Good morning, and welcome to Friday. It’s Groundhog Day, which is good news because even under the worst case scenario we’ll have only six more weeks of winter. I guess there’s some game in Minneapolis on Sunday too. Here’s the Digest.
1. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is actively considering a political comeback. Pawlenty is weighing a campaign for his old job and is convening a group of Republican donors and political movers this month as he seeks advice about entering a governor’s race without a clear favorite. Pawlenty sent emails on Wednesday to a select group, inviting them for a morning gathering on Feb. 12 at an undisclosed Minneapolis location with the agenda as “important meeting regarding Minnesota’s future.” The email obtained independently by MPR News and later verified as authentic by a Pawlenty adviser asks the recipients to reserve the time and promises details on the location later. Brian McClung, a former top aide and longtime adviser to Pawlenty, confirmed it is is an indication of his active consideration of a bid. McClung said Pawlenty “will be talking with Minnesotans over the coming weeks to assess support and gather advice.” (MPR News)
2. Democrats running for governor raised a lot more money than Republicans last year. Democrats running for governor vastly outperformed their Republican counterparts in campaign fundraising last year, leaving them more flush as they entered the election year. Campaign finance reports made public Thursday are an early gauge of where the campaigns stand against rivals in their own party as well as how they stack up with potential fall challengers. Taken together, the DFL candidates scooped up $2.8 million in 2017. That compares with about $600,000 for the Republicans, including two who have ended their bids. There is a big caveat to these figures. Not all the candidates have been in the race the same amount of time. In the short term, however, it could have a bearing on who party activists believe is the most viable candidate on their side as next Tuesday’s caucuses approach. (MPR News)
3. St. Paul Public School teachers and other employees voted to authorize a strike as the cash-strapped district refuses to move from its tight budget for labor contracts. The St. Paul Federation of Teachers said 85 percent of voting teachers favored the strike authorization, along with 90 percent of educational assistants and 82 percent of school and community service professionals. The union’s executive board is giving notice of intent to strike Thursday, starting a 10-day cooling off period before a strike can begin. Two mediated negotiating sessions between the teachers and the district are scheduled for Feb. 2 and 7. “Nobody wants to go on strike, and we will do everything in our power to prevent one. However, we are going to fight for what our students need and do not apologize for working to create the schools St. Paul children deserve,” union president Nick Faber said in a prepared statement Thursday morning. (Pioneer Press)
4. Muslims say they want to participate, not infiltrate. After a Facebook post by a local GOP official this week that claimed Muslims wanted to train people to infiltrate next week’s precinct caucuses was shared by two Republican lawmakers, Muslim leaders and their allies said the rhetoric was out of line. Minister JaNaé Bates, spokesperson for the group ISAIAH, said the training is nonpartisan — the idea that the message has somehow changed to encourage one religious group to take over one political party isn’t true. “This notion to infiltrate — this word that’s getting thrown around, that Muslim people want to infiltrate the political system — I would just challenge people to really consider, what is the difference between infiltrating and participating in the political arena?” she said. “We need to really talk about what we’re saying and what we mean. Because words do have power, but the reality is, you can’t infiltrate a system that’s open to the public.” (MPR News)
5. The pro-business political committee Minnesota Jobs Coalition put $140,000 into a Minneapolis fund set up to elect a more business friendly City Council, too late to be included in pre-election campaign finance reports. The specter of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition — a statewide conservative pro-business PAC — influencing city elections had been raised by activists in the months and weeks leading up to Election Day. But because the funding didn’t show up in pre-election campaign finance reports, the level of its involvement was left to speculation. Before the election, the founders of Minneapolis Works had invited donors to give either to the new committee or to Minnesota Jobs Coalition, yet no money from the Jobs Coalition showed up in campaign finance disclosures as of late October. It wasn’t until year-end reports were finally filed this week that the public was able to see that money from the Jobs Coalition did flow into Minneapolis Works, though only after the last reporting deadline of 2017 so as not to become a campaign issue. (MinnPost)
I’ll be talking to some of the Republican candidates for governor on MPR News at 11 this morning. I hope you can tune in, either on the radio or streaming at mprnews.org. And I’ll sit down with the DFL candidates Monday at 11, all in advance of Tuesday’s precinct caucuses.