Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson has far more cash banked for the final weeks of his campaign than Republican challenger Torrey Westrom has for his bid, according to fundraising reports filed on Thursday.
But in the last two weeks, as national money has poured into the western Minnesota district, Westrom has raised far more cash than Peterson.
Overall, the incumbent representative, who hold a powerful seat on the House Committee on Agriculture, has raised twice as much for the campaign.
With questions about the state's health exchange and Republican campaign ads swirling, Gov. Mark Dayton dashed from a Thursday afternoon event about housing without taking questions from the waiting press.
Dayton's decision to leave the event through a side door with his staff was unexpected. His staff had indicated he would answer questions from reporters.
It was also unusual. The DFL governor generally makes himself available to the media.
Dayton, who is up for re-election in 12 days, made remarks at the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Housing Awards announcement in St. Paul, listened to comments from two lawmakers and then, about 25 minutes in to the event got up to leave.
His spokesman, Matt Swenson, said the governor said as he left that he would not take questions from the press. Reporters who followed him out of the side door he exited saw his state vehicle exit the building's rear parking lot.
On Thursday, the Star Tribune reported that the Dayton administration had sought lower rates from an insurer that signed up to provide health insurance through MNsure, the state's health exchange. That insurer, PreferredOne, dropped out of the exchange this year.
Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson said Dayton should have stayed to answer questions about that.
"That’s part of the job of the governor whether it is him, me or someone else," Johnson said. He suggested the Dayton administration is panicking over the recent MNsure news.
He pledged that if he were governor, he would not avoid reporters.
"I will never unexpectedly run away from you," he said.
Also Thursday, the Minnesota Republican Party decided to delete the photo of a young boy who died from abuse in a television commercial trashing Dayton. That decision came after pressure from the boy's grandmother.
Thursday afternoon Dayton appeared at a campaign event with former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton. He was also slated to appear at a fundraiser with the former first lady in the evening.
Photo: The governor's caravan driving away from Thursday's housing event. Source: David Joles, Star Tribune.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt
Older voters have cast the the majority of absentee ballots but younger voters are starting to catch up.
According to the Star Tribune's analysis, voters older than 65 years old account for 62 percent of all absentee ballots already accepted
But younger voters, particularly those in the 35 to 64 year old age group, are starting to submit more ballots.
So far, Minnesotans have asked for more than 150,000 absentee ballot applications and almost 70,000 have returned them and had them accepted by election officials. Those numbers are more than double the similar 2010 figures, before Minnesota adopted this year's "no excuses" absentee ballot law.
(Updated 4 p.m.)
The grandmother of 4-year-old Eric Dean, whose death by abuse in 2013 exposed gaps in Minnesota's child protection services, said Thursday that the state Republican Party agreed with her request to remove the child's photo from a TV ad critical of Gov. Mark Dayton.
"Our family's trying to heal, and with this now, it's bringing everything up again and it's just so hard to move on," Yvonne Dean told the Star Tribune. "This type of ad campaign needs to stop."
Yvonne Dean said she got several calls Thursday morning from Republican Party chairman Keith Downey about the ad, after she called the party seeking to get the ad taken down. Dean said Downey initally told her the party felt within legal rights to reference the case and include an image of Eric Dean. A short while later, she said Downey called back to say the image of Eric would be removed from the ad.
Downey did not respond to an interview request. The party released a statement shortly after noon apologizing for not notifying the Dean family prior to the ad, and saying it would remove Eric Dean's picture from the ad.
"The ad is currently being revised and an edited version will begin airing as soon as possible," the party statement said. Yvonne Dean said Thursday afternoon that after some misunderstandings, she was willing to accept an ad that showed a headline about the case, but did not include the picture of Eric or a specific mention of his case.
Yvonne Dean, who lives in Starbuck, is the mother of Eric's father, David Dean. Amanda Peltier, who was married to David Dean and was Eric's step-mother, was convicted of the boy's murder and is now serving a life sentence.
Yvonne Dean's concerns about the ad were first reported Wednesday night by Michael Brodkorb, a former Republican political operative who now blogs for the Star Tribune.
Eric Dean's death in 2013 was preceded by 15 reports of maltreatment. Last May, before the details of Eric Dean's death were widely known, the Legislature passed and Dayton signed a law that forbid county agencies from considering past abuse reports that were rejected when deciding whether to investigate a new report.
The ad, titled "Incompetence" and paid for by the state GOP, began airing this week. It criticizes Dayton for his handling of several controversial issues, including the Dean case. Over dual images of a Star Tribune front page with a picture of Eric Dean on the front, and a picture of Dayton, the narrator says it was "downright horrifying when he signed a law making it more difficult to investigate maltreatment cases."
The bill at issue got votes from both DFL and Republican lawmakers when it passed last May. After details of Dean's death became publicly known, Dayton and the bill's backers said they had not foreseen that the provisions in the bill could make it more difficult for authorities to respond to multiple reports of child abuse.
Dayton, who also said he believes Pope County officials bear the brunt of responsibility for not responding properly to the abuse reports, has since convened a task force on child abuse and charged it with proposing law changes to address gaps in the child protection system.
Dayton's Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, has been critical of Dayton's role in the legislation, though his campaign was not involved in preparing the ad in question. Yvonne Dean, who described herself as a Republican, said she hoped Johnson's campaign would condemn the use of the case in the ad.
The Johnson campaign released a statement saying it was the right call to remove the image from the ad, and expressing condolences to the Dean family.
The national Marijuana Policy Project Thursday announced a $4,000 contribution to Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson and an equal contribution to the Minnesota DFL Senate’s campaign arm.
“Jeff Johnson’s support for the more comprehensive, Senate-approved medical marijuana proposal demonstrates that compassion is not a partisan issue,” Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement.
Johnson has called for a more expansive medical marijuana law than the one DFL Gov. Mark Dayton signed earlier this year.
Photo: Jeff Johnson/Source: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune
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