WASHINGTON -- A top Republican campaign operative said Wednesday that Minnesota Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan are beatable this fall.
Nolan, of the 8th Congressional District, beat out an incumbent Republican in 2012 when President Obama swept the state. He previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1975 and 1981.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden said in a sit-down with reporters that Nolan has taken "unfavorable" votes on veterans issues that "won't play well" in northern Minnesota.
He also spoke highly of Stewart Mills, the millionaire businessman vying to unseat him.
"Mills has developed a strong following both online and off and will have the resources necessary to run a competitive race," said Walden, a Republican congressman from Oregon. "I think Stewart is going to give Nolan a real run for his money."
On Peterson, Walden said the veteran chair of the House Agricultural Committee "hasn't run an effective race since 1994."
Peterson is a Democratic outlier in the district, which has voted Republican in the last three presidential races. GOP state Sen. Torrey N. Westrom is running against him.
"This is a district that wants to vote Republican," Walden said. "They haven't had as viable choice to run for Congresss as they do this time with Torrey."
“Representatives Nolan and Peterson are strongly positioned in their races because they are on the side of middle class Minnesotans,” said Brandon Lorenz of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Stewart Mills’ suggestion that he is offended when millionaires like himself are asked to pay their fair share makes it clear he would side with Congressman Ryan’s budget that raise taxes on the middle class to pay for tax cuts for millionaires like himself. Torrey Westrom has a long track record of irresponsibly selling out the middle class, especially when he voted to slash early childhood education when we need to invest in preparing our kids for the high-tech 21st century economy.”
By the end of the week, the Minnesota Legislature will approve a measure to hike the state's minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, DFL leaders said on Monday.
The deal on minimum wage will allow DFL lawmakers to start with April recess next week with another major agenda item ticked off.
"This session is really starting to come together," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.
The final agreement would phase in the wage hike by 2016, by which time most large businesses would have to pay their workers $9.50 an hour. Smaller businesses, those with gross sales under $500,000 a year, would be able to pay workers $7.75. Businesses employing workers aged 16 and 17, teenage workers during a 90-day training period and workers in the country on J1 visas would also be permitted to pay employees $7.75 an hour.
After 2018, the minimum wage would continue to rise as inflation increases. Those increases would be capped at 2.5 percent, meaning that the most that year's wage could be is $9.74 an hour.
“I congratulate the House and Senate leaders for reaching agreement on Minimum Wage legislation. I am very pleased that it will raise Minnesota's minimum wage to $9.50 per hour, and index it to inflation. I look forward to signing this legislation into law,” DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement.
The deal would also allow the Department of Labor and Industry to suspend any automatic increases during a "substantial downturn in the economy."
The hard-fought deal won praise from the Raise the Wage Coalition, a group of advocates that have long pushed for a minimum wage increase.
"This is great news for all Minnesotans," the group said in a statement.
President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Jamie Gulley said that a minimum wage hike with an automatic inflator "will improve the lives of working families in Minnesota who have been left behind for far too long. ”
But the deal won brickbats from Republicans running for governor. Both Sen. Dave Thompson and Rep. Kurt Zellers, two of the half a dozen Republicans seeking to oust Dayton this year, said immediately after DFL leaders announced the wage deal that they would work to rescind the wage increase and the automatic inflator if they became governor.
Zellers said he would support raising the wage to $7.25 an hour, which is the current federal minimum.
If the deal announced Monday becomes law as expected, the first increase -- to $8 an hour -- would be in place by August of this year.
Patrick Condon contributed to this report.
Here's the language of the measure:
See our live blog of the 10:30 a.m. deal announcement below.
The Minnesota Senate appears to be one step closer to getting a new office building.
The House Rules committee, which had blocked the controversial building from moving forward, plans to meet on Friday to give the building its approval.
A host of Republicans and some Democrats have raised questions about the $90 million plans to construct a new building to house senators and build some parking places.
Critics questioned the expense and the idea that the new office building would not house all 67 senators.
