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.: Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

Posts about Democrats

By the numbers: Minnesota House races to watch

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: November 4, 2014 - 3:55 PM

To assess which Minnesota House races are competitive follow the money.

Democratic and Republican groups have spent more than $100,000 on at least 20 seats, almost all held by Democrats.

The DFL is on defense, desperately holding on to its majority in the 134-member House. Republicans are just as anxious to snatch that control away in this off-year election.

Explore the spending on the key races to decide the majority below.

All told, as of Oct. 20, the House candidates and outside groups, including parties and political action committees, have spent more than $13 million on the contest for the lower chamber.

Click on each bar to see the exact amount of money spent.

These figures only include spending by groups registered with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, as of Oct. 20. They do not include the significant cash spent by political nonprofits, whose spending largely is unreported before elections. Republican-supporting groups have spent considerable sums through political nonprofit organizations.

Here are the candidates competing in those 20 races:

UPDATE: Most of the money spent on 48B was spent during the contested August primary.

Glenn Howatt contributed to this post.

DFL: Republican candidates voted for measures criticized in party's mailers

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: October 31, 2014 - 4:51 PM

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger contributed to this report

Minnesota Democrats are continuing their onslaught of criticism for GOP mailers that attack DFL House members for votes on an expungement bill and a drunk driving bill, pointing out that a pair of the Republican party’s own candidates this election cycle backed the same legislation.

In a news release, the DFL said that State Sen. Torrey Westrom, a Republican facing off against Rep. Collin Peterson in the 7th Congressional District, voted to pass an expungement bill criticized in the mailers as “allowing felons to work with our school children.”

Meanwhile, State Sen. Scott Newman, the state’s GOP Attorney General candidate, voted for an ignition interlock bill that the Republican Party is using to go after DFL House members.

Newman, R-Hutchinson, recalled that the measure had side support from law enforcement organizations. The measure passed unanimously in the Minnesota Senate, meaning that all Republican senators voted for it as well as all DFL ones.

The Republican Party claimed in its mailers that the drunk driving measure, “weakened penalties for dangerous drunk drivers.”

Newman said he would not vote for a bill that weakened penalties for dangerous drivers. Instead, he said the interlock bill allowed people who had been caught driving drunk to keep their licenses but only if they had a device installed that required them to be sober to start their cars.

“It may actually help get people off the road,” he said. Newman said he had not seen the mailer in question and was comfortable with his vote for the bill.

The mail pieces drew swift criticism from the DFL, who alerted the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Minnesotans for Safe Driving about the mailers. In response the nonpartisan organizations wrote letters criticizing the mailers and praising the legislation.

On Thursday, Minnesota Republican Party chair Keith Downey struck back, saying the DFL is just as guilty of using sensational imagery in its advertisements. Downey decried the "misleading and sensational mail from the Democrat party."

"Minnesota Democrats have to use these tactics because their ideas don’t work," Downey said.
DFL Chairman Ken Martin called on Downey to explain why he stands by the ads if they call out members of his own party.

“If Keith Downey and the Republican Party (are) standing behind these attacks, then they are standing behind attacks against Torrey Westrom and Scott Newman.”  Martin said in a statement. “If Downey is not prepared to make those charges against Westrom and Newman, then we expect he will cease to make those charges against Democrats that took those same votes.”

Downey and Westrom did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
 

Another round of GOP mailers draws ire from DFL, this time over drunken driving

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: October 29, 2014 - 4:59 PM

Another series of mailers targeting DFL House members up for re-election has again drawn the ire of the party after saying Democrats are responsible for “putting convicted drunk drivers back on the roads” for passing legislation requiring people with multiple DWI convictions to use an ignition-interlock device. The mailers also triggered a response from the national president for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and, locally, Minnesotans for Safe Driving.

The mailers, which again target at least half-dozen DFL House members, give various accusations that they voted to make it easier for convicted drunken drivers to get back behind the wheel. One calls St. Cloud Rep. Zach Dorholt a "bar owner" who “weakened penalties for horrific drunk driving crashes,” while another says Eagan Rep. Sandra Masin “Weakened penalties for dangerous drunk drivers. Putting our families in harm’s way?” imposed over a background of a shattered windshield. The mailers are each marked as paid for by the Republican Party of Minnesota.

