With a competitive gubernatorial primary, 15 legislative primaries and a new law allowing anyone to vote absentee, more Minnesotans are voting early.
According to the Secretary of State's office, as of Thursday more than 2,000 Minnesotans had successfully cast absentee ballots for the August 12th primary.
That's more than previous years at similar points in the election cycle. In 2010, by July 18, only 1,500 Minnesotans had cast absentee ballots. That year, the first when Minnesota had an August primary rather than an election in September, featured a DFL primary for governor as well as several hot local races.
This year, for the first time, Minnesotans do not need to give an excuse for why they want to vote absentee. That change, plus encouragement from political campaigns to vote early, may explain the uptick in absentee ballots.
The money is flowing in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race.
On Thursday, in advance of Tuesday's federal campaign finance deadline, both Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken and his chief Republican rival Mike McFadden released their most recent fundraising numbers.
In the last three months, Franken, long a prodigious cash gatherer, raised 'over $3.3 million,' according to his campaign. McFadden, who has promised he will have to resources to compete, raised 'over $1.1 million,' his campaign said.
For the cycle, Franken has brought in $18.4 million. But most of it has been spent.Franken, who has been running an aggressive cycle of television advertisements, had $5 million cash on hand as of the start of this month.
Since starting to run last year, McFadden has raised $4 million. He had about half of it left at the start of July. McFadden, who won the Republican party's endorsement in May, only began a broadcast advertising campaign last week.
McFadden will face an August primary against several other Republicans, none of whom have raised significant cash, before he could vie against Franken in November.
So far, national outside groups have largely stayed out of the state's Senate race, with just a few exceptions. If the race tightens in the coming months, they may dump millions on Minnesota to influence the outcome.
The conservative, Minnesota-based Freedom Club has started running a broadcast ad going after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton “and the Democrats.”
The ad, which targets government spending, repeatedly mentions a “luxury office building” in reference to the new Senate office building going up this year.
“Minnesota, we deserve better,” is the ad’s tagline.
According to public documents, the group has spent significant cash to run the ad. It spent nearly $160,000 to run it on KARE11 through August. That would indicate more than $500,000 in spending if it equalized its ad time across all four statewide stations.
With millions of dollars in campaign spending in recent years, the Freedom Club, supported by wealthy Minnesota conservatives, is one of the largest political action committees in the state.
Both Dayton's campaign and the pro-Democrat Alliance for a Better Minnesota sent reporters fact checks, claiming the ad takes the record out of context and gets basic things wrong.
Freedom Club officials did not return a message inquiring about the ad.
Republican Marty Seifert on Wednesday became the first Minnesota gubernatorial candidate to visit all of Minnesota's 87 counties.
Seifert completed the tour in northeastern Minnesota's Carlton County. Seifert, a former House Minority Leader in the state Legislature, pledged to span the state when he announced his candidacy in late 2013. He faces Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, former House Speaker Rep. Kurt Zellers and businessman Scott Honour in a four-way primary Aug. 12 for the nomination to run against DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. Seifert and his running mate, Rep. Pam Myhra, said they will continue to campaign across the state.
"From agriculture and energy in the south and west to mining and job creating in the north, transportation priorities in the metro, and health care costs statewide, Minnesotans are ready for a new leader with ideas, experience and vision to take the state's future in the right direction," Seifert said in a statement.
Seifert, from Marshall, is the only outstate candidate running in the primary. He received the endorsement last week from former Gov. Al Quie, the state's last GOP governor not from the Twin Cities.
Democratic U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar are co-sponsoring a bill that would override the Supreme Court's decision last week in the Hobby Lobby case.
The bill would ban employers from refusing to provide any health coverage, including contraceptives, guaranteed under the federal Affordable Care Act.
In a split decision, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held corporations did not have to provide coverage under the new federal health care laws if doing so would violate the owner's religious beliefs. The case was filed by Hobby Lobby, whose owners specifically objected to the requirement that companies provide coverage for emergency contraceptives.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington is the lead author on the legislation, which is still being drafted. If the Senate passes the bill, it would face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House.
Women's rights are shaping up as a pivotal issue in U.S. Senate races across the country.
Franken has been critical of the Supreme Court’s decision since it was issued.
“The Supreme Court made a terrible decision when it decided that a woman’s boss can make health care decisions for her,” Franken said in a statement. “Those choices should be between a woman and her doctor, plain and simple. The Court’s ruling will deny women access to the health care services they need, and that’s why we have to pass this important legislative fix.”
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a group backing Democratic candidates, is pressuring one of Franken’s Republican rivals, businessman Mike McFadden, to discuss his stance on the case. The Minnesota DFL has also targeted McFadden on the issue.
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