1.) Some Democrats seem to be quietly sounding out the 3rd Congressional District on a possible opponent for Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, MinnPost reports. James A. Lawrence, a banking executive who divides his time between Minneapolis and New York, is the subject of a new poll that asks CD 3 voters how they feel about Paulsen, the federal government shutdown and President Barack Obama, who won that district in 2012. Paulsen has recently endured pressure over his moderate stance on the shutdown, though that pressure came from right-leaning Republicans, who said Paulsen should face a more conservative primary opponent. The poll also mentions Lawrence by name, and describes him as a former executive for Northwest Airlines and General Mills. Reached by MinnPost, Lawrence gave a “no comment” response on whether he might run against Paulsen, now in his fourth term representing the suburban district. Should Lawrence decide to join the 3rd District contest, he would be the first Democrat to officially declare.
2.) The much-publicized leak of private data by the state health insurance exchange was an accident, an Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) report found, but could have been avoided if MNsure had taken more thorough precautions. OLA investigators found that the single MNsure staffer who sent 1,500-some brokers’ private information as an email attachment had done so in error, and had instead been trying to send a blank form document. The employee, since terminated from that job, immediately reported the mistake, and took proper steps to stop the information from spreading elsewhere. But MNsure’s collection of brokers’ Social Security numbers was, in fact, unnecessary, according to the audit, which pointed to that decision and several other security shortfalls that made a damaging leak of personal information more likely. The news was seized on by House data privacy hawk Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, who issued a statement saying her “concerns regarding the policies at MNsure have devolved into a total lack of confidence in Democrats’ ability to implement this system with any respect for people’s privacy.”
3.) Gov. Mark Dayton heralded a new batch of test scores as proof that Minnesota was making progress on closing the achievement gap between white students and racial minorities. Tests issued by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) found that overall, Minnesota’s fourth graders finished first in the country on math, and 10th in reading. Black students showed marked improved on both counts, including a 25 percent jump in reading scores compared to 2009 results. The achievement gap was still prevalent among eighth-graders, though, where the racial disparity in scores was the seventh largest such gap in the country. Said Dayton: “Those results tell me that we’ve made some important progress. However, we still have much more work ahead of us.”
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Hennepin County Board member Gail Dorfman announced on Thursday that she would not seek reelection next year, the Star Tribune reports. Dorfman has served on the board for 14 years, and was previously mayor of St. Louis Park. In a Facebook message announcing her decision, Dorfman wrote that she isn’t sure what her next move will be, but said she plans to “continue to work hard on the issues that I’ve cared most about.”
- Apparently not content with issuing a strongly worded letter to Gov. Mark Dayton, Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, will use a 10:00 a.m. press conference to urge the Minnesota Supreme Court Appeal Panel not to release convicted sex offender Thomas Duvall.The position held by Zellers is in line with that of Attorney General Lori Swanson, and the GOP gubernatorial hopeful will hold his press conference outside Swanson’s office in the Capitol. Swanson is scheduled to appear before the Supreme Court panel today to argue in favor of a more thorough review process in Duvall’s case.
- The Minnesota Action Network, a state-level offshoot of the American Action Network, has hired Gina Countryman to serve as its executive director. The center-right advocacy and campaign group headed by former GOP U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman made the announcement on Thursday. Countryman has previously held jobs with the Republican Party of Minnesota and in the offices of Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Republican U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen.
- Gov. Mark Dayton will spend the day with hunters and gatherers — of deer and money, respectively. At 12:15 p.m., Dayton will be in Fergus Falls for the annual deer hunting opener event at the Otter Tail County Fairgrounds. At 7:30 p.m., Dayton will attend the TakeAction Minnesota leadership awards at the Minneapolis Hilton; Dayton, who will give a short speech, is to be joined by DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken and House Speaker Paul Thissen.