Housley looks for boost from Trump visit

State Sen. Karin Housley. Brian Bakst | MPR News

President Donald Trump’s Thursday trip to Minnesota will mark his third political rally this week alongside a Republican woman vying for the U.S. Senate, this time aimed at lifting Karin Housley to an upset win in November’s election.

Housley, a suburban state senator, is challenging Democratic Sen. Tina Smith to fill out the final two years of the unexpired Al Franken term — a race tied directly to the #MeToo movement that resulted in Franken’s sudden resignation last winter.

Trump is full square behind Housley, who intends to speak from Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center stage ahead of the president. Housley will also benefit from Trump’s attendance at a $10,000-per-couple fundraiser.

Housley said Wednesday that the president’s involvement is another sign that one of Minnesota’s two Senate races this year is on the national radar.

“It’s exciting that the president is coming, and we’re getting all kinds of national attention because it’s a red wave here in Minnesota,” she said.

Housley was still working her on speech the day before, but said, “I will talk again about the importance of this election and making sure this is a rubber stamp for the policies that the president is putting into place that are working. It’s his promises made, promises kept tour and things are really moving in the country.”

Housley said she is behind Trump’s legislative agenda even if she doesn’t always agree with his governing style.

Jen Gates, a spokeswoman for Smith, said it’s not surprising that Housley is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Trump.

“Karin Housley has a long record of listening to special interests and party leaders, not Minnesotans,” Gates said, citing health care proposals as examples. Gates said Smith is “hard at work in Washington getting things done for Minnesotans.”

Trump’s efforts to boost Housley — and 1st District Republican nominee Jim Hagedorn — come in the same week he appeared at rallies with Tennessee Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn and Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith, an appointed senator seeking to retain the seat next month.

At Tuesday’s rally in Mississippi, Trump drew cheers and laughter from some in the audience when he ridiculed last week’s testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault more than three decades ago.

“How did you get home? `I don’t remember,’” Trump said, while doing an impression of her answers at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “How did you get there? ‘I don’t remember.’ Where is the place? ‘I don’t remember.’ How many years ago was it? ‘I don’t know.”

Housley said she didn’t watch the whole exchange but said Trump was making a valid point.

“Brett Kavanaugh should be innocent until proven guilty. And she hasn’t brought forward any facts and I think that’s what the president was just reiterating what he was saying is, ‘I don’t remember. I don’t remember. I don’t have any facts. I don’t remember,’” Housley said. “If this is true she needs to have the facts to back it up. So I think that’s what he was saying and that’s what I took from it, is that she hasn’t substantiated these claims she has made.”

Housley said she supports the way Republican Senate leadership has handled the case and would like to see Kavanaugh confirmed soon.

Housley has used the Kavanaugh episode to accuse Smith of hypocrisy for failing to hold U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison to account over allegations that the party’s DFL nominee for attorney general physically abused a former girlfriend.

An attorney hired by the DFL Party concluded in a report this week that the Ellison abuse claim couldn’t be substantiated, but the party is trying to get local law enforcement authorities to double-check the findings.

Smith has said Minnesota voters will get a chance to decide Ellison’s fate in the attorney general’s race while Kavanaugh is standing for a lifetime judicial appointment that requires only a simple Senate majority vote.

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