Daily Digest: Johnson sticks with Trump

Good morning. It’s Tuesday and time to check the Digest.

1. Johnson stands by Trump. Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson said his support for President Donald Trump, a likely boost in his recent upset victory in Minnesota’s primary election, will not waver as he turns to the general election and tries to win over a much wider and less conservative set of voters. “I support him. I like what he is trying to do. I like the direction he is trying to take the country,” Johnson said of Trump during an interview with the Star Tribune. “I don’t always agree with him.” Candidates across the country are carefully weighing the Trump factor on midterm races. Republicans are wondering whether to align with or distance themselves from a president beset by controversies and persistently low approval ratings, but who is still popular with party loyalists. Democrats must decide whether to go hard at Trump in a nod to their own base, or elevate more issues-based appeals to win over less politically tuned-in voters. (Star Tribune)

2. Coleman remembers McCain. Former Minnesota Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman remembered his colleague John McCain Monday as a friend and someone who mentored him and others in the U.S. Senate. McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, died Saturday of brain cancer days before his 82nd birthday. When Coleman first arrived in the Senate in 2003, McCain was fresh off losing a run for the Republican presidential nomination to George W. Bush and was something of a curmudgeon. “I think Sen. McCain aged well,” Coleman said. “He became a mentor. The softer side of John McCain came out.” You still didn’t want to get into an argument with McCain, Coleman added. In partisan times, Coleman said, “John McCain was a guy who could reach across the aisle. He could push as hard as one could push for what he believed in, but in the end always acted with dignity and with grace and with honor. And that’s I think his legacy.” (MPR News)

3. Phillips focuses on campaign spending. Democrat Dean Phillips made campaign finance reform the focus of a Monday public forum in Edina with Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United, a national political action committee (PAC) that’s targeting U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen and 19 other Republicans in Congress. “We have to get our system back to you,” Muller said. Phillips is “people-powered, not special interests-powered.” Citizens United vs. FEC is a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that forbid restrictions on campaign spending by outside groups. End Citizens United, which began in 2015, is also targeting U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis this year. Paulsen’s campaign said Monday that, while Phillips speaks out about PAC money, he’s silent about PAC money spent on his behalf, citing that End Citizens United PAC has reserved more than $500,000 on TV ads for Phillips. “Dean Phillips is a campaign finance fraud who wants to put our economy at risk by raising taxes and implementing massive new spending schemes,” campaign manager John-Paul Yates said in a statement. (Star Tribune)

4. Senator’s husband files for bankruptcy when business fails. State Sen. Michelle Benson and her family are facing financial distress, with her husband Craig Benson seeking personal bankruptcy protection after he bought a business in 2013, only to see it fail. “We took a risk, and we failed, and we worked really hard for 5 years, paid our employees, followed the rules and it still didn’t work,” Michelle Benson, a Ham Lake Republican, said Monday. “And now my husband is trying to protect his family.” Benson is the influential chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and a deputy majority leader. Asked if she would stay in the Senate, Benson was noncommittal: “We’ll see what comes. I have a couple more years on my election certificate,” she said. The Senate is not up for election until 2020. “But I have made it clear I would protect my caucus,” Benson said, referring to the Republicans’ tenuous hold on the majority. The Senate is currently 33-33, with a special election in a Republican-leaning district in November. (Star Tribune)

5. Father of Mollie Tibbetts doesn’t join in criticism of immigrants. The killing of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts has prompted criticism of the U.S. immigration system because the man charged in her death is a Mexican farmworker. But the victim’s father told mourners he’s been embraced by the local Hispanic community. Speaking Sunday afternoon to more than 1,000 people at a ceremony at his daughter’s former high school, Rob Tibbetts didn’t directly respond to comments by President Donald Trump and others who quickly seized upon the suspect’s citizenship to argue for changes in immigration laws. However, The Des Moines Register reports that Tibbetts said he encountered Hispanics at Mexican restaurants and elsewhere who were sensitive and kind during the weeks he spent in the central Iowa community of Brooklyn to help search for his daughter. “The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.” (AP)

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