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Tracking Minnesota’s political scene and keeping you up-to-date on those elected to serve you

'Protect Life' sign in Minnesota Senate Building office window stirs controversy

A DFL state senator thinks a colleague should have to remove a sign reading "Protect Life" from his office window facing the Capitol, saying it's likely in violation of a zoning ordinance.

The "Protect Life" sign belongs to state Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, who tweeted a picture of the sign Thursday ahead of a planned rally by anti-abortion activists that is expected to draw a massive crowd. "Don't forget to rally with us this Sunday," Hall tweeted, along with an image of him pointing at the sign.

State Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said the window sign likely violates zoning rules set by the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board.

The zoning rules are set in part to "preserve and enhance the dignity, beauty, and architectural integrity of the Capitol, the buildings immediately adjacent to it, the Capitol grounds, and the Capitol area," according to the published rules.

Under its guidelines for signs, the policy prohibits a "political sign" and "window sign" for some Capitol-area buildings that are zoned as a "government district."

Hall is not the only state elected official with a window sign. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, has one hanging in his office window facing that Capitol that reads "We Support Mining." 

Paul Mandell, executive secretary for the Capitol board, said in an email that any enforcement of the rule "is dependent on a request to the city attorney" because the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board does not have enforcement power.

Rest recalled that in 2011 she hung a sign from her office window in support of former President Obama. She took it down after she received a complaint, she said. "I didn't have that thing in my window for more than 15 minutes when someone came in from outside and said that it's illegal and it's gotta come down," Rest said.

She added: "From my viewpoint, it's not a matter of the content of the message."

Rest said she emailed Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, to ask that the sign be taken down.

A spokeswoman for Gazelka said he does not intend to ask Hall to remove the sign. Hall did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If Ellison wins DNC post, state Sen. Dibble will run for Congress after all

First he was in, then he was out, but DFL state Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis said he would run for Congress after all if U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is selected chair of the Democratic National Committee next month and resigns his seat.

"Sometimes you have an idea, and you change your mind," Dibble said in an interview. "These are big decisions. It's a lot to take on. It's a huge responsibility. It's a big campaign. I needed to be prudent and thoughtful."

Dibble rejoins what is expected to be a crowded race to potentially replace Ellison, who is vying for chair of the Democratic Party. National Democratic party officials are still reeling after suffering major electoral defeats in the last election and are eager for new leadership.

Despite early stumbles over past views deemed by some as anti-Semitic, Ellison is still considered a top contender for the job. He faces stiff competition in outgoing U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and there are a handful of other contenders for the party post.

Just elected to a fifth term, Dibble was most recently chair of the Minnesota Senate Transportation Committee. He has also served one term in the Minnesota House.

Dibble was legislative sponsor of several high profile bills that became law in recent years, including allowing same-sex marriage in Minnesota, an anti-bullying bill and the state's medical marijuana program.

Among other potential contenders is state Rep. Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park, who said recently she would run if Ellison resigned his seat to serve as DNC chair. Others considering running for the seat include DFL state Sens. Patricia Torres Ray and Jeff Hayden -- both of Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Council Member Alondra Cano and former GOP congressional candidate, Frank Drake, are also considering entering a race should Ellison step down.