The political action committee for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Republican Jeff Johnson in his bid to unseat DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
In a Friday afternoon statement from the chamber, interim president Bill Blazar said Johnson "is the candidate who best represents the Minnesota Chamber's pro-businiess, pro-jobs agenda." Blazar is also treasurer of the chamber's Leadership Fund PAC.
Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner, and Dayton both interviewed with the chamber board. The statement from Blazar said chamber leaders appreciated Dayton's interest in meeting with the group, but criticized him for "enacting some of the highest tax rates in the nation, and increasing labor mandates and regulations on employers."
The chamber typically backs Republicans, and in 2010 endorsed the GOP's Tom Emmer over Dayton in the governor's race. But Dayton has also forged public alliances with some of the state's most prominent business leaders, as when he recruited Richard Davis, Doug Baker and Marilyn Carlson Nelson to lead Minnesota's successful effort to land the 2018 Super Bowl.
Though it's no shock the chamber would endorse another Republican, the group's public support is still important for Johnson as he hunts for financial support from corporate donors. Johnson struggled with fundraising as a primary candidate, leaving him low on funds even as he won that August race. In the weeks since, Johnson has devoted much of his time to raising money his campaign needs if he's to overcome Dayton's initial financial advantage and the benefits of incumbency.
Blazar initially cast doubt, after the primary, on whether the chamber would endorse in the race. But he said the group is motivated to end total DFL control of state government. "We want to see both parties contributing their best ideas to move the state forward," Blazar said.
The chamber represents 2,300 businesses across Minnesota. The group has spent more on lobbying at the State Capitol than any other organization going back to at least 2007. Its political action committee is comprised of volunteer members representing businesses of all sizes.
Gov. Mark Dayton and his Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, aren't scheduled to meet for their first honest-to-goodness, one-on-one debate until Oct. 1 in Rochester. But Johnson will warm up the crowd for Dayton on Wednesday in Alexandria, when both men -- separately -- will speak to a general session of the Association of Minnesota Counties meeting at Arrowwood Resort.
The Democratic incumbent and his Republican challenger were each given 30 minutes to deliver their "vision for Minnesota," according to AMC chief Julie Ring, and maybe take a few questions from dozens of county commissioners in attendance.
Sparing them a potentially awkward encounter, Johnson is scheduled to finish up at 1:30 p.m. while Dayton won't start until 2.
It's a hometown crowd in a way for Johnson, who has been a Hennepin County commissioner since 2008. But the Association of Counties does not issue political endorsements.
Dayton is taking a relatively rare break from his official schedule to appear as a political candidate at the county forum. His trip to western Minnesota included meetings in Moorhead and Breckenridge Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning on rail safety and a Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion-project.
Gov. Mark Dayton visited an Brooklyn Center school as classes started Tuesday, where he emphasized his push for state funding to provide all-day kindergarten classes at every school in the state.
Dayton, who faces a November challenge from Republican Jeff Johnson, visited with a handful of teachers and school administrators at Garden City Elementary before stepping out to the courtyard to greet students streaming in for the first day of the school year.
"My first day ever as a teacher in New York City, I experienced a level of terror that I haven't reached again in my lifetime," Dayton said during a brief, organized discussion with kindergarten teachers and Osseo School District officials.
Spending on K-12 education is a major responsibility of the state, and a point of contention in the race between Dayton and Johnson. While the DFL incumbent has touted the $134 million for all-day kindergarten, and other enhanced school funding he championed, Johnson has said that leaders and parents from one school district to the next should get more direct say in how they spend state money.
Johnson called all-day kindergarten an example of the kind of strings-attached funding increase he would try to stamp out. Still, his campaign said if elected he would not seek to repeal the recent funding boost for the program.
In a statement released Tuesday by his campaign, Johnson sought to highlight Minnesota's "achievement gap" -- the well-documented lag in test scores between white students and students of color in the state.
"I will have a 'let's try everything' mindset when it comes to closing the achievement gap," Johnson said in the statement.
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota has found a new Democratic operative to direct its operation through the election, the group announced.
Ben Goldfarb, who ran Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's first campaign and has been active in other campaigns, will guide the big spending Democratic interest group as a senior strategic advisor. Goldfarb is currently the executive director of Wellstone Action, which trains "progressive" candidates.
Carrie Lucking, who has directed the Alliance since 2011, is leaving to work for Education Minnesota. This is her last week at the Alliance.
Education Minnesota spent nearly $5 million on political causes since 2008, including donating at least $660,000 to the Alliance's funders. The Alliance has spent more than $10 million since 2007 to get Minnesota Democrats elected.
Alliance for a Better Minnesota has already run a major television ad promoting Gov. Mark Dayton's re-elected and earlier this month ran online ads going after Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden.
Joe Davis, the Alliance's deputy director, will run the group's day-to-day operations, Alliance Communications Director Emily Bisek said.
Both Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken are leading their Republican challengers, Jeff Johnson and Mike McFadden, in a new poll released this week.
The SurveyUSA poll was commissioned by KSTP-TV. The poll of 600 likely voters was taken Aug. 8-21.
In the governor's race, DFLer Dayton led Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, 49 percent to 40 percent. Hannah Nicollet, the Independence Party's candidate, had support from 3 percent of respondents, while 5 percent were undecided.
Franken is sitting on an even wider lead over McFadden, a first-time candidate. Franken, first elected by an extremely thin margin in 2008, is backed by 51 percent of respondents compared to 42 percent for McFadden. The Independence Party's Steve Carlson was backed by 2 percent while 3 percent were undecided.
The margin of sampling error in both cases was plus or minus 4.1 percent.
Franken's approval rating in the poll was 56 percent positive, while 35 percent disapproved of his performance. But the news wasn't all good for Democrats: the poll found that 52 percent disapprove of President Barack Obama's performance, while just 38 percent approve. The margin of error in those cases was plus or minus 3.7 percent.
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