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, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Corey Mitchell, Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

Posts about Democrats

Alliance up with another TV ad hitting Johnson over minimum wage in governor's race

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: September 30, 2014 - 2:54 PM

A new TV ad from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota is critical of Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson over the minimum wage issue.

The Alliance, a third party group that supports DFL candidates, has aired a series of TV ads against Johnson. The group said the new ad would begin airing statewide on Tuesday. 

The ad features a Minnesota woman, Jessica English, who talks about raising her kids for a time on minimum wage. "It was nearly impossible to get by," said English, raising concerns that Johnson would "reduce the minumum wage." 

"Johnson opposes raising the minimum wage, but he supports tax breaks for big corporations," English says in the ad. The Alliance cited several votes that Johnson took as a state legislator in 2005 to back up those claims. 

English, a former activist for Occupy Homes MN movement, is now an economic organizer for the progressive group TakeAction MN. 

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill earlier this year raising Minnesota's minimum wage by $1.85, to $8 an hour for large employers. It will keep going up to $9.50 an hour in 2016, and start indexing to inflation in 2018.

Johnson has been critical of the minimum wage bill, and said he does not support automatic increases in the minimum wage.

"He agrees with the woman in the ad -- that it's impossible to raise a family on a minimum wage salary," spokesman Jeff Bakken said. Bakken said Johnson would not cut the current minimum wage, and noted recent economic measures showing Minnesota last in private sector job creation in the Midwest. 

"We need more good-paying jobs in our state, and the only way to get them is to get rid of Mark Dayton," Bakken said. 

It's the third Alliance ad targeting Johnson's record. The full ad can be viewed here

Today in the governor's race

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: September 30, 2014 - 9:50 AM

By most accounts, the race for governor in Minnesota this year has been a pretty sleepy one.

Gov. Mark Dayton, the DFL incumbent, has been more inclined to make official appearances as governor over campaigning as a candidate at political events. His Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, has tended toward a light schedule of public events to date. 

On Wednesday, Dayton and Johnson along with Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet meet in Rochester for the first of five debates. That could quicken the pace of the race. In the meantime, this blog will try to keep track of the daily comings and goings of the two major candidates to the extent their campaigns provide that information. 

On Tuesday, with 35 days until the election, neither Dayton nor Johnson are scheduled to appear in public. 

Fire fighters union backs Dayton for governor

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: September 29, 2014 - 3:18 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton picked up more union support for his re-election Monday with the endorsement of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters.

The union represents about 1,600 fire fighters, paramedics, EMTs and dispatchers in 40 communities around the state. Union president Chris Parsons, a St. Paul firefighter, said the union's longtime veterans consider Dayton more attentive to their concerns than any other governor going back 40 years. Dayton has been "extremely attentive to public safety matters when it comes to fire safety," Parson said.

Unlike many unions that reliably back Democrats, the fire fighters union has crossed over to back Republicans, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whom the group backed in both 2002 and 2006. But Pawlenty angered fire fighters toward the end of his term when he proposed diverting money from a state firefighter training account funded by a surcharge on homeowner and commercial assistance. 

Fire fighters say the account is needed for up-to-date training and equipment, and Dayton has opposed any move to eliminate it. Parsons also praised Dayton for restoring a higher level of state aid to local governments, which he said allowed many cities to hire and retain fire fighters. 

Parsons said Dayton's Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, did not reach out to the group to vie for its endorsement. 

Parsons said the union has several items on its legislative wishlist next year: enhanced training and equipment tooled for response to possible oil train or pipeline spills; a larger role in community medical response that would allow emergency responders to play a more pro-active role in keeping people out of emergency rooms; and a ban on flame retardant materials in homes that, Parsons said, have been linked in some studies to higher cancer rates in fire fighters. 

Dayton said the sacrifice made by fire fighters and their families makes it imperative for political leaders to be responsive to their agenda. 

"Whatever I can do, whatever the state of Minnesota government can do to support you in your undertakings is something I feel a personal obligation to do to the maximum extent possible," Dayton said. 

Political outside spending down in Minnesota so far

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: September 26, 2014 - 7:01 PM

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt

So far independent and party organizations groups have spent at least $3.7 million in this year's Minnesota governor's race with most of it coming from organizations that support DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's election.

It would take a significant acceleration for the groups, which are not controlled by candidates, to reach the spending levels set in 2010.

Four years ago, when the governor's race had no incumbent, outside groups spent at least $11 million by the end of the election, according to a Star Tribune analysis of campaign finance figures.

The outside groups include political action committees, parties and others that must register with the state. The cash figures do not include cash spent by political nonprofits, which do not need to report their spending to the Minnesota campaign finance agency.

Of the $3.7 million, at least $2.4 million has come from the DFL party, the Democrat-supporting Alliance for a Better Minnesota and union groups.

The lack of spending among outside groups appears similar in Minnesota House races, according to filings made public this week.

So far, those PACs and parties have spent just under $1 million to influence who controls the House next year. Nearly half of that has been ponied up by the DFL Party and the DFL House campaign arm.

In addition, the Freedom Club has run about $900,000 worth of television ads that trash both DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL Legislature. The Star Tribune included that figure to the spending on the governor's race.

Back in 2012, when the House was last up for election, PACs and parties spent a little more than $4 million to influence that election. Additionally, they spent about $6.7 million to influence the control of the Minnesota Senate. Senate seats will not be on the ballot until 2016.

Collin Peterson pushes back against attack ad

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: September 25, 2014 - 3:28 PM

Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is pushing back against a Republican ad that blasts him for his office’s car leases and the mileage reimbursements he receives for traveling around his district in his personal airplane.

The ad is part of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s $300,000-plus campaign to highlight the costs Peterson has accumulated while traveling across his 38-county district.

“Since 1991, I’ve been out there doing my job, meeting with constituents, and covering more events and meetings than I could if I was using a car,” Peterson said in a statement. “Minnesota's Seventh District stretches from the Canadian border almost to the Iowa line. These Washington outsiders have no idea how large and diverse this district is, how much ground it covers, or how to get around within it. Their ignorance is frankly remarkable."

With the campaign arms of the national Democratic and Republican parties pumping millions of dollars in attack ads into Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District race, both Peterson and his Republican opponent, Torrey Westrom, will be fighting back against a bevy of negative advertising . The NRCC has made $2.8 million in requests for ad time to go after Peterson while Democrats have booked $1.5 million for anti-Westrom ads.

The barrage of attack ads illustrates how high the stakes are in the race, where Peterson is seeking a 13th term and Westrom is aggressively pursuing an upset in the Republican-leaning district. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district by almost a 10-point margin in 2012,  but Peterson -- the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee -- has coasted to re-election for much of his tenure in Congress.

Peterson should expect criticism of his travel costs to continue, GOP aides said.

“The last two [ads] have obviously highlighted Collin Peterson’s use of taxpayer-funded perks and it’s definitely a major theme of this campaign,” said NRCC spokesman Tyler Houlton.

After the NRCC aired its first Peterson ad, Democrats struck back with an ad criticizing Westrom for taking his legislative pay during Minnesota’s 2011 government shutdown. Westrom was among more than 100 state lawmakers who continued collecting his check.

“This is what desperate Democrats do when they know they are on the verge of losing,” Minnesota Republican Party Chair Keith Downey said in a statement this month.