Joe Radinovich pictured with his parents. In his latest ad, he talks about losing his mother to a murder-suicide. (Photo: YouTube).

Facing attacks ads on his past indiscretions, congressional candidate Joe Radinovich responded Tuesday with his own online ad addressing his personal struggles.

The two minute digital video shows Radinovich, a Democrat from Crosby, looking straight into the camera talking about a day he came home from track practice in 2003 to find a family member had attempted suicide with a firearm. Then, 11 months later, he said his mother was shot to death by a family member in a murder-suicide.

“I struggled in the wake of that,” he said. “Boy, did I struggle.”

Radinovich is in a competitive race for the open 8th District seat in northeastern Minnesota. Recent polling shows him trailing Republican candidate Pete Stauber.

The deeply personal ad was in response to an ad on the air attacking Radinovich for a court record that includes 30 driving violations since 2004, including multiple instances of driving with a suspended license. His record also includes a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia that was later dismissed under a plea deal.

The ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund, which helps elected Republicans to Congress, contrasts his record of violations with that Stauber’s time as a Duluth police officer.

“What is career politician Joe Radinovich hiding?” the ad asks. “Radinovich has a history of breaking the law.”

In the ad, Radinovich said he was able to recover from the tragedy because of teachers who supported him in the public school system and his father’s union job.

“These millionaires and billionaires and Washington special interests flooding our airwaves with negative ads want you to believe that we should be forever defined by our mistakes, our lowest moments, and by our struggles,” Radinovich said in his response ad. “What I know is that my struggles made me stronger.”

Already, outside groups have spent an upwards of $9 million in the 8th District race.

See the full ad here:

Election judge Mary Maynard shows off her test ballot on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. Briana Bierschbach | MPR News 

On a quiet Tuesday morning in St. Louis Park, Melissa Maynard was punching names into voting equipment, including her own. She wrote herself in as Minnesota’s next secretary of state.

But it wasn’t Election Day, and Maynard doesn’t actually want to be secretary of state. She’s a long-time election judge in the area helping out with legally-required accuracy testing of voting equipment.  

The actual secretary of state, Steve Simon, was on hand watching over the process, which must be open to the public.

“I’m here, like everyone else is here, to be an observer,” he said. “It’s an important way for the public to have even more confidence than it already does in the transparency of our system and the honesty and fundamental competence of our system.”

Similar tests were happening at hundreds of polling places across the state two weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Election judges feed paper ballots into ballot machines and make sure all the markings are properly read, or if someone marks their ballot down improperly, the machine issues the appropriate warning.

It’s this paper-based, decentralized system that helps make Minnesota’s voting system strong and less vulnerable to attacks from outside groups, Simon said. Minnesota uses paper ballots instead of touch screen voting — it’s “very hard to hack paper,” he said —  and the system is spread out across 4,100 polling places with more than 31,000 election judges administering the election.

“Ultimately the votes are cast and counted at the local level,” he said. “That’s part of what makes our system so good and so effective.”

Nationally, there’s a lot of concern about outside groups breaking into state election systems. Two years ago, Minnesota was one of 21 states notified by the Department of Homeland Security that entities “acting at the behest of the Russian government” scanned addresses associated with the office for vulnerabilities.

But they didn’t get in.

Still, these kinds of scans happen every day in state government. Simon has a team to help protect the state from these kinds of attacks, but he was hoping they could do even more this election cycle, especially in a year where Minnesota has plenty of high profile, competitive races. That includes an open governor’s seat, four competitive congressional races and two U.S. Senate seats on the ballot. Simon is also seeking re-election to his job. 

Earlier this year, he asked the Minnesota Legislature to authorize him to unlock more than $6 million in federal funding to beef up state election security. But the session ended in acrimony and Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed that measure because it was wrapped into a budget bill that included other provisions he opposed.

Simon said he is checking in with intelligence officials later this week to get the most up-to-date information on possible election security threats. 

“I have a high degree of confidence of where we are in terms of cyber security. I would have an even higher degree of confidence than I do now had the Legislature come through with the money,” he said. “It’s not worth talking about it too much. We are where we are and we have the tools we need to make the system as secure as it possibly can be.”

DFL attorney general candidate Keith Ellison discussed prescription drug prices and polls during a campaign news conference. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

With a new poll showing him 7 percentage points down in the race for Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellison was back at work Tuesday, pledging to fight for lower prescription drug prices.

Ellison held a news conference in St. Paul to highlight the high cost of insulin and the impact those prices have on families. State Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, a former candidate for governor, was among those lending support.

Ellison also responded to the MPR News/Star Tribune Minnesota Poll that shows Republican Doug Wardlow leading the race 43 percent to 36 percent, with 16 percent undecided.

Ellison, who had a 5 percentage point lead a month ago, said the latest results tell him that he has to work a lot harder.

“Let me tell you, the only poll that matters is the one on Nov. 6,” Ellison said.

The new poll shows again that Ellison has a large name recognition advantage over Wardlow. But 35 percent of poll respondents had an unfavorable opinion of him. Just 23 percent had a favorable opinion. An ex-girlfriend’s allegation of mistreatment remains a problem, despite Ellison’s repeated denials.

Still, Ellison said there is plenty of time in the final two weeks to talk to thousands of voters.

“We’re trying to refocus this entire campaign on what it should be focused on, which is the issues,” he said.

Wardlow was unavailable for an interview.

His campaign issued a statement describing the poll as a “remarkable turnaround” since last month.

“The more closely Minnesotans look at Keith Ellison, the more disturbed they are by what they see,” said Wardlow campaign consultant Kory Wood.