1.) The Republican field for secretary of state was turned on its head yesterday by the withdrawal of the lone registered GOP candidate, financier Dennis Nguyen. Nguyen, who had garnered endorsements from a majority of Republican legislators in both chambers of the Legislature, recently became the object of a whisper campaign by GOP operatives spreading the claim that Nguyen patronized local strip clubs, as City Pages reported last week. Nguyen’s abrupt departure leaves a null field, but it won’t stay that way for long. Former state Sen. Ted Daley has expressed interest in getting into the race, and Michael Brodkorb of politics.mn tweeted that another single-term GOP state senator, John Howe of Red Wing, is declaring his intent to get into the race as well.
2.) Today’s House hearing schedule includes airings for a couple of the more watched policy measures of the session. Meeting at 10 a.m., the Public Safety Committee will take up a number of bills related to police surveillance laws and technologies. The hearing – which might reconvene at 6 p.m. if it can’t complete its agenda – will take up three bills pertaining to airborne cameras, or “drones,” and three that involve law enforcement agencies’ use of GPS technologies to locate or track persons of interest. One of those bills, from House Civil Law Committee Chair John Lesch, would allow only the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to possess cell-phone tracking technology – an apparent slap at the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, which sent no one to an informational hearing on the subject in the Civil Law committee earlier this year.
Elsewhere, the House Government Operations Committee will hearing HF 1818, DFL Rep. Carly Melin’s bill to legalize the medical use of marijuana in the state.
3.) The Senate Elections Committee took that chamber’s first step on approving online voter registration on Monday, granting approval to legislation meant to reckon with the controversial program started by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Lawmaker concerns on the bill brought by Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, centered mostly on maintaining data privacy for voters who choose to sign-up online rather than using printed paperwork. Sieben’s bill was soon advanced, despite some Republican questioning. Lines of questioning expressed during Sieben’s testimony were soon fleshed out during the presentation of an alternative bill brought by Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchison, whose bill had a pair of key provisions distinct from the DFL plan: Newman wants data security for the system to be verified within one month after the bill’s passage, and his bill would also cancel the new registrations which took place during the initial launch of the online registration. Newman’s bill, which Sieben vocally opposed, was defeated on a voice vote.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Former legislator Jim Knoblach won the GOP endorsement in House District 14B last night, according to the St. Cloud Times, besting truck driver Paul Brandmire in a contest that took three ballots. Knoblach’s win sets up a run against freshman Rep. Zach Dorholt, DFL-St. Cloud; Brandmire had pledged to honor the party endorsement decision.
- State Rep. Jim Abeler, who is running for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, has held out the possibility that he might re-enter the Minnesota House race for his current seat in time for primary season. (Abeler’s district has already endorsed Abigail Whelan for Abeler’s old seat.) But on Monday Abeler told PIM that it’s “95 percent likely” that he’ll run in the August U.S. Senate primary instead.
- Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, told the Star Tribune that she fully intends to run in a GOP primary in House District 48B, despite her failing to win the party endorsement this past weekend. Loon was challenged by GOP activist Sheila Kihne, who released a statement saying that she would strongly consider a primary candidacy against Loon, who upset some district Republicans with her vote in support of gay marriage.
- Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee will be the featured guest at a Humphrey School of Public Affairs event on Wednesday evening. Chaffee, also a former U.S. senator, will be in the Cowles Auditorium from 5:00-6:30 p.m.; register here.
- The Clean Water Action Alliance of Minnesota has hired Kirk Pederson, a lobbyist with Rice Michels & Walter. Pederson becomes the environmentalist group’s third lobbyist currently on retained.
- Sherman Patterson, formerly a City of Minneapolis aide specializing in public safety, has terminated his registration to lobby on behalf of the city. Patterson was recently hired to work for the city’s police department, where he will be a liaison between law enforcement and minority communities.