1.) Gov. Mark Dayton made his first appearance since the sudden resignation of MNsure director April Todd-Malmlov, and was forced to answer — or, in some cases, not answer — a number of pointed questions about his role in her ouster and the future of the insurance exchange. Dayton declined to give details on his exact involvement in Todd-Malmlov’s exit, according to Minnesota Public Radio, and said any control he exerts over the MNsure agency and its board of directors would have come through his public comments. Dayton said he had been speaking with the MNsure board on an increasingly frequent basis in recent months, and apologized for any technical or bureaucratic problems that consumers had experienced. “That’s unacceptable, and we’re going to do everything we can around the clock to correct that.”
Republicans, meanwhile, showed no sign of plans to scale down their rhetoric regarding the exchange. Hennepin County Commissioner and GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson said Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, and Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, should both step down from their leadership positions on the MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee. Johnson called their performance an “abysmal failure,” and said a bipartisan set of co-chairs should be appointed to replace them. Also Thursday, Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, issued the harshest criticism yet levied by a Republican elected official, telling the Rochester Post-Bulletin that the failures of the health insurance exchange would cause Minnesotans to die. “People will die because of MNsure,” Davids said. “That’s a fact.”
2.) GOP gubernatorial hopeful Scott Honour scored a campaign coup on Thursday, with former Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack lending his name and support to a campaign fundraising appeal, politics.mn reports. In the message, Cravaack touts Honour’s experience as a businessman and a political outsider, describing him as “a leader from the private sector who will take on the tough problems rather than worry about how to get re-elected.” In 2010 Cravaack scored a major upset for Republicans by ousting veteran Democrat Jim Oberstar in the 8th Congressional District, but has kept a relatively low profile since his 2012 election loss to DFL U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan.
3.) DFL U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson still has not committed to running for re-election in 2014, but is at least consistent in expressing his annoyance over ads that target his performance in office. Echoing comments he made earlier this year, the longtime incumbent told the Center for Public Integrity that outside spending group ads criticizing his record are fueling his desire to make another bid for the 7th Congressional District seat. “What they are doing is making me more inclined to not hang up my hat,” Peterson said. Two new negative TV ad campaigns have appeared this week — one paid for by the American Future Fund, the other produced by the American Action Network. Peterson had already been the subject of a series of online and TV ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which generated a series of messages painting Peterson as a Washington, D.C. insider; numerous Republican operatives have said spending from the national party and outside fundraising groups would indicate those operations feel they have a strong candidate in Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Former GOP House staffer Tom Freeman has joined Faegre Baker Daniels as a government relations adviser. Once a campaign staffer for Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, Freeman was also a campaign strategist for Republican legislative campaigns and served as committee administrator on the House Redistricting and Capital Investment Committee. He was most recently at Starkey Hearing Technologies, where he organized that company’s trade show exhibitions.
- Cap O’Rourke has left his position as committee administrator for the Senate Taxes Committee in order to start his own contract lobbying firm. O’Rourke spent a dozen years working in administrative capacities or directly for DFL senators.
- Lobbyist Stacy Pearson has registered to represent Child Protection League Action. It is her second lobbying client, and she is that group’s first lobbyist on record.
- Wellstone Action is hiring for a director of programs. The position is among the senior leadership roles at the St. Paul-based progressive outfit dedicated to training candidates and activists for political activity. Qualified candidates should have eight or more years of experience in electoral, labor or community organizing. Applications accepted on a rolling basis; more information here.
- Mary Morse terminated her lobbying registration on behalf of Neighborhood Energy Connection, a nonprofit that advocates for consumer efforts to cut energy costs. Her filing leaves the group with just one lobbyist on record.