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 campaigns

High-ranking Republicans back Mills, Westrom

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: July 16, 2014 - 3:12 PM

The Republican challengers in Minnesota’s two most competitive congressional races are attracting more donations from high-ranking members of Congress.

During the months of April, May and June, Eighth Congressional District candidate Stewart Mills III attracted contributions from the leadership PACs of new House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa of California and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, chair of the House Republican Conference.

In the state's Seventh District, state Sen. Torrey Westrom picked up donations from the PACs of Scalise, Camp, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan and outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

House Speaker John Boehner’s campaign committee also donated to the Mills and Westrom campaigns.

Westrom and Mills had the best fundraising stretches of their campaigns after the National Republican Congressional Committee promoted them to the top tier of its “Young Guns" program. The designation sends a signal to sitting members of Congress that the challengers are promising candidates.

The incumbents in the races, Democratic Reps. Rick Nolan in the Eighth and Collin Peterson in the Seventh, also had their best fundraising quarters of the election cycle and still hold cash-on-hand leads over their challengers.

Minnesota property taxes to go down, with help of aids and credits

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: July 16, 2014 - 11:12 AM

Minnesota property taxes will go down about $49 million for residents who qualify to state aids and credits this year, according to a new report.

The report by a nonpartisan legislative office shows that property taxes would go up $124 million without aids and credits, but new property tax and renters credits will more than offset the increases.

The report has set off a new round of high-stakes political fighting in St. Paul. Legislative Democrats have pledged to lower property taxes through more state aid to local governments and through direct property tax relief in the form of aids and credits.

In a letter to constituents, House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, credited Democrats' work for lowering property taxes for the first time in 12 years.

Homeowners will get some of the largest reductions in property taxes in 2014, about $171 million, or about 5.2 percent lower than last year. But owners of agricultural property, public utility land and commercial property could see their property levy edge up.

Republicans are zeroing in on a similar property tax report for 2015. That report shows property taxes will go up next year, even with aids and credits. However, analysts caution the 2015 numbers are highly speculative and make a rough guess and what local governments will do with their property tax levies.

“We knew farmers and rural landowners were going to be hit hard with property tax increases, but now it appears that homeowners in all tax brackets can expect to pay more despite promises the Democrats made over the past two years,” said state Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, who sits on the House Property and Local Tax Division.

Minnesota’s property tax rates are a combination of levies of local government, schools and the state, which means they can vary wildly from community to community.

“The Democrats raised taxes on Minnesotans by more than $2 billion, and vowed this would actually help property taxes go down,” said state Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, ranking Republican on the House Taxes Committee. “This report proves they didn’t keep their word and now Minnesotans are going to pay an even steeper price.”

The lead author of the report cautioned that the figures for aids and credits are only estimates based on their best guesses as to how many Minnesotans apply for the tax relief.

The year-to-year comparison for actual taxes paid between 2013 and 2014, the numbers Republicans are highlighting, are the only numbers analysts know for sure, said Steve Hinze, a legislative analyst in the research department of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Calculating aids and credits, as Democrats are counting on, gets murkier, he said.

The numbers “are actually pretty speculative because there is a new initiative aimed at getting more eligible taxpayers to apply for refunds this year, and no one really knows how successful it will be,” Hinze said.

Democrats say the only number that matters is what Minnesotans actually pay, which will be lower once they receive their aids and credits.

Many Democrats are especially happy that the some of the steepest tax reductions for homeowners and renters are in the rural areas.

Rep. John Persell, DFL- Bemidji, wrote a letter reminding constituents that property taxes were soaring as former GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty cut millions from local governments.

Now, he said, legislators and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton  “moved Minnesota in a different direction” and are lowering property taxes for the first time in years.

Peterson, Westrom step up fundraising pace in Seventh District race

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: July 15, 2014 - 4:56 PM

In Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District race, Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and his Republican challenger, Torrey Westrom, stepped up their fundraising during the months of April, May and June.

Peterson raised $268,000 during the quarter and has $717,300 banked for his re-election bid. The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, Peterson is seeking a 13th term in Congress.

Westrom raised nearly $231,500 and has almost $327,800 cash-on-hand. The attorney and state senator, announced his candidacy in early December.

The second quarter marked the best fundraising period of the election cycle for both candidates.

Westrom has the backing of the national Republicans, who consider Peterson vulnerable because he hails from a district that backed Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. The seat covers much of western Minnesota from the Canadian border down to southern part of the state.

This spring, the National Republican Congressional Committee named Westrom to its “Young Guns” program  for promising candidates.

Despite the district's conservative tilt, Republicans challengers haven't posed much of a threat to Peterson, a conservative Democrat who has coasted to re-election for much of the past 20 years.

Voter pre-registration deadline for primary is one week away

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: July 15, 2014 - 4:21 PM

Minnesota voters have one week to pre-register to vote for the state's Aug. 12 Primary Election.

This year, voters will decide a U.S. Senate seat, all of the state's eight U.S. House seats, governor, state officers and other Minnesota House Seats. The 2014 election also includes county commissioners, county sheriffs, county attorneys, auditors, treasurers and recorders.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie urges eligible voters to sign up before the July 22 deadline at www.mnvotes.org to save wait times at the polling place. Nearly 5,700 voters have successfully registered online.

Voters may also pre-register by contacting their local elections office to request a voter registration application form, or download and print an application--available in several languages--here.

Voters who miss the July 22 pre-registration deadline can still register at their polling place on Primary Election Day by bringing an approved proof of residence. Voters may continue to register to vote online for the Nov. 4 General Election through 11:59 p.m. Oct. 14.

The website includes helfpul tools for requesting an absentee ballot, looking up the status of a ballot, checking to see if you're registered to vote at your current address, viewing a sample ballot and finding a polling place.

Here are other key dates:

July 22: Pre-registration deadline for Primary Election. Voters should pre-register to avoid long lines at the polls. However, you may still register on Primary Election Day.

Aug. 12: Primary Election Day

Sept. 19: Absentee ballots will be available for the General Election

Oct. 14: Pre-registration deadline for the General Election. Voters who miss this deadline may still vote on election day.

Nov. 4: General Election Day.

Sign up here for election-related e-mail updates.

Nolan maintains fundraising lead over Mills in Eighth District race

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: July 15, 2014 - 4:56 PM

Republican congressional candidate Stewart Mills III outraised Democratic incumbent Rep. Rick Nolan during the months of April, May and June, according to figures released from their campaigns.

Mills’ campaign raised more than $338,000 and Nolan brought in almost $284,000 during the latest fundraising quarter.

The totals marked the best fundraising periods of the election cycle for the Eighth Congressional District candidates. Mills campaign spokeswoman Chloe Rockow said the Fleet Farm vice president also loaned “around $100,000" to his campaign.

Despite being outraised by Mills during three of the last four fundraising quarters, Nolan still has a $148,000 cash-on-hand advantage.

Nolan has $577,000 banked for his re-election bid. Mills has raised $429,000 since entering the race in June 2013.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has named Mills to its "Young Guns" program for promising GOP candidates.

Political prognosticators expect the Nolan-Mills race to be among the most competitive in the nation. Outside groups have already spent $500,000 backing Mills' campaign, Federal Election Commission records show.

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