Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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ST. PAUL -- Second-time Minnesota governor candidate Jeff Johnson easily won a Tuesday, Feb. 6 straw poll, but could face a bigger obstacle in coming weeks: Tim Pawlenty. With all votes tallied from Republican precinct caucuses throughout Minnesota, Johnson had 45 percent of the vote of nearly 11,000 caucus attendees.
ST. PAUL—Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty stole the spotlight from Republican candidates in the governor's race Tuesday, Feb. 6, hours before party loyalists gather to pick their favorite candidate in a straw poll. The two-term Republican governor made a surprise announcement Tuesday morning that he will leave the Financial Services Roundtable next month. As leader of the Washington-based group, Pawlenty has been spokesman and lobbyist for financial services companies.
ST. PAUL — Former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann said she does not feel God has called her to run for U.S. Senate, so is staying out of the race. Bachmann told a Minnesota radio host during the weekend that she asked God for guidance. "I just took it to the Lord in a very quiet way." But, she said, God did not tell her to run.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota precinct caucus leaders ran out of ballots as long lines of people waited to get into the political meetings, with drivers in blocks-long traffic jams not even there yet. About 300 showed up at a Willmar site that hosted 75 four years earlier. That was 2016. Don't expect the same turnout at the 2018 caucuses on Tuesday, Feb. 6. Chairman Ken Martin of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party said the caucuses will draw thousands, but short of the record 321,354 that came two years ago.
ST. PAUL—A Minnesota woman is back for her second stint as state health commissioner with instructions to fix the state's failed nursing home abuse investigation process. Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday, Jan. 30, appointed Jan Malcolm to lead the Health Department as it struggles to get through a backlog of complaints about mistreatment of Minnesota elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Communities outside of the Twin Cities look to capitalize on Super Bowl LII. A couple of Otter Tail County festivals and one in Duluth are timed to coincide with the Super Bowl, but state tourism officials say few other greater Minnesota events are connected directly with the game. However, hotels, motels and airports hope for a jump in business as the Twin Cities may not be able to accommodate all the activity.
MINNEAPOLIS—A side effect of any big event like the Super Bowl is sex trafficking. "We know that there's going to be a million-plus people coming into the Twin Cities," Minneapolis Police Sgt. Grant Snyder recently told a Minneapolis City Council committee. "Unfortunately, some of those people, and it has nothing to do with the Super Bowl, are going to engage in the purchase, or attempt to purchase, commercial sex."
ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton wants the state to fund $1.5 billion of public works projects across Minnesota and asks legislators to approve $858 million more for local projects. More than a third of the $1.5 billion would be designated for state-run colleges and universities, mostly making repairs and improvement on existing buildings. The rest would go to improve other state buildings, construct affordable housing, upgrade clean water facilities and construct other projects in all parts of Minnesota.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota would seem to have an outsized influence on the next farm bill. Both of the state's senators are on that body's Agriculture Committee and three of the state's eight congressmen are on the House farm panel, including Rep. Collin Peterson, the top-ranking Democrat and former chairman. All Minnesotans on the committees are Democrats, in a Congress controlled by Republicans. However, agriculture policy, including the farm bill, usually is decided on a bipartisan basis.
ST. PAUL—The year just ended was unpredictably busy in Minnesota politics, but 2018 will be predictably busy. It could set a busy record. And that is just what we know now; there is no telling what surprises lurk ahead. Be warned: Minnesota's 2018 election will be packed. You know about the two U.S. Senate races (Amy Klobuchar's seat is up and voters will pick someone to replace Al Franken). There also will be a governor's race, with an open office after Mark Dayton said he would not run again, and lots of candidates are lined up for both major parties.