In a sign of how seriously it is taking the 2018 election, Education Minnesota is upping its political action committee dues by $10 per year. This may seem like a small amount, but if you consider the size of the union — more than 80,000 members — that means the teachers will have roughly $1.5 million more to spend during the 2018 election cycle.

Public employee unions are worried about full GOP control of state government: If a Republican wins the governor's race, that means the GOP would likely retain their House majority. Republicans also control the state Senate, whose members don't stand for election in 2018. Unions fear a Republican state government would try to limit collective bargaining rights, as Gov. Scott Walker has in Wisconsin, which severely weakened unions there.

Union participation — or lack thereof — will play a big role in determining the DFL nominee.

Both sides are also looking at the 2020 census, after which congressional and legislative districts will be redrawn. It's especially important if, as expected, Minnesota loses a congressional seat. State GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan was blunt about it at a forum last week: "Why it's so important is, our governor candidate will have the ability to redraw the district lines in 2020."

Head to head on health care

U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, who is vulnerable on health care after siding with his Republican colleagues on an Obamacare repeal bill that polled badly and is dead for now, saw an opening last week when Sen. Bernie Sanders released his single-payer health care plan. Paulsen went after his leading Democratic challenger 14 months before the election: "Where does Dean Phillips stand on the Bernie plan? I oppose this government-run health care plan," Paulsen said in a statement. (Paulsen does not oppose a different government health insurance plan called Medicare.)

Phillips, a businessman and philanthropist, posted a video on Facebook saying: "I believe that universal access to affordable health care should be a moral right in this country, and that should be our objective."

He adds: "Transitioning to a single-payer system is one idea for how we get there, but it's not the only idea. I want to pursue policy solutions that ensure greater competition among insurers and providers and — most importantly — lower costs for consumers."

J. Patrick Coolican • 651-925-5042 Twitter: @jpcoolican