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 Democrats

Peterson, Westrom agree to televised debates

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: October 1, 2014 - 10:45 AM

Democratic Congressman Collin Peterson and his Republican challenger, Torrey Westrom, will participate in two televised debates this month.

Pioneer Public Television in Appleton will sponsor the first debate, which will air at 8 pm. Thursday, Oct. 23.

The second debate, hosted by Prairie Public TV, will air in the Fargo-Moorhead area at 8 pm. Friday, Oct. 24.

Westrom has also agreed to a debate on KSTP-TV's “At Issue” on October 17. Peterson has yet to commit, but his spokeswoman said the campaign is “working on other [debate] possibilities.”

Peterson is seeking a 13th term in Congress and Westrom is aggressively pursuing an upset in the Republican-leaning Seventh District.

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district by almost a 10-point margin in 2012, but Peterson has coasted to re-election for much of his tenure in Congress.

Incumbents with large leads in the polls don’t often agree to debates with their lesser-known opponents, but recently released polls paint contrasting pictures of how competitive the race is.

A poll commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in early September shows Peterson with a 24 point lead over Westrom. Poll numbers released last week by the National Republican Congressional Committee last week found Westrom down just five points.

Today in the governor's race

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: October 1, 2014 - 10:11 AM

Gov. Mark Dayton and Jeff Johnson, the Republican who wants his job, meet in Rochester Wednesday night for the first gubernatorial debate of the fall election. 

The 7 p.m. debate at Mayo Civic Center is sponsored by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and the Post-Bulletin newspaper. The intent of the organizers is that the debate focus on issues important to greater Minnesota. 

Rochester has become a pivotal swing area in recent election cycles, as the historically Republican-leaning area has elected more Democrats to local offices and become a battleground in statewide races. Hannah Nicollet, the Independence Party's candidate for governor, is also participating in Wednesday night's debate. 

The debate is scheduled to air live on the national public affairs cable channel C-SPAN 2. 

Alliance up with another TV ad hitting Johnson over minimum wage in governor's race

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: September 30, 2014 - 2:54 PM

A new TV ad from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota is critical of Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson over the minimum wage issue.

The Alliance, a third party group that supports DFL candidates, has aired a series of TV ads against Johnson. The group said the new ad would begin airing statewide on Tuesday. 

The ad features a Minnesota woman, Jessica English, who talks about raising her kids for a time on minimum wage. "It was nearly impossible to get by," said English, raising concerns that Johnson would "reduce the minumum wage." 

"Johnson opposes raising the minimum wage, but he supports tax breaks for big corporations," English says in the ad. The Alliance cited several votes that Johnson took as a state legislator in 2005 to back up those claims. 

English, a former activist for Occupy Homes MN movement, is now an economic organizer for the progressive group TakeAction MN. 

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill earlier this year raising Minnesota's minimum wage by $1.85, to $8 an hour for large employers. It will keep going up to $9.50 an hour in 2016, and start indexing to inflation in 2018.

Johnson has been critical of the minimum wage bill, and said he does not support automatic increases in the minimum wage.

"He agrees with the woman in the ad -- that it's impossible to raise a family on a minimum wage salary," spokesman Jeff Bakken said. Bakken said Johnson would not cut the current minimum wage, and noted recent economic measures showing Minnesota last in private sector job creation in the Midwest. 

"We need more good-paying jobs in our state, and the only way to get them is to get rid of Mark Dayton," Bakken said. 

It's the third Alliance ad targeting Johnson's record. The full ad can be viewed here

Today in the governor's race

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: September 30, 2014 - 9:50 AM

By most accounts, the race for governor in Minnesota this year has been a pretty sleepy one.

Gov. Mark Dayton, the DFL incumbent, has been more inclined to make official appearances as governor over campaigning as a candidate at political events. His Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, has tended toward a light schedule of public events to date. 

On Wednesday, Dayton and Johnson along with Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet meet in Rochester for the first of five debates. That could quicken the pace of the race. In the meantime, this blog will try to keep track of the daily comings and goings of the two major candidates to the extent their campaigns provide that information. 

On Tuesday, with 35 days until the election, neither Dayton nor Johnson are scheduled to appear in public. 

Fire fighters union backs Dayton for governor

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: September 29, 2014 - 3:18 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton picked up more union support for his re-election Monday with the endorsement of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters.

The union represents about 1,600 fire fighters, paramedics, EMTs and dispatchers in 40 communities around the state. Union president Chris Parsons, a St. Paul firefighter, said the union's longtime veterans consider Dayton more attentive to their concerns than any other governor going back 40 years. Dayton has been "extremely attentive to public safety matters when it comes to fire safety," Parson said.

Unlike many unions that reliably back Democrats, the fire fighters union has crossed over to back Republicans, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whom the group backed in both 2002 and 2006. But Pawlenty angered fire fighters toward the end of his term when he proposed diverting money from a state firefighter training account funded by a surcharge on homeowner and commercial assistance. 

Fire fighters say the account is needed for up-to-date training and equipment, and Dayton has opposed any move to eliminate it. Parsons also praised Dayton for restoring a higher level of state aid to local governments, which he said allowed many cities to hire and retain fire fighters. 

Parsons said Dayton's Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, did not reach out to the group to vie for its endorsement. 

Parsons said the union has several items on its legislative wishlist next year: enhanced training and equipment tooled for response to possible oil train or pipeline spills; a larger role in community medical response that would allow emergency responders to play a more pro-active role in keeping people out of emergency rooms; and a ban on flame retardant materials in homes that, Parsons said, have been linked in some studies to higher cancer rates in fire fighters. 

Dayton said the sacrifice made by fire fighters and their families makes it imperative for political leaders to be responsive to their agenda. 

"Whatever I can do, whatever the state of Minnesota government can do to support you in your undertakings is something I feel a personal obligation to do to the maximum extent possible," Dayton said. 

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