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Capitol Chatter: Governor hopeful Johnson tries different budget approach

ST. PAUL — Jeff Johnson does not want his budget message to sound like "me, too" when competing with other Minnesota Republican governor candidates.

If other candidates appear to be running on the 2011 budget Republicans passed when they controlled the Legislature, that is not enough, Johnson said.

"I don’t think we win if that is our only message," the Detroit Lakes native said in an interview.

Johnson said that traditional GOP less-government mantra falls short.

There are programs Minnesotans want to see established or grown, Johnson said, so just talking about cutting budgets will not get independent and Democratic votes a Republican candidate needs. He said his efforts will involve talking about cuts in some areas and increases in other areas.

And while other candidates may concentrate on winning votes from their conservative base, Johnson said he can reach those voters, plus more.

"I think I am the candidate in the race who is most likely to be able to pull all of the factions together," he said.

Johnson tried that in the 2012 Republican state convention, when Ron Paul supporters took control from traditional Republicans. As national committeeman, he spoke to the convention, urging the two sides to get over their differences.

"Nobody would talk about it," Johnson said of the convention split, even though that was about all the media was reporting from the St. Cloud event.

Klobuchar, Klobuchar

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has received a lot of notoriety recently about a possible run for president, including at least two mentions in the prestigious Washington Post.

"Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar may well be the most talented, and effective, politician most people have never heard of," Chris Cillizza wrote in The Fix, a Post blog under the headline "If not Hillary, then who? Maybe another woman."

Obviously, Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016. But Klobuchar is among Cillizza’s top 10 potential candidates, along with the likes of Vice President Joe Biden.

"We’ve written many times that no politician EVER goes to Iowa accidentally," Cillizza wrote. "So the Minnesota senator’s trip to the Hawkeye state next month means only one thing: She wants to be part of the great-mentioned when it comes to 2016. Klobuchar’s resume is a very impressive one; a two-term Senator and, before that, a county attorney."

Klobuchar has an Aug. 16 date with northern Iowa Democrats at their 10th annual Wing Ding gathering at the famous Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. (That’s the place where singing legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson last sang before dying in a plane crash en route to a Moorhead gig.)

The Des Moines Register reports that Klobuchar will be the first potential presidential candidate to visit the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus state this election cycle.

"During the festivities for President Barack Obama’s second inaugural, Klobuchar stopped by an Iowa bash in Washington, D.C.," the Register reported. "And during the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. she popped in at the Iowa Democrats’ breakfast tent for a short get-to-know-you speech to activists."

Democrats back Dayton

Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party is giving Gov. Mark Dayton more than lip-service backing.

The chairman of the party that would not let Dayton onto its convention floor in 2010 is seeking donations for his re-election bid next year.

"What a difference two years makes," Chairman Ken Martin proclaimed in an email to fellow Democrats.

"In 2011, far-right Republicans shut down the government to push for massive education cuts and tax breaks for millionaires," said Martin, not mentioning that Dayton was in office and negotiating with Republicans at the time. "Now, with our DFL majorities and Gov. Dayton leading the way, Minnesota’s got a balanced budget, historic investment in education, middle class tax relief and more."

Dayton’s campaign Friday announced he raised $249,438 in the first half of this year and spent $115,505.

Peterson speculation

Republicans are speculating, and hoping, that U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is not running again next year.

Part of the reason for rumors came from a Roll Call report about the 12-term Democratic congressman who represents western Minnesota: "He raised $60,000 less in the second quarter than in the first, giving more credence to the retirement rumors." Peterson raised what Roll Call called "a surprisingly low" $94,000 in the past quarter.

A week ago, Forum News Service quoted Peterson, the top House agriculture Democrat, as saying that he will not even think about retiring from the House until a farm bill passes. House and Senate leaders are considering appointing negotiators to work out vast differences between measures the two bodies have passed.

Republicans long have failed to find a candidate who could knock off Peterson, among the most conservative Democrats in Congress. But they are expanding their efforts, or at least their rhetoric, this year.

"As evidenced by this disastrous quarter, Minnesota families don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth from Democrat Collin Peterson," said Alleigh Marre of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "Minnesotans are tired of Peterson’s stale ideas, which do nothing to create jobs at home. What remains to be seen is whether Peterson will go willingly or accept the loss that awaits him in 2014."

Press protections

A group of senators that includes Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota backs what they say is a stronger freedom of the press law.

The Minnesota Democrat’s name is on a bill that would put into law Justice Department guidelines to protect journalists involved in newsgathering.

"As the daughter of a newspaperman, I have always believed in the freedom of the press," Klobuchar said. "While the Department of Justice’s guidelines are a good start to improving protections for the media, we need to make sure that these guidelines can’t be reversed."

Specifically, the senators suggest requiring Justice officials to notify news outlets within 90 days of when they seek a reporter’s records.

The bill protects journalists from being forced to reveal information, including the identity of confidential sources.

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.