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.

Posts about Minnesota U.S. senators

Energy policy a key topic at FarmFest Senate candidate forum

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez Updated: August 6, 2014 - 1:11 PM

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. -- U.S. Senate primary candidates on Wednesday traded few barbs at a political forum on agriculture, but told farmers at FarmFest that they supported renewable energy sources such as wind and biofuels.

Appearing together for the first time were incumbent Sen. Al Franken, the DFL candidate, and Mike McFadden, the GOP-endorsed contender for U.S. Senate. Other Republican candidates who took questions were state Rep. Jim Abeler from Anoka and Iraq war veteran David Carlson. IP candidate Kevin Terrell also participated.

“We need a diverse energy portfolio,” Franken said in response to a question on how to support the development of renewable energy sources.

Energy policy, at times, dominated the forum but the candidates also touched on the labeling of genetically-modified foods and rail congestion caused by crude oil shipments.

On renewable energy, Franken said he would work to extend a wind production tax credit that expired last year.

McFadden said he supported the renewable fuel standards but sought to differentiate himself by saying that he thought coal-generated electricity was important, too.

“I support all forms of energy,” he said.

FarmFest, in its second day, has long been a proving ground for political candidates aiming to win over rural Minnesotans. Later Wednesday Congressional candidates will also talk rural and agricultural policy at the three-day event, which last year drew more than 40,000 attendees.

Roll Call: Democrats Franken and Nolan aren't shoo-ins for re-election

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: August 5, 2014 - 10:42 AM

Roll Call says two Democratic members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation -- Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Rick Nolan -- could face tough re-election races this fall.

According to the Capitol Hill newspaper, Franken is among the 10 most vulnerable senators this election cycle, but is “probably headed back to the Senate.”

The piece notes that Franken “drew strong Republican opponent in Mike McFadden, a businessman with fundraising chops.” McFadden faces state Rep. Jim Abeler in Tuesday’s GOP primary.

Noting Stewart Mills III’s campaign in the Eighth Congressional District, the paper says Nolan is among the 10 most vulnerable House members. Roll Call rates the Eighth Congressional District race as “leans Democratic,” meaning Nolan remains favored to win. The Cook Political Report rates the race as a “toss-up.”

Here’s the passage on Franken:

Franken is sitting on $5 million in a state Obama won twice, giving him a decided edge in his race for re-election. But Franken drew a strong Republican opponent in Mike McFadden, a businessman with fundraising chops to make it competitive, and the personal resources to help his campaign along. Even Minnesota Democrats acknowledge it will likely be tight. But, as of right now, Franken is probably headed back to the Senate.

Here’s what Roll Call had to say about the Nolan-Mills race:

After a three-decade hiatus from the House, Nolan defeated a one-term member last cycle and came back to Congress. This November, Nolan faces a well-financed foe in businessman Stewart Mills, who is capable of self-funding. Mills is well-known among the district’s residents because of his family’s chain of popular farm and sporting goods equipment stores.

Democratic operatives add that while the district favors Democrats, it has grown more competitive over the years. What’s more, Nolan’s distaste for fundraising could put him at a disadvantage in the fall.

With a little help from their friends, Minnesota races litter the airwaves

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: July 28, 2014 - 6:19 PM

A renewed wave of political ads are adding heat to Minnesota's sultry summer television viewing.

With one of the nation's most expensive U.S. Senate races on the air, gubernatorial candidates making their cases and outside groups adding volume, paid political pitches are redoubling their assault.

The candidates and their friends have already spent at least $3 million to air their messages across the state and groups are reserving even more time for later in the year.

In recent weeks, the paid advertising messages came into sharper focus.

On Monday, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden announced he would broadcast an ad called "Stitches," in which he and his son brag that McFadden took his sons sutures out himself rather than paying medical professions to do it. The ad, which had a limited cable run earlier this year, came on the heels of an ad in which McFadden was hit below the belt by a kid he was coaching in football.

