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, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Corey Mitchell, Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

Posts about Minnesota U.S. senators

Minnesota candidates: In profiles and photos

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: October 21, 2014 - 10:00 AM

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 

Franken is defending himself with the same head-down, workmanlike approach that has characterized his time in office.

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:

Mark Dayton

Jeff Johnson

Al Franken

Mike McFadden

Franken: Override 'Hobby Lobby,' make contraceptives more available to women

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: October 16, 2014 - 6:24 PM

U.S. Sen. Al Franken reiterated his stance Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that limited access to birth control must be overridden, in a women’s health roundtable in St. Paul that focused largely in the fallout from this summer’s Hobby Lobby ruling.

The ruling, in which the U.S. Supreme Court said that requiring corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception violated federal law protecting religious freedom. Franken told the panel of assorted women lawyers, citizens and advocates that it ruling must be overturned.

“This turns on its head the whole notion of freedom of religion,” Franken said. “To me, it’s about the freedom of a woman, in this case, to choose whether she wants to use contraception or not. Because of the (Affordable Care Act) it’s a basic, effective, essential healthcare.”

Franken said he is open to FDA review of making oral contraceptives more accessible to women—a position McFadden has taken. However, he added that the key issue is that it be covered by insurance, not how accessible it may be.

“The issue here isn’t where you get it,” he said. “It’s who pays for it.”

The roundtable included Winnie Williams of Woodbury, a mother of two teenage daughters, one with a benign brain tumor with symptoms treated thorough a specific kind of birth control.

“When I look at this issue, I look at it and say ‘You just told me and my daughter that we might not be able to have control of excessive bleeding, depression, migraines, brain tumors,” she said. “You’re telling me that my employer controls whether I have that as part of my medical care. And that, to me, is just unconscionable.”

McFadden, however, said Franken’s criticism of Republicans on women’s issues an “election year gimmick” in efforts to distract Minnesotans from current issues like Ebola and the ongoing Islamic State threat.

“You’ve seen this play out all across the country. It’s right out of the Democrats’ political guidelines as this is how we try to divide people.” McFadden said.

Franken said Thursday that the roundtable was to address issues important to women and men alike.
“The job of a senator is to pay attention to a lot of things all at one time,” he said.

McFadden: Restrict travel, appoint cabinet member to address Ebola threat

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: October 16, 2014 - 12:46 PM

Following disconcerting shortfalls revealed in the wake of a second nurse's Ebola diagnosis, U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden proposed steps to halt the spread of the deadly disease, which include mandatory quarantines and travel bans.

“We are not remotely prepared to deal with an Ebola outbreak in the United States,” McFadden said, adding that there are four state-of-the-art contamination centers in the country, each of which is equipped to hold just three to 10 patients. “As a result I believe we aggressively make sure that Ebola is not allowed to take hold and take root in the United States.”

McFadden, the Republican challenger to Sen. Al Franken, said the spread of Ebola is the currently the concern he’s heard more than any on the campaign trail, and proposes the following:

  • A temporary ban on travelers entering the U.S. who have recently been in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Aid workers would still be allowed to travel after a mandatory 21-day quarantine.
  • Boosting staffing at the Centers for Disease Control call centers to handle increased call volume from the public.
  • Lowering the CDC fever guidelines for people who have had contaqct with Ebola patients so that they may not travel with an elevated temperature.
  • Reiterating a call for President Obama to designate a cabinet member to coordinate the United States’ response to the disease.

McFadden compared President Obama’s reaction to the crisis a failure to be proactive, similar to when Islamic State militants beheaded the second of two American hostages last month. He also leveled criticism at Franken for a lack of action.

“They came back and said ‘We don’t have a strategy,’” he said. “I have the exact same feeling now that there is no strategy. The CDC allowed this nurse to get on a flight. That’s not acceptable. Someone needs to take responsibility for this.”

