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Capitol Chatter: Some see 2014 as good for GOP

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Don Davis

Forum News Service

MINNEAPOLIS — National pundits may say Republicans will have a rough 2014 election, with voters blaming them for a federal government shutdown, but a couple of longtime Minnesota state political leaders hint otherwise.

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Former House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, told the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council that the GOP could take back control of the state House next year. Sitting next to him, former longtime Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, reminded the 500 in the audience that U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton, Democrats seeking re-election next year, won their jobs in tight contests.

Sviggum said that next year will be the second year of the president’s second term, an election when the party out of power usually does well. He also said that health-care changes pushed by President Barack Obama are not popular, a GOP advantage.

Most people know that 16 to 18 state House districts will be in play next year, out of 134, Moe said. How those fall will determine which party controls the House.

Moe said that Democrats must be careful not to be complacent, after winning both U.S. Senate seats, governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature.

"The two headliners both won in recounts," Moe said of Dayton and Franken.

Another panel member, Democratic activist Blois Olson, said that there remains a feeling among some that Dayton may not run again, even though he has pledged to. "He’s never run for re-election to any office he has ever held."

Rosen praised

Praise flowed to Sen. Julie Rosen at the Agri-Growth Council’s annual meeting, as the Fairmont Republican was sitting in the middle of the room, looking like she was trying to disappear.

A political panel was discussing whether she should enter the governor’s race, as she has said she is considering.

"She has a strong personality," former U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht of Rochester said, adding that Minnesota voters seek candidates like that.

"She is probably the one candidate who could win in a primary by attracting non-Republican votes," fellow panelist Blois Olson said.

Klobuchar caught

Politicians try to always look prepared, but about 500 agriculture leaders got a glimpse of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar getting ready to talk to them.

Those at the Agri-Growth Council’s annual meeting were listening to state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson discuss Minnesota agriculture when suddenly giant television monitors on either side of him began showing Klobuchar, in Washington, primping to get ready to talk to those at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Klobuchar, D-Minn., did not know she was on the screens as she worked on her lipstick and Frederickson did not know why the crowd was laughing. It took him little time to catch on.

Once Klobuchar learned she was live on the big screens, she dropped her hands to the table and presented her best smile to the ag leaders.

GOP keeps up fight

Minnesota Republicans show no signs of letting up their attacks against MNsure, the state’s new health insurance sales program.

Responding to a legislative auditor’s report about the accidental email of private insurance agent data, some GOP lawmakers said MNsure is "Gov. Dayton and Democrats’ reckless implementation of Obamacare."

A statement from Republicans state Reps. Peggy Scott of Andover and Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville called the incident "a top to bottom failure to adequately train employees and failure to install proper safeguards on the part of MNsure."

While Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles said that the Sept. 12 email was unintentional, and MNsure’s response to the incident was appropriate, he also said that the new state agency should not have collected insurance brokers’ Social Security numbers that were included in the email.

"Representatives of insurance agents and brokers told us that, before the disclosure of private data occurred, they had raised objections to MNsure requiring Social Security numbers as part of the certification process, as well as to the use of unsecured e-mail for the transmission of private data," the auditor’s report said.

In a letter to Nobles, MNsure Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov said that she generally agrees with his report.

"We will continue to review the issues raised in the report with the goal of strengthening the privacy and security controls MNsure has implemented," she said.

Long vote count

The Minneapolis mayor’s race was one of the largest to ever use ranked-choice voting, a procedure where voters list their first, second and third candidate choices.

While it eliminates primary elections, the new voting system meant that the declaration of the winner came more than two days after polls closed. And that was in a race where Betsy Hodges was a landslide winner.

Part of the issue was that the race featured 35 candidates. Before the returns even were announced, efforts had begun to make it harder to get on the ballot.

The $25 fee to get a name on the ballot likely will be increased and candidates might be required to submit petitions with several hundred names.

While mayor votes were being counted, candidates in seven other races were forced to wait for their races to be considered.

Dayton for Hillary

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton joined more than a million other Americans to support Hillary Clinton for president, if she decides to run.

The Ready for Hillary organization is collecting names of famous and not-so-famous Americans to support her presidential candidacy. She has not said if she will run in 2016.

"Every day, Minnesotans from all over our state and from all walks of life tell me that they want to see Hillary Clinton run for president in 2016," Dayton said.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also has said that she would support.

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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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