Reports have been coming in on fundraising efforts by groups hoping to influence the outcome of Minnesota legislative races and constitutional amendment questions regarding gay marriage and voter-ID requirements.
Supporters of gay marriage and of Democratic legislative candidates are leading the money race so far, but a pair of the early legislative targets are surprising because a conservative group is taking aim at a pair of Republicans lawmakers.
Minnesota Public Radio reported that Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexander, are two of three senators being targeted by Americans for Prosperity Minnesota — the local branch of political group founded by David Koch. The third was Democratic Sen. Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka.
All three of the lawmakers, targeted by critical fliers sent to constituents, were key supporters of legislation to finance a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Rosen, whose district includes most of Blue Earth County outside of Mankato, was chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate.
Targeting Rosen is somewhat curious because voters in Senate District 23 will have no alternative to voting for a stadium backer on Nov. 6. Rosen’s Democratic opponent — Paul Marquardt of rural Eagle Lake — said he strongly supported Rosen’s stadium bill.
Congressional candidate Allen Quist of rural St. Peter appears to be looking forward to future face-to-face appearances with state Sen. Mike Parry of Waseca.
A recent email update from the Quist campaign highlighted potential debates and forums prior to the Aug. 14 primary election. Quist and Parry are seeking the Republican nomination to run against Democratic Congressman Tim Walz of Mankato.
At an April endorsing convention, which ultimately failed to endorse either candidate, Quist repeatedly emphasized his debate skills and suggested that Parry would perform poorly in debates against Walz if he becomes the Republican challenger.
Twin Cities Public Television is planning a 1st Congressional District primary debate for Friday, July 27, Quist reported. KSTP-TV political reporter Tom Hauser is also hoping to host a debate between Quist and Parry, likely on Sunday, Aug. 5.
Farmfest, which runs from Aug. 7-9, has candidate forums in every even-numbered year and 1st District candidates have traditionally seen it as a can’t-skip event. Walz is likely to also be on that panel, along with incumbents and challengers from other congressional districts with a substantial farm component.
Quist also reports that Debate Minnesota is attempting to set up a pre-primary 1st District debate.
The tramping of feet
The parade season is now in full bloom with an endless list of community celebrations highlighted by a parade. Both Quist and Parry are attempting to recruit supporters to walk with them to demonstrate their grass-roots support or to represent the candidate when he’s walking elsewhere.
“Lace up your sneakers and help get people fired up about retiring Tim Walz,” Parry wrote in trying to generate a large group to walk with him at last week’s Hay Daze parade in Janesville.
The potential for retiring Walz was glaringly absent, though, in an opinion column written for Friday’s Star Tribune by former state Republican Chairman Tony Sutton.
Sutton’s column, “The stars are aligned for the GOP this fall,” predicts Republicans will retain control of the Legislature and also speculates about seven of the nine congressional races in Minnesota this year. Sutton wrote that he expects victories for the four Republican incumbents in the U.S. House and touts the strengths of the GOP challengers to Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson and Keith Ellison.
Sutton makes no mention, though, of Republican attempts to unseat Walz or Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum of St. Paul. McCollum’s district is strongly Democratic, and Republicans have never come close to defeating the five-term incumbent. Walz, on the other hand, represents a swing district and has been targeted by Republicans in the past.
Gus, Kelly and Val
A couple of more notes about the unusual lack of competition in Mankato-area legislative races, where Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, and Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, are unopposed.
Morrow’s district is primarily Nicollet County, but it stretches into the western and northern parts of Mankato. Voters in those parts of Mankato won’t have a choice in either their state House or state Senate seat.
That’s not the first time its happened, although its likely the first time that local voters were left without a Republican option. In 1970, both the Senate and House seats in Mankato had just a single candidate.
Incumbent Sen. Kelly Gage, a Republican (although the Legislature was technically nonpartisan then), was the only candidate in the Senate race. And Rep. Gus Johnson, an independent, was also unopposed for re-election to the House.
Sheran, Morrow and Rep. Tony Cornish — a Good Thunder Republican who’s unopposed in the House district south of Mankato — have each insisted they’re going to avoid complacency and keep campaigning as they always have.
They can look to Mankato history to remind themselves not to take future re-elections for granted. Legendary Sen. Val Imm of Mankato, who served in the Senate for 28 years, was unopposed three times and often won landslide victories when he did have an opponent.
But after facing no opposition in 1962, Imm was defeated by Gage — a fellow Republican — in the following election in 1966.