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 Minnesota campaigns

Collin Peterson pushes back against attack ad

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: September 25, 2014 - 3:28 PM

Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is pushing back against a Republican ad that blasts him for his office’s car leases and the mileage reimbursements he receives for traveling around his district in his personal airplane.

The ad is part of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s $300,000-plus campaign to highlight the costs Peterson has accumulated while traveling across his 38-county district.

“Since 1991, I’ve been out there doing my job, meeting with constituents, and covering more events and meetings than I could if I was using a car,” Peterson said in a statement. “Minnesota's Seventh District stretches from the Canadian border almost to the Iowa line. These Washington outsiders have no idea how large and diverse this district is, how much ground it covers, or how to get around within it. Their ignorance is frankly remarkable."

With the campaign arms of the national Democratic and Republican parties pumping millions of dollars in attack ads into Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District race, both Peterson and his Republican opponent, Torrey Westrom, will be fighting back against a bevy of negative advertising . The NRCC has made $2.8 million in requests for ad time to go after Peterson while Democrats have booked $1.5 million for anti-Westrom ads.

The barrage of attack ads illustrates how high the stakes are in the race, where Peterson is seeking a 13th term and Westrom is aggressively pursuing an upset in the Republican-leaning district. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district by almost a 10-point margin in 2012,  but Peterson -- the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee -- has coasted to re-election for much of his tenure in Congress.

Peterson should expect criticism of his travel costs to continue, GOP aides said.

“The last two [ads] have obviously highlighted Collin Peterson’s use of taxpayer-funded perks and it’s definitely a major theme of this campaign,” said NRCC spokesman Tyler Houlton.

After the NRCC aired its first Peterson ad, Democrats struck back with an ad criticizing Westrom for taking his legislative pay during Minnesota’s 2011 government shutdown. Westrom was among more than 100 state lawmakers who continued collecting his check.

“This is what desperate Democrats do when they know they are on the verge of losing,” Minnesota Republican Party Chair Keith Downey said in a statement this month.

Gun group tells Nolan: You need firearms training

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: September 24, 2014 - 2:18 PM

The Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee has offered to pay for firearms training for Democratic congressman Rick Nolan at the chain of retail stores owned by the family of his Republican opponent, Stewart Mills.

The offer came in response to a picture posted to Twitter on Wednesday showing the congressman holding an AR-15 rile with his finger on the trigger while surrounded by supporters.

Bryan Strawser, executive director of the Minnesota Gun Owners PAC, said Nolan’s actions were “unsafe and dangerous.”

Gun rights have emerged as a key issue in the Eighth Congressional District race. Mills released a campaign ad this summer that claimed Nolan is among the politicians who “have no respect for the Second Amendment.”

Nolan earned a ‘F’ rating The National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund, but dismissed Mills’ ad as a “big lie, smear tactic.” Nolan aides said the congressman declined comment on Strawser’s offer.

“The basic rules of firearms safety, taught to students as young as 12 in [Minnesota Department of Natural Resources] hunter safety classes, state clearly that one’s finger should be kept off the trigger until ready to shoot,” Strawser said.

“It’s nothing short of hypocritical for Mr. Nolan to be photographed at what appears to be a campaign event while holding an AR-15 rifle,” Strawser said. “Mr. Nolan has specifically called for a ban on the very rifle he is holding in this photograph.”

The Minnesota Gun Owners PAC offered to buy firearms training for Nolan at Mills Fleet Farm Indoor Shooting location in Baxter.

It’s the same shooting range where Mills, a company vice president, recorded an “open video letter” to Nolan and other Democrats in Congress, advocating for armed security in every school. He also argued against the push to pass gun control legislation in Congress, saying it “isn’t about controlling guns, it’s about controlling people and limiting your freedom.”

The video, which has racked up more than 307,000 views on YouTube, features a live-fire demonstration at the shooting range and may have unintentionally served as the soft launch for Mills’ congressional campaign. He officially entered the race five months later.

In the video, Mills notes that hunters can find an exclusive line of AR-15 sporting rifles at the location. But the political point was to challenge a Nolan assertion. During an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said that “I don’t need an assault rifle to shoot a duck.”

GOP's Johnson releases first broadcast TV ad in governor's race

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: September 24, 2014 - 12:05 PM

By Patrick Condon

Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson has released his first broadcast television ad of the campaign, a 30-second spot that mixes gentle family humor with a few swipes at Gov. Mark Dayton. 

The ad titled "Accountable" is set to start airing Thursday on broadcast and cable stations statewide. Spokesman Jeff Bakken would not reveal how much the Johnson campaign spent on the ad, but called it "substantial."

"If people are watching TV tomorrow, they'll see it," Bakken said.

