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Caucus leaders hit the road for closing pitches

Charley Shaw//November 2, 2012//

Caucus leaders hit the road for closing pitches

Charley Shaw//November 2, 2012//

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DFL leaders — including state party Chairman Ken Martin (above) — campaigned Thursday in Senate District 43 as well as nearby SD 42. Leaving little to chance, legislative leaders are spending the final ­days of the 2012 campaign visiting key Minnesota districts. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)
Statewide campaign stops focus on top battlegrounds

Leaders from all four legislative caucuses are spending the waning days of the 2012 campaign barnstorming key districts around the state.

At the conclusion of a campaign season in which the area has seen way more spending in legislative races than is customary, the city of Moorhead is also being lavished with attention from GOP and DFL legislative leaders in the closing days of the campaign.

On Thursday, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, dropped into Moorhead to campaign for Republican Travis Reimche. Reimche is trying to hold on to the seat that’s being vacated by retiring six-term GOP Rep. Morrie Lanning. House District 4A shrank in redistricting, placing it almost exclusively within Moorhead city limits and thereby giving Democrats a better shot there.

The city also is home to three college campuses whose students are being heavily sought after by the Obama campaign and opponents of the two constitutional amendment proposals on this year’s ballot. All of that has DFLers thinking that their nominee, Ben Lien, can beat Reimche on Tuesday.

An even bigger battle royal is playing out in the District 4 Senate race. Senate President Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, was planning to visit Moorhead on Saturday to campaign on behalf of former NFL football player Phil Hansen. Hansen is trying to win the seat that’s been held since 1974 by Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, who is retiring.

That same day, DFL leaders are planning to swing through Moorhead as part of their joint statewide bus tour. They’ll be campaigning for Hansen’s opponent, Rep. Kent Eken of Twin Valley, and for Lien.

District 5, suburbs among key stops

Moorhead is among a handful of competitive areas that are receiving the lion’s share of attention from caucus leaders in the last few days leading up to Nov. 6.

Legislative leaders are also campaigning in the Bemidji/Grand Rapids area, where three GOP incumbents and three DFL incumbents were drawn into inter-party matchups in the new Senate District 5. Fischbach planned to swing through Bemidji on Friday to campaign for first-term Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji. On Sunday, Zellers was scheduled to campaign in HD 5B for first-term Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick, R-Deer River. DFL caucus leaders planned to be in the area Sunday as well, to make stops in Bemidji, Cass Lake and Grand Rapids on behalf of their district slate: Sen. Tom Saxhaug of Grand Rapids, Rep. Tom Anzelc of Balsam Township, and Rep. John Persell of Bemidji.

Caucus leaders also have extensive 11th-hour campaign plans for the Twin Cities suburbs.

On Monday, Zellers plans to campaign in Eagan for first-term GOP Rep. Doug Wardlow. He also plans to campaign in Bloomington for Republican Terry Jacobson, who is trying to hold House District HD 49B in the Republican column and prevent former DFL Rep. Paul Rosenthal from winning back his old seat.

Some observers were surprised to learn that Zellers’ late visits would include two St. Paul suburban districts, 43A and 53A. While both seats have DFL-leaning indices, they received some additional Republican precincts in redistricting. Republicans are very high on Stacey Stout’s candidacy in the open 43A seat; they likewise believe that Republican nominee Pam Cunningham has a chance to win the 53A seat being vacated by Rep. Nora Slawik, DFL-Maplewood. DFL leaders, not leaving anything to chance, campaigned Thursday in Senate District 43 as well as nearby SD 42.

GOP defends retirees’ seats

The final days of the Senate campaign have featured unexpectedly intense battles for Republican-leaning seats in which the incumbent is retiring.

DFLers have looked surprisingly competitive in SD 57, which comprises suburban Apple Valley and Rosemount and has long been a lock for Republicans. But in the wake of Republican Sen. Chris Gerlach’s retirement, DFLers nominated Greg Clausen, who has been the chief school official in both Apple Valley and Rosemount, giving him something that is difficult for any legislative campaign to come by in the suburbs: name recognition. The DFL campaign bus will swing through the district Monday.

On Friday DFLers were planning to visit Faribault as part of an effort to claim a Senate District 24 seat that has been in the Republican column for 40 years. Senate Democrats think they’ve got a strong challenger in Owatonna School Board member Vicki Jensen, who is bidding to take over the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Mike Parry of Waseca.

Senate Republicans appear to have taken note of the DFL threat. On Monday, Fischbach will campaign in Owatonna for Jensen’s challenger, Republican entrepreneur Vern Swedin. In another DFL target in red-colored territory, Fischbach plans to campaign in the far southwestern corner of the state in Worthington for Republican Bill Weber, the former mayor of Luverne who is running to succeed the retiring Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton. Weber is running against Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh, who has waged a strong challenge in the Republican-leaning district.

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