1.) DFL U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson finally has a strong Republican challenger in the 1st Congressional District. Today, state Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, will make his candidacy official, following months of rumors about Westrom’s interest in challenging the Democratic incumbent. Westrom is in his first term in the Senate, and won election to the upper chamber in 2012 following seven terms in the House. He lost his sight in an accident as a teenager, and is believed to be the first blind legislator in the history of the state. In his press release announcement, Westrom outlined a campaign that would target the federal government and Congress in general, while making no mention of Peterson specifically.
“Washington politicians are out of step with the priorities of Minnesotans and I’m running for Congress because I understand how that disconnect is bankrupting our future,” he said. Peterson, now in his 11th term, has coasted to re-election for several election cycles despite the district’s conservative profile. Republican activists had experienced difficulty recruiting GOP candidates to challenge the DFL moderate, with several possible entrants saying they would prefer to wait until the 69-year-old Peterson retires from Congress.
2.) The state insurance exchange gained in popularity from October to November, and is hoping that December is its best month to date. The number of completed enrollments in MNsure more than doubled in that program’s second month of operation, with more than 24,000 Minnesotans now registered to buy insurance through the exchange. Of those, 4,448 are individual consumers who will be purchasing insurance on the private market, meaning a large majority of applicants are still enrolling in public programs through MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance, the state’s Medicaid system. MNsure executive director April Todd-Malmlov said she anticipates a greater ramp-up of purchases of all kinds prior to the Dec. 23 registration deadline for plans that go into effect on Jan. 1. The state hopes that surge will also help to lower its median age, which currently sits at 50 years old; participation from younger, presumably healthier clients is necessary to keep the exchange’s risk pools balanced and its premium costs low.
3.) Accused of improper use of his authority in launching an online voter registration system, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie fired back yesterday. Minnesota Public Radio reports that the Attorney General’s Office, filing on Ritchie’s behalf, responded to the claim that Ritchie’s program was unconstitutional. Minnesota has allowed electronic voter registration since 2004, the state argued, and the lawsuit is taking a “selective reading” of the state statute at hand. The suit was brought by Minnesota Majority and the Minnesota Voters Alliance, with four Republican legislators — Reps. Steve Drazkowski (Mazeppa), Jim Newberger (Becker), Ernie Leidiger (Mayer) and Mary Franson (Alexandria) — signed-on as co-plaintiffs. The sides will have their first chance to face each other in a hearing next Friday.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- The Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) has endorsed a trio of DFL candidates in statewide races, backing Gov. Mark Dayton, Attorney General Lori Swanson and State Auditor Rebecca Otto in their re-election bids.
- Prominent local attorney Roger Magnuson has died at age 68, the Star Tribune reports. Magnuson spent four decades with Dorsey & Whitney. His clients in high-profile disputes included the Minnesota Twins, in a case challenging their obligation to stay at the Metrodome, and the Florida Senate, which Magnuson represented in the Bush v. Gore U.S. Supreme Court case. Visitation is 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Straitgate Church in Minneapolis, which Magnuson founded.
- Olmsted County retained the services of eight new lobbyists from Lockridge Grindal Nauen, including principal Ted Grindal. Prior to those hires, the county had only one advocate — county employee Amy Caucutt — working on its behalf.
- Republican U.S. Senate candidate Chris Dahlberg is hosting a fundraiser at his campaign headquarters in West Duluth on Friday evening. The open door event will also feature a taco bar; doors open at 4:00 p.m.
- Elsie’s Restaurant, Bar & Bowling Center is the site of a fundraiser for Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek at 5:00 p.m. this evening. Suggested donation $100 per person.
- Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) is hiring for multiple phone canvasser positions. The job is part-time, with hours of 4:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and pays $10 an hour plus bonuses. More information available at MPIRG’s jobs website.
- Amber Backhaus has been retained by the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association, taking a position recently vacated by Jacob Millner, who registered his own new gig lobbying for the Minnesota Dental Association.