In a flurry of primary campaign ads, Pawlenty is the unifying theme

There are a lot of political ads hitting the airwaves, and most of them mention Tim Pawlenty.

Minnesota’s August 14 primary election is officially two weeks away, and candidates are releasing television spots to make a final plea to partisan voters to get out to support their campaigns. It’s an unusually busy primary season in Minnesota, with an open race for governor, attorney general, U.S. Senate and several high-profile congressional seats attracting huge fields of candidates. The primary winners in each party move on to the general election in November.

Pawlenty, the former two-term governor, is running to return to his old job and released his second ad in the race Wednesday. But his Republican-endorsed primary challenger, Jeff Johnson, also released a 30-second ad that directly goes after Pawlenty. The former governor’s time in office is also mentioned in an ad released Wedneday for Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who is running in a DFL primary for the open 5th District in Congress.

Here’s a roundup of the flurry of ads released this week:

Jeff Johnson

Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, uses his first spot on air to directly address his opponent.

“There are two clear paths in this primary. Tim Pawlenty gave us higher spending and massive fee increases. He brought us green energy mandates, light rail and Common Core. Tim had his chance and he blew it,” Johnson says in the ad, standing at a literal crossroads. “I’ll bring a new vision where you have more money in your pocket and less government in your life.  We’ll rein in this arrogant and broken system and I will not cave when the Left attacks. I’m Jeff Johnson, the conservative in this race, and I hope to earn your vote.”

Johnson has also released a statewide radio ad, according to his campaign.

Tim Pawlenty

This is the second spot on the air for the former two-term governor. This time, he’s talking about eligibility fraud in state healthcare programs, one of the issues he’s using to speak directly to the Republican base. 

“An important audit revealed Minnesota’s wasting hundreds of millions giving free health care to people who aren’t even eligible. The state’s not making sure those who apply for welfare, are even supposed to get it,” he’s heard saying in the ad. “I’m Tim Pawlenty. As Governor, I’ll stop this. I’ll make sure people who get government benefits actually qualify for them. And that they’re here legally. And the money we save? I’ll use it to lower your health insurance costs.”

Margaret Anderson Kelliher 

“When I was Minnesota’s House Speaker we stopped Tim Pawlenty’s devastating cuts to health care and transportation. To take on Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants health care and a woman’s right to choose, we’ll have to kick it up a notch,” she said in the ad, standing near protesters waving “Resist” banners.

Tim Walz 

In his second television spot in the DFL primary race, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz focuses on his experience as a former high school social studies teacher in Mankato. And yes, he also mentions Pawlenty.

“I was teaching high school when Tim Pawlenty cut school funding. I remember adding desks as we crammed seven more students into the classroom,” Walz says in the ad, sitting in a classroom and talking around the kitchen counter with his family. “As a teacher and dad – I’ve seen the difference education makes. And I won’t let Pawlenty take us back. I’ll fight for affordable pre-K. Fully fund our schools. And expand technical education to open new career paths.”

Karin Housley 

Republican state Sen. Karin Housley is angling to take on DFL U.S. Sen. Tina Smith in the general election, but first, the GOP-endorsed candidate has to win a primary challenge against outsider candidate Bob Anderson. In her first ad in the campaign, Housley introduces herself to voters.  It’s part of a larger radio and digital advertising buy, according to her campaign.

“I’ve worked really hard to reform government take on the do-nothing bureaucrats and the failed Dayton Smith administration. I forced them to clean house worked hard to restore your trust and got help for people in need who were being neglected,” she said in the ad. “That’s why I’m running for the United States Senate. We need to get government out of the way working for you and not against you. I know the best place for your hard-earned dollars is in your pocket the government doesn’t create jobs.”

Jim Hagedorn

With Walz’s exit to run for governor, the open 1st District seat in Congress has attracted two major Republican candidates, including state Sen. Carla Nelson and two-time candidate Jim Hagedorn. Hagedorn has released two television ads ahead of the primary, which talk about his desire to be a “conservative reinforcement” in Congress to president Trump and his agenda, and another ad stressing his roots in the southern Minnesota district.

Tina Smith

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith has only been in the job since January, when Gov. Mark Dayton appointed her to the Senate, and already she’s defending the seat in a DFL primary. Richard Painter, a Bush-era ethics counsel, said he has left the Republican Party and is running against her on an anti-Trump platform. But in her second ad of the campaign, Smith stays away from mentioning her opponent and focuses on the issue of prescription medication costs.

“To me, being a senator is about solving problems – knowing what is it that keeps you awake at night, what worries you. Everywhere I go, people talk about health care,” she said in the 30-second spot. “So, when I learned drug companies were exploiting a loophole to keep generics off the market, I took them on…Drug companies work for their profits. I work for you.”

Debra Hilstrom 

The state representative from Brooklyn Center is in the midst of a five-way primary for attorney general. In her first ad of the primary season, she said she’s the only candidate with experience “writing laws and defending them in the courtroom.”

“I believe all Minnesotans have a right to health care medications, safety from financial exploitation, fair wages and a secure retirement,” she says in the 30-second ad. “No one is too big to be above the law and no one is too small to be below its protection.” 

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