Over a lunch of pork and potatoes at the governor's residence in St. Paul on Thursday, Gov. Mark Dayton and Rep. Kurt Daudt -- soon to be the Republican speaker of the House -- discussed the upcoming legislative session, and also took a few minutes to talk about their dogs.
Dayton and Daudt, R-Crown, met privately for a little over an hour. Shortly after Republicans retook the House majority earlier this month, Daudt's GOP colleagues chose him to be the next speaker. He'll officially ascend to the post in January, when the new session starts.
"The governor said it was a congenial conversation, and a great opportunity to get to know the new speaker better," said Matt Swenson, Dayton's spokesman. Dayton and Daudt share a love of dogs, and both own two.
While the lunch chatter may have been friendly, the new Republican majority is likely to complicate the DFL governor's efforts to pursue an ambitious second-term agenda. The last time Dayton shared power with Republicans at the Capitol, in 2011-12, it led among other things to a 21-day state government shutdown amid disputes over taxes and spending cuts.
Swenson said the two men didn't talk with too much specificity about issues, although he said both transportation and education were among the discussion topics.
Democrats and Republicans have both argued that the state needs to put more money into upgrading the state's transportation infrastructure, but the two parties differ in how best to do that. While Democrats are more likely to look for new sources of revenue, Republicans will argue that should be accomplished by spending less in other areas of state government -- including money for transit projects prized by many Democrats.
Dayton has been meeting privately with the Legislature's top leaders in recent days. Prior to Thursday's meeting with Daudt, he met with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and with Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, who in January will transition from speaker to minority leader.
Swenson said Dayton was also seeking to meet soon with Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, the leader of Senate Republicans.
Tony Sertich, a former state House majority leader who has been serving under Gov. Mark Dayton as commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, is leaving that post to take over as head of a Duluth foundation.
In January, Sertich will be taking over as president of the Northland Foundation, which raises money from public and private sources, and makes grants aimed at improving the economic and social climate in seven northeastern Minnesota counties.
"Tony Sertich has been an outstanding advocate for his community, for the Iron Range, and for all of Minnesota," Dayton said in a prepared statement. Sertich did not respond to a telephone message.
Elected to represent an Iron Range-area House district in 2000, Sertich in 2007 rose to the post of House majority leader. At 30, he was the youngest House majority leader in Minnesota history. He held the post for four years, but resigned his legislative seat in early 2011 to take over the IRRRB.
As commissioner of the IRRRB, Sertich oversaw a staff of 55 and a $40 million annual budget. The agency uses proceeds from taconite mining to re-invest in the economy of northeastern Minnesota.
Dayton was re-elected Tuesday to a second term. Sertich is the first of his Cabinet commissioners to announce he won't continue to serve in the second Dayton term.
Candidates for governor, Senate and Congress have spent millions to get dozens of messages on television.
But, with Election Day nearly here, these are the words they really want you to remember.
Here are their final, closing argument television ads.
Republican Jeff Johnson
Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner raised in Detroit Lakes, tailored his final ads to three different parts of the state. In all three ads, Johnson is standing in a sun-dappled, tree stand.
"He's just not up to the job any more," Johnson says of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. "It's time for new leadership in Minnesota."
In two other ads, he claims that he, unlike Dayton, will focus on Greater Minnesota.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton
Dayton's final ad is called "Rising" and highlights the way his campaign believes the state is better since Dayton took office and will be even better if he wins again.
"Mark Dayton knows we have much more to do, to help struggling families, make college more affordable, and help small businesses grow," the narrator says. "Moving forward together."
Republican Mike McFadden
McFadden's final ad shows a contrast -- the country as it is, with the country as it could be.
"Everything is at stake," a narrator reads, as various scenes of Minnesota life flit by. "Our hopes, our dreams, our future....We can make America great again."
Democratic U.S. Al Franken
Franken's final ad, called "Delivered," uses quotations from newspaper editorial endorsements to promote the candidate.
"Newspapers across Minnesota back Al Franken," the ad's narrator says. Video of Franken meeting with various people shows as different voices read selections from the pro-Franken endorsements.
