Daily Digest: Which road for DFL?

Good morning, and happy Thursday. Here’s the Digest:

1. What is going on with the DFL? At the end of filings Tuesday, Minnesota Democrats were facing a six-way primary for attorney general in August, a sudden eight-way intraparty battle for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s seat, and an unexpected, three-way primary for the open governor’s seat. It was all part of what was described by some Democrats and Republicans as a “dumpster fire” day for Minnesota’s DFL Party. And it had plenty of people wondering: What does this mean for Minnesota Democrats in such a pivotal election year? “It is truly remarkable that we are seeing divisions of the DFL come out during a year where we should be united against what’s going on in Washington and getting ourselves organized,” Darin Broton, a longtime DFL analyst, said. “The DFL Hunger Games are well underway.” At the heart of the divisions is what kind of party the DFL will be going forward. Do Democrats try to be a more moderate, centrist party and win back rural and independent voters they lost in the last election cycle, or do they embrace new voters and activists into the party and double-down on a progressive platform to excite them? (MPR News)

2. Pelikan says he wants to win. First-time candidate Matt Pelikan had the DFL endorsement and was the only Democrat running for attorney general, as of Monday night. By Tuesday afternoon, he was once again the underdog, in a field of August primary competitors stocked with DFL heavy hitters. But Pelikan, a 36-year-old attorney in private practice who bested incumbent Lori Swanson to get the DFL endorsement, said Wednesday he is sticking in the fight to become Minnesota’s top legal officer, which now features four seasoned Democrats — including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who in recent years has become a national leader of the progressive movement. “This is a race that has been beset from the beginning with rumors about who is in, who is out,” said Pelikan, who had been describing himself as the “progressive alternative” for the seat. “And my attitude has been: I’m in for the long haul.” (Star Tribune)

3. Hatch out of AG race. Former Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch on Wednesday withdrew from the race to regain his old job less than a day after he filed in the wide-open contest. Hatch, a DFLer, told MPR News earlier in the day of his plans, saying he was satisfied with the field of candidates in the race. “I wanted a full field and we got it,” Hatch wrote in an email before formally removing his name prior to Thursday’s deadline to be taken off ballots. Hatch was among six Democrats to file for the office, which incumbent Democrat Lori Swanson is giving up to make a late entry into the governor’s race. The remaining Democrats are:  Pelikan, Ellison, state Rep. Debra Hilstrom, former Ramsey County Attorney Tom Foley and former Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. Candidates have until end of business today to withdraw. (MPR News)

4. Trade war gets serious for Minnesota hog producers. Mexico just placed an immediate 10 percent tariff on U.S. pork products — and will double it next month. Hog prices have slumped in recent months, and the escalating trade dispute with Mexico is part of the reason. Mexico’s tariff announcement came as one of the hog industry’s biggest trade shows, the World Pork Expo, got underway in Des Moines, Iowa. Minnesota hog producer Terry Wolters is there. He says the tariffs were a common subject of conversation, amidst concern they will hurt pork exports. “We’ve really enjoyed a great run for a good number of years because of the benefits of our trade opportunities in foreign markets,” said Wolters. “And as producers I would say we definitely want to continue to have market access.”  In retaliation for U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, Mexico placed similar sanctions on some $3 billion worth of U.S. goods, including pork. Minnesota Pork Producers Association CEO David Preisler said effective immediately Mexico has a 10 percent tariff on hams and other pork cuts. The tax will increase to 20 percent next month. “And that just really puts us at quite a disadvantage from a standpoint of what may end up happening with demand in Mexico,” said Preisler. (MPR News)

5.  Sparky to get a new home. The Como Park Zoo will break ground on a $20 million seal and sea lion exhibit Thursday. The “Como Harbor” exhibit includes habitat for eight seals and sea lions, amenities for year-round outside activity and an underwater viewing center. “We’re over the moon … to begin this project. It’s been a long time coming. We’re excited to get the shovels in the ground,” said Matt Reinartz, a spokesperson for the Como Park Zoo. The original exhibit was built in the 1930s as a monkey habitat, and was then “retrofitted” for seals and sea lions in the 1970s. The Minnesota Legislature funded $15 million of the project in its 2017 bonding bill, and the additional $5 million needed for the project was raised by Como Friends, a nonprofit partner of Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. (Pioneer Press)

No digest tomorrow, but I’ll be on the radio at 11. Hope you can listen in. 

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