Daily Digest: Johnson shooting for another peak in up-and-down political career

Welcome to a new week and some of the political stories you may have missed over the weekend.

1. Johnson has known highs and lows in his political career. In the Minnesota House, Jeff Johnson had it good.  The lawyer from Plymouth represented a comfortably Republican suburban district beginning in 2001 and was in the majority party for all six years he served in the Legislature. It put him in a prime position to sponsor bills that would become law. For the past decade, Johnson has been a lonely conservative voice on the Hennepin County board. He often objects to things he doesn’t like but rarely has the power to stop them. In a few weeks, he’ll find out if voters will send him back to the state Capitol and to a position of political strength. Johnson is the Republican nominee for governor, though he trails DFLer Tim Walz heading into the campaign’s homestretch. Johnson’s political career is full of highs — six times a fall election victor — and lows — he ran and lost two prior statewide campaigns, including a bid for governor four years ago. (MPR News)

2. Walz hopes to unite Minnesotans around his faith in government. A southern Minnesota congressman, Tim Walz, 54, has won six elections in a mostly rural, conservative-leaning area. The theme of his campaign — “One Minnesota” — reflects a politician who firmly believes he can straddle entrenched political divisions. Growing up in a small Nebraska town, steeped in the Catholic social justice traditions of his parents and expectations of service to country, Walz said he saw firsthand how government can help families. “I never went to the Democrats. They came to me,” Walz said, mentioning the GI Bill that funded college educations for him and his father, and the Social Security survivor benefits his mother lived on when his dad died young. “There’s a collective good,” Walz said. “We all benefit from programs like that.” (StarTribune)

3. 1st District candidates debate. Republican Jim Hagedorn and Democrat Dan Feehan went back-and-forth on healthcare, tariffs and climate change in a heated debate Friday. The MPR News debate was the latest for the two candidates vying to take over the southern Minnesota district, which is open after incumbent DFL Rep. Tim Walz decided to run for governor. It’s one of the most-watched races in the nation, with millions already spent from outside groups and a recent visit from President Donald Trump to stump for Republican candidates. (MPR News)

4. Plenty of health care issues await November’s victors. While Democrat Tim Walz pushes for a public health care option and Republican Jeff Johnson aims to pare back parts of the Affordable Care Act, Minnesota’s next governor will face a basic math question next year: How will the state keep paying for its programs? On the first year of the job, Walz or Johnson and a new Legislature will consider the fate of a 2 percent tax on medical providers that expires at the end of the year. It contributes hundreds of millions of dollars toward two health care programs that cover nearly 1.5 million poor Minnesotans. They’ll also weigh renewing a $549 million program that stabilized insurance premiums after years of double-digit increases for residents who buy their own coverage. A top state regulator is calling for action in the first few months of 2019. Failure to do so could cause another round of rate spikes. Combined with previous budgetary maneuvers agreed by outgoing Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republicans, more than $2 billion in a new state budget and health care for millions of Minnesotans is up in the air. (Associated Press)

5. More surgery for Gov. Dayton on Monday. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will undergo a follow-up surgical procedure Monday at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. That’s after he had surgery on Friday at Mayo to fuse several vertebrae in his lower back. The operation was meant to improve the 71-year-old governor’s leg strength and stability. A statement from the governor’s office on Sunday said the first procedure was a success, but Dayton’s doctor said a follow-up procedure “will further strengthen the fusion in his lower back (and) will provide more support for his vertebrae, and better ensure the long-term stability of his back and legs.” (MPR News)

 

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