Welcome the the final week before the midterms. Here are some of the political stories you might have missed over the weekend.
1. Wardlow accused of bullying gay high school classmate. Republican attorney general candidate Doug Wardlow’s record of opposing some gay rights dates back years. For Ryan Durant, a former high school classmate, Wardlow’s views aren’t just a question of policy. They’re personal. Durant remembers Wardlow as a high school bully who repeatedly harassed him for being gay — and as the person who mocked him after he attempted suicide in the 10th grade. Both Durant and Wardlow attended Eagan High School and graduated in the class of 1997. In an account corroborated by several other students, Durant, 39, alleges that Wardlow, who is now 40, bullied him for years because of his sexual orientation. (Pioneer Press)
2. 8th District candidates engage in lively debate. Democrat Joe Radinovich and Republican Pete Stauber went back and forth Friday on everything from President Trump and health care to their own personal controversies cropping up in the highly contested 8th District race. It’s one of the most-watched congressional races in the nation, and the major party candidates didn’t hold anything back, frequently interrupting each other during an hour-long debate on MPR News. The 8th District, which stretches from the northern Twin Cities suburbs to the Canadian border, is open after current DFL Rep. Rick Nolan decided to retire. Outside groups battling for control of Congress have already spent roughly $10 million in the district to influence voters on Nov. 6. (MPR News)
3. Staying ahead of the bad guys on election security. Two years ago, on Aug. 19, 2016, Russian entities scanned but were unable to break into Minnesota’s election system. Attempted hacks were detected in 21 states. Since then, the federal government has taken a more prominent role in securing elections, Secretary of State Steve Simon has been given “secret” clearance so he can receive intelligence briefings about potential threats, and local officials and voters are more attuned to the risks. After Russia’s 2016 meddling, “people figured out that this is real, it requires constant attention and this is a race without a finish line,” Simon said. “You have to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.” There have been obstacles to reaching that goal. Minnesota is the only state that hasn’t gotten its share of $380 million in election security grants that Congress approved in March. (Star Tribune)
4. Minnesota Senate control hinges on special election. It is hard to distinguish between Republican Jeff Howe and Democrat Joe Perske on many of the issues that matter to voters in this state Senate district that curves around St. Cloud, extending north, south and west into farm territory. It’s a piece of the state that will have an outsized impact on the balance of political power at the State Capitol in 2019. The candidates are feeling the pressure as outside spending pours in and they devote most of each day to door-knocking, calling voters or speaking at forums. They have just one week to sway voters in the special election to fill Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach’s seat. Fischbach, a Republican and former Senate president, was constitutionally obligated to fill the opening as Gov. Mark Dayton’s number two when he appointed Tina Smith to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat. She later resigned from the Senate seat she held for 22 years, leaving the Senate with 33 Democrats and 33 Republicans. (Star Tribune)
5. Housley, Smith address mining issues. There is no question the Iron Range has experienced a resurgence in its mining industry.But the region for decades has endured a turbulent economy and a divisive debate over prospective jobs and environmental protection, with several proposed projects pointing to a continuance of the polarizing fight. With the winner of a Nov. 6 special election for a two-year term in the U.S. Senate figuring to bring significant influence to policies affecting the the area’s economy, mining and natural resources, the News Tribune asked appointed DFL incumbent Tina Smith and Republican challenger Karin Housley to weigh in. (Duluth News Tribune)