Gov. Mark Dayton last month accused the DFLers in the Senate of holding a tax cut bill hostage because senators wanted progress on the building. Republican candidates for governor put aside their differences to bash Dayton for approving legislation that allowed the building to move forward last year.
That legislation required both the Senate Rules committee and the House Rules committee to approve the building plans before they could be put into action. The House Rules committee had so far refused to give their approval.
That approval may come on Friday but the construction plans may change.
On Thursday, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said the House still believes it is crucial that if the House is to approve the new building that all senators get offices there.
"We believe and we've always said that the new building should house 67 offices for the 67 senators," Murphy said.
One of the scenarios the Department of Administration has presented recently would house all senators in a new building for a slightly cheaper cost than the original plans considered. See that alternative and others here.
If the House committee does approve an alternative plan, it is likely the Senate Rules committee would have to approve it as well, said Amos Briggs, spokesman for the Senate. The Senate committee voted for the original plan early this year.
The House also asked Dayton's administration about alternatives to the building and whether the Senate could lease space elsewhere during the renovation of the Capitol, which will force DFL Senators out of their current offices.
The administration replied back on Thursday, essentially saying that alternatives could be just as expensive or unworkable.
Here's that letter:
Updated and corrected
A new Minnesota poll, commissioned by a partisan group, finds that Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken is "potentially vulnerable" as he mounts his bid for re-election.
It found that Franken has a 3 percentage lead over Republican Julianne Ortman and a 6 percentage point lead over Republican Mike McFadden.
The poll was conducted by Magellan Strategies for American Encore, a group connected to the Koch Brothers that is already running television ads bashing Franken. It included 1,081 likely Minnesota voters in late March.
The numbers in the poll will likely give American Encore and groups like it reason to keep pushing national money into Minnesota.
Minnesotans are nearly equally split on whether Franken is doing a good job as senator with 44 percent saying they approve of his job performance and 44 percent saying they do not, the poll found. Such splits have followed Franken's career -- he won his 2008 election by just 312 votes.
According to the poll, Franken is considerably less popular with Minnesotans than Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. It found that 57 percent of voters approve of the job Klobuchar is doing Klobuchar won her 2012 re-election with 65 percent of the vote.
But it also found more Minnesotans disapprove of the job President Obama is doing, compared to Franken. The poll found that 53 percent of voters disapprove of Obama's job performance.
Although the poll was commissioned by a partisan organization, many of them are in line with recent non-partisan polling numbers. In February, a Star Tribune poll found that half of Minnesotans disapproved of Obama's job performance. Last month, a Survey USA/KSTP poll found that Franken had single digit leads over some of his Republican opponents.
The poll's sample included 31 percent Democrats, 28 percent Republicans and 40 percent independent or something else. The February Star Tribune poll found that more Minnesotans considered themselves Democrats and fewer independent or something else.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken slammed a Supreme Court decision that could give wealthy donors more influence over federal elections.
The justices ruled Wednesday that limits on the total amount of money donors can give to all candidates, committees and political parties are unconstitutional. The decision leaves in place the base limits on what can be given to each individual campaign.
In a statement issued by his office, Franken called the decision "terrible."
The decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission marks the latest round in the bitter national debate over the role of money in American politics.
“Ordinary people in Minnesota and around the country don’t have the luxury of pouring millions into political campaigns, and our democracy can’t function the way it’s supposed to when their voices are drowned out by a flood of corporate money,” Franken said. “Many of us believe that the measure of a democracy’s strength is in votes cast, not dollars spent – and for us, there’s nothing to celebrate today.”
The McCutcheon ruling could be the most important campaign-finance decision since the Supreme Court 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts independently to influence elections.
Franken has backed a constitutional amendment overturn Citizens United.
“Ever since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Citizens United in 2010, we’ve seen hundreds of millions of often completely anonymous dollars flood into our electoral process,” Franken said. “These rulings give wealthy, well-funded corporate interests undue influence, access and power.”
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