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, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

Posts about Minnesota state senators

Republican Senate race sprinting toward GOP convention

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: May 27, 2014 - 4:45 PM

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Abby Simons

As Republican Senate candidate Mike McFadden was striding in to the Secretary of State's office to declare his candidacy on Tuesday, Republican rival Julianne Ortman was telling the media she had released her first television ad.

The two, joined by a crowded field of other Republicans, are jousting to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken this year. A win would give the GOP its first statewide victory since 2006 and would allow the party to oust a sitting Democrat for the first time in a generation.

In her ad, Ortman, a state senator from Chanhassen, says: "I'm a runner. I'm not fast. I'm not an athlete. But when I start, I finish." For Ortman, who campaign spent just $20,000 on the media buy, the finish line could come as soon as Friday.

She has vowed to honor the Republican Party's endorsement, which means she will drop out of the race if someone else nabs the nod at the state party's Rochester convention on Friday.

McFadden has said repeatedly that he is hoping for the party's nod but will primary if he does not get it.

"Being able to be down in Rochester in front of 2,200 Republican delegates is a great opportunity to just once again talk about our message and how we are going to beat Al Franken," he said. He said he had previously attended one state convention as an observer decades ago.

"I'm really excited about our chances," McFadden said fresh off of signing his name to on his filing for the office.  "I look forward to that election in November."

Meanwhile, state Rep. Jim Abeler, who is also vying in the senate race, released a list of legislative supporters over the weekend that includes veterans and newcomers alike. 

"In my nine campaigns, I have made only two promises to my constituents: to work hard and do my best, and to tell the truth.," Abeler said in the note about his supporters.

Six of the Republican Senate candidates also debated before a crowd of about 50 Chisago County Republicans last Friday at Stars & Strikes bowling alley in Wyoming. The candidates agreed on a number of issues. Among them, the Affordable Care Act and the economy are among the state’s most pressing issues and Minnesota’s greatest asset is its people.

Candidates also took a few swipes at one another.

St. Paul schoolteacher and Marine Corps veteran David Carlson, who reportedly is sitting out the convention, repeatedly referred to McFadden’s campaign as “McFadden Island,” suggesting it’s out of touch with reality. Ortman and Abeler also warned that Republicans will have to change tactics if they wish to successfully take on Franken.

“"We can't do the same things that Norm Coleman and Kurt Bills did in the last two elections and expect to win." Ortman said. Coleman narrowly lost his seat to Franken six years ago. Bills, then a one-term state House member, was drubbed in 2012 when he vied against Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Like Ortman, St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg and Washington County farmer Monti Moreno are abiding by the endorsement at this weekend’s state party convention in Rochester.

Here's Ortman's ad:

Runner from JulianneMN on Vimeo.

Beagle Freedom Law makes history in Minnesota

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: May 21, 2014 - 11:20 AM

With Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to enact a law giving dogs and cats used in laboratory testing the opportunity to be adopted once research is complete.

Part of the Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill, the Beagle Freedom law authored by Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, links taxpayer-funded laboratories and educational institutions that use dogs and cats for research with nonprofit animal rescues. The animals can be placed for adopted when they are no longer needed for research.

According to the Los Angeles-based Beagle Freedom Project, which sponsored the legislation, nearly 65,000 dogs across the country are used to test cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and household products. Nearly 96 percent of the dogs are beagles, one of the top five most popular family dog breeds in America, said Shannon Keith, founder and president of the Beagle Freedom Project.

“We are overjoyed that Gov. Dayton signed this bill into law ensuring that countless dogs and cats have a chance to go to forever homes when their research experience is over,” Keith said in a statement. “We expect that this is the beginning of many celebrations as other states follow suit.”

Last month, a similar measure in California passed the Assembly Higher Education Committee and headed to the Appropriations Committee.

Read more about the Beagle Freedom Project here.

Ortman unveils 'Turnaround Plan' for U.S. Senate run

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: May 20, 2014 - 5:51 PM

Minnesota State Sen. Julianne Ortman formally filed her candidacy for U.S. Senate, in the process unveiling a 12-point “Ortman Turnaround Plan" that includes repealing the Affordable Care Act in favor of a state model, eliminating government spying and eliminating the nation’s $900 billion budget gap without raising taxes.

It's a blueprint, she said, for a successful run for U.S. Senate.

“I’ve been working on it as the result of many years of service to the state of Minnesota at the state Capitol, but also in 10 months on the campaign trail listening to Minnesotans concerned about our nation who want to see real solutions," she aid.

Ortman, a lawyer from Chanhassen and 12-veteran of the Senate, of seven Republican candidates vying to take on Democratic Sen. Al Franken, touted her experience as chair of the Minnesota Senate’s Tax Committee to close a $5 billion deficit in the state. She can accomplish the same in Washington, she said.

Ortman added that she would oppose gas tax increases and prioritize money for roads and bridges over other projects like the controversial Southwest Light Rail expansion.

“In this case the light rail project from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie is not a priority for Minnesota, yet half the money is being matched from Washington D.C.,” Ortman said. “Make no mistake, Minnesota will have to pay both halves.”

Ortman’s unveiling comes less than two weeks before the Minnesota Republican Party’s state convention in Rochester, where she said she will abide by the endorsement. Key, she said, is unifying the Republican Party by reaching as many delegates as possible, but also preparing for a primary should she receive the endorsement.

“My message is broad-based. It’s not targeted toward a particular voter or voting bloc, but to all Minnesotans,” she said. “The Ortman Turnaround Plan is not about a convention or delegates, it’s about the relationship between Minnesota and Washington and the fact that Minnesotans expect better out of Washington from our elected leaders.”

View the Ortman turnaround plan here.


If the Legislature finishes before Monday's deadline, how unusual would that be?

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: May 16, 2014 - 6:54 PM

Minnesota legislators appear to be on track to finish their work before their mandated Monday adjournment.

Before the congratulations, take note: the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library found that in the second year of the biennium, like this year, "they have adjourned sine die before the constitutional adjournment date in all but two years since 1973."

In other words, finishing Friday when they have to finish by Monday would not be unusual.

See the chart the library put together below:

Even legislators get surprised; here's how. VIDEO

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: May 16, 2014 - 6:23 PM

Minnesotans are often shocked by the Legislature.

But legislators also get surprised.

Reporter Abby Simons asked them what surprised them this session. They answered.

Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge:

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul:

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mezeppa:

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis:

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston:

Rep. Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul:

Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska:


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