Eighth Congressional District
Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan
Nolan, fighting to keep his northern Minnesota district, closed his campaign with an ad that shows him speaking to a crowd and going hunting. Against that backdrop, Nolan gives his enthusiastic stump speech.
"It's time to do what's right for the middle class," Nolan says in the ad.
Republican Stewart Mills
In Mills final ad, he speaks directly to the camera and makes the ask for viewers' votes.
"Minnesota is my home," he says in the ad, which includes childhood photos of Mills. "I'm Stewart Mills. I approved this message and I'd appreciate your vote."
Both Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken are holding onto leads in a new KSTP-TV/SurveyUSA poll, but Dayton's race in particular has tightened.
The poll, taken Oct. 27-30, found Dayton leading Republican Jeff Johnson, 47 to 42 percent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Hannah Nicollet of the Independence Party had the support of 2 percent, as did Libertarian Party candidate Chris Holbrook. Six percent were undecided or supporting other minor candidates.
The poll found Dayton's support slipping among independents, with Johnson leading by 12 points. Dayton still holds a notable advantage with women voters, though that support has also slipped from previous polls.
Dayton has led Johnson in every independent poll of the race, though what was once a healthy lead has shrunk. A Star Tribune poll published a week ago found Dayton leading Johnson, 45 percent to 38 percent.
The KSTP poll found Franken with a larger lead over challenger Mike McFadden, 51 to 40 percent, though that lead too is smaller than Franken's lead in the last SurveyUSA poll. The IP's Steve Carlson is at 4 percent and Libertarian Heather Johnson is at 2 percent. Four percent are undecided or back other candidates.
Franken, too, has never trailed McFadden in any poll of their race. The recent Star Tribune poll found Franken up over McFadden, 48 to 39 percent, although past SurveyUSA polls showed Franken with a much wider lead than he holds in the new one.
All four of the statewide candidates planned full days of campaigning Monday, ahead of the start of voting on Tuesday morning. Dayton is joining the DFL's bus tour for several events throughout Minneapolis: at Urban League headquarters in the early afternoon, at the University of Minnesota in the evening and then later stops at organized labor offices in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Johnson is holding meet-and-greet stops with Twin Cities voters throughout the day: at a suburban park and ride, in grocery stores and other spots. He's also makinig get-out-the-vote calls and visiting Republican volunteers at several sites.
Franken is also participating in multiple stops on the DFL bus tour. McFadden is flying around the state with Sixth Congressional District GOP candidate Tom Emmer to campaign at greater Minnesota locations.
In the last week, more than $780,000 has refueled Minnesota's political campaigns, much of it to influence the heated contest for control of the Minnesota House.
WIN Minnesota, a funding arm of the Democratic Alliance for a Better Minnesota, has received almost $142,000 since Oct. 21. Most of that money has come from unions.
The Minnesota Jobs Coalition, which has campaigned to win a Republican House, has brought in more than $110,000 in that same time period. The coalition's largest contributor was the Republican State Leadership Committee, which focused on legislative races. The RSLC gave the group $75,000.
Other outside groups, largely ones that support Democrats, are bringing late cash to bear in Minnesota.
A host of union-driven organizations has seen more than $300,000 flow into their coffers of late. Many of those donations came from the union's parent organizations. Among them:
Education Minnesota, which generally spends more on elections than any other Minnesota union, notified the state it brought in $100,000.
Public Safety Matters received more than $110,000, including $75,000 from WIN Minnesota.
The Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund brought in a $108,000 check from its related organization.
The two men who would be governor are also making late fundraising pushes.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton received $28,000 in large donations since last Tuesday. Republican Jeff Johnson received $22,500.
In a fundraising pitch sent on Tuesday, Johnson told Republicans in a video he needed $50,000 for Greater Minnesota radio ads and $75,000 to complete his digital campaign plans.
In the text of the appeal, Johnson told supporters: "Don't let the Democrat driven media fool you -- this election is going to come down to the wire."
Asked to delineate the specific complaints against the media and the media-controlling Democrats to which the appeal referred, Johnson spokesman Jeff Bakken declined.
Instead he said, "This is a fundraising email to Republicans and our donors. Jeff's comments in the video and note speak for themselves."
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