Sparks flew again between U.S. Sen. Al Franken and his Republican challenger Mike McFadden over the use of U.S. steel to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
Iron Range politicians and union leaders took McFadden to task Friday over comments last week that he would opt for building the Pipeline with Chinese steel over U.S. steel if it were cheaper.
DFL state Reps. Jason Metsa, and Carly Melin and former Reps. Tom Rukavina and Joe Begich met with union representatives and several Iron Range mayors to decry what McFadden said at a Farm Fest candidate forum.
“Mike McFadden sent a loud and clear message to Iron Range families that he will not stand up for them in the Senate—not on jobs, not on American steel and not on the issues that matter to middle-class families, Melin said as the leaders held signs that read “support Jobs Here, Not China,” according a state DFL party news release.
The McFadden campaign shot back, saying that Melin and Rukavina both voted for the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, which is made partially with non-U.S. steel, and that Franken voted for a loophole that allows Keystone XL to be built with non-U.S. steel.
“This is just a smokescreen to hide the fact that Sen. Al Franken will not endorse copper-nickel projects like the PolyMet mine near Hoyt Lakes,” said McFadden spokesman Tom Erickson.
Franken spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff said there was no such loophole, and that Franken backed an amendment requiring American steel for the pipeline, which could be waived only if domestic steel increased the cost by more than 25 percent. The alternative, Fetissoff said, was a bill with a no buy America requirement.
"Al Franken voted for American steel," she said. "He has a strong record of standing up for Minnesota’s Iron Range and for Iron Range jobs. He has made it abundantly clear that if the Keystone pipeline is built, he wants it built with American Steel and that’s how he’s voted."
Just days after the primary, McFadden has intensified his focus on Franken, for the second day in a row urging the Senator and other members of Congress to return to Washington immediately from their August break. On Friday, the McFadden campaign also criticized Franken for attending a fundraiser at a Lake Tahoe, Nev. spa with other Democrats and donors.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden said Thursday that both President Obama and Congress should return to Washington from their respective breaks to address the country's immigration crisis and the conflict in Iraq.
"You have the president giving a press conference from Martha's Vineyard and it sends the wrong message. We continue to have a humanitarian and security crisis on the border." McFadden said from north-central Minnesota, where he was closing out a tour of the state's 87 counties. "We've got to get these things solved and I think it's inappropriate for people to go on vacation."
McFadden, an investment banker from Sunfish Lake, handily won Tuesday's primary to take on Democratic Sen. Al Franken.
An official August break for Congress has been on the books since 1970, Congress can return mid-recess if both houses agree to it, although it's rare, according to the Washington Post. The last time was nearly a decade ago to pass emergency legislation to assist people devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Obama returns to Washington on Sunday.
McFadden said the current crises warrant it. Asked what he would do at the border, McFadden said "I don't know what the exact solution is, but I think it's along the lines of what the (Texas Sen. John) Cornyn bill is trying to push forward, which significantly accelerates the hearings for these children so they're not stuck in limbo."
Cornyn authored the HUMANE Act, which focuses on unaccompanied children crossing the border.
On the day the Missouri State Highway Patrol said it would take over security in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb that's been a hotbed of protests since a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, McFadden called the situation "troubling."
"I'm keeping a close eye on the situation, and I only know what everybody else knows," McFadden said. "It's very troubling when you have people from the press getting arrested, and I think someone in Missouri needs to take charge. It's a concerning development"
Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and other lawmakers have called for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the incident. Obama has also called for an investigation and made remarks on the ongoing protests and urged "peace and calm" while an investigation continues.
McFadden's comments come the day after he stumbled over whether he would support increasing the gas tax to fund transportation infrastructure.
His Republican opponent now set, Gov. Mark Dayton has a busy schedule of appearances around Minnesota this week as he celebrates local building projects made possible with state dollars.
Dayton spoke Wednesday at a ceremony marking the start of a $32 million expansion project at the Mankato Civic Center. The state is covering $14.5 million of the project's cost in the bonding bill Dayton signed earlier this year, with local taxpayers paying the rest.
Mankato-area politicians sought state money for the expansion over the last six years, and several Republican lawmakers joined Dayton at the event including Rep. Tony Cornish and Sen. Julie Rosen.
Dayton said the project "will add hundreds of new jobs, and bring thousands more visitors to Mankato every year." Jeff Johnson, Dayton's newly chosen Republican opponent, has said he believes bonding bills should focus spending on projects with statewide economic benefits.
Jobs and the economy will be a central theme in the election debate between Dayton and his newly chosen Republican opponent, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. Republicans have acknowledged the recent healthy performance of Minnesota's economy, but Johnson said in his Tuesday night victory speech that he would try to convince voters that less government spending and regulation would benefit private employers.
Dayton also planned a Wednesday stop at MTU Onsite Energy in Mankato. On Thursday, he's scheduled to attend another groundbreaking, this one in Marshall. The southwestern Minnesota city got $4.3 million in the bonding bill to build a regional sports center, and will provide a 50 percent local match.
These appearances are under the auspices of Dayton's day job. But he's also making time for politics. The governor planned to attend a Tuesday afternoon meet-and-greet event with state House candidate Jack Considine, the DFL-endorsed candidate in the Mankato-area seat being vacated by Rep. Kathy Brynaert.
Dayton's campaign aides have said political stops will remain light on Dayton's schedule until after Sept. 1.
"I'm focused right now on being governor of Minnesota," Dayton said Wednesday at the Mankato groundbreaking. "I have five months left in my term, so that's my focus for now."
DFL chair Ken Martin minced no words Wednesday when speaking about Matt Entenza's failed bid for state auditor against the party's endorsed candidate and incumbent, Rebecca Otto.
Entenza first irked party officials when he filed a last-minute challenge to Otto. The former lawmaker spent nearly $700,000 of his own money in an effort to unseat her, making it the most expensive auditor's race in the state's history.
"The reason Matt Entenza lost -- and I think this should be a wakeup call to candidates like Mike McFadden – look what happened yesterday with two candidates, Scott Honour and Matt Entenza, who tried to buy the election," Martin said in a post-primary press conference.
Honour, a political newcomer and business executive, loaned his campaign about $900,000 and finished fourth in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson prevailed as the GOP's pick to face DFL Gov. Mark Dayton this fall. McFadden, an investment banker from Sunfish Lake, is now the Republicans' pick to face DFL Sen. Al Franken this fall.
A request for comment left with an Entenza campaign official was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Martin said he was angry with Entenza because the race turned negative and diverted the party's time and money to defend the typically low-key post of state auditor.
Entenza's challenge was "personal because he took on the party in a way that he didn’t have to. If he cared about our fortunes this fall, about Mark Dayton and Sen. Franken and the rest of our ticket, he wouldn't have foisted this primary upon us and had us waste a lot of resources that we could have used in the general election."
Photo by Star Tribune photographer Glen Stubbe.
An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Honour finished third in the Republican primary. He finished fourth.
Former Democratic state Rep. Mike Obermueller will get another shot at unseating Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline, who defeated him in a closer-than-expected race in 2012.
Obermueller handily defeated opponent Michael Roberts, an Army veteran and Hamline University Law School student, in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, is seeking a seventh term in Congress representing the Second District, which covers the suburbs south of the Twin Cities.
Paula Overby is the Independence Party candidate in the race.