Good morning, and welcome to Thursday. Here’s the Digest.
1. One Republican candidate for governor benefited from taking a hard-line stance on immigration. Naval Reserve Officer Phillip Parrish’s 12 percent showing in the Republican caucus night straw poll would be a blip if not for this: His campaign raised and spent only a few thousand dollars in the lead-up to caucuses, a fraction of what the bigger name contenders did. Parrish said he believes his caucus night performance has everything to do with concerns he’s raised around Islam and his call for a crackdown on immigration — legal or otherwise. There is uneasiness in segments of the Republican Party about setting a tone that the GOP is bigoted. Some party leaders have cringed amid the discussion or distanced themselves from party platform resolutions seen as outwardly hostile to immigrants or Muslims. The immigration issue is also motivating some Democrats, who see President Trump’s stance on the issue as wrong. (MPR News)
2. The DFL field narrowed by one. State Rep. Paul Thissen on Wednesday dropped out of the 2018 race for Minnesota governor, a day after his poor showing in Tuesday night’s DFL caucuses. Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis and a former Minnesota House speaker, launched his campaign in June hoping his record in the Legislature and his promise to work for a fairer economy would appeal to Minnesotans outside the Twin Cities. But he was swamped Tuesday in a crowded field of DFL candidates. Caucus-goers overwhelmingly chose Minnesota U.S. Rep. Tim Walz as their top candidate for governor, followed by State Auditor Rebecca Otto and state Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul. Thissen finished last among the six Democrats in the running, gaining less than 5 percent of the nonbinding straw ballot vote. He did worse at caucuses than in his first run for governor in 2010. (MPR News)
3. Stras speaks. In another scoop by Stephen Montemayor, former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras gave his first interview in months to the Star Tribune after the U.S. Senate last week confirmed his nomination to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. His nomination was stuck for months because of an objection by former Sen. Al Franken. “Academically speaking, I understood it,” Stras said of the delay. “[But] theoretically understanding something and actually understanding it are two very different things.” Stras acknowledged the process was difficult. “There were times, not that I wanted to withdraw, but that I wasn’t sure it would go through,” Stras said. “I don’t want to get too far into this over the motives, but the day the blue slip wasn’t returned, that was a hard day.” (Star Tribune)
4. Dueling evidence in 3M case from the same side. Drinking water contaminated by a 3M Co. chemical has not led to higher rates of cancer or low birth-weight babies among residents of the affected residents in Washington County, according to a new analysis by the Minnesota Department of Health. The review, prompted by concerns in the community and released Wednesday afternoon, flatly contradicts that of an expert hired by state Attorney General Lori Swanson in advance of a long-awaited trial next week between the state and 3M. State health officials say they used widely accepted statistical methods used in public health to reach their conclusions. (Star Tribune)
5. The $6,000 Gov. Mark Dayton paid now looks like a good deal. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said Wednesday he will repay a Minnesota electric utility $37,000 for tickets the company provided him and his wife for Sunday’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis. The Republican governor said he would reimburse Xcel Energy “to eliminate even the perception of any conflict.” Burgum and first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum watched the game from a suite provided by Xcel, which serves more than 90,000 customers in Grand Forks, Fargo and Minot. He said before going that he planned to use the opportunity to talk with Xcel officials about their service and infrastructure in North Dakota. The trip drew criticism even from within his own party. “We can’t be doing that,” GOP Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said. “I don’t think the governor was influenced in any way but we as state officials just need to use good judgment.” (AP)