Daily Digest: Will young people vote?

Good morning, and welcome to a pledge-drive-free Friday. Here’s the Digest.

1. National spotlight on CD8. “The bellwether for this cycle is Minnesota,” Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told reporters in Washington recently, adding, “If we lose both the incumbent races and win none of the challenger races, we’re probably in the minority.” No battleground district in America had as big a swing from Barack Obama to Mr. Trump as this one, Minnesota’s Eighth, which includes heavily Democratic Duluth and stretches north, through the rugged Iron Range, to the Boundary Waters wilderness at the Canadian border. Mr. Obama won it by six percentage points in 2012; Mr. Trump won it by 16 points in 2016. “The popularity of President Trump in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District is as intense, if not more, than on election night,” Republican candidate Pete Stauber declared in an interview, as he prepared to march in the annual Hoghead Parade in the city of Proctor. “He’s fighting for our way of life, mining, manufacturing timber harvesting, low unemployment.” (New York Times)

2. Will young people vote? With three weeks left until the Nov. 6 midterm elections, polls and early voting suggest a tantalizing possibility: that young people — often missing in action around election time — will head to the polls in record numbers this time. Absentee balloting is up among young people. So is voter registration. (Seventy percent of new voter registrants are between the age of 18 and 30, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office.) Students at both Rochester Community and Technical College and Winona State University say they are aware of a heightened political engagement among their peers. “I do believe that this election will be a turning point for a lot of people, especially young voters,” said Drew Brinker, an RCTC student and president of the Student Senate. “Regardless which way people vote, statistics are showing that this has been a record-breaker as far as people registering to vote.” The possibility of a surge of young people heading to the polls would stand in sharp contrast to the historical norm. For multiple reasons, young people have struggled to find relevance in politics and voting. (Rochester Post Bulletin)

3. Some religious leaders object to Wardlow mailer. A group of faith leaders on Thursday condemned mailers sent out by Republican candidate for Attorney General Doug Wardlow as Islamophobic and intended to spread fear. Wardlow’s fundraising mailers lambasted his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. It called him “one of the most dangerous men in America” and said he “pals around with radical Islamic groups and defends known terrorists.” Wardlow’s mailer “are a significant departure from what America is all about. He has chosen to attack his opponent’s religion and he has chosen to attack religious institutions,” said Imam Asad Zaman, who spoke at a news conference along with two pastors and a rabbi. The religious leaders said Wardlow should renounce the comments in the mailers and return any money he raised through them. Wardlow’s campaign manager, Billy Grant, countered that people should be concerned with Ellison’s connection to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has a history of anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks. Ellison participated in the group’s 1995 “Million Man March.” He has since disavowed Farrakhan. (Star Tribune)

4.  Smith moves from behind the scenes to center stage. For years, Tina Smith toiled behind the scenes for Democrats and their causes, but Gov. Mark Dayton put her in the spotlight when he made her his running mate in 2014. Last year, he appointed her to the U.S. Senate. Now Smith is a Capitol Hill rookie who faces Republican state Sen. Karin Housley in the special election to finish the last two years of former Sen. Al Franken’s term. If she wins, she’ll run again in 2020. The contest reflects stark political divisions and the high-stakes fight for control of the Senate. Housley is loyal to President Donald Trump and calls Smith “Taxin’ Tina” in a bid to tie her to unpopular Dayton administration policies. Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat running for re-election, also spoke before Smith in Brooklyn Park in September. He said it was “like opening for the Rolling Stones.” No rock diva qualities were evident when Smith spoke. Her public persona is low-key and earnest. She wore her trademark Converse sneakers. “I’ve always found that if you listen to people you can find common ground,” she told volunteers. Smith said that talk of a Democratic “blue wave” worries her. “That’s not how democracy works,” she said, urging them to work hard. (Star Tribune)

5.  Stearns County race highlights changing role of sheriffs. Long gone are the days when a sheriff’s job revolved around running the county jail. Today, Minnesota’s 87 elected county sheriffs have much more significant problems to worry about: inmates with mental health issues, sex trafficking, drugs — even domestic terrorism. “The role of law enforcement has changed. We’re not just ticket writers anymore,” said Steve Soyka, a sergeant in the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office who is running for the department’s top job. “Now we have to be psychologists and social workers and just a problem-solver, basically.” Soyka’s opponent, Waite Park police Chief Dave Bentrud, said in the early days of his law enforcement career, he was mostly responding to calls about bar fights and loud music. “Today, the issues are more complex: Sex trafficking issues, mental health issues,” Bentrud said. “There’s a lot of people in jail [for whom the] biggest issue is mental health. And if we can address that on the front end, maybe we can keep them from having to end up in jail.” (MPR News)

6. Trying to understand prescription drug addiction. Okay, I’m cheating here. This isn’t a story about politics. But you should read it anyway, if not today then sometime this weekend. (MPR News)

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