The deputy chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, Chris Fields, sparked a Twitter feud after he defended his comments using Robin Williams' death to plug the GOP-endorsed candidate for governor, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.
In a reply to a tweet sent Monday night by a DFL staff member who remembered Williams, Fields said: "how very 80's. Want an economy like we had in 80's under Reagan...Vote @Jeff4Gov tomorrow in the primary".
Fields then engaged in a Twitter feud with other users of the social media site who criticized Fields for stumping for votes. The GOP deputy chair defended his original remarks, criticized political correctness and said DFL policies "hurt real [people]."
Fields has since deleted most, but not all of his tweets, and Johnson, in a Twitter post, said the tweets "last night mixing Robin Williams' death [with] politics were inappropriate [and] wrong. America will dearly miss him."
In a statement released by the Minnesota GOP, Fields apologized for his tweets. "My comments were insensitive and inappropiate, and they clearly do not reflect the views of the Republican Party of Minnesota. I am sincerely sorry for my actions."
Fields comments' come at an inopportune time for the state's Republicans. The party is hoping its slew of candidates, including Johnson, can beat DFL candidiates and incumbents in the gubernatorial, legislative and U.S. Congressional races this fall. Voters on Tuesday are heading to polls in a primary election to determine which of four GOP gubernatorial hopefuls will face DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in November.
Updated Aug. 12 at 2:15 p.m. to include Fields' statement.
Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday he's ready for the fall campaign to get started, as Republicans picked a candidate who will try to unseat the DFL incumbent.
"Minnesota's in a lot better shape now than it was four years ago, and I'd like to see us continue that progress," Dayton said, after voting in the DFL primary at Summit Church in St. Paul, down the street from the Governor's Residence.
Dayton won a hard-fought DFL primary four years ago, and this year faces only token opposition in his party's gubernatorial primary. Turnout was low at the St. Paul precinct: election judge Sam Carlisle said the site was open 30 minutes before the first voter appeared. Dayton, who arrived at 12:30 p.m., was only the 89th person to show up to vote.
He joked with election workers, telling them he got over the shame of voting for himself when he was in fourth grade.
Republicans are choosing from four main contenders in the race to challenge Dayton. They are businessman Scott Honour, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, state Rep. Kurt Zellers and former state Rep. Marty Seifert.
The GOP gubernatorial primary remained close up to the end, and expectations of low turnout made the outcome unpredictable. Polls close at 8 p.m.
Dayton declined to express a preference among the four candidates, but he rejected a central argument of all of them: that DFL control of the governor's office and Legislature have made taxes higher for Minnesotans.
"If you’re making less than $250,000 a year, your taxes have probably gone down," Dayton said. "So I think it’s very misleading to say I’ve raised taxes when I’ve lowered them for most people."
Dayton and the GOP nominee are expected to meet at six debates between Labor Day and Election Day.
Republican donor Stanley Hubbard said he and his family were uninvolved with his television stations decision to pull an anti-Stewart Mills ad.
"I heard someone accused the Hubbards of being behind that decision. We had nothing to do with it," Hubbard told the Star Tribune.
Two Hubbard stations were the only ones to cede to the Mills campaign request that stations stop airing the television ad from the Democratic House Majority PAC and the AFSCME union. Other stations are still airing the spot.
Although Hubbard and his family have personally supported Mills financially, he said that decision was out of his purview.
"Our legal department received the complaint, and they inspected the ad, and felt that there were things in it that were out of context and not true. Tell the truth and you’ll have no trouble with us," Hubbard said. "Our stations do not get involved in politics, period.”
Patrick Condon contributed to this report
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt
In the lackluster Republican primary this year, the four GOP gubernatorial candidates' spending is down, way down, compared to the three DFL gubernatorial candidates who vied in a 2010 primary.
The four -- Rep. Kurt Zellers, businessman Scott Honour, former Rep. Marty Seifert and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson -- have raised 64 percent less than the three DFLers did four years ago, according to a Star Tribune analysis.
The Republican quartet has spent 71 percent less than DFLers Mark Dayton, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and former Rep. Matt Entenza did in 2010.
Republican candidates and their campaigns have said that many would-be Republican donors are waiting to see who emerges from Tuesday's primary before donating.
Unlike this year, the DFL race featured two candidates who were willing to spend vast amounts of their personal wealth to win the primary.
By this point four years ago, Dayton, who won the primary, had sunk more than $3.3 million into his campaign. Entenza, who is now running for state auditor, had invested almost $3.6 million into his gubernatorial run.
This year only Honour has spent much of his own cash into his race. He has invested more than $901,000 of his own money into his campaign. That's only a fraction of what the two well heeled Democrats spent on their campaigns by this point.
But even the lone non-millionaire in that DFL race, Kelliher, had raised more than three of the non-millionaires in the Republican race.
By this point in 2010, Kelliher had raised $1.2 million for her campaign.
Only Honour has exceeded that amount this year. He has raised almost $1.8 million.
The other three Republican candidates -- Zellers, Seifert and Johnson -- have raised half or less as much as Kelliher had by this point four years ago.
Dig into the numbers below:
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt
As we reported in Monday's newspaper, Democratic areas of the state have cast more absentee ballots than Republican areas.
"Nearly 40 percent of the already accepted absentee ballots came from DFL bastions and only 28 percent have come from GOP areas, according to a Star Tribune analysis of early ballots accepted by election officials as of Wednesday. Slightly more voters live in those GOP areas than in the DFL ones," we wrote.
For a deeper look at the absentee ballot tranmitted and returned numbers, check out the charts below, which break down the numbers as of Wednesday morning from the state's 87 counties, the state's 134 Minnesota House Districts and the U.S. House Districts.
The most populous counties have returned the most ballots by sheer numbers. Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Dakota, Washington and St. Louis are in the top five spots. Hennepin also has several heated legislative primaries (see chart below) that appear to have increased absentee ballot numbers.
BY MINNESOTA HOUSE DISTRICT
By House District, which have equal population, one district stands out in terms of absentee ballot numbers. House District 60B, in the heart of Minneapolis, features a heated Democratic race between DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn and DFL school board member Mohamud Noor. That district also features a lower profile primary race among Republicans.
BY U.S. HOUSE DISTRICT
Like Minnesota House Districts, Congressional Districts all have the same population. But the numbers of absentee ballots requested and accepted from the districts show significant differences.