Gov. Mark Dayton and his Republican challenger, Jeff Johnson, will both be in attendance Tuesday night at the annual meeting and dinner of the Minnesota Business Partnership, but only Dayton will speak.
The Business Partnership is comprised of CEOs and senior executives from Minnesota's largest companies. Its annual dinner is a chance for those leaders to join with political and community leaders to talk about the business community's priorities.
A spokesman for the group said that Dayton was invited to speak as the sitting governor, not as a candidate.
The dinner is the only event on Johnson's public schedule for Tuesday. Dayton is also holding a news conference at his office in the morning.
The candidates meet Wednesday night for a debate in Moorhead. On Monday it was confirmed that Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet would also be participating. Nicollet has a round of media interviews on Tuesday.
At a campaign stop in northwestern Minnesota, Republican gubernatorial Jeff Johnson decried state regulators' decision to delay the $2.6-billion Sandpiper pipeline expansion, calling it the "latest slight of Greater Minnesota" by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
Johnson was in Eldred, about 55 miles north of Moorehead, visiting a local grain elevator to criticize the Dayton administration.
The Detroit Lakes native and Hennepin County commissioner has blamed Dayton for leading state government in what he calls a "metro-centric" direction. He said that state's delay in approving the proposed pipeline is contributing to a rail car shortage caused by crude oil shipments from North Dakota's Bakken region. Johnson said the shortage is hurting the state's farmers who are trying to get their grain to market.
"This is just the latest in a long line of examples of how Greater Minnesota is viewed as an afterthought by Mark Dayton," Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson, a Detroit Lakes native and Hennepin County commissioner who lives in the west metro suburb of Plymouth, has accused Dayton of leading state government in what we calls a “metro-centric” direction.
Linden Zakula, a spokesman for the governor’s campaign, accused Johnson of politicizing the issue in an attempt to pander to voters.
The governor has previously said the Sandpiper pipeline is crucial to handle the growing production of North Dakota crude oil, but he also has said he believes environmental reviews ordered by the Public Utilities Commission should be completed first.
“I have said previously that I believe the Sandpiper pipeline is needed to transport the ever-increasing amounts of Bakken oil across Minnesota,” Dayton said in a statement. “I also know that years ago, the Minnesota Legislature made the Public Utilities Commission responsible for approving and routing pipelines in order to remove politics and politicians from those complex decisions. The wisdom of that action is made clear to me once again today.”
The DFL hit back at the Johnson campaign, arguing that the GOP challenger's record demonstrates he is trying to re-define himself as an advocate for rural Minnesota before the November election.
Ken Martin, DFL party chairman, points to Johnson's 2003 vote when he was a member of the state Legislature that reduced local government aid funding by more than $300 million.
Local government aid comes from state coffers and are distributed to counties and cities throughout Minnesota, which depend on the state funding to fund services.
Democrats said that the reduction in local government aid caused an increase in property tax rates and that local Chambers of Commerce drafted resolutions against further cuts.
The Johnson campaign in an emailed statement did not address Johnson's 2003 vote but said "it's ironic and arrogant for Mark Dayton, (lieutenant governor candidate) Tina Smith and Ken Martin -- all of whom live in the Twin Cities -- to think that they now what's better for Great Minnesota than people who are actually from and live in Greater Minnesota."
Johnson lives in Plymouth, a West Metro suburb.
Updated to include Gov. Dayton's statement.
A new poll found DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has a 12 percentage point lead over Republican challenger Jeff Johnson, a slight expansion of the lead the pollster found last month.
According to the KSTP/SurveyUSA poll, Dayton would net 51 percentage points to Johnson's 39 percentage points with just one month before the election. In August, SurveyUSA had Dayton at 49 percentage points and Johnson at 40 percent.
The poll was conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 2 among 577 likely voters.
A Rasmussen survey of 750 likely voters conducted Sept. 29-30 found a similarly large lead for Dayton. That poll gave the DFLer a 10 percentage point advantage over Johnson.
Photos: Scenes from Gov. Mark Dayton and Jeff Johnson's debate last week. They will debate again on Wednesday. // Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune
Gov. Mark Dayton leads Republican challenger Jeff Johnson 50 percent to 40 percent in a statewide telephone survey of likely voters conducted by Rasmussen Reports.
That was enough for Rasmussen, a nationwide polling firm, to move its rating of the race from "Leans Democrat" to "Safe Democrat." In its last polling of Minnesota's governor's race, in August, Dayton led Johnson 49 percent to 41 percent.
The survey of 750 likely voters was conducted Sept. 29-30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It found 3 percent supported other candidates and 7 percent undecided.
The same poll also found U.S. Sen. Al Franken leading his Republican challenger, Mike McFadden, 49 percent to 41 percent.
While Rasmussen Reports has at times been criticized for leaning Republican in its polling, its latest measure of the governor's race gives DFLer Dayton reason to be confident with the election a month off. Dayton registered a 56 percent approval rating in the poll, while 41 percent disapprove.
The poll indicates Johnson has made some progress in improving low name recognition. He had a favorable rating of 38 percent, and an unfavorable rating of 32 percent. While 17 percent had not heard of Johnson, that's improved from 31 percent in the August poll.
The poll also found Johnson had a narrow edge over Dayton among voters who don't affiliate with either party: 44 percent to 41 percent.
Gov. Mark Dayton's second television ad of his campaign showcases a real Minnesota family, as the governor describes their worries and argues that policies he pursued have helped ease middle-class burdens.
"Like a lot of Minnesotans, the Ports worry," Dayton narrates, as the ad shows Steve and Lindsey Port of Burnsville making breakfast and getting ready for the day. "About their jobs, their debts, their kids' education."
In the ad, Dayton said concerns like that are why he pursued middle-class tax relief, expanded all-day kindergarten, froze college tuition, and "demanded pay equity so that women get paid equally for doing the same work.
"That's what I found for as governor, and we're just getting started," Dayton said.
The Ports own a small business in Burnsville that sells board and card games, imports and distributes card game supplies, and operates large-scale card game events. The Dayton campaign said Lindsey Port is also on the campaign team of state Rep. Will Morgan of Burnsville.
The ad is Dayton's second of the campaign, after a hockey-themed ad that also touted Dayton's first-term accomplishments. His Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, has aired one ad so far, which mixed light-hearted humor with criticism of Dayton's records.
The Dayton campaign said the new ad would air statewide on broadcast and cable channels starting Saturday.
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