Good morning, and welcome to Thursday. Here’s the Digest.
1. ‘Likable’ candidates fight over government, Trump. Minnesota’s recalibrated race for governor began Wednesday with the DFL and Republican nominees sizing up one another and the shadow President Donald Trump casts over the race. Newly minted Republican nominee Jeff Johnson didn’t exactly come out of the gate swinging at Tim Walz, his DFL opponent for the next 12 weeks. “I like Tim. I think people will like Tim. I think most people like me, so hopefully it won’t turn into a mudslinging contest,” said the Hennepin County commissioner, adding that voters will find enough differences in where each candidate would take the state, so the race shouldn’t become personal. “I talk a lot about our state agencies having too much power and having an arrogance about them. I don’t hear that at all from Tim Walz. I talk about trying to give Minnesotans more choice, more freedom, more competition in their health care. He talks about single-payer health care, which means government takes over your health care. You don’t even have private health care anymore.” Johnson said Walz is too open to raising taxes and not committed to enforcing immigration laws. “He left out the confiscating puppies?” responded Walz, who said he and Johnson generally get along. “We just have two fundamentally different visions of this state. We have two fundamentally visions of governing,” Walz said. (MPR News)
2. Pawlenty is done with politics. As the last Republican to win statewide in traditionally blue Minnesota, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty hoped to be the party’s savior by running for his old job. Voters instead chose a lesser-known local official who didn’t carry the stigma of the GOP establishment or of calling President Donald Trump “unhinged.” The defeat had echoes of Pawlenty’s short-lived 2012 presidential campaign, when the Midwestern governor and self-styled “Sam’s Club Republican” was briefly looked at as a top contender before fading quickly after a dismal showing at the 2011 Iowa straw poll. After his loss Tuesday to Jeff Johnson, Pawlenty said he’s done running for office. “This is the era of Trump, and I don’t fit into that very well,” Pawlenty told MPR News after conceding. “We knew the ground had shifted, but I think we thought there was still a reservoir of support from Pawlenty supporters we could draw upon to win this thing. But that turned out not to be the case.” For all his advantages, Pawlenty also had the aura of an establishment politician trying to force his way back to Minnesota after spending six-plus years in Washington, D.C., as a high-powered lobbyist for the nation’s largest banks. And he didn’t bother competing for the party’s backing in a June convention, citing his late entry in the race but upsetting some activists. (AP)
3. Perez: Ellison allegations won’t hurt Dems. Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez said Wednesday he’s talked to his deputy Keith Ellison about domestic abuse allegations that emerged just days before Ellison won his party’s nomination for Minnesota attorney general. Perez told reporters as he campaigned in Georgia that he takes “very seriously” any accusation of domestic abuse. Ellison has denied the allegation, and Perez said the matter will not threaten Democrats as they try to capitalize on opposition to President Donald Trump driven overwhelmingly by women. “Democrats have been winning everywhere,” he said. “Our democracy is on the ballot. That’s why you see the remarkable energy … that I think continues.” Still, Perez said the national party is “absolutely taking a careful look” at assertions that Ellison, currently a Minnesota congressman, physically and emotionally abused an ex-girlfriend, Karen Monahan, in the past. (AP)
4. With CD8 match-up set Republicans hope for a pick-up. The importance of the 8th District was underscored in June, when President Trump held a rally in Duluth, and again Wednesday when he tweeted an endorsement of GOP candidate Pete Stauber. Stauber and his Democratic opponent Joe Radinovich both expect a lot of national attention and outside money between now and November, but both think the race will be won in the trenches, talking to voters. Radinovich sees the district as about a third Republican and a third Democrat. “And the rest are somewhere in the middle and I think that that’s really where campaigns are waged, talking to those folks who may be undecided or may be dissatisfied with the direction of our country and what’s happening in Washington D.C. It’s about appealing to them,” he said. “The national attention that this race is going to get and has gotten so far, that’s good, that means Minnesota is on the map and the 8th District is important,” said Stauber, “But all elections are local. I can go into any cafe or small business and talk to people about what I believe in and it’s resonating.” (MPR News)
5. Swanson’s office did nothing illegal in releasing former employee’s criminal record, judge rules. Attorney General Lori Swanson did not violate any laws when her office publicly disseminated information last week about a former aide’s criminal record in alleged retaliation, a judge ruled Wednesday. Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann made the finding in denying former aide, D’Andre Norman, a temporary restraining order against Swanson. Norman had accused Swanson of sharing expunged records that were nonpublic data, but the judge disagreed. “All these court records are public records easily obtainable…,” Guthmann said in issuing his decision about 11 a.m. “I’m bothered by the rush to file this case when the major aspects … could easily be verifiable as baseless.” Guthmann relentlessly pushed Norman’s attorney, Martin Carlson, on his initial claims that Norman’s criminal record had been expunged and therefore, was not shareable by Swanson’s office. Carlson ultimately acknowledged that the records had not been expunged. The confusion, Carlson said, was due to his client’s belief that his attorney in 2014, former attorney general Mike Hatch, had completed the expungement process. (Star Tribune)