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:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson on Sunday proclaimed he'll be a champion of Minnesota's middle class, but stumbled when asked how to define them.
During Sunday's Fox 9 debate at Hamline University, Johnson said "I have no clue how I would define that."
The remark was immediately seized on by Gov. Mark Dayton's campaign and the DFL, which put out an ad deriding his opponent. But, even the governor had a tough time defining what middle class is, offering his best guess of a total annual household income of between $50,000 to $60,000.
Turns out, both might be right.
Economists, sociologists and political scientists have not decisively defined what it means to be middle class. Disparities in cost of living in different regions and cities also makes it difficult to pinpoint income brackets for this subset of Americans. Moreover, public opinion polls find views on what it means to be middle-class vary widely.
A 2013 Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll found that nine in 10 Americans believe the top threshold for middle class are families with a total income of $100,000. The tendency, according to this poll, is Americans more often than not believe their own income brackets to be considered middle class.
Dayton's guess appeared more in line with the majority of Americans in this particular poll. Half of those with total annual incomes of $50,000 to $75,000 considered themselves to be middle class. That's compared to 29 percent of all adults who believed the $50,000-$75,000 bracket to be middle class.
A 2013 story in the Cincinnati Enquirer found various estimates by credible groups on how to define middle class based on income levels. Unsurprisingly, the brackets varied widely.
"In the past few years, the "middle class" income range has been described as between $32,900 and $64,000 a year (a Pew Charitable Trusts study), between $50,800 and $122,000 (a U.S. Department of Commerce study), and between $20,600 and $102,000 (the U.S. Census Bureau's middle 60% of incomes)," Dan Horn at the Enquirer wrote.
State Democrats are seizing on Johnson's "I have no clue" remark, saying it undercuts his argument that he'll be an advocate for the "forgotten middle class" has he said during Sunday's opening statements.
“Today’s debate made crystal clear that Jeff Johnson is completely clueless about how to strengthen middle class families,” said DFL Chairman Ken Martin in a statement.
Jeff Bakken, a spokesman for the Johnson campaign, said that it's ironic Dayton, the great-grandson of the founder of Dayton’s, a department store chain that spawned Target Corp, is questioning Johnson's commitment to the middle class. Johnson grew up in Detroit Lakes in a middle-class household, Bakken said.
"Jeff Johnson was born and raised in Detroit Lakes, his dad delivered bread to supermarkets for a living, and Jeff has earned every dollar he’s made," Bakken said in a statement. "If Mark Dayton and his attack machine want to get into a debate with Jeff Johnson over who better understands the middle class, bring it on.”
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