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, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

Posts about Minnesota governor

First the primary, then the recount?

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: August 8, 2014 - 10:36 AM

On Tuesday, Minnesotans will go to the polls to cast their primary ballots.

On Wednesday, will the recount plan begin?

In Minnesota, which has seen three statewide recounts since 2008, including a little remembered Supreme Court justice race, might be headed down the path of another one. With four Republican candidates for governor vying for victory on Tuesday in a race that is expected to be low turnout, some are getting ready for the possibility.

"We have considered it, yeah," said Andy Post, campaign manager for Republican gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert. Post said he has had talks with legal counsel to be on hand the night of the election and is prepared to make sure their county-level supporters are ready in case the race moves to recount.

The Republican Party, which would be prepared to defend endorsed candidate Jeff Johnson in a recount, has also has plans in place.

"It is not impossible and with any election. We have prepared ourselves and have a team at the ready," said Republican Party chair Keith Downey. He has held meetings about the issue and has plotted out possible recount steps.

Other campaigns have given it less structured thought.

"You have to plan for every eventuality but of all the things I’m planning for right now that’s pretty far down the list," said Pat Shortridge, consultant to Scott Honour's Republican campaign for governor.

"We have made no preparation for that. We are focused on Aug. 12," said Chas Anderson, with Republican Kurt Zellers campaign for governor.

But the possibility of recount is there.

"I think there is a very high likelihood that they are all going to be clustered," said Kent Kaiser, who directed communications in the Secretary of State's office for eight years. Kaiser is now a professor of communications at University of Northwestern.

Minnesota law allows state-paid for a recount for major offices if the top candidates are less than one-quarter of one percent apart in vote tallies. If the difference is great, candidates can ask for a recount with the possibility that they would have to pay the costs.

The law even allows for a decision "by lot" if there an exact tie in vote tallies.

On Friday, the secretary of state's office announced the canvassing board that would deal with a recount and certify votes for all primary contests.

The members are:

  • "Mark Ritchie, Secretary of State, Chair
  • The Honorable G. Barry Anderson, Minnesota Supreme Court
  • The Honorable Christopher Dietzen, Minnesota Supreme Court
  • The Honorable Fred Karasov, Fourth Judicial District
  • The Honorable Lyonel Norris, Fourth Judicial District"

The board plans to meet at 10 a.m. on Aug. 19.

Photo: How 2008 canvassing board member and then-Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnuson sorted out valid votes in the U.S. Senate recount.


Dayton calls rivals’ stand on Polymet 'highly irresponsible'

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez Updated: August 7, 2014 - 7:15 PM

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. -- DFL Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday called his Republican rivals "highly irresponsible" for pledging to re-open an Iron Range mine before an environmental study is done.

Republicans are "just pandering to people up there," Dayton told reporters. "They’re like a lot of other hucksters who have gone up there saying they have jobs to offer, so vote for us."

Dayton, who is seeking re-election,  said he will wait until after an environmental impact assessment is completed before he takes a stand. 

"I think that's the responsibility I have as governor," Dayton said before giving a short address at the annual FarmFest trade show here. 

Earlier this week, Dayton’s GOP rivals said they would give a green light to the PolyMet mine being planned near Hoyt Lakes.

The controversial, $650 million proposal would reopen the abandoned LTV steel facility there, but use it to mine the Duluth Complex, one of the world’s largest undeveloped deposits of copper, nickel and precious metals.

The project has raised the ire of environmentalists, who say the project could degrade ecologically fragile lands and result in long-lasting pollution of nearby rivers and even Lake Superior.

The mine is projected to create 360 jobs. An environmental study by the state Department of Natural Resources is underway, with a report due later this year

Dayton’s remarks come less than a week before a primary that will determine which candidate Republicans will choose to face Dayton in the November election. 

Johnson blasts Capitol office plan, again; Zellers hits Johnson on taxes

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: August 7, 2014 - 1:15 PM

As construction workers milled at the site of a new state Senate office building by the Capitol, GOP candidate for governor Jeff Johnson held a press conference off to the side to renew his frequent criticism of the project.

Johnson and three other Republicans are in the final sprint toward Tuesday's primary election, where the party will pick its opponent for DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. Around the same time Johnson criticized the office building as wasteful and tried to link it to Dayton, he drew a rebuke over taxes from GOP opponent Kurt Zellers.

"Jeff Johnson is carrying the same tired ideas that Mark Dayton tried to force on Minnesotans just last year," read a press release from Zellers, the former House speaker. It's a reference to a May 2013 interview in MinnPost where Johnson expressed support for lowering the overall sales tax rate but shrinking the number of products and services exempt from it. That's similar to a tax reform proposal from Dayton in early 2013 that he later abandoned. 

Johnson cited his strong rating from the Minnesota Taxpayers League and his record on the Hennepin County Board as evidence for his opposition to tax increases. He said he would seek to cut taxes as governor, and would veto any tax increase from the Legislature. 

"Kurt's probably recognized that he's a ways behind and needs to go on the attack," said Johnson, whose endorsement from the state GOP has contributed to a view among many Republicans that he has a slight edge heading toward Tuesday's vote. The other two contenders are Scott Honour, a businessman and political newcomer, and Marty Seifert, the former House minority leader. 

Johnson said he preferred to focus his criticism on Dayton, not fellow Republicans. It was Johnson's second press conference at the site of the new Capitol office building in less than six weeks. He called the project, being built with $77 million in taxpayer funds, "symbolic of Dayton's priorities." 