DFL House caucus spokesman Michael Howard said the mail pieces refer to HF 2255, legislation that requires people with multiple drunken-driving convictions to use an ignition-interlock device, which requires a breath test by the driver before the vehicle can be started. The bill passed 71-57 in the House and unanimously in the Minnesota Senate.

“These last-minute attacks are designed to leave candidates with no time to respond and set the record straight, and they are shameful,” House Speaker Paul Thissen said in a statement.

The mailers are the second in a row that drew ire from the DFL, after others accused lawmakers of  making it easier for felons to work in schools. The mailer was in reference to a bill reforming the state’s expungement laws. The DFL alerted representatives of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, who in a letter called the mailers “misleading.”

The Republican Party of Minnesota did not respond to a request for comment.

The mailers also triggered a response from MADD National President Jan Withers, who said the organization backed the legislation because she said requiring an interlock device is more effective than license revocation alone.

“MADD supported these measures because simply hoping that convicted DWI offenders will not drive on a revoked license is bad public policy,” Withers wrote in the letter to Thissen. “License revocation without an interlock requirement is like using cancer treatments that were best practices 25 years ago. If this ‘treatment’ were effective, there would not be over 63,000 Minnesota residents with three or more DWI convictions on their driving records.”

The letter does not appear to address the mailers, but instead thanks lawmakers “for working to reform the state’s drunken-driving law.”

Nancy Johnson, legislative liaison for Minnesotans for Safe Driving and a victim of drunken driving, expressed similar support for the law in a letter to Thissen, while condemning the mailers.

"The idea that the Legislature was being soft on drunk drivers when they passed a bill in 2014 which allowed those arrested and/or convicted of (criminal vehicular operation) to have Ignition Interlock available to them is ridiculous." Johnson wrote.

Read the MADD letter below:

MADD Letter 10-29-14

Franken backs Ebola travel ban with exception for U.S. aid workers

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: October 29, 2014 - 1:24 PM

With days to go until the election, U.S. Sen. Al Franken on Wednesday said that a proposed travel ban to and from Ebola-stricken west African nations, should be extended to third-party countries for travelers not on direct flights, with special considerations for U.S. aid workers.

“I believe that we should have a travel ban on people who are coming from those third (party) countries who aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t medical personnel who are doing that work,” Franken told reporters after a Minnesota DFL Get Out the Vote event.  “I think that makes sense but that’s insufficient because most of the people coming from those three countries are U.S. citizens and of course we want to incentivize people do to that work and we want them to be able to come back.”

Franken applauded Gov. Mark Dayton’s Ebola restrictions, which requires a 21-day home quarantine for health workers returning to Minnesota after treating afflicted patients.

Franken’s opponent, Republican businessman Mike McFadden, who supports a travel ban, has repeatedly hammered Franken over Ebola, alleging a lack of leadership, and barraging voters with mailers and phone calls regarding Franken’s early departure from a congressional Ebola hearing last month.

Yesterday the McFadden campaign launched a radio advertisement featuring audio from last Sunday’s debate on WCCO TV when Franken struggled to say whether he supported a travel ban, finally saying that he had “nothing against it” but that he believed it would be insufficient because the majority of travelers from West Africa don’t fly directly to the United States.
 

DSCC job? 'No,' says Franken. 'I haven't even considered that,' says Klobuchar

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: October 29, 2014 - 2:15 PM

Minnesota's U.S. Senators, both mentioned by the National Journal as possible future chairs of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, did not cozy up to the possibility on Wednesday.

"They can do whatever they like," Sen. Al Franken said of the National Journal's speculative piece. Asked if he was interested in the job, he said, directly:  "No."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar was not quite as dismissive but did not confirm any interest.

"I am focused on this election," she said as she and other Democrats set off from the Minnesota Capitol to campaign.

"I haven't even considered that," she said.

Although, when asked, Franken denied any interest in the gig heading up Democratic senators' campaign arm, Franken challenger Mike McFadden's campaign sought to bash Franken because of the National Journal mention.

"Senator Franken has repeatedly denied his partisan nature, but the fact of the matter is that by Franken’s own admission, he is seeking the ‘most partisan’ job in the Senate,” McFadden said in a new release Wednesday morning.

Franken has never said he is seeking the DSCC job and confirmed on Wednesday that he is not.

Photo: U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken and other Democrats as rallied before campaigning across the state.

Updated

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