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Capitol Chatter: Does ballot ruling open a new door?

ST. PAUL – Some Minnesota politicians wonder if a Minnesota Supreme Court ballot ruling opens the door for more last-minute changes.

The Republican candidate in a Duluth legislative race argued that if the high court approved swapping names it would allow parties to do that whenever they felt it was to their political advantage.

Days after Travis Silvers urged the court to ban the swap, justices allowed it.

In his official comments for a Minnesota Supreme Court case that eventually ended up removing Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, from the Nov. 6 ballot, Silvers’ attorney wrote that Democrats wanted to replace the incumbent to have a better chance of winning.

“At the heart of this petition is the DFL’s desire to avoid further entanglements with the actions of Rep. Gauthier and to limit the risk of losing an election,” attorney Sara Van Norman wrote. “If the DFL’s position is adopted, various candidates for various offices will now be able to be substituted by their party throughout the election as they commit errors of judgment and faux pas on the campaign trail.”

In paperwork filed before the court decision, Van Norman wrote that Democrats “essentially argue that they have a right to change candidates throughout the election cycle as they see fit.”

Democrats told justices they just wanted to make the election fair for voters by including the party’s endorsed candidate.

State law gave candidates until June 7 to withdraw from this year’s election. In August, the Duluth News Tribune reported Gauthier had oral sex with a 17-year-old male, setting in motion a series of events that ended with the court ordering that Gauthier’s name be taken off the ballot, replaced by Erik Simonson.

The ruling written by Chief Justice Lori S. Gildea did not include an explanation about why the court made the decision; she said that information will come later.

In the wake of the order, a write-in candidate in the same race, Jay Fosle, says his name also should be printed on the ballot. While Democrats revoked Gauthier’s endorsement and voted to back Simonson, no party has endorsed Fosle.

Adding salt to the GOP wound is the fact that the high court majority was appointed by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge brought out the argument that his party often uses against Democrat-appointed judges: “This is yet another case of judicial overreach and making things up out of thin air where no authority exists in statute.”

Bills vs. media

Minnesota’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate is taking on the media, the “liberal media” as his campaign sees it.

Kurt Bills’ campaign manager claims the media is not adequately covering the campaign against U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, saying the Minnesota media “has failed to hold Amy Klobuchar accountable.”

A Bills’ news release says: “To listen to the media it sometimes seems that liberals have angel’s wings and conservatives have horns. Worse, in some ways, is the fact that Democrats can say and do the most outrageous things and not get called on it.”

In particular, the Bills campaign complains that Klobuchar gets away with claiming to be bipartisan despite voting with Democrats 94 percent of the time.

“The media has been AWOL during this campaign,” Campaign Manager Mike Osskopp said.

“Klobuchar is a senator, not a prom queen,” added Osskopp, known for colorful quotes during his time in the Minnesota House.

The Bills campaign also criticized a Minneapolis Star Tribune poll that the GOP candidate said did not talk to enough Republicans. The poll showed Bills behind by 29 points.

Business road trips

Gov. Mark Dayton plans to travel the state to find “opportunities for future economic growth” and identify problems that slow growth.

The Democratic governor, who made Willmar his first stop on the tour Friday, said he plans to meet with business owners, workers and local leaders.

“As Minnesota’s economy continues to recover from one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history, we need to do more to ensure that our state is well positioned to compete in a global economy,” Dayton said. “That means investing in our people, ensuring an enviable workforce, and fostering the natural resources that have been the foundation of our economy.”

Dayton will focus on eight economic sectors: forestry, bioscience, mining, agriculture technology, healthcare technology, information technology, plastics and composites industry and tourism.

New charities director

Moorhead native Allen Lund will be the new Allied Charities of Minnesota director as charities around the state introduce new electronic pull tab and bingo games the Legislature authorized early this year.

The state’s portions of the profits go to help fund a new Vikings stadium.

Lund replaces King Wilson, who worked for years to get lawmakers to approve electronic pull tabs, games that use an iPad but are similar to paper pull tabs that long have been sold in bars to benefit charities.

He has been an Allied Charities Board of Directors member and is St. Michael American Legion Post gambling manager. He also is president of a health and wellness company.

“As a gambling manager and Allied Charities board member, I am very aware of the challenges facing the charitable gambling industry today,” Lund said. “With the introduction of electronic gaming, we are beginning a new chapter in our industry.”