Good morning and welcome to the start of a new work week. Here’s the Digest.
1. Teachers and St. Paul schools reached a tentative deal early Monday. The St. Paul Federation of Teachers called off its planned strike after reaching agreement on a new two-year contract early Monday morning. The school district and teachers union announced the deal at 2 a.m. Monday after seven consecutive days of mediation. The union had been planning to strike Tuesday. The union said they’ve reached tentative agreements for all three bargaining units, which had been negotiating as a group since authorizing a strike Jan. 31. The deals affect some 3,100 teachers, 400 educational assistants and 170 school and community service professionals. “We made progress that will improve our public schools. We won supports for our students, especially our English learners and our students who receive special education services. We defended our class size language and strengthened the commitment to restorative practices,” the union said in an update to members. Superintendent Joe Gothard joined negotiations over the weekend. (Pioneer Press)
2.DFL Congressman Rick Nolan said family considerations led to his decision not to seek reelection. His surprise announcement Friday shook up the 8th District race. “I never envisioned staying as long as I did,” Nolan said. “I always said when I lose my energy and enthusiasm for the job, or the prospects for handing the baton looked really good, I would move on. Both of those occurred together,” Nolan told the Brainerd Dispatch. “Reality has its way as you grow and age in life,” he continued. “It’s constantly teaching you new lessons. It became more apparent to me my family didn’t necessarily share my dream.” Nolan said he will now be allowed to substitute campaigning and the upcoming mad series of county endorsement conventions for weekends watching his grandkids play “hockey games and basketball games and soccer matches.” Nolan has confidence in the district-level candidates vying to replace him, and he likes the election climate just as much. “The prospects for a Democrat to win are better than we’ve seen in a long time,” he said. (Brainerd Dispatch)
3. Potential candidates are now considering their options in the 8th District. Leah Phifer, a former FBI analyst and Two Harbors, Minn., native who said in October she would challenge Nolan for the Democratic nomination, reaffirmed on Friday that she is running for the seat. Duluth Mayor Emily Larson and her predecessor, Don Ness, both ruled out a run. Tony Sertich, another well-known northern Minnesota Democrat who served in the Legislature, said Friday he has “zero interest.” State Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, is weighing a bid. And former state Rep. Joe Radinovich, currently chief of staff to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, is “strongly considering” a campaign. The Republican Party of Minnesota called Nolan’s decision not to seek re-election a boost to GOP prospects. Right now, St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber of Hermantown, Minn., is the sole Republican candidate in the race after two-time Nolan challenger Stewart Mills passed on a run. Stauber said he’s still focused on running a campaign on the issues that matter from mining to military readiness. It’s unclear if Mills will stay on the sidelines, although national Republicans have rallied around Stauber, who is also a Duluth police officer. On Twitter Friday afternoon, Mills said he was “very seriously considering another run” for the seat but had no timeline for a decision. (MPR News)
4. Special elections for two legislative seats today could provide a hint of what’s ahead. Voters will decide two special elections Monday for seats in the Minnesota Legislature after the unexpected resignations of lawmakers late last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Voters in Senate District 54 — which covers Hastings, Cottage Grove and South St. Paul — will pick someone to replace DFLer Dan Schoen. In southern Minnesota they’ll pick a successor for Republican Rep. Tony Cornish, who represented parts of Blue Earth, Le Sueur, Waseca and Watonwan counties. A lot is at stake, especially in the state Senate where Republicans hold a slim majority that’s already at risk because of the ascension of Sen. Michelle Fischbach to lieutenant governor. That move came after Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Tina Smith to the U.S. Senate to replace Al Franken, who also resigned amid allegations of sexual impropriety. Fischbach, who was president of the Senate, is fighting in court to keep her seat. (Pioneer Press)
5. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is meeting with donors today as he considers an attempted comeback. Supporters and foes alike have cited Pawlenty’s formidable fundraising potential, with a wide and deep network that extends from Minnesota to Wall Street, and familiarity among voters built in eight years as governor, from 2003 to 2012. But Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney alike showed that good name recognition, and the connections that accommodate raising and spending vast sums on a campaign, are no guarantee of success in an era of grass-roots social media activism. Recent election cycles have shown voters growing cynical of candidates with establishment ties and weary of paid advertising. (Star Tribune)