Good morning. Seems like it took a while for Friday to get here this week. Here’s the Digest.

1. Party chair: Ellison situation ‘very fluid.’ Two days after Keith Ellison won the DFL primary for Minnesota attorney general, it remained unclear whether his party will endorse him as the nominee and whether his place on the ballot is secure. Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin added to the uncertainty of Ellison’s status when he described Ellison’s situation as “very fluid.” Last weekend, Ellison was accused of forcibly removing his then-girlfriend from a bed in his home while shouting at her. The woman, Karen Monahan, says it happened the day after they had a verbal confrontation, and that she captured the incident on video. Ellison insists there is no such video because he never acted in that way. Martin said the DFL takes the allegations “very seriously” and is looking into them. He said there are questions Ellison needs to answer. “My hope is that if Keith Ellison continues to be our nominee, that this is put behind him and that these are addressed head on, so we can focus our attention on keeping this office,” Martin said. Minnesota DFL delegates are scheduled to meet Saturday in Cambridge to decide whether to endorse Ellison and Tim Walz, who both won their contests in Tuesday’s primary without prior party backing. Two union groups backed Ellison Thursday, but NOW, the National Organization for Women, called on him to withdraw from the race. (MPR News)

2. State economy hums along. Employers around Minnesota added an estimated 11,200 jobs last month, and the state’s unemployment rate fell slightly to an 18-year low of 3 percent. That’s the lowest level since June 2000 — and nearly a full percentage point below the national jobless rate. Job gains in Minnesota last month were greatest in education, health services, government, trade, transportation, utilities and manufacturing. There were slight declines in service, logging and mining jobs. Employment rose not just in the Twin Cities metro area but also in Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud and Mankato. (MPR News)

3. Audit faults IT department. Minnesota IT Services has failed to provide adequate oversight of computer projects that could boost efficiency at individual agencies and across the state enterprise, according to an audit released Thursday. The report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor examined the IT agency’s handling of the state Information and Telecommunications Account from July 2014 to Feb. 2018. The Legislature created the account in 2006 to fund future computer projects. A total of 209 IT projects worth more than $79 million were approved for the account between 2007 and 2017, the report found. As of March 2018, state agencies had either not started or completed 95 of those projects, leaving a balance of $23 million in the Information and Telecommunications Account. “Minnesota IT Services’ internal controls over the Information and Telecommunications Account were generally not adequate,” the report stated. “For the projects and legislative report we tested, Minnesota IT Services (often referred to as MNIT) generally did not comply with significant legal requirements, including Minnesota statutes and its own policies and procedures.”(Pioneer Press)

4. St. Paul backs legal fund for immigrants. The St. Paul City Council has voted to support one of Melvin Carter’s most recent initiatives — a legal defense fund for immigrants. According to the council resolution approved Wednesday, “the federal government is using increasingly aggressive and hostile tactics to arrest, detain and deport immigrants who live and work within the city of St. Paul, creating an environment of fear that is detrimental to the social and economic health of the city.” The mayor unveiled the concept during his Aug. 9 budget address. Carter said that in light of federal efforts to detain and deport growing numbers of immigrants, the city should set aside $100,000 to support community-based organizations that work with immigrants. (Pioneer Press)

5. Trump picks Dohman for U.S. marshal. President Donald Trump on Thursday nominated Minnesota’s public safety commissioner to be the next U.S. marshal for the district, a position that has been open nearly two years. The Star Tribune first reported in May that the FBI completed a background check of Mona Dohman and that she was the only candidate to have reached what is considered the last step before a formal nomination by the White House. St. Cloud Police Chief William Blair Anderson was also once considered for the job. Dohman has led the Department of Public Safety since 2011, when she was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton. She previously spent 27 years with the Maple Grove Police Department, including as chief from 2001 to 2011. Dohman would be just the second woman to lead the agency’s Minnesota office, which has been led on an acting basis by Daniel Elbers, a former chief deputy marshal, since the retirement of Sharon Lubinski in December 2016. (Star Tribune)

Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin took questions about Keith Ellison and his status as the party’s nominee for attorney general during a news conference Thursday. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

  1. Listen MPR News’ Brian Bakst with more on the allegations against Ellison

    Aug. 16, 2018

Two days after Keith Ellison won the DFL primary for Minnesota attorney general, it remained unclear whether his party will endorse him as the nominee and whether his place on the ballot is secure.

Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin added to the uncertainty of Ellison’s status during an interview on WCCO Radio Thursday, when he described Ellison’s situation as “very fluid.”

Last weekend, Ellison was accused of forcibly removing his then-girlfriend from a bed in his home while shouting at her. The woman, Karen Monahan, says it happened the day after they had a verbal confrontation. Her son was the first to air the allegations on Facebook, saying he had seen a video of the alleged incident.

Ellison insists there is no such video because he never acted in that way. Monahan says she won’t release the footage for a variety of reasons but has put out text messages that she says were intimidating.

Ellison says he still cares for the woman despite the end to their relationship and has taken steps to help her even as recently as this spring.

Martin said the DFL takes the allegations “very seriously” and is looking into them. He said there are questions Ellison needs to answer.

“My hope is that if Keith Ellison continues to be our nominee, that this is put behind him and that these are addressed head on, so we can focus our attention on keeping this office,” Martin said.

An Ellison campaign spokesman declined comment.

Later in the day, Martin appeared at a news conference with the party’s gubernatorial nominee Tim Walz. He said the party currently “supports” Ellison as the nominee, but he added that it is a “developing story.”

“We don’t know where it’s going,” he said.

Minnesota DFL delegates are scheduled to meet Saturday in Cambridge to decide whether to endorse Ellison and Walz, who both won their contests in Tuesday’s primary without prior party backing.

Walz said he hasn’t spoken to Ellison since the allegations surfaced. He would not say whether he would campaign with Ellison.

“We’re not campaigning with anyone else right now, other than ourselves,” Walz said.

Retiring Gov. Mark Dayton, who was also at the news conference, said he continues to support Ellison. Dayton said he has greater concerns about the Republican candidate for attorney general, Doug Wardlow.

“I have no reservations about saying that Keith Ellison would be the vastly superior candidate,” Dayton said.

State law provides limited options for removing a nominee from the ballot, unless the candidate dies, becomes incapacitated or is deemed ineligible.

But that hasn’t stopped some from calling on Ellison to step aside.

Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), issued a statement saying Ellison should drop out of the race.

“Keith Ellison must withdraw from the race and not put Minnesotans through another cycle of political scandal,” Van Pelt said. “They’ve been through enough.”

But two union groups backed Ellison. The AFSCME Council 5 Executive Board endorsed him as did the Minnesota AFL-CIO General Board.

“Throughout his entire career, Keith Ellison has fiercely defended workers’ freedom to organize and join together in union to negotiate a fair return on their work,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy in a statement. “Working Minnesotans can count on Keith to carry that commitment to the attorney general’s office where he will fight for workers to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Good morning, and welcome to Thursday. Here’s the Digest.

1. ‘Likable’ candidates fight over government, Trump. Minnesota’s recalibrated race for governor began Wednesday with the DFL and Republican nominees sizing up one another and the shadow President Donald Trump casts over the race. Newly minted Republican nominee Jeff Johnson didn’t exactly come out of the gate swinging at Tim Walz, his DFL opponent for the next 12 weeks. “I like Tim. I think people will like Tim. I think most people like me, so hopefully it won’t turn into a mudslinging contest,” said the Hennepin County commissioner, adding that voters will find enough differences in where each candidate would take the state, so the race shouldn’t become personal. “I talk a lot about our state agencies having too much power and having an arrogance about them. I don’t hear that at all from Tim Walz. I talk about trying to give Minnesotans more choice, more freedom, more competition in their health care. He talks about single-payer health care, which means government takes over your health care. You don’t even have private health care anymore.” Johnson said Walz is too open to raising taxes and not committed to enforcing immigration laws. “He left out the confiscating puppies?” responded Walz, who said he and Johnson generally get along. “We just have two fundamentally different visions of this state. We have two fundamentally visions of governing,” Walz said. (MPR News)

