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Chaudhary's primary loss made him the body's fifth departing chair

More committee shakeups in Senate?

Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

Sen. Ann Rest, who chairs the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee, faces a potentially tough re-election fight in SD 45. (Staff file photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

Chaudhary’s primary loss made him the body’s fifth departing chair

State Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Satveer Chaudhary’s defeat in the Aug. 10 primary creates a vacancy in the Senate committee leadership ranks that no one expected when the committee last met in session earlier this year.

The defeat of Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, who succumbed to former Rep. Barb Goodwin and the local DFL party in District 50 after an ethics controversy, adds a fifth open committee chair in the Senate to the four already vacated by retiring DFL senators.

Those retiring chairs: Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul (Judiciary); Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing (Transportation Policy and Budget);  Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth (Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications); and Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy (Ag/Vet Affairs Policy and Budget) .

Most analysts doubt the DFL will lose the net 13 seats Republicans need to win back the Senate for the first time since 1972.

But could another committee chair fall on Nov. 2?

Many chairs running for re-election this year – like Sens. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, and Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook – represent strong DFL districts.

At this point, only two chairs represent districts showing signs of possible GOP strength: State and Local Government Operations chair Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, and Judiciary Budget Division chair Leo Foley, DFL-Coon Rapids.

Rest, who has sailed to re-election as a senator, faced a primary opponent this year, whom she beat. Her previous Senate election victories range from 20 percent to 28 percent margins. When her service in the House is included, Rest has been in the Legislature since 1984, a point that her GOP opponent Nick Petersen raises on his campaign website, which proclaims him “A Fresh Direction After 26 Years.” Petersen, a young businessman, is holding a “Range Night with Nick” fundraiser on Aug. 30 at a gun range in Robbinsdale. As of July 19, he’d raised $4,100, including $300 from the 45th Senate District GOP.

Rest’s fundraising numbers dwarf Petersen’s. She has amassed more than $10,000 from PACs and lobbyists alone.

The New Hope side of the district leans DFL but was held by Republican Lynne Osterman before current DFL incumbent Sandra Peterson defeated her in 2004.The Robbinsdale and Crystal side of the district, represented by House Finance Chairman Lyndon Carlson, is heavily DFL.

Foley’s District 47, which includes Coon Rapids and Brooklyn Park, has been much more closely contested than Rest’s in recent election cycles. Foley held on to his seat in 2006 against a challenge by Republican Scott Schulte by  just 1.5 percent. Born in 1928, Foley is one of the oldest members of the Legislature. The two House seats in District 47 were held by Republicans until 2004, when DFLers took both.

DFLers, however, are feeling confident about holding onto the seat due to poor fundraising by GOP candidate Benjamin Kruse. Kruse has reported raising $4,300, of which $1,800 was given to him by former House candidate Troy Buchholz’s campaign. Buchholz suspended his campaign account in March. By comparison, GOP Senate candidate Ted Daley, running on the other side of the metro in suburban District 38 (Eagan), had raised $14,500 as of July 19.

Foley started the year with $12,000 in the bank and raised another $5,200 as of July 19.

Trail mix

TWO LEGISLATIVE candidates endorsed by the Minnesota Medical Association’s PAC were defeated in the Aug. 10 primary.

MEDPAC endorsed Sen. Paul Koering, R-Brainerd, and DFLer Jeremiah Ellis in the open District 67 seat in St. Paul. Koering was beaten by former Rep. Paul Gazelka and Ellis lost to Rena Moran.

Dave Renner, MMA’s director of state and federal legislation and MEDPAC’s deputy treasurer, said the group won’t automatically endorse the primary winners. Instead, MEDPAC will plan to meet with the candidates before making an endorsement.

“We will have to go out and make the decision case-by-case looking at the candidate and looking at the districts,” Renner said….

WITH $9,300 SPENT this year and $998 left in the bank as of July 19, the Insurance Federation of Minnesota Political Action Committee is a relatively humble operation. Mark Kulda, the group’s treasurer, refers to it as a “snack PAC.”

But the PAC has been active lately in holding fundraisers for candidates. Last week, it hosted an event for Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Chairwoman Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park. This coming Friday, the Insurance Federation is planning a fundraiser for Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine, a first-term member of the House Commerce and Labor Committee who works in the property-casualty insurance industry.

“We support pro-business candidates of both parties,” Kulda said…..

RED WING MAYOR John Howe, a Republican who is running for the open Senate seat in District 28 being vacated by Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, was a surprise winner in the list of endorsements approved by Conservation Minnesota’s PAC.

The Conservation Minnesota Voter Fund, which had $92,000 in the bank as of July 19, frequently finds DFLers more in line with their agenda. But Howe, who has been outspoken as mayor on issues related to spent nuclear fuel rods stored at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear power plant, got the nod over young DFL attorney Joe Fricke….

HOWE ALSO GOT the endorsement of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, which is traditionally more Republican-friendly than the Minnesota Farmers Union. Of note: The Farm Bureau this year is backing Republican candidates that are running against incumbent Reps. Kathy Brynaert, DFL-Mankato, Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, Phil Sterner, DFL-Rosemount, and Julie Bunn, DFL-Lake Elmo.

On the other side of the partisan ledger, the Farm Bureau is supporting four incumbent DFL senators and 14 incumbent DFL House members….

ON TUESDAY THE STATE will cut checks to state legislative candidates participating in the public campaign subsidy program.

Candidates who agree to abide by spending limits qualify for the subsidies. The base spending limit for 2010 is $64,500 for Senate candidates and $32,500 for House candidates. Candidates get a percentage based on amount of money pooled from a state appropriation and the income tax checkoff program.

House candidates in order to qualify need to raise $1,500 and Senate candidates need to get $3,000. There are some exceptions for either first-time candidates or candidates who faced close primary contests.

Contributions of $50 or less in the last two years count toward meeting the threshold. In other words, Senate candidates need to get 60 contributions at the $50 dollar amount to qualify.

The state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (CFPD) is scouring the campaigns’ fundraising information to make sure they meet the requirements to receive the subsidies. Some campaigns may need further review after Tuesday to determine if they have met all the public subsidy requirements, according to CFPD Executive Director Gary Goldsmith. Those checks will be cut after the review determines them eligible, Goldsmith said.

Candidates who have already failed to qualify include Independence Party candidates Mark Jenkins (District 55) and Sadik Warfa (Distict 61A) and long-shot GOP candidates Katherine Hennelly (District 67A) and Zachary Freitag (District 64A), who are campaigning against incumbents Tim Mahoney and Erin Murphy in St. Paul-area DFL strongholds.

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