Daily Digest: Guns, CD5, and early voting

Good morning, and happy Friday. Did I mention that Tim Pawlenty and Jeff Johnson will be on the radio with me at 11 today? They both want the Republican nomination for governor, so it promises to be interesting. Tune in to MPR News for the broadcast or catch the podcast later in the day. In the meantime, here’s the Digest.

1. Democrats happy to get an F from the NRA. On Thursday, two candidates in the open primary for governor, DFL-endorsed state Rep. Erin Murphy and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, touted recent failing grades from the National Rifle Association on gun issues. Gun control has been a central campaign issue for Democrats this cycle, after several high profile shootings, including the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, sparked a movement from high school students and others to pass a host of gun bills, including universal background checks. Attorney General Lori Swanson, the other DFL candidate running in the primary for governor, received a “C” grade from the NRA. “I’m not accustomed to F grades, I’m always working on As,” Murphy said in a press conference Thursday, surrounded by supporters of gun control measures. “In this case, in my career for 12 years, I’ve always earned an F from the NRA. I’ve never taken their money, and it’s because I’ve always understood that they have been the barrier for Minnesotans’ ability to make progress on the [gun issue.]” Tim Walz also touted his “F” rating, after receiving an A-rating in past congressional campaigns. He argued the change is evidence that he is “uniquely positioned to build the coalition necessary to finally pass common sense gun legislation and keep our communities safe.” (MPR News)

2.  CD5 DFL contest comes down to the wire. Five Democrats are vying to earn the party’s nomination in this district, which includes the entire city of Minneapolis and the suburban communities bordering it. The 5th is Minnesota’s blue stronghold — it prefers DFL candidates by an average of 26 points — so whoever wins the primary on August 14 is virtually guaranteed to be the district’s next member of Congress. But no race to the left is playing out among the primary field: the leading candidates are all already there. Among the three front-runners in the race — state Rep. Ilhan Omar, former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, and state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray — there’s little difference when it comes to Democrats’ most important issues of the moment.  All are in agreement, for example, that President Trump should be impeached. They are all also in favor of single-payer health care, fighting Trump’s immigration policy tooth and nail, and free public college tuition. Unlike DFL primaries in other races, like in the 8th District, the CD5 candidates’ differences on key issues do not figure to be a significant feature of the contest. Instead, the primary has become more of a referendum on the kind of politician Democrats here want to send to Washington in the era of Trump — and the leading candidates are all offering voters a distinct package. (MinnPost)

3. Three of the five 5th District DFLers debated Thursday. As a  first-term legislator, Omar has the least legislative and political experience of the three candidates. But as the first Somali-American elected to a state legislature, she said she’d offer a new, unique voice in Congress. In contrast, Kelliher and Torres Ray emphasized their policy­making experience. “You need to look at the record of people in the past, and you will see what will be the future,” said Torres Ray, an 11-year legislative veteran. Kelliher, who was once among the state’s most powerful Democrats before stepping down from the Legislature in 2010, added: “You need a leader who can hit the ground running.” With less than two weeks until the primary, the three women, all of whom live in Minneapolis, also agreed on a number of issues. All said they support the Southwest light-rail project, which would link Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. And all three expressed support for single-payer health care. (Star Tribune)

4. Big increase in early voting. The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office reported absentee ballots cast were up by 151 percent over 2016 as of July 26. “Vote from home absentee voting has been growing in popularity since 2013 when it was passed into law in Minnesota,” Secretary of State Steve Simon said. “More than halfway through the early absentee voting phase of the 2018 statewide primary election, I am thrilled at the growth we are seeing in voter participation in all corners of Minnesota. Minnesota voters in 2018 are well on their way to maintaining our best-in-the-nation status for voter participation.” All local counties aren’t seeing the same increases. The primary election is Aug. 14, with in-person absentee voting available at election offices until 5 p.m. Aug. 13. Offices are also required to be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 11, the last Saturday before the election. (Rochester Post Bulletin)

5. Protesters target Nolan. Giving oxygen to a two-week firestorm surrounding Rep. Rick Nolan, DFL-Minn., a group of a dozen or more activists marched into his downtown Duluth legislative office on Thursday, calling for the congressman to both resign and drop off the Lori Swanson gubernatorial ticket as its lieutenant governor candidate. “I feel like he needs to be held accountable,” said local community organizer Ashley Northey. Northey and the others said they were unmoved by Nolan’s attempts to address a scandal first reported by MinnPost in July. The report detailed how Nolan’s 2016 8th Congressional District re-election campaign rehired a top Nolan aide who had previously left the congressman’s Washington, D.C. office amid credible complaints of sexual harassment by multiple female staffers. (Duluth News Tribune)

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