The latest DFL candidate to join the 2018 race for Minnesota state auditor says she wants to be a resource for local government officials

Julie Blaha, a former math teacher and the current secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, announced her candidacy over the weekend. She said she will seek the DFL party endorsement and abide by the result.

Julie Blaha, a former teacher and the current secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, has announced she’s a DFL candidate for state auditor. Photo courtesy of the candidate.

Blaha said as state auditor she would highlight and support the work of cities, townships and counties.

“Regular people need somebody to help them out while they’re doing great things,” Blaha said. I would love to be that person who can provide the information, the accountability to ensure that their solutions turn into reality.”

This is Blaha’s first run for elected office. She said she hopes to have support from organized labor.

Blaha is the third Democrat in the race. She joins Jon Tollefson, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Nurses Association, and Jack Dickinson, Minneapolis small business owner. Incumbent DFL auditor Rebecca Otto is running for governor.

So far, no Republicans have announced they are running for state auditor.


Good morning, and welcome to Monday and the start of another work week. Here’s the Digest.

1. The big question is still the governor’s choice for interim U.S. Senator.  Gov. Mark Dayton is due to be in Fargo today, so it doesn’t look as if today is the day he will announce his pick for the person to fill the vacancy created by Sen. Al Franken’s pending resignation. Meanwhile because Franken said last week that he will resign in the coming weeks, there is a push among his supporters on social media for him to change his mind and stay. Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson joined that call yesterday, saying Franken should rescind his resignation until after “a prompt and thorough review of all allegations by the Senate Ethics Committee.” He adds that Franken “was elected by we, the people, and he should continue to serve until a legal determination has been made.” (MPR News)

2. Sen. Amy Klobuchar says qualifications are more important that gender when it comes to replacing Franken. “The governor has made it clear it’s his decision,” Klobuchar said when asked if she had any input in the decision. Dayton said he will decide “in the next few days,” she said. It is important to have two senators, she said, citing the six months she was the lone senator from Minnesota during the recounts and lawsuit in connection with the Franken-Norm Coleman election in 2008-2009. There is major legislation that needs to be worked on regarding taxes, budgets and the farm bill “that would greatly help our state,” Klobuchar said. The children’s health care bill alone, she said, could almost erase the state’s budget deficit. Asked about the appointment of a woman or a woman of color, Klobuchar said, “I think it’s really important that the person is qualified to do the work.” While there is a need for more female senators, “There are plenty of men and women who could fill the seat again.” (Star Tribune)

3. Farmers are closely watching the tax package a congressional conference committee is finalizing in Washington, D.C. Experts say many provisions will benefit agriculture, but some will make farm management more complicated and one provision could cost some farmers thousands of dollars. That provision raising concern across the agriculture sector would end a deduction that will affect cooperatives. The Section 199 deduction, also called the domestic manufacturing deduction, allows deductions for income earned from manufacturing or production. For cooperatives like Moorhead-based American Crystal Sugar, the savings are passed on to 2,800 cooperative members. “For us it’s sort of an unfair situation where we don’t get any benefit of the lower corporate tax rates but we lose the deduction. And that deduction is worth $10,000 to $15,000 a year for our average shareholder, so it’s a significant, significant issue,” said American Crystal President Tom Astrup. (MPR News)

4. Property taxes are on the rise again across the metro area. Double-digit percentage hikes that had drawn complaints in St. Paul are popping up in the suburbs, too — in Columbia Heights and Fridley, where home values are rebounding, and in Dayton, Blaine and Shoreview, too. “It does appear that the value of existing properties is continuing to march upwards,” and that change often triggers higher tax bills, said Gary Carlson, intergovernmental relations director for the League of Minnesota Cities. Hopkins residents also may find themselves inching nearer a 10 percent increase mark after voting in November to approve school spending proposals. Because the cost of those levy votes do not appear on the Truth in Taxation statements sent to individual property owners in November, homeowners in Scott County — where a majority of the school districts had proposals on the ballot — can expect bigger increases when their 2018 bills arrive in March. That will be the case in Roseville, Shoreview and Mounds View as well. (Star Tribune)

5. A plane bound for Somalia carrying deportees, including two Twin Cities men, returned to the United States on Friday, landing in Miami. One of the passengers told his St. Paul attorney that the plane ran out of food, the bathrooms were too full to be used and that, overall, he and the other passengers remained shackled for a total of 46 hours before the plane returned to the United States. According to a statement released by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, the flight, containing 92 deportees, turned around after stopping in Senegal to refuel. “Upon landing for a refueling and pilot exchange at Dakar, Senegal, ICE was notified that the relief crew was unable to get sufficient crew rest due to issues with their hotel in Dakar,” the statement said. “The aircraft, including the detainees and crew on board, remained parked at the airport to allow the relief crew time to rest. During this time, the aircraft maintained power and air conditioning, and was stocked with sufficient food and water. Various logistical options were explored, and ultimately ICE decided to reschedule the mission to Somalia and return to the United States with all 92 detainees.” (Pioneer Press)

Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson says Sen. Al Franken should stay in office until the allegations against him are investigated. MPR News photo
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With his resignation date still not set, Democratic Sen. Al Franken is being urged to remain in office until allegations of sexual misconduct can be examined by the Senate Ethics Committee. Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson endorsed that view in a commentary Sunday.

The push to get Franken to undo his planned resignation is airing mostly on social media, where his supporters are raising doubts about the accusations against him and venting about the coordinated calls by the senator’s Democratic colleagues to leave office with three years left on his second term.

Franken said Thursday he would resign “in the coming weeks” but hasn’t yet submitted a letter that would make his departure official. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is in the process of selecting a replacement to serve at least through a November 2018 special election.

In Carlson’s lengthy commentary, emailed to a list of undisclosed recipients, he describes himself as “deeply troubled by the resignation of Al Franken and the complete absence of anything resembling due process.” Carlson questions the motivation of Franken’s first accuser, who came forward with the photo showing Franken putting his hands near her chest that the senator has himself called “inexcusable.”

Carlson also brings up the Alabama Senate race where Republican nominee Roy Moore has faced multiple allegations of dating minors when he was in his 30s.

“Further, we know that Senate Democrats who asked for Franken’s resignation may have been motivated more by the politics of the Alabama Senate race than the seriousness of the allegations,” Carlson writes.

Carlson said Franken should rescind his resignation until after “a prompt and thorough review of all allegations by the Senate Ethics Committee.”

He adds that Franken “was elected by we, the people, and he should continue to serve until a legal determination has been made.”

Carlson served two terms as a Republican, leaving office in 1999. He has slid left on the political spectrum, often endorsing Democratic candidates for office, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Carlson’s own political rise came amid a scandal facing a fellow Republican. In 1990, he lost in a Republican gubernatorial primary to Jon Grunseth but became the nominee late in the campaign when Grunseth left the race after being accused of skinny dipping with minors during a pool party a decade earlier.

After stepping in with weeks left in the race, Carlson defeated Democratic Gov. Rudy Perpich in the general election.