Dayton, the DFL incumbent, started airing his first TV ad on Tuesday, a hockey-themed ad that touts achievements of his first term. 

Johnson's ad opens in the kitchen of his family's home in Plymouth, his wife and sons standing nearby. He talks about his proposal to audit every state program. "I'm pretty thorough," Johnson says, which he illustrates in a series of light-hearted clips: monitoring one son's lawnmowing job; double-checking the other son's homework; and accusing the family dog of chewing up a football. 

Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner, then shifts to political jabs: "Mark Dayton should be held accountable for wasting our money." He notes two examples: a state Senate office building now under construction next to the Capitol, and bonuses last year that went to managers at MNsure.

Dayton did sign legislation that authorized the office building project, although he had criticized initial plans as too lavish, and they were scaled back. On the MNsure bonuses, Dayton noted those were not his decisions, although he did sign the legislation that created MNsure in the first place. He said recently he would not support bonuses this year for any MNsure employees. 

In response to Johnson's ad, the Dayton campaign hit back at some of the Republican's votes when he served in the Legislature. "If you audit Commissioner Johnson's record, you'll find he consistently voted for budget gimmicks and shifts," said campaign spokesman Jeremy Drucker. That's in contrast to Dayton, Drucker said: "Governor Dayton's administration turned a $6 billion deficit into a $1.2 billion surplus."

Johnson's ad comes a day after both campaigns released their most recent fundraising totals. They showed Johnson had narrowed the financial gap with Dayton, although the incumbent retains an advantage. 

The TV ad should help address what's been one of Johnson's key challenges, lack of name recognition. A recent Star Tribune poll found that nearly three-fourths of respondents had either never heard of him, or had no opinion of him. 

Bakken said Johnson would air more TV ads. The Dayton campaign has also said more ads are planned. 

The Johnson ad can be viewed here. Dayton's first ad can be viewed here

(Updated to add comment from Dayton campaign.)

Minnesota state House candidate sued after allegedly sawing his neighbor’s garage in half

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: September 22, 2014 - 6:15 PM

A state House candidate from northern Minnesota is being sued in civil court after cutting his neighbor’s garage in half.

Roger Weber, a Republican from Nashwauk, faces a lawsuit filed by Mark Beseman of Iron seeking $20,000 in damages to the garage and $20,000 in punitive damages, as well as a small portion of Weber’s land.

According to the civil suit, Weber's father owned 40 acres near Nashwauk and in 1978 gave 39 acres to his son. The father kept the house, garage and remaining acre of land until his death in 2012 when it was passed down to his daughter, Ann Anderson, who sold it to Besemann in spring 2013.

Weber said, he told his sister he was going to remove any structures that sat on his side of the property line. Weber's attorney, Brian Bengtson, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The suit is the result of a simmering property dispute that has stretched on for more than a year. Besemann filed the initial complaint in September 2013 after authorities in Itasca County declined to investigate the matter.

Weber faces incumbent DFLer Carly Melin in the Nov. 4 general election. It’s a rematch of the 2012 race where Melin coasted to victory, capturing 70 percent of the vote.

Judge Lois Lang is scheduled to hear the case Itasca County District Court on December 15, more than a month after Election Day.

The Republican Party of Minnesota did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Poll reveals 86-point lead for Lillehaug over GOP-endorsed challenger Michelle MacDonald in Supreme Court race

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: September 22, 2014 - 12:25 PM

A recent poll of Minnesota attorneys reveals a very comfortable lead for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Lillehaug against his Republican Party-endorsed challenger Michelle MacDonald.

The poll of 783 Minnesota State Bar Association attorneys who are likely practice before the appellate courts revealed 93.4 percent backed Lillehaug, compared to 6.55 percent for MacDonald.

The poll, taken Sept. 9-19, was completed before MacDonald’s conviction by a Dakota County jury last week for gross misdemeanor test refusal and obstruction of justice stemming from an April 2013 traffic stop. She was found not guilty of driving while intoxicated.

MacDonald drew ire from Minnesota Republican Party leaders when the pending charges came to light last June a month after she was endorsed at their state convention in Rochester. Party leadership said they did not know about the charges, and unsuccessfully attempted to get MacDonald to “repudiate” her endorsement. MacDonald refused and continues to campaign for the seat. She filed a complaint against party leadership which was ultimately dismissed.

Although Lillehaug appears safe, his fellow incumbent Justice Wilhelmina “Mimi” Wright enjoys an even stronger lead with 96.93 percent of support over challenger John Hancock, with 3.07 percent.

The attorneys polled comprise a small sample of the Minnesota State Bar Association's estimated 17,000 members.

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