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Capitol Chatter: Minnesota primary to be different

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Don Davis

Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Republicans seldom duke it out in primary elections, but the Aug. 12 vote features a pair of GOP contests worth watching.

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In the Republican U.S. Senate race, unlikely party endorsee Mike McFadden will face Jim Abeler, who received little support at the party convention but who may benefit from what is expected to be an increasingly harsh campaign Democrats will wage again McFadden.

Since McFadden, a party outsider, announced he was running against Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken, Democrats have made no secret that he has been the candidate they most fear. He already has $2 million ready to spend against Franken.

Since last weekend’s party convention endorsed McFadden, he will receive tangible and intangible benefits of being the party’s guy. That includes access to the party’s database, something candidates find very valuable.

Since the convention, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party publicity apparatus has been saying that McFadden, who trailed St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg in the early going, only won the endorsement after U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann announced she backed him. Whether or not that is why McFadden won, enough people do not like Bachmann that Democrats hope that feeling rubs off on McFadden.

As for the Republican governor contest, the four-way race could be difficult to handicap:

• Party-endorsed Jeff Johnson had less trouble earning the convention’s backing than many expected. He was a peace-keeper between wings of the party two years ago and is well liked by Republicans, but he lost his 2006 bid for attorney general and some party members say they are concerned about the Hennepin County commissioner’s not-very-exciting personality.

• Twin Cities businessman Scott Honour is the type of person who can do well in a primary since he is wealthy and can put his own resources into the campaign. Mark Dayton took that route four years ago when he challenged DFL-endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher, but Dayton already was well known around the state. Honour is not so well known and so far has not waged a very public campaign.

• On paper, former House Speaker Kurt Zellers looked like a strong candidate given time he spent traveling the state and getting to know Republicans everywhere. But his campaign has not taken off like many expected, likely in part because Republicans lost control of the House under his watch.

• The wildcard in the race may be Marty Seifert, the Marshall resident who despite being in the Legislature 14 years is calling himself “the anti-establishment candidate.” Seifert turned off some Republicans at the end of the party convention in Rochester when he took to the stage and instead of withdrawing as an endorsement candidate appeared to many to say his supporters could leave, which could have meant the party would not have had enough delegates left to make an endorsement. That upset Party Chairman Keith Downey, who himself took to the podium and criticized Seifert.

Entenza creates arguments

Matt Entenza long has been a politically ambitious Democrat, but some in his own party say he went too far Tuesday.

Minutes before the deadline for filing paperwork for elective office, Entenza walked into the secretary of state’s office to sign paperwork for a state auditor campaign. His run against State Auditor Rebecca Otto likely will raise the race’s profile above what the auditor usually sees.

Key Democrats like Gov. Mark Dayton quickly came to Otto’s side.

“Before the DFL state convention and before I was aware of Matt Entenza’s plans to run for state auditor in the primary election, I told Rebecca Otto that I would support her in her campaign for re-election,” Dayton said. “Today, I stand by my promise to support her. Although Auditor Otto and I disagree on some issues, she has been a good state auditor, and she deserves re-election.”

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison came out for Entenza.

“I am proud to support Matt for state auditor because he has been a progressive leader in the fight for civil and economic justice,” Ellison said. “Matt has taken on corporate interests, prosecuted white-collar criminals and stood against photo ID. He introduced the first bill ever in the Legislature for marriage equality in 1995.”

Entenza, a St. Paul resident, was long-time state representative, started to run for attorney general before pulling out and ran for governor. After leaving the House, he founded the think tank Minnesota 2020.

It’s in the numbers

Gov. Mark Dayton’s news release proclaimed that Minnesota has hosted two previous Final Four college basketball tournaments.

But minutes after his staff handed reporters the release related to the state’s efforts to attract a Final Four in 2019 or 2020, he said there actually have been three in Minnesota.

“I Googled it myself,” he said.

Final Four tournaments were in the Metrodome in 1992 and 2001, but Dayton discovered another one was held in 1951.

The first one was in the University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena. Kentucky, coached by famed Adolph Rupp, won the national title. While there were four teams involved, for the championship and third place, 1951 was the last time that semifinals were not held in the same place as the championship game.

E-cigs aimed at youths

A new study shows electronic cigarette makers’ advertisements are aimed at youths and young adults.

E-cigarettes were a hot topic in this year’s Minnesota Legislature, with an outcome that restricts their availability to youths. Some wanted the devices to be treated like tobacco cigarettes and banned from public places.

The federal government is moving toward banning their sale to minors, but television commercials are inviting their use by kids.

The commercials are focused on a few cable television networks that have big youth viewership.

ban gets noticed

The National media noticed that Gov. Mark Dayton recently signed a bill to ban triclosan, an ingredient often used in antibacterial soap.

“The health effects of triclosan for humans are still unclear,” CNN reported. “Some studies suggest that the chemical could be linked to antibiotic resistance, but evidence is mixed, and the Environmental Protection Agency says more research is needed to evaluate risk.”

The federal government has asked companies that put triclosan in cleaners to prove their products work better than plain soap. They also should prove the products are safe for long-term use.

The Washington Post reports that triclosan also is used for mouthwashes, to coat earplugs and is mixed in paint.

“Last month, Minnesota banned triclosan from consumer hand and body sanitizers, a restriction that will take effect in 2017,” the Post reported. “It was a bold move because the federal Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the safety and efficacy of triclosan. By acting now, Minnesota lawmakers effectively preempted the FDA. Manufacturers are also trying to get in front of public sentiment: Both Johnson and Johnson and Procter and Gamble are phasing triclosan out of their products.”

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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.
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