Daily Digest: Wardlow leads Ellison in AG race

Good morning. We’re two weeks out from Election Day. Late last night President Trump endorsed Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen via Twitter, even though Paulsen has tried to keep the president at arm’s length. But it’s a new poll in the attorney general race that leads off your Tuesday Digest:

1. Wardlow takes lead in AG race. Republican Doug Wardlow is leading Democrat Keith Ellison by 7 points in the race for attorney general, according to the latest MPR News/Star Tribune Minnesota Poll — a significant reversal from the last round of polling in mid-September. Of 800 likely voters polled last week, 43 percent said they preferred Wardlow, an attorney and one-time state legislator, while 36 percent said they support Ellison, who has served the 5th District in Congress for the last 12 years; 16 percent said they were undecided in the race, a 2-point drop from the earlier poll. In September, Ellison held a 5-point lead over Wardlow. Wardlow remains relatively unknown to voters — 56 percent of those polled said they don’t recognize his name. Eight in 10 voters said they recognized Ellison’s name, but more said they had an unfavorable opinion of him than Wardlow. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they recognized Ellison’s name and viewed him unfavorably, while only 8 percent said the same of Wardlow. (MPR News) (APM Research Lab)

2. Minnesota not flyover country for national pols this year. Minnesota candidates in some of the fiercest races on this year’s ballot got a boost on Monday from high-profile national politicians, with several election contests here pivotal to which party comes out ahead in the upcoming midterm elections. House Speaker Paul Ryan warned of a “green wave” of Democratic fundraising in a visit to drum up support and campaign cash for U.S. Reps. Erik Paulsen and Jason Lewis — two of a half-dozen 25 vulnerable Republicans that Ryan is traveling to support in 12 states. Paulsen’s opponent, Democrat Dean Phillips, hosted a town hall meeting on gun violence prevention Monday night that featured Rep. Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat whose district includes Parkland, site of a large school shooting in February. And another Florida politician also passed through Monday, as Sen. Marco Rubio attended a fundraiser and rally for Jeff Johnson, the Republican candidate for governor. More big names are headed here in the coming days: Democratic candidate for governor Tim Walz will campaign with Gabby Giffords, a former member of Congress and a gun control activist; and Lewis’s opponent, Democrat Angie Craig, will appear later this week with U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts. (Star Tribune)

3. Spotting the fakes. At first glance, the photo seems plausible. Keith Ellison is shown standing near U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith. They are all Minnesota Democrats on ballot this year, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they all might be seen together. But the problem is, that event never happened. The photo is fake. It’s a poor Photoshop attempt by an outside group, Right Now MN, to use misleading and fake information to influence the outcome of the election. In particular, the group is trying to tie Smith and Klobuchar to Ellison, who is facing an allegation of domestic abuse. Using misinformation and propaganda is not a new tactic in campaigns, but it went to a whole new level with social media during the 2016 presidential campaign. (MPR News)

4. Dirt-free tax returns. Candidates for governor Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz both earn well above the median household income of their fellow Minnesotans, but an accountant who reviewed their tax returns said he found nothing unusual in either. Johnson, a Republican and a Hennepin County commissioner from Plymouth, shared his 2017 tax return at the Star Tribune’s request. Walz, the Democratic candidate and a U.S. congressman from Mankato, released 11 years of tax returns earlier this year. “Both are reasonably similar. And neither is particularly interesting,” said Chris Wittich, a CPA with Boyum Barenscheer, an accounting firm based in Bloomington. Although the Johnson and Walz households both earn incomes higher than average, the two families are mostly wage earners, and neither uses exotic deductions or fancy maneuvers to avoid paying taxes. (Star Tribune)

5. Competing approaches to ensuring election integrity. Minnesota’s chief elections officer faces an evolving job description. Whoever wins next month’s race for secretary of state will oversee an increasingly complicated system — from combating Russian hackers to big increases in the number of early voters. That’s why incumbent Steve Simon, a Democrat, wants the job for four more years and why Republican John Howe is challenging him. “We have some work to do,” Simon said, adding about cybersecurity: “Unlike four years ago, these issues are front and center.” Simon, a former state representative and an attorney from Hopkins, took office in 2015 after working on election issues in the Legislature. Howe, a former Red Wing mayor and former state senator, said he’d tap his business background running a chain of Sears stores and rental properties to bring more attention to the office’s duties tracking business filings. “I have a very, very tough race,” Howe said, noting that he’s been outspent by his more well-known opponent. “But I don’t believe the race is about money. It’s about having fair and honest and open elections.” (Star Tribune)


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