Daily Digest: Pawlenty unloads on Johnson

Good morning, and welcome to Friday. The Republican primary campaign for governor has been pretty quiet. Not so much anymore though. Here’s the Digest.

1. Tim Pawlenty isn’t ignoring Jeff Johnson anymore. After months of ignoring his primary rival, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty unloaded on Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson as part of a six-figure ad campaign, the first commercials he has run during the race. Johnson responded with his own swipes but probably won’t be able to match Pawlenty’s reach, given the relative cash positions of their campaigns.  “Higher taxes, wasteful spending, supporting ObamaCare, that’s the real Jeff Johnson,” a narrator says in the Pawlenty commercial.  Johnson took the sudden attention as a sign “that the race is close.” “It’s just a brutal, nasty and false attack ad,” Johnson said, adding that Pawlenty’s tenure as governor “was a huge disappointment to conservatives.” (MPR News)

2. Meanwhile Johnson wants a halt on refugees. Jeff Johnson said Minnesota has taken in more refugees from countries in strife than many other places. But he said the federal government isn’t doing enough to support them once they arrive, pushing costs on state and local taxpayers. “There are security concerns and there are cost concerns, and they’re real concerns,” Johnson said at a news conference. “And unfortunately they are concerns that are largely going unanswered and in many cases they are being ridiculed and denigrated.” It’s unclear if a state could opt out of the resettlement program because those decisions are largely driven by the federal government. But Johnson said as governor he would lobby the Trump administration to take Minnesota off its list for the time being. “States should be able to say that we are able to stop refugee resettlement for a period of time,” Johnson said. The DFL-endorsed candidate for governor Erin Murphy called Johnson’s statements divisive and said they amount to “a cynical campaign tactic.” She said his plan goes against Minnesota’s commitment to help people trying to escape violence or famine. (MPR News)

3. Candidates for AG tout their experience. Congressman Keith Ellison is getting a boost for his campaign for attorney general Friday from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who will campaign in Minneapolis and Duluth. In the crowded primary race, Ellison has attracted the most attention, in part because his decision to leave congress touched off a different primary battle for that seat. Whether that attention adds up to more votes won’t be clear until the August 14 primary election, but four other Democrats are also making a case for their qualifications for the job. Matt Pelikan, Tom Foley, Debra Hilstrom and Mike Rothman are stressing their experience and qualifications for the job. (MPR News)

4. Behind bars and on the ballot. Even if enough voters choose Leonard J. Richards as the DFL candidate for Senate, there’s no way he will ever get to take the oath of office and begin his six-year term. Richards is already serving a lifetime term. In Stillwater prison. For murder. Make that two murders. Yes, it is legal in Minnesota for felons to run for office, so long as it is a federal seat. Nobody knows that better than Richards, who is trying to wrest the party nod away from incumbent Amy Klobuchar. Now 75 years old and sporting Department of Corrections ID No. 149837, Richards has run for federal office several times — without a victory — since his imprisonment, most recently when he sought the seat that U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer now holds. In 1992, Richards ran in the DFL primary for the Eighth Congressional District seat and received more than 14,500 votes. He ran for the U.S. Senate in the DFL primary in 1994, winning more than 4,000 votes. (Star Tribune)

5. Minnesota loses out to Texas for Army HQ. Army leaders will announce on Friday that they have chosen Austin, Texas, as the location for a new command headquarters that will focus on how to modernize the service and prepare for future wars, U.S. officials said. The Army laid out plans to create the so-called Futures Command last October, marking the first time in decades that the service has added such a high-level, new headquarters. Austin, known for its live music scene, also has a favorable business, academic and technology climate that will mesh well with the Army’s needs, said the officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the selection before it was made public. The command is expected to have a staff of about 500 people, led by a four-star general. Initially, 15 cities were in contention, but the Army narrowed down the list to five finalists last month: Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina. (AP)

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