With days to go until the election, U.S. Sen. Al Franken on Wednesday said that a proposed travel ban to and from Ebola-stricken west African nations, should be extended to third-party countries for travelers not on direct flights, with special considerations for U.S. aid workers.
“I believe that we should have a travel ban on people who are coming from those third (party) countries who aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t medical personnel who are doing that work,” Franken told reporters after a Minnesota DFL Get Out the Vote event. “I think that makes sense but that’s insufficient because most of the people coming from those three countries are U.S. citizens and of course we want to incentivize people do to that work and we want them to be able to come back.”
Franken applauded Gov. Mark Dayton’s Ebola restrictions, which requires a 21-day home quarantine for health workers returning to Minnesota after treating afflicted patients.
Franken’s opponent, Republican businessman Mike McFadden, who supports a travel ban, has repeatedly hammered Franken over Ebola, alleging a lack of leadership, and barraging voters with mailers and phone calls regarding Franken’s early departure from a congressional Ebola hearing last month.
Yesterday the McFadden campaign launched a radio advertisement featuring audio from last Sunday’s debate on WCCO TV when Franken struggled to say whether he supported a travel ban, finally saying that he had “nothing against it” but that he believed it would be insufficient because the majority of travelers from West Africa don’t fly directly to the United States.
Minnesota's U.S. Senators, both mentioned by the National Journal as possible future chairs of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, did not cozy up to the possibility on Wednesday.
"They can do whatever they like," Sen. Al Franken said of the National Journal's speculative piece. Asked if he was interested in the job, he said, directly: "No."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar was not quite as dismissive but did not confirm any interest.
"I am focused on this election," she said as she and other Democrats set off from the Minnesota Capitol to campaign.
"I haven't even considered that," she said.
Although, when asked, Franken denied any interest in the gig heading up Democratic senators' campaign arm, Franken challenger Mike McFadden's campaign sought to bash Franken because of the National Journal mention.
"Senator Franken has repeatedly denied his partisan nature, but the fact of the matter is that by Franken’s own admission, he is seeking the ‘most partisan’ job in the Senate,” McFadden said in a new release Wednesday morning.
Franken has never said he is seeking the DSCC job and confirmed on Wednesday that he is not.
Photo: U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken and other Democrats as rallied before campaigning across the state.
Minnesota's top Democrats gathered in front of the Capitol Wednesday morning to launch a six-day, 31-stop bus tour of the state that's aimed at firing up the party's supporters and motivating them to vote next Tuesday.
Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken, both of whom face voters next week, joined with the party's other statewide candidates, members of Congress and congressional candidates, legislators, the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and party and union activists.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, not on the ballot this year, teased her colleague Franken, whom recent polls have shown sitting on a comfortable lead over GOP challenger Mike McFadden.
"The latest polls have him not 10 votes ahead, but 10 points ahead," Klobuchar said, a reference to Franken's razor-thin win in 2008, which led to a months-long recount and lawsuit.
Dayton's running mate, Tina Smith, related a discussion the two had a day earlier about the governor's view of where his race against Republican Jeff Johnson sits in its final days. Smith said Dayton often jokes that she's "hope" and he's "reality."
"I said, 'how do you feel?'" Smith said. "And he said, I feel like it's a hockey game, and I'm the goalie, and we're one point ahead and we've got two minutes, and anything could happen."
The red, white and blue bus chartered by the party has a busy schedule of stops in the coming days, with rallies on Wednesday alone in Mankato, Albert Lea, Rochester and Winona. Ensuing days bring stops throughout the state, as statewide, congressional and legislative candidates take turns participating.
Minnesota Republicans are not mounting a similar bus tour, but state GOP chairman Keith Downey said on Tuesday that its candidates would be canvassing the state in the coming days and at times making joint appearances, as well as appearing with local legislative candidates.
Johnson campaigned Wednesday morning at a suburban bus rapid transit station, and had plans to do retail campaining later in the day in New Ulm, Fairmont and Worthington. McFadden is campaigning in Duluth with Becky Hall, a local state House candidate.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken and his Republican challenger Mike McFadden both remain on the campaign trail and on the offensive with one week remaining until Election Day.
McFadden is working his way back to the Twin Cities from a Northeastern Minnesota tour with a morning stop in Moorhead alongside Seventh Congressional District Candidate Torrey Westrom, followed by stops in Alexandria, Sauk Centre and St. Cloud.
In the meantime, his campaign has waged further criticism of Franken’s stance on containing the spread of the Ebola virus, with 30,000 phone calls across Minnesota since Saturday criticizing Franken for leaving a Sept. 16 Congressional hearing on the Ebola crisis. Franken left the hearing to deliver a floor speech on student loan reform. The campaign has also sent out mailers and launched a radio ad featuring audio from last week’s debate when Franken was asked whether he supports a travel ban. McFadden said he backs the ban, and Franken previously said he would consider it if the concerns of aid workers and Minnesota’s Liberian community were taken into account.
Franken has deflected McFadden’s criticism about his handling of the Ebola crisis, saying he has pushed for increased screening at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and led efforts to ensure that Minnesota health care providers have the necessary federal resources to fight the disease, which has already claimed more than 4,500 lives, primarily in west African nations.
Meanwhile, Franken, who is hosting grassroots Get Out the Vote events Tuesday at Mankato State University and Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, is continuing his own offensive on McFadden’s alleged ties to a restructuring deal that resulted in the closing of a Montana mill. McFadden has denied involvement, saying it was his parent company, Lazard Fréres, and not Lazard Middle Market, where he was CEO until he took a leave of absence during his U.S. Senate bid.
However, the Franken campaign says the deal was mentioned on Lazard Middle Market’s website until the the Franken campaign ran an ad criticizing the deal. McFadden also hesitated at Sunday’s debate when asked why mention of the deal was taken down from the website.
The undisputed fact is that Mike McFadden's company took credit for the deal until our ad criticized him for it,” said Alexandra Fetissoff, Franken campaign spokesperson. “The press wrote about the deal 18 months ago. McFadden didn't correct the stories. And his company didn't take it off their website. Minnesotans deserve to know: were they telling the truth then or are they telling the truth now?”
U.S. Sen. Al Franken and his Republican challenger Mike McFadden are spending Monday campaigning in northern Minnesota.
McFadden, who visited Tobie's Restaurant in Hinckley Monday morning, is scheduled to make afternoon trips to Baxter and, where he'll visit the Brainerd Victory Office in Baxter, and Bemidji, where he will stop at the Peppercorn Restaurant.
McFadden is scheduled to co-host a meet-and-greet at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday in Moorhead alongside Seventh Congressional District candidate Torrey Westrom.
Meanwhile, Franken spoke at a Get Out the Vote event on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus alongside Mad Men actor John Hamm.
The candidates were back on the road following a Sunday morning debate. Their next debate is 7 p.m. Nov. 2 on Minnesota Public Radio.