Good morning. It’s a new week and time to catch up on some of the political stories you may have missed over the weekend.
1. Lots of cash flowed to state elections in 2018. Outside groups and candidates spent more than $57 million to influence elections on the state level last year, putting final numbers on the flood of campaigning and television ads that inundated Minnesotans last fall. Counting outside and candidate spending, the governor’s race that DFLer Tim Walz won consumed more than $30 million. That includes $18.5 million spent by outside groups alone, much of it to boost Walz. Candidates also invested heavily in themselves: Walz spent $4.59 million on the race, and Republican Jeff Johnson raised and spent $2.1 million. In nearly every race, DFL donors and candidates outpaced their Republican opponents in raising and spending campaign cash. The election saw Democrats sweep major state offices and take back control of the House. (MPR News)
2. Gov. Walz likely to boost rural fortunes in budget. New Gov. Tim Walz won’t release his first budget until Feb. 19 but some elements of his agenda for rural Minnesota are already starting to emerge. Walz is the state’s first governor from greater Minnesota since Rudy Perpich, an Iron Ranger who left office in 1991. The Democratic former congressman and former high school teacher from Mankato has provided some glimpses recently about his plans for the parts of Minnesota that lie outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area, an expanse that often complains of getting shortchanged. Walz promises his budget will be “transformational.” (Associated Press)
3. Will Congress move to ban shutdowns? Ingrid Christensen, a Minnesota small-business owner whose company relies heavily on federal contracts, lost $20,000 on the government shutdown and doesn’t expect to get it back. The 35-day shutdown, the result of a political standoff at the highest levels of U.S. government, canceled a federal training program for which Christensen’s INGCO International had been hired to provide translations. Some members of Congress, implicated in the inaction and eager to break a repetitive cycle of budget stalemate and political meltdown, say it’s time to make federal government shutdowns impossible. “The truth is that what we’ve been doing in this country is no longer working,” Minnesota Rep. Angie Craig said last week at a U.S. Capitol news conference with a group of fellow Democratic House freshmen. The group, which included Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, presented its own plan to prevent shutdowns. (Star Tribune)
4. Focused on distracted driving. Andrew Dudley died just weeks before his high school graduation. A driver, talking on her phone, struck and killed him as he biked home from a church youth group in St. Louis Park. “Go home and hug your kids and grandkids and tell them how much you love them, because I can’t do that with my Andrew,” his father, John Dudley, said. Seven years after his son’s death, Dudley is among the Minnesotans and lawmakers pushing to make drivers put down their phones or face increasingly tough penalties. The effort, which has quickly gained traction early in the legislative session, comes as the state has amped up its efforts to track distracted driving and its role in crashes. (Star Tribune)
5. Stauber critical of decision allowing PolyMet lawsuits to proceed. Representative Pete Stauber is ticked off that a federal judge in Minnesota recently lifted a hold on several lawsuits challenging the proposed PolyMet Mining Corporation’s copper-nickel mine. U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen issued her decision Thursday in Minneapolis allowing environmental groups to move forward with lawsuits aimed at blocking PolyMet from exchanging 6,900 acres of private land for 6,500 acres of U.S. Forest Service land. PolyMet needs property in the Superior National Forest to build an open mine pit south of Babbitt. The judge’s decision comes several weeks after Stauber, who represents Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District, introduced his first piece of legislation, H.R. 527, the Superior National Forest Land Exchange Act of 2019, which intends to stop the legal blockades on the land swap. (Mesabi Daily News)