Daily Digest: One more day

Good morning, and welcome to the last day of campaign 2018. Many of the candidates are making a final push to get their supporters motivated to vote. There were also a couple final debates over the weekend. That’s where we start the Digest:

1. Smith and Housley meet for final time before Election Day. The two candidates in Minnesota’s special election for U.S. senator — DFL incumbent Tina Smith and her Republican challenger, state Sen. Karin Housley — laid out their cases to voters Sunday night in the campaign’s final debate. Housley said she doesn’t believe in mandates on businesses to provide equal pay. She said she felt the Women’s Economic Security Act, which was passed in Minnesota under the Dayton administration and increased enforcement of equal pay laws, actually hurt women. “Whenever you put women in their own category and not make them strong and tell them that, ‘We have to make laws because you aren’t equal to men’ — that’s the problem,” Housley said. Smith countered with a defense of the law. “The idea that half of the population in this state or this country are not able to have the same opportunities and earn the same wages as men, it brings us all down,” Smith said. “So to me this isn’t a question of giving women special dispensation as Karin is suggesting, I think it’s a question of raising everybody up. So I supported the Women’s Economic Security Act when I was lieutenant governor. I think it was a good step forward in making sure that women would have opportunities.” (MPR News)

2. Candidates for governor meet for the last time. In a final debate of a high-stakes governor campaign, Republican Jeff Johnson accused DFLer Tim Walz of pushing policies that would make Minnesota an outlier among states. Walz portrayed Johnson as a perpetual critic of government who hasn’t been effective at moving change forward. The Friday evening debate on the Twin Cities PBS program, Almanac, covered ground familiar from seven prior face-to-face meetings. But there were also topics that the candidates hadn’t confronted previously, from liquor sales to fireworks. Johnson, a county commissioner who has trailed in the race but embraced the role of an underdog, spent much of the debate hounding Walz about his promises on health care and state spending. He said Walz, a southern Minnesota congressman, has outlined an agenda that would be costly to enact. Walz said Minnesota prides itself on being a high-service state and should avoid a “race to the bottom.” He said investments in infrastructure, education and health care pay dividends that get lost on the ledger sheet. (MPR News)

3. Groups backing Hagedorn try to demonize Dan Feehan in closing days. The Republican attack ads targeting George Soros and Colin Kaepernick were the first to arrive in southern Minnesota last month, so closely echoing President Trump that he could have written them himself. Then came the caravan. This latest ad — part of a multimillion-dollar blitz from Republican groups in this battleground House district — warns of “a caravan full of illegal immigrants marching on America,” bringing with it “gang members and criminals.” Grainy video shows Latin American men pumping fists in the air. As Republicans scramble ahead of Tuesday’s election to try to save their majorities in the House and Senate, many party officials and candidates like Jim Hagedorn, the nominee here in Minnesota’s First District, have concluded that their best shot at victory is embracing the Trump political playbook of demonization. (New York Times)

4. Top Republican candidates want to keep refugees out of Minnesota. Republicans Jeff Johnson, Jim Newberger and Jim Hagedorn have each said they will ask the federal government to pause refugee resettlement in Minnesota if elected Tuesday. And they’ve each made it a key issue in their campaigns. Johnson, who is running for governor, said he is concerned about how much it costs taxpayers, as well as high unemployment rates among Somali men. Hagedorn, who is running for U.S. House in the 1st Congressional District, claims refugees are poorly vetted and pose a threat to national security. Newberger, a candidate for U.S. Senate, alleges that some refugees don’t want to follow American law.  The Democrats running against them support the state’s openness to refugees, arguing that they strengthen local communities. Immigration experts and advocates say that Republicans’ opposition to the program is purely political and misses the benefits the newcomers provide. A refugee is defined as someone who has fled their country due to persecution, war or violence. They are vetted by the government for up to two years. (Pioneer Press)

5. What about those judicial races? There are only eight contested judicial races out of more than 100 up for re-election on Nov. 6, and in many of those contests, the incumbent is in a strong position to return to the bench. Plenty of people like their judicial races sleepy — judges are supposed to be nonpartisan, even if some candidates run under a party banner, and so far, Minnesota has avoided the kind of contentious, expensive supreme court elections that have cropped up in neighboring states like Wisconsin. But when voters turn over their ballot on Tuesday, they’ll still have to pick a candidate in a contested race to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court, as well as a judge to serve for the next six years on the state’s Court of Appeals. And residents of Ramsey County will have a handful of contested races to sort through. (MPR News)

6.  Stanek convinces police to look into his opponent. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek’s re-election campaign has been pushing several agencies to investigate campaign practices of his opponent Dave Hutchinson in the weeks leading up to the general election. After first approaching the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, the Stanek campaign took its complaint to Brooklyn Park police, which is investigating “accusations that Mr. Hutchinson or his ‘campaign’ violated Fair Campaign Practices,” Deputy Chief Mark Bruley wrote in an e-mail. Hutchinson said Wednesday he “had no idea what they were looking at,” and that he was not contacted by Brooklyn Park police. “It’s just Stanek being a bully,” he said. The accusations came from Alex Lewison, the deputy treasurer for Stanek’s campaign, Bruley said. They concern “technical aspects of the law,” such as filing deadlines for campaign material. The department had yet to determine if there had been a criminal violation, he said. “All we have right now are allegations,” Bruley said. Hutchinson’s attorney, Alan Weinblatt, said it’s “the first time in my 48 years that I’ve experienced a police department doing anything” regarding campaign law. (Star Tribune)

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