The Minnesota DFL noted that several prominent Republican lawmakers, Sen. Dave Senjem and Rep. Matt Dean, were involved in the official process around moving the project forward, and voted in favor of hiring an architect and construction company. 

Dean, in response to the DFL criticism, said while he did serve on the appointed panel that signed off on hiring an architect and contractor, that he has repeatedly stated his larger opposition to proceeding with the building . He said he didn't feel the state should specifically penalize architects or contractors for a project that had already been approved. 

Johnson said if he were to become governor, he would seek to cancel construction if it's not too far along. If the state has already invested tens of millions, he said, he would try to re-purpose the building for some other state use besides the Senate. 

The Honour campaign also took its turn criticizing the office building. The campaign released a video of his running mate, state Sen. Karin Housley, holding up a series of signs mocking the project. 

At FarmFest, GOP gubernatorial hopefuls try to woo farmers

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez Updated: August 5, 2014 - 3:38 PM


A week ahead of the August primary, four GOP and the Independent candidate outlined their positions on agricultural and rural policy at FarmFest. A week ahead of the August primary, four GOP and the Independent candidate outlined their positions on agricultural and rural policy at FarmFest.

Redwood Falls, Minn. -- Republican gubernatorial hopefuls appearing in an agricultural forum at the annual FarmFest trade show said they would be advocates for farmers by promoting international trade of Minnesota crops and livestock, improving infrastructure to move goods and easing environmental regulations they said harm farmers.

With a week left before the August primary, the candidates are trying to woo farmers attending the three-day event in southwestern Minnesota. 

In the hour-long forum, candidates offered their positions on topics that included positions the labeling of genetically-modified foods, distribution of state dollars to rural counties and funding of agriculture education programs.

Participating Tuesday were Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, former House Speaker Kurt Zellers and business executive Scott Honour who is running for elected office for the first time. 

Notably absent Tuesday was DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who declined to participate in the forum. Dayton is expected to attend FarmFest Thursday, but that didn't stop the Republican candidates from denouncing his absence from the gubernatorial forum. 

"This is one of the biggest and best agricultural outlets in the states," Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said. "He should be here with you today."

In an emailed statement, the Dayton campaign said that the governor would partake in six debates beginning after Labor Day once a GOP nominee is determined. 

"Six debates are near the top of the usual range for a Minnesota statewide election and more than in virtually every other state," said Dayton's campaign manager Katharine Tinucci in the statement. "We believe they will provide Minnesotans with good opportunities to hear and compare the candidates’ views.

Tuesday's forum was well-attended and some of the candidates touted their rural roots in an effort to woo farmers. 

Seifert, who grew up in nearby Marshall, appeared to have home-court advantage eliciting the most applause from the crowd.

"I’ve stayed my entire life here," he said. "I’m not going anywhere. If I go to St. Paul, I’d be visiting there not living there."

There was little disagreement between the candidates in the question-and-answer forum. On the labeling of genetically-modified foods, they said that it's important to have a blanket policy rather than a state-by-state patchwork of laws. That approach, they said, would make it costly for Minnesota food companies such as Cargill Inc. Hormel Foods Corp. 

The candidates pledged to promote the state's agricultural industry abroad. Zellers pointed to growing demand in China, a country with a burgeoning middle-class but a lack of arable land. The candidates also said they would invest in the state's roads and bridges to help facilitate the movement of the state's agricultural products. 

Greg Bartz, a 60-year-old corn and soybean farmer from Sleepy Eye, a town 30 miles southeast of here, came to the trade show specifically to attend the forum. Who the governor appoints as agency heads is important, he said, because farmers have to abide by state rules in the day-to-day operations of their business. 

He thought the Republican candidates did well in Tuesday's forum but he singled out Seifert for his performance.

"He seemed to be the most knowledgeable and more connected to the issue," he said. 

He declined to say who he plans to vote for next Tuesday, but said the forum cemented his views on the GOP candidates. "I've been following the race and I think the forum probably reinforced my thoughts that they are similar." 

Alliance for a Better MN director moving to Education Minnesota union

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: July 31, 2014 - 1:11 PM

The head of the one of the most powerful Democratic groups in Minnesota will move to one of the most powerful unions in the state.

Carrie Lucking, who has been executive director of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota since 2011, will become Education Minnesota's director of policy, research and outreach.

"I absolutely loved it here and it was a really difficult decision to go," Lucking, a former teacher, said.

But both the Alliance and Education Minnesota have been heavily involved in politics -- and each other. Education Minnesota spent nearly $5 million on political causes since 2008.

The Alliance, which has spent more than $10 million since 2007, has supported Democrats in their election quests. The Alliances' funders received much of their money from Education Minnesota and other unions, the Democratic Governor's Association and Alida Messinger, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's ex-wife.

Since 2010 Education Minnesota has given at least $660,000 to Alliance's funders and Messinger has donated more than $2 million.

But Lucking said her new job, which will start in September, will not be directly involved in politics and political spending.

"I’ve been living and dying by the election cycling for ten years," she said. "It turns out that’s a long time."

Lucking said the Alliance will be bringing on an extra set of hands to help out during the election and naming a new interim director soon.

Lucking is married to Bob Hume, Gov. Mark Dayton's communications chief.

She said getting distance between their two jobs -- hers at the Alliance in independent political spending -- and his working for a governor the Alliance supports was not one of her considerations in taking the new job.

At home, the couple, who had their first child this year, largely talks about the things all new parents discuss, she said -- food, the baby's inputs and outputs and other domestic affairs.

Updated with contributions from Glenn Howatt


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