While those ads have begun to get significant notice, Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken's ad budget far surpasses what McFadden has spent. Franken has ponied up more than $1.5 million to spread a message that he cares more about regular Minnesotans than partisan Washington fights.

Franken has more money to spend. He is one of the Senate's most prodigious fundraisers and raised more than all but one incumbent in the last quarter of the year, according to recent reports.

While that premiere race has yet to attract much outside cash in recent months, races lower on the ballot are attracting notice.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson supporters banded together to produce an advertisement designed to support the party-endorsed candidate. Group volunteer Chris Tiedeman, an RNC committeeman, told Politics.MN it would air on television in the coming weeks.

Johnson's campaign said on Monday it would start running its own ads on cable in advance of the primary. Like McFadden's "Stitches" ad,  the Johnson ad has been online for months and, like the McFadden ad, it take a lighthearted approach to a serious issue.

Republican Rep. Kurt Zellers, who will vie against Johnson, former Rep. Marty Seifert and businessman Scott Honour, started his own paid advertising program last week. Honour’s consultant Pat Shortridge said Honour has spent almost $100,000 on cable ad time and another $42,000 on radio ads. A group largely funded by Honour's former employer, the Gores Group, has also spent more than $200,000 to support Honour.

Meanwhile, the man the Republicans hope to unseat, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has yet to storm the airwaves -- but his friends have started the assault.

The big spending Democratic Alliance for a Better Minnesota put significant cash behind a pro-Dayton ad that began airing recently.

The Alliance, which invested considerable cash back in 2010 to bash Dayton's Republican opponent, used the ad to make a pitch for the idea that Minnesota is better off now than it was four years ago before Dayton was elected.

Television viewers this year had already seen ads trashing Dayton. Early this month, the big spending conservative Freedom Club began airing an anti-Dayton ad on broadcast television.


Klobuchar, Grassley want probe of ethanol sales restrictions

Posted by: Jim Spencer Updated: July 22, 2014 - 11:55 AM

Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has joined with Republican colleague Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa to push federal investigations of alleged restrictions on the sales of ethanol by the nation's major oil companies.

The senators cited a recent report by the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group representing the ethanol industry, that claims name-brand oil companies unfairly limit sales of ethanol at service stations selling their products.

Klobuchar and Grassley have written to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez asking them to investigate a number of charges for possible legal and regulatory violations. The senators have asked for "a substantive evaluation of your conclusions regarding possible anticompetitive behavior by certain oil companies and any proposed solutions or actions the DOJ and FTC will take to resolve this issue."   

Among charges leveled by the renewable fuels group at Big Oil:

Brand name service stations can only sell products provided by the oil company.

Sales quotas of branded products discourage the sale of ethanol.

Requirements to store multiple grades of branded gas eliminate the ability to store and sell ethanol.

Oil company demands that ethanol pumps be labeled with "intimidating" warnings about how the fuel can hurt engines.

Forcing dealers to isolate E85 pumps that deliver fuel that is 85 percent ethanol.

Stu Rothenberg says Minnesota Senate race is more competitive, cites national mood

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: July 14, 2014 - 4:42 PM

WASHINGTON -- Citing the national mood and Minnesota's "generally competitive nature," political analyst Stu Rothenberg altered his projection of the state's November Senate race, making it slightly more competitive, from "Safe Democrat" to "Democrat Favored" Monday.

Rothenberg, who handicaps House, Senate and gubernatorial races nationally and authors the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, said in a post Monday that the "change reflects the broad national environment" more than any advantage or disadvantage among the candidates.

Democratic incumbent Sen. Al Franken is vying for the seat against GOP businessman Mike McFadden and GOP House Rep. Jim Abeler. (Abeler and McFadden face a primary in August.)

"McFadden continues to run cutesy videos ... that focus on his coaching to introduce himself to voters, while Franken raises money and generally acts as if he has no opponent," Rothenberg writes.

Franken raised $3.3 million in the second quarter while McFadden raised $1.1 million.


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