The country is currently without a U.S. Surgeon General, a position that requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Some Republicans have stood in opposition to Obama's current nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy. McFadden wouldn't say whether he was concerned that Murthy hasn't been confirmed, and said it is only important that a cabinet member is in charge, and wouldn't say whether he would vote to confirm Murthy.

"The president can just appoint a cabinet member to take responsibility for the role of Ebola. That's the role of the president." he said.

In the wake of concerns about a possible walkout of Texas nurses staffed with caring for Ebola patients, and for the welfare of U.S. aid workers who continue to care for Ebola patients in west Africa, McFadden said he had empathy for the risk they’re taking. Reports Thursday say Obama may deploy National Guard troops to Africa to build Ebola treatment centers. McFadden said he would back this as long as troops were adequately protected.

“Here they are trying to help people that are gravely ill, and I think that what we’re seeing down in Dallas is the nurses have very little faith in the system, and the way we’re responding to things,” he said. “I would guess that they were told ‘We’re doing everything right in this hospital, you’re going to be adequately protected.’ And they weren’t. They lost trust in the system.”

Franken spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff shot back at McFadden, saying that while McFadden held a news conference, Franken "went to work," pushing for increased screening at Minneapolis-St. Paul International AIrport, ensuring Minnesota healthcare providers have the necessary federal resources and backing legislation to fight Ebola. He backs any steps that need to be taken to prevent further spread, she said.

“Senator Franken finds it outrageous and unacceptable that CDC allowed a nurse to fly after she had been exposed to the virus." Fetissoff said. "The CDC has acknowledged this was a mistake and that they are now immediately take steps to make sure that additional Ebola infections are prevented. He will be watching to make sure they do so and there should be consequences if they do not.”

On the Senate trail today: Women's health and Ebola

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: October 16, 2014 - 10:47 AM

WASHINGTON -- GOP Senate candidate Mike McFadden continued to message on ebola Thursday, criticizing President Barack Obama's handling of the escalating threat of the disease in the United States.

McFadden supports a temporary travel ban on travelers entering the United States who have recently been to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. He also wants Obama to designate a cabinet level member to deal with the crisis.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Al Franken hosts a roundtable in St. Paul with Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund to talk about choice and "partisan initiatives affecting women's health."

The roundtable will include state Rep. Erin Murphy, the House Majority Leader and Erin Dad, chief of staff to Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul.

McFadden unveils plan aimed at helping working families

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez Updated: October 16, 2014 - 3:00 PM

Republican senate candidate Mike McFadden on Wednesday released details of a plan he said will help working families balance work and child-rearing responsibilities. 

The plan is based on proposals formulated by the Young Guns Network, a national Republican group with ties to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. 

The Sunfish Lake investment banker is running against Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat. 

McFadden's plan calls for allowing hourly workers to opt for time off from work instead of being paid overtime. It also calls for expanding the child tax credit for middle-class families by offering a larger credit amount in the year of a child's birth. 

"Federal policies should support families' working and child care decisions," McFadden said in a statement. "Through these flexible policies, we can help the American family and the American economy thrive." 

The Young Guns Network in its proposal said the the Fair Labor Standards Act would need to be reformed, with tweaks to classification of hourly and salaried workers. The group argues that current labor classification rules are confusing for employers.

McFadden's proposal would also consolidate tax credits for early child care based on income. 

In a statement, Franken campaign spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff criticized McFadden's plan. 

"Senator Franken has been working hard on behalf of Minnesota families for five-plus years and now that we're 20 days out from the election, investment banker Mike McFadden has suddenly decided to offer token specifics on these issues," Fetissoff said. "Minnesotans cannot trust a candidate who says he wants to help working families but doesn't bother to do something as fundamental as provide health insurance to his own [campaign] employees."

McFadden campaign spokeswoman Becky Alery dismissed the charge about healthcare coverege for campaign employees calling it "a political attack" that ignored McFadden's proposal. 

The issue emerged last summer and Tom Erickson, McFadden's deputy campaign manager, said then: "We compensate our employees in a way that allows them to purchase their own insurance plans that fit their needs."

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