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Battle for control of Minn. House turns into tiff over driving records

Republicans and the DFL are locked in a fierce battle for control of the MN House and tangled this week over driving records.

A GOP campaign committee sent out a mailer attacking Erin Maye Quade, a DFL candidate for an open House seat in Apple Valley, for driving citations that include driving with a suspended license and 15 traffic violations in a five year stretch.  
Maye Quade, 30, said the incidents happened more than five years ago and began with an unpaid parking ticket that led to a suspension.
“I let it get in front of me, and I should have taken care of it sooner,” she said. Both her parents had recently been diagnosed with cancer, which led to some tumult in her life. But Maye Quade said she takes full responsibility for the lapse.
The DFL cried hypocrisy because GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt has had his own driving foibles, including three speeding tickets, a citation for texting while driving and two license suspensions since his 2010 election to the Legislature. In January, he hit another car from behind, sending the other driver to the hospital, though Daudt was not cited for the crash.  
The attack ad against Maye Quade reads: “If Maye Quade is that reckless on our roads, what will she do in St. Paul?”
The ad includes a 2010 Maye Quade Facebook post in which she wrote: “I love that I have a job where I can drink in the office. I feel like Chelsea Handler,” referring to the boozy comedian.
Maye Quade said she was angered by the implication that her driving citations were alcohol related because they were not: “It’s irresponsible and offensive to make it seem like I was drinking and driving,” she said.
DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, took a shot at the GOP, referencing Daudt’s driving record: "House Republicans have made it a central strategy of their campaign to attack DFL candidates for things that Speaker Daudt himself has done, like driving with a suspended license,” Thissen said in a statement to the Star Tribune. “The only conclusion is that House Republicans either have no confidence in their own leaders' abilities to serve in the legislature -- let alone serve as Speaker -- or that they're knowingly lying to voters across the state. Which is it?"
Ben Golnik, a House GOP campaign spokesman, replied in a statement: “With MNsure in complete meltdown, it's clear Paul Thissen's dreams of a House majority are slipping away,” he said, referring to steep increases in premiums in the individual health insurance market. Republicans are leaning hard on the issue that affects about 250,000 Minnesotans who get their insurance on the individual market, as opposed to through a government plan or their employer.  
“No amount of spin from Thissen can change the fact that going back to one-party control would be a disaster for Minnesotans," Golnik added. Republicans are trying to sway voters with an appeal to balance in state government in the face of a DFL Senate and governor.   
The two sides are battling district by district in a race to secure the 68 seats needed for majority. The GOP currently controls the House 73-61, meaning the DFL needs seven seats to take the majority they lost in 2014. 
Maye Quade is running against Ali Jimenez-Hopper for the seat currently held by Rep. Tara Mack, who is leaving the Legislature.

Vice President Joe Biden to go to Duluth on Friday

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden will make a campaign swing to Duluth on Friday.

Party leaders confirmed he will do an official stop and a campaign rally at a still unknown location. 

Duluth is the biggest town in the Eighth Congressional District, which is home to one of the most competitive House races in the country between incumbent Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan and Republican Stewart Mills. GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump is more popular in the Eighth than other parts of Minnesota as his message against trade agreements resonate among voters on the Iron Range, which has seen thousands of layoffs in the last two years.

More outside cash has flowed to northeastern Minnesota than any other congressional district in the country.

The Star Tribune will update this post as more information becomes available about Biden's visit.