Daily Digest: Five candidates on one stage

Good morning. Here’s the Digest.

1. Candidates for governor share stage at Farmfest.  Elbow-to-elbow on the FarmFest stage, the five main candidates for Minnesota governor worked Wednesday to be seen as most in touch with concerns of farm country voters as two up-for-grabs primary races near an end. It was the first and only time that all five would appear at the same forum. The debate aired live on WCCO Radio and featured DFLers Erin Murphy, Lori Swanson and Tim Walz along with Republicans Jeff Johnson and Tim Pawlenty. The round-robin format didn’t lend itself to much engagement among the candidates, but they covered lots of ground and occasionally jabbed at rivals in their own party and on the other side.  Walz has been running on a “One Minnesota” theme, aimed at telling voters from different reaches of the state that they can rally around a common cause. (His DFL challengers have made similar pitches under other slogans). “Minnesota is stronger when we recognize the state works as one,” Walz said. Pawlenty mocked Walz’s branding. “The vision is definitely in ‘One Minnesota.’ The problem is what’s really going on with my Democratic friends on this panel is they want one Minneapolis: higher taxes for everybody, they want more spending out-of-control for everybody, they want sanctuary cities or sanctuary states, they want government to take over their health care,” Pawlenty said. Swanson, speaking after Pawlenty, pushed back. “We do best as a state when we don’t pit the rural against the suburban against the metro but when we operate as a single, one Minnesota,” she said. (MPR News)

2. Lots of primaries for state House seats. If you’re still pondering who to vote for in races for U.S. Senate, governor and attorney general in next week’s primary election, here’s another challenge: There are also 20 Minnesota House contests on the ballot. Most are DFL primaries. Many are for open seats. But a handful of incumbents, both Democrats and Republicans, are facing challenges. The last-minute scramble among candidates filing for statewide office had an impact on several races for the Minnesota Legislature. On the Republican side, much of the attention is on the suburban contest between Maple Grove residents Brad Ganzer and Kristin Robbins. The seat was vacated by former House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin. (MPR News)

3. State clears backlog of elder abuse complaints. State health regulators have eliminated a giant backlog of unresolved complaints alleging abuse and neglect at Minnesota senior care facilities, while fulfilling a promise to dramatically speed up investigations into new complaints. Minnesota started the year with 3,147 reports of abuse and maltreatment that needed to be investigated, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. The backlog had become so severe that it sometimes took state health investigators months or even years to complete investigations, angering relatives of abuse victims and sometimes undermining criminal investigations, according to a Star Tribune report published last November. After months of intensive triage, the Office of Health Facility Complaints, a division of the Minnesota Department of Health, has finally cleared the massive backlog, while also instituting a new electronic system for processing the roughly 400 new allegations it receives each week. As a result of these changes, the agency has slashed by nearly two-thirds the average time it takes to complete investigations, giving abuse victims and their families a speedier resolution to their cases. (Star Tribune)

4. Pence campaigns in Duluth. Standing in front of a giant crusher from one of northern Minnesota’s taconite mines, Vice President Mike Pence touted the Trump administration’s tax policies, rolling back of red tape, and tariffs on imported aluminum and steel as ways of helping to revive northeast Minnesota’s mining industry. “American steel mills are coming back, they’re hiring again, they’re expanding again, and they are hungry for Minnesota iron,” he told the roughly 30 employees at Industrial Weldors & Machinists who repair and rebuild massive equipment from the region’s iron ore mines and paper mills. Seventy percent of IWM’s business comes from the iron mining industry, and that business has picked up in the past year, said Randy Abernathy, who owns the business with his three siblings. “We’ve been kind of stagnant for a while, and hopefully we’re going to turn the corner and get moving. We’ve got a lot of new work coming in from the mines, so when they’re busy, we’re busy,” he said. Pence also pledged support for proposed copper-nickel mining in northeast Minnesota. (MPR News)

5. Appeals court upholds decision against St. Paul teacher. A federal judge correctly ruled against a Central High School teacher who sued St. Paul Public Schools officials after a student attacked him in the lunchroom, an appeals court panel has said. John Ekblad accused the school district, former superintendent Valeria Silva and assistant superintendent Theresa Battle of negligence, claiming they knew the high school was unsafe and failed to protect him before the Dec. 4, 2015 attack. The assault ended Ekblad’s career. The school district paid for his medical bills and workers’ compensation benefits but argued he had no grounds for a lawsuit. In May 2017, U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled in the school district’s favor, finding that the state’s workers’ compensation laws prevent Ekblad from suing. The appeals court upheld that decision. (Pioneer Press)

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