Daily Digest: Politics and pork at the Fair

Good morning, and happy Thursday. Here’s the Digest.

1.  Smith and Housley disagree on a lot, especially President Trump. Sen. Tina Smith says in less than nine months in Washington she’s been effective. “I have demonstrated in my time in the Senate that I am listening to people and bringing their issues forward,” said Smith, who was appointed to the job by Gov. Mark Dayton after Sen. Al Franken resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.  But Smith’s Republican challenger, state Senator Karin Housley calls Smith a “puppet” of Democratic leadership. “It is time for a new voice,” Housley said. “People are really for somebody to fight for them and get something done in Washington, and I am that new voice.” Smith and Housley have been offering voters dramatically conflicting visions as they’ve been campaigning at the Minnesota State Fair. Smith drew enthusiastic applause at the DFL booth talking about President Donald Trump’s possible legal problems. “Nobody is above the law in this country not any of us here in this pavilion and not the president of the United States.” Housley, a state senator from St. Mary’s Point appeared at a rally with Trump earlier this summer in Duluth and backs the president. “I do support his policies. I don’t know if I’m a fan of his style, but his policies are working,” Housley said, pointing to the strong economy and low unemployment rate. Smith contends Minnesotans want more Democrats in Washington to oppose the president’s agenda. “They want to send somebody to Washington DC who is going to be a check and balance on this administration rather than somebody who says that they want to be kind of promote the president’s agenda.” (MPR News)

2. Abuse or bad breakup? Ellison case a new chapter of #MeToo movement. Karen Monahan’s accusations represent a potentially new chapter in the #MeToo movement in which the allegations against a public figure are not primarily about sexual violence or harassment, but emotional abuse. But the allegations against Keith Ellison are turning into a test among many liberals for where to draw the line between a messy relationship and an emotionally abusive one, and some say they aren’t sure where it is. “I want to make sure that women are believed,” said Betsy Hodges, a former mayor of Minneapolis who identifies as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and who used to see Mr. Ellison, 55, and Ms. Monahan, 44, together at political events. “I also want to make sure that we follow a process when we evaluate. A bad breakup is not the same thing as abuse.” (New York Times)

3. Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz disagree on immigration. Johnson has used the issue to argue that DFLers and progressives are not open to talking about what he thinks many in the state are concerned about. “We have citizens in St. Cloud who came forward and said we want to know what the cost of this is because we think it’s significant,” Johnson said in Mankato. “The answer to them was not, ‘Let’s figure that out.’ The answer was, ‘You are racist and you are white supremacist and shut up.’ ” DFLers often frame opposition to immigration as racial and religious intolerance, partly because some of the anti-immigration statements have coincided with anti-Muslim rhetoric. “The rhetoric we are hearing in Washington, D.C., is rhetoric we’re going to hear in this election,” former DFL candidate Erin Murphy said in Mankato. “It’s meant to divide us against one another. And that might help in the short run, but it hurts us in the long term.” Walz, who has represented the First Congressional District since 2007, said he thinks GOP leadership in the U.S. House doesn’t want to pass compromise immigration reform because they would prefer to have it available as a “wedge issue” this campaign. (MinnPost)

4. Carter says no more overdue library fines in St. Paul. It’s a penalty almost as old as the American public library system itself. You check a book out from your local library, and return it a few days — or weeks — past due. Then the fines accrue. “If you’ve ever had to turn down a kid and tell them they can’t educate themselves because of their family’s income, it’s a terrible feeling,” said Arlington Hills Library worker A.J. Ragland, standing side-by-side with St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. The mayor on Wednesday delivered a brief budget address focused on the St. Paul Public Library system, and it boils down to no more late fines. With an eye toward the disproportionate impact on low-income neighborhoods, the mayor is asking that the city council eliminate $2.5 million in uncollected debt to the library system, effective immediately. That would unlock 51,000 blocked library accounts. In addition, the mayor proposed dedicating $215,000 next year to help the library system eliminate fines for overdue materials entirely. Currently, library users who fail to pay off their fines are blocked from borrowing books, CDs and other library collections, a penalty Carter hopes to make a thing of the past. Carter said he has spoken with “people all over the city who have even admitted, somewhat embarrassed, that ‘I haven’t been to the library in years because I have late fees.’” The mayor said the average fine is $33, but an unpaid fine of as little as $10 can get a library patron blocked. (Pioneer Press)

5. Farmers spend Fair worrying about trade war. On the first day of the Minnesota State Fair, hog farmer Wanda Patsche was volunteering at the swine barn exhibit, where a visitor can pet piglets, see different varieties of hogs like the Chester White, and pick up a free paper headband with pig ears. One of the things on Patsche’s mind as she talked to fairgoers: the economic plight of farmers. “Being a hog farmer right now, it’s hard,” she says. “It’s really hard.” Patsche raises more than 4,000 pigs a year in Welcome, Minnesota. Retaliatory tariffs Mexico and China have placed on U.S. pork products are hurting farmers like her who depend heavily on export markets. She’s getting less than $100 a pig today. That covers the cost of the piglet and the grain needed to help it reach market size, but little else.   “We’re probably losing $30 to $40 a head. We’ve got to get the tariff situation figured out for our country,” she says. “We can go a little while but if it’s extended, we’re going to see farmers going out of business.” (Marketplace)

Will there be a Digest tomorrow? I don’t know yet. I have to be out at the State Fair at 11 Friday for a debate between Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz, so I may run out of time in the morning. Submit a question here, and be sure to listen on the radio or online.

I know for sure there will not be a Digest on Monday because I intend to take Labor Day off. You  have both federal permission to consider it a holiday and my permission to have a good one.

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