Minnesota's Management and Budget office announced Tuesday that it completed a $85.4 million bond sale to fund construction of a new office building for state senators next to the Capitol.
The state Department of Administration announced shortly after that preliminary work would start at the site on Wednesday. That could include asphalt, tree and curb removal; installation of barriers, fences and partitions; and heavy equipment delivery.
Plans call for the building to be ready for senators to move in prior to the 2016 legislative session. Planners of the roughly $90 million project, to which taxpayers are contributing about $77 million, say it will both ease crowding concerns during the ongoing, massive renovation of the Capitol building; and provide needed long-term space for state senators and their employees.
The project has become a frequent target of criticism by Republican politicians, who have called it unneeded, and tried to wield it politically against Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative Democrats.
The head of the one of the most powerful Democratic groups in Minnesota will move to one of the most powerful unions in the state.
Carrie Lucking, who has been executive director of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota since 2011, will become Education Minnesota's director of policy, research and outreach.
"I absolutely loved it here and it was a really difficult decision to go," Lucking, a former teacher, said.
But both the Alliance and Education Minnesota have been heavily involved in politics -- and each other. Education Minnesota spent nearly $5 million on political causes since 2008.
The Alliance, which has spent more than $10 million since 2007, has supported Democrats in their election quests. The Alliances' funders received much of their money from Education Minnesota and other unions, the Democratic Governor's Association and Alida Messinger, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's ex-wife.
Since 2010 Education Minnesota has given at least $660,000 to Alliance's funders and Messinger has donated more than $2 million.
But Lucking said her new job, which will start in September, will not be directly involved in politics and political spending.
"I’ve been living and dying by the election cycling for ten years," she said. "It turns out that’s a long time."
Lucking said the Alliance will be bringing on an extra set of hands to help out during the election and naming a new interim director soon.
Lucking is married to Bob Hume, Gov. Mark Dayton's communications chief.
She said getting distance between their two jobs -- hers at the Alliance in independent political spending -- and his working for a governor the Alliance supports was not one of her considerations in taking the new job.
At home, the couple, who had their first child this year, largely talks about the things all new parents discuss, she said -- food, the baby's inputs and outputs and other domestic affairs.
Updated with contributions from Glenn Howatt
By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt
Outside groups -- unions, Democratic and Republican supporters and PACs set up just to support a single candidate -- have raised at least $15 million since the 2012 election.
Those outside groups, which had been slowly raising cash in preparation for the 2014 elections, began piling on money in earnest this summer. Since June 1, the largest independent spending groups raised more than $2.6 million, according to reports released Tuesday.
As with previous election cycles, union organizations are gearing up with big cash. Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union, led in fundraising among outside groups with $1.8 million already raised. All told, union affiliated PACs have raised more than $4.6 million to train on the 2014 election.
Much of that cash will benefit Democratic candidates and the Democratic Alliance for a Better Minnesota, which, with its supporters, has already brought in more than $1.8 million.
Republicans-leaning outside groups have already raised $2.6 million. The largest among them, the Freedom Club, launched a major television ad campaign against Dayton in July.
See a breakdown of the fundraising by some of the major outside groups below:
By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt
Candidates in competitive House races are hauling in cash, with five races topping the $100,000 mark in candidate fundraising alone.
These expensive races, according to fundraising reports released Tuesday, tend to hold several factors in common. They include a contested primary or are in swing district and sometimes both.
These costly contests are likely the ones candidates, and donors, believe are most likely to flip parties.
By House district, including money raised by all candidates:
Minnesota Democratic party groups continue to dominate the cash contests, raising more, spending more and having more cash-on-hand than Republican party groups, according to pre-primary fundraising reports released Tuesday.
But the Minnesota Republican party groups are catching up. After years of whittling down debt, the state party now has $435,000 in debt remaining in its state committee, which is nearly $100,000 less than it owned at the end of May.
By comparison, however, Democrats still have a clear edge in the money race.
The DFL state party has raised more than $2 million, with help from the DFL House and Senate caucuses. The Republican state party has raised about half that. The state DFL party has also spent about $600,000 more than the Republicans and has a little less than twice the GOP's cash on hand, with no major debt.
The Democratic edge in the House party committees is even more stark.
For the Republican and Democratic battle for control of the House in this election, the DFL House committee has amassed almost three times what the Republican House campaign committee has in fundraising. The DFL campaign arm has about twice as much cash on hand as the Republicans' and has spent about twice more than the Republican rival committee.
Dig into all the numbers below: