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.

Rep. Paulsen has nearly 70 to 1 cash advantage over likely Democratic opponent

Posted by: Corey Mitchell under 3rd District, Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota congressional, Democrats, Republicans Updated: April 15, 2014 - 10:18 AM

Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen has a 68 to 1 cash advantage over his likely Democratic opponent.

After raising nearly $431,800 during the first quarter of 2014, Paulsen has $1.979 million banked for his reelection bid, according to his campaign.

Paulsen’s likely Democratic challenger, Sharon Sund, has $28,835 cash on hand after raising almost $33,600 during the first two weeks of her campaign, which began in mid-March.

Sund, a former Hennepin County DFL chairwoman, is the lone challenger to Paulsen in the state’s Third Congressional District.

“For sure, we’re talking a David and Goliath story, but David had some things … going for him,” Sund told the Star Tribune last week.

GOP's Kelby Woodard, rising star in House, won't seek re-election

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota legislature, Republicans Updated: April 15, 2014 - 9:57 AM

State Rep. Kelby Woodard, a Belle Plain Republican who has been a rising star for the party in the state House, has announced he won't seek re-election this year. 

In a statement released to the Le Sueur News-Herald, Woodard said he's been asked to help start a new Catholic high school and does not plan to be on the ballot in 2014. Susan Closmore, communications director for House Republicans, confirmed the statement's legitimacy. Woodard did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Woodard was elected to the House in 2010. Last year, he became an assistant minority leader, and in recent months frequently served as a spokesman for House Republicans at press conferences. He rooms with House Republican Leader Kurt Daudt when the two are staying in St. Paul during the legislative session. 

Woodard's district includes parts of Scott, Rice and Le Sueur counties. He said in his media statement that he's been grateful for the chance to serve but is excited about the opportunity to "give back to the community in a new way." Woodard said the school would be dedicated to providing a college preparatory environment for kids from families in poverty who struggle to succeed in school. 

Woodard, a married father of five, is a former Target executive who went on to found several companies focused on international trade. In addition to his role in House GOP leadership, he has been serving as the caucus lead on K-12 funding issues. 

Scenes from the minimum wage bill signing

Posted by: Glen Stubbe Updated: April 14, 2014 - 4:27 PM

Dayton signs historic minimum wage increase into law

Posted by: Baird Helgeson under Funding, Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Democrats, Republicans, State budgets Updated: April 14, 2014 - 2:32 PM

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a dramatic increase in the state’s minimum wage Monday, giving raises to more than 325,000 Minnesotans.

The new $9.50 base hourly wage takes the state from having one of the lowest minimum wages to one of the highest when it fully kicks in by 2016.

“Minnesotans who work full-time should be able to earn enough money to lift their families out of poverty, and through hard work and additional training, achieve the middle-class American Dream,” said Dayton, surrounded by legislators, labor and labor leaders at a ceremonial bill signing in the State Capitol rotunda. “Raising the minimum wage to $9.50, and indexing it to inflation, will improve the lives of over 325,000 hard-working Minnesotans. I thank the Legislature for recognizing the need to make work pay in Minnesota.”

Minnesota’s dramatic wage increase puts the state at the forefront of a major initiative of President Obama, who has failed to persuade Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and instead focused on pressing his case state by state.

The state’s higher minimum wage has angered Republicans and business leaders, who say the higher wage will force them to lay off workers and become a drag on the fragile economic recovery.

“We believe that all Minnesotans deserve the dignity of supporting themselves and their families through hard work,” said state Rep. Ryan Winkler, a Golden Valley DFLer who was a chief negotiator of the minimum wage effort. “Raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is an important step to create a rising floor for all wages that will benefit hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who work hard and deserve to get ahead.”

At $6.15 per hour, Minnesota has one of the lowest minimum wages in the nation, lower than neighboring Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. Minnesota is one of only four states with a minimum wage below the national rate of $7.25 per hour.

State officials estimate that the $9.50 base wage will put an additional $472 million in the pockets of Minnesota’s lowest-wage workers each year. Supporters say the increase in consumer spending is expected to help local businesses in communities across our state, and provide another boost to Minnesota’s growing economy.

“Today represents a big step forward for low-wage workers in our community,” said Sen. Jeff Hayden, a Minneapolis DFLer who was a chief supporter of the wage-hike measure. “We rely on these workers every day, yet many of them cannot support their own families. Raising the minimum wage is part of a larger effort to lift up the working poor and ensure all Minnesotans have the opportunity to earn enough to get by.”

A Minnesotan who earns $6.15 per hour work full-time earns an annual salary of just $12,792, about $7,000 below the poverty line. Raising the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour comes within $30 of closing that gap for the year.

To help small businesses, the bill also establishes lower minimum wage requirements for small employers and young workers once the new law takes effect Aug. 1.

Peterson raises $218,000 during first quarter of 2014

Posted by: Corey Mitchell under 7th District, Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota congressional, Democrats, Republicans Updated: April 14, 2014 - 9:19 AM

Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson raised nearly $218,000 since the start of the year and has $522,000 banked for his reelection bid.

Two GOP groups – American Future Fund and the National Republican Congressional Committee -- have already spent nearly a quarter million dollars on ads in Peterson’s western Minnesota district, which leans conservative.

Peterson’s Republican challenger, state Sen. Torrey Westrom, raised roughly $84,000 by the end of 2013. Westrom has yet to post his first quarter 2014 fundraising numbers ahead of Tuesday’s filing deadline.

Peterson, the lead Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, is seeking a 13th term in Congress. Close to 80 percent of his campaign contributions for this election cycle have come from political action committees, most of them with ties to agriculture.

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