartisanship in the same ad, describing him instead as nothing other than a party-line voter and President Obama loyalist.

The most recent poll shows Franken with a nine-point lead over McFadden.

The dueling advertisements are the latest in the escalating war of words between the candidates.
Last week McFadden launched his third broadcast ad which features a Franken lookalike unsuccessfully attempting to back a trailered boat down a ramp, saying Franken “missed the mark” by voting with Obama. A previous hockey-themed targeted cable ad in the run-up to McFadden's May endorsement also called out Franken.

The new Franken ad, meanwhile, claims McFadden’s ads, which have featured what appears to be a punch to the groin and do-it-yourself health care, “try to be funny,” while attacking him, but that Franken has a track record of reaching across the aisle.

As soon as learning of the advertisement, McFadden’s campaign decried the advertisement.

“Al Franken, who votes with President Obama 97 percent of the time, is the most loyal, partisan Democrat in Washington. That is a fact,” said McFadden spokesman Tom Erickson. “For Senator Franken to make the audacious claim that he is bipartisan is a whopper of a lie.”

According to the Washington Post, Franken, along with 10 other Democratic Senators, voted along party lines 99 percent of the time.

Franken spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff stood by the advertisement.

"Investment banker Mike McFadden is misleading Minnesotans, and voters deserve to know the truth about Sen. Franken's record of bipartisan accomplishment in the Senate. Whether it’s jobs and workforce development, passing a Farm Bill, taking on Wall Street or helping kids with mental health issues."

Franken apologized on Thursday for a 2012 video in which he was featured holding up a pair of traffic cones to his chest to resemble breasts, telling Minnesota Public Radio that it was “A thoughtless moment and I regret it.”

Franken said the 2012 video was shot in Arizona and he didn’t know he was being recorded.

McFadden and the Minnesota Republican Party called on Franken to apologize for the video after First District congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn had to issue an apology of his own for years-old blog posts that lambasted gays, Native Americans and women.

Franken’s most recent apology didn’t appear to appease McFadden’s campaign.

“For Minnesotans, this is déjà vu all over again.” said McFadden press secretary Becky Alery. “Senator Franken promised that he would keep his head down, but his reluctant apology shows that he hasn’t changed one bit and remains unfit for office.” 

By the numbers: Outside spending on federal races

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: August 28, 2014 - 1:41 PM

According to Federal Election Commission data, Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District race has attracted the most money from outside groups so far.

The contest between Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan and Republican Stewart Mills has already seen nearly $1.4 million in PAC spending, with much of it coming from Nolan supporters, such as the House Majority Fund and the AFSCME union.

In contrast, the race for the Seventh Congressional District seat, which Republican Torrey Westrom hopes to snatch from longtime Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, has only seen $245,000 in independent expenditures. Interestingly, the last filing documenting outside spending in that race was from eight months ago.

Minnesota's U.S. Senate race, so far, has drawn relatively little interest from independent spenders. According to FEC filings, outside groups have spent about $140,000 to weigh in on the battle between Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Republican Mike McFadden.

The FEC calculations only include expenditures that represent, "spending by individual people, groups, political committees, corporations or unions expressly advocating the election or defeat of clearly identified federal candidates."

This post first appeared in our Morning Hot Dish political newsletter. If you're not already getting the political newsletter by email, it's easy and free to sign up.  Go to StarTribune.com/membercenter, check the Politics newsletter box and save the change.

Survey USA poll shows Dayton, Franken leading GOP challengers

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: August 26, 2014 - 8:03 PM

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. 

GOP demands apology for 2012 Franken video; maintains party did not approach MacDonald

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: August 25, 2014 - 1:18 PM

One day after Republican Congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn apologized for a series of blog posts written years ago that lambasted women, American Indians, gays and national political figures, Minnesota GOP leaders called on the state’s DFL party chair to apologize for a 2012 video in which Sen. Al Franken was shown appearing to sport a pair of traffic cones as breasts. The video came to light earlier this year.

The news conference also ended abruptly when State Republican Party Chair Keith Downey walked out when asked to clarify whether the party approached endorsed Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald and asked her to renounce her endorsement.

“If you had to stack up the politicians in Minnesota, Al Franken would be at the top of the list for those who have issued offensive comments or actions,” Downey said at a news conference Monday morning. “It is time for him to apologize for those, and it is time for Democrat chairman Ken Martin to call on him to apologize as well.”

Martin condemned Hagedorn’s remarks as “outrageous and offensive,” but he wasn’t alone. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden also called on Hagedorn to apologize, saying “His writings do not reflect Minnesota values.”

Hagedorn, who initially defended his remarks, apologized Sunday.

In an open letter to Martin, Republican Minnesota state Sen. Michelle Fischbach and Reps. Marion O’Neill, Joyce Peppin, Cindy Pugh and Peggy Scott demanded the apology, saying “This wasn’t some ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit from yesteryear—this video was from an event in 2012.”

“I am so offended, not only this but his pattern of behavior to degrade women and to put women down,” said O’Neill, who along with Scott joined Downey at the news conference. “We are in 2014. I think it’s time to apologize, And it’s time to move forward and it’s time to stop this terrible behavior.”

Downey said that when the video first surfaced in 2012, the Republicans. “brought it to light a number of times” through social media, but never demanded an apology until Martin called on Hagedorn to do so.
“The hypocrisy jumped out at us, so today is the day,” he said, adding that “the standard has been set” with Hagedorn’s apology.

Scott called Hagedorn’s apology, which also lashed out at Franken, “sincere and heartfelt,”

“I think he genuinely is apologetic and remorseful about the comments that he made,” she said.

The news conference ended abruptly when Downey refused to discuss the latest developments surrounding GOP-endorsed Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald, who awaits trial next month for charges of drunken driving and resisting arrest.

MacDonald, who was barred from the party’s State Fair booth and removed by security last week, said she was approached by a party representative and asked to reject her endorsement, but refused. The same day, Downey issued a letter blasting MacDonald. A Republican party spokeswoman denied MacDonald was approached on behalf of the party.

However, text messages and voicemails obtained by politics.mn indicate attorney Patrick Burns approached MacDonald on behalf of the GOP.

"I have a deal from the party for you" one of the text messages read, according to the website.

Asked about the text messages and phone call, Downey maintained that the state GOP did not approach MacDonald with the request to reject the endorsement. Asked whether Burns was not telling the truth, Downey walked out without comment as reporters continued asking questions.

Candidates flock to Minnesota State Fair

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: August 21, 2014 - 9:38 AM

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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