2. Pawlenty is done with politics. As the last Republican to win statewide in traditionally blue Minnesota, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty hoped to be the party’s savior by running for his old job. Voters instead chose a lesser-known local official who didn’t carry the stigma of the GOP establishment or of calling President Donald Trump “unhinged.” The defeat had echoes of Pawlenty’s short-lived 2012 presidential campaign, when the Midwestern governor and self-styled “Sam’s Club Republican” was briefly looked at as a top contender before fading quickly after a dismal showing at the 2011 Iowa straw poll.  After his loss Tuesday to Jeff Johnson, Pawlenty said he’s done running for office. “This is the era of Trump, and I don’t fit into that very well,” Pawlenty told MPR News after conceding. “We knew the ground had shifted, but I think we thought there was still a reservoir of support from Pawlenty supporters we could draw upon to win this thing. But that turned out not to be the case.” For all his advantages, Pawlenty also had the aura of an establishment politician trying to force his way back to Minnesota after spending six-plus years in Washington, D.C., as a high-powered lobbyist for the nation’s largest banks. And he didn’t bother competing for the party’s backing in a June convention, citing his late entry in the race but upsetting some activists. (AP)

3. Perez: Ellison allegations won’t hurt Dems. Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez said Wednesday he’s talked to his deputy Keith Ellison about domestic abuse allegations that emerged just days before Ellison won his party’s nomination for Minnesota attorney general. Perez told reporters as he campaigned in Georgia that he takes “very seriously” any accusation of domestic abuse. Ellison has denied the allegation, and Perez said the matter will not threaten Democrats as they try to capitalize on opposition to President Donald Trump driven overwhelmingly by women. “Democrats have been winning everywhere,” he said. “Our democracy is on the ballot. That’s why you see the remarkable energy … that I think continues.” Still, Perez said the national party is “absolutely taking a careful look” at assertions that Ellison, currently a Minnesota congressman, physically and emotionally abused an ex-girlfriend, Karen Monahan, in the past. (AP)

4. With CD8 match-up set Republicans hope for a pick-up. The importance of the 8th District was underscored in June, when President Trump held a rally in Duluth, and again Wednesday when he tweeted an endorsement of GOP candidate Pete Stauber.  Stauber and his Democratic opponent Joe Radinovich both expect a lot of national attention and outside money between now and November, but both think the race will be won in the trenches, talking to voters. Radinovich sees the district as about a third Republican and a third Democrat. “And the rest are somewhere in the middle and I think that that’s really where campaigns are waged, talking to those folks who may be undecided or may be dissatisfied with the direction of our country and what’s happening in Washington D.C. It’s about appealing to them,” he said. “The national attention that this race is going to get and has gotten so far, that’s good, that means Minnesota is on the map and the 8th District is important,” said Stauber, “But all elections are local. I can go into any cafe or small business and talk to people about what I believe in and it’s resonating.” (MPR News)

5. Swanson’s office did nothing illegal in releasing former employee’s criminal record, judge rules. Attorney General Lori Swanson did not violate any laws when her office publicly disseminated information last week about a former aide’s criminal record in alleged retaliation, a judge ruled Wednesday. Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann made the finding in denying former aide, D’Andre Norman, a temporary restraining order against Swanson. Norman had accused Swanson of sharing expunged records that were nonpublic data, but the judge disagreed. “All these court records are public records easily obtainable…,” Guthmann said in issuing his decision about 11 a.m. “I’m bothered by the rush to file this case when the major aspects … could easily be verifiable as baseless.” Guthmann relentlessly pushed Norman’s attorney, Martin Carlson, on his initial claims that Norman’s criminal record had been expunged and therefore, was not shareable by Swanson’s office. Carlson ultimately acknowledged that the records had not been expunged. The confusion, Carlson said, was due to his client’s belief that his attorney in 2014, former attorney general Mike Hatch, had completed the expungement process. (Star Tribune)