Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen has netted a Democratic challenger.
Democrat Sharon Sund, who ran for the DFL endorsement in the Third Congressional District in 2012, announced her campaign on Thursday.
National Democrats had eyed Paulsen's seat for possible pick up because it is one of the few seats across the country held by a Republican where President Obama bested Republican Mitt Romney.
In 2012, Obama won 49.5 percent of the vote, to Romney's 48.65 percent in the suburban district. That year, Paulsen won re-election with 58 percent of the vote.
Sund, a DFL activist who has worked in science-related jobs for big Minnesota businesses, said in a release: "I’m running for Congress because Minnesota’s families deserve a thriving economy that rewards hard work and innovation."
When she ran in 2012, local DFL activists picked Brian Barnes to run instead and she dropped out.
Paulsen has already built up a considerable war chest to fend off any challengers. According to his most recent campaign finance report, he had $1.7 million cash on hand.
In an effort to shed more light on who is influencing lawmakers, a Senate panel on Wednesday approved a measure that would require disclosure of officials' spouses' financial interests.
"I really see it as an oversight," said Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, who sponsored the measure.
Various studies have found that Minnesota has weaker financial disclosure requirements than many states. Many other states already require some financial disclosure from spouses, and some even require information about lawmakers and other officials' children.
But the idea has its detractors.
"I just really don’t see how we can force a spouse to comply with this statute," said Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson. He said he could not support the measure.
Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said she shared that "sense of umbrage."
"I'm going to vote for it but I, too, have some misgivings," she told Eken.
The measure would also ask lawmakers and other officials to disclosure the areas in which they have contracts to do consulting or independent contracting.
A similar measure is moving forward in the Minnesota House as well.
A proposal to avoid partisan, big-money fights for judicial seats by changing the way judges achieve and keep their offices moved ahead on a mixed voice vote at the Legislature Wednesday.
The Senate Subcommittee on Elections approved the measure and sent it to the full Rules Committee.
Sponsored by Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, the bill proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would go to voters in November. It would replace the current system, in which judges run for re-election with the word "incumbent" by their names, with one that depends on an appointed merit commission and yes-or-no "retention" elections with no opponent on the ballot.
Rest and supporters of the bill, including former Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnuson, presented the amendment as a way of avoiding partisan judicial elections that require judges to commit on issues that may later come before them. In Wisconsin and Michigan, they said, those races have attracted significant campaign contributions.
"You folks run on platforms," Magnuson told the legislators. "A judge can't run on a platform. That's antithetical to what a judge does. A judge decides cases based on the law and fact in front of him or her."
Sarah Walker, president of the Coalition for Impartial Justice, also argued in support of the bill. "All you have to do is look around the country .... to see that high-cost partisan elections are sweeping the country, and it's not far off in Minnesota."
Currently, most judges do come into office by gubernatorial appointment, but there are rare elections for open seats without an appointee. Once in office, judges stand for re-election and can be challenged by opponents. Most run unopposed.
Opponents of the measure including Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the powerful anti-abortion organization, and others who argued that the measure denied voters the right to freely choose their own judges.
"We oppose the premise that citizens aren't qualified to vote for judges," said Andrea Rau of the MCCL. We believe citizens have the right to vote for a particular judicial candidate, not just against them."
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, a member of the subcommittee, said voters "will have their vote taken away." He said empowering a commission to evaluate judges and recommend replacements means the people's right to select judges would be given to "political appointees."
"I don't see the public pounding our doors for this," Limmer said.
Rest's proposed amendment is now queued up in the Senate Rules Committee along with a proposed amendment that would make it harder for the Legislature to submit future constitutional amendments to voters. The House, which is up for re-election in November, has shown less interest in putting amendments on the ballot this year.
One day after the only Republican candidate for Secretary of State dropped out of the race, former state senator John Howe announced on Tuesday that he would run for the seat and former state senator Ted Daley said he is "definitely" considering a bid.
On Monday, Dennis Nguyen, who had the GOP field to himself, quit the race, claiming his existing obligations had made it difficult for him to run a statewide race. Nguyen had seen his support from sitting lawmakers diminish after reports that he had visited strip clubs.
Howe, the former mayor of Red Wing, said he had thought about running when Nguyen was still in the race. Daley said he did not.
Both of the former senators were elected in 2010 and lost their seats to Democrats after the 2012 redistricting.
Howe, a former mayor of Red Wing, said that his hallmarks would be honest and common sense.
"I think most people know that I work well with everybody," Howe said. In the 2012 legislative session, he proposed what some saw as a compromise to the voter ID constitutional amendment. That alternative was not adopted by the Republican-led Legislature.
Daley, a CPA and military veteran, said he is "definitely, definitely considering" a run for the office. While he said his interest in running rose after Nguyen quit the race. He said he expects to make a decision this week.
Daley, of Eagan, was on the joint House-Senate committee that crafted the voter ID amendment. The voter ID amendment ultimately made it onto the ballot and was rejected by Minnesotans in the 2012 election.
Current Secretary Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, is not running for re-election. DFL state Reps. Steve Simon, of Hopkins, and Debra Hilstrom, of Brooklyn Center, are both running to replace him.
A Republican legislative leader who supports same-sex marriage said she will run in a primary after failing to win her party’s endorsement over the weekend.
“This is a democracy and people are able to throw their hat in the ring,” said state Rep. Jenifer Loon, of Eden Prairie. “I don’t see this as a huge issue, honestly.”
Local GOP activist Sheila Kihne emerged to challenge Loon at their local convention, with neither candidate able to get enough votes to win the endorsement.
Kihne said she is weighing a primary run after her strong showing at the convention. Loon was one of four GOP House members who voted to legalize same-sex marriage last year.
“Here locally, it was an issue of trust or integrity,” Kihne said Monday. “We do not feel like we have good leadership.”
Activists who oppose same-sex marriage had worked behind-the-scenes to defeat Loon, a deputy minority leader.
“Life, marriage, and religious freedom are values for which there is no compromise,” said John Helmberger, CEO of the Minnesota Family Council. “Jenifer Loon tried to compromise these values-hurting the families in her district who trusted her to uphold them. And her constituents have spoken.”
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said he expects Loon will prevail and win a fourth term.
“Jenifer Loon—and I don’t know anybody who would dispute this—is very well-liked by the constituents in her district,” said Daudt, R-Crown. “I’m very confident that she will make it through a primary and easily win a general election again. She does a great job representing her community and I think that support will definitely be there for her.”
Just over 40 percent of voters in Loon’s district supported a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2012, a factor that Loon said she considered when she voted to legalize same-sex marriage last year.
Kihne said she is not a single-issue Republican, and noted that Loon is among several GOP leaders who have faced a challenge from within the party, including Daudt.
“It speaks to the fact that we are looking for more principled leadership and representatives who do what they are say they are going to do,” she said.
Of the four GOP House members who supported same-sex marriage, Loon is not the only one facing challengers.
First-term Rep. David FitzSimmons, R-Albertville, lost the endorsement at his convention and is considering a primary run.
Rep. Andrea Kieffer, R-Woodbury, is not seeking re-election.
Only Rep. Pat Garofalo of Farmington breezed through his convention without trouble.
Staff writer Abby Simons contributed to this story.
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