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Cheesy or not, candidates have reason to run

By Don Davis

Forum News Service

Voters sometimes think candidates for top offices run because of greed or desire for power.

But there are easier ways to make money and most people who serve in government come away with a feeling that few elected officials really have much power.

So in the recent governor candidates’ debate, Forum News Service asked why they wanted to be governor, with so many other career options available.

“This is going to sound really cheesy,” Republican candidate Jeff Johnson replied, “but I truly believe a governor can really change things for the better in this state. And I saw it when I was in the Legislature. ... One person who is very focused, who is very passionate about a few important things can actually make the place better for everyday middle class Minnesotans who are being forgotten right now.”

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said he agreed with Johnson, and added: “I have devoted my career to public service, which is about making this state, this nation and world better place, especially for generations to come. ... I became governor because I think there really is a chance here in Minnesota to make things really happen for the better.”

House races funded

Groups from outside of Minnesota continue to pour funds into the state’s two most interesting races.

The 7th and 8th congressional districts, serving the western and northern parts of the state, are getting money to buy television commercials.

The National Journal reports: “Democrats are continuing to spend heavily to defend vulnerable incumbents, adding another seven figures in air time to five media markets that cover six Democratic-held districts.”

In Minnesota’s 8th, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan will benefit from $740,000 for more ads from Tuesday through election day in his race against Republican Stewart Mills.

In the 7th, the Democratic committee will run $294,000 worth of commercials on behalf of U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who is being challenged by Republican state Sen. Torrey Westrom.

Johnson: Dayton lied on rates

Republican governor candidate Jeff Johnson says Gov. Mark Dayton lied about MNsure health insurance rates.

With the departure of the insurer that offered the lowest rates, Johnson claims, rates will rise far more than Dayton says.

“Last month, when PreferredOne announced that it was pulling out of MNsure, I questioned the role the Dayton administration played in setting PreferredOne’s rates and said something seemed fishy,” Johnson said.

PreferredOne dropped out of MNsure for next year, saying its rates were too low to maintain. About 60 percent of Minnesotans who use MNsure to buy private health insurance are on PreferredOne.

Last month, Johnson charged that Dayton convinced the insurer to offer artificially low rates. Now, a Minneapolis-based Star Tribune investigation shows that the Commerce Department, part of the Dayton administration, asked PreferredOne to “please consider reducing the general rate level of your filing,”

Dayton repeatedly has said that he had nothing to do with PreferredOne’s rates. He said that rates were left up to insurers.

Where is it?

Minnesota state workers should not be surprised if people wander into their offices expecting someone else to be there.

A trip to Google Maps online showed many things in the wrong place in the state Capitol complex.

The Minnesota Senate information office, for instance, is shown in the grassy mall in front of the Capitol. It normally is in the Capitol building, but many such offices are elsewhere during the building’s reconstruction (just not on the lawn).

Google thinks Minnesota workers’ compensation offices also are on the grass, conveniently located feet from a bus stop. They actually are quite a few blocks away, and in a building not on the grass.

Brightview Pressure Washing is shown in the middle of a parking lot, instead of across town. And the state military affairs building is labeled “American Legion.”

The takeaway from a scan of Google Maps is to double-check before heading to a Capitol-area office.

No Dayton comment

Gov. Mark Dayton did something Thursday that he rarely does: avoid the press.

The next day, a long-time Capitol observer wondered if that could affect the Nov. 4 election. His conclusion: doubtful, but possible.

“In Minnesota, politics can be like the weather: unpredictable,” Blois Olson wrote in his daily tip sheet Morning Take. “Most of the volatility since 1990 has happened within 10 days of the election. ...

“Could the dynamics of Gov. Dayton avoiding the press yesterday change the dynamic? Or did the GOP party ad controversy about the photo of Eric Dean move voters in a different direction? Neither is probably a game changer, but it’s Minnesota and anything can happen.”

The Minnesota Republican Party on Thursday agreed to remove a photograph of Dean from a commercial attacking Dayton. Dean’s stepmother is serving time after being convicted in the 4-year-old’s death.

Olson called it a “milquetoast campaign year,” a situation that has prompted many observers to opine that Dayton’s strategy in the final days before the election is to keep his head down.

Besides avoiding the media Thursday, Dayton’s campaign also went back on a promise to provide Forum News Service time with the candidate. The request came after the news service’s Oct. 8 debate produced so many questions from the public that many could not be asked during the event at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

DFL plans road trip

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders and candidates hit the road Wednesday for a six-day trip designed to encourage Democrats to vote in the Nov. 4 election.

The agenda includes Wednesday stops in St. Paul, Mankato, Albert Lea, Rochester and Winona. The next day, the crew will be in Hopkins, Northfield, Eagan, Oakdale and St. Paul. On Halloween, Willmar, Morris and Moorhead are on the agenda.

The tour’s Nov. 1 stops are in Bemidji, Leech Lake, Grand Rapids, Virginia and Duluth. On Nov. 2, the Democrats plan stop in Brainerd and St. Cloud. The final day, Nov. 3, is to include swings through Little Canada, Edina, Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Davis covers Minnesota government and politics for Forum News Service.

Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @CapitolChatter.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.