First District DFL Rep. Tim Walz will be at a Rochester grocery store on Monday to listen to constituent concerns.
Walz's Congress on Your Corner stop will be from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Hy-Vee, 4221 W. Circle Dr. N.W. The congressman is planning to do other Congress on Your Corner stops in southern Minnesota in the coming weeks.
Lanesboro Democrat Jon Pieper is dropping his bid for the Minnesota House to instead run against Winona GOP Sen. Jeremy Miller in November.
Pieper’s decision means there will no longer be an endorsing fight at Saturday’s Senate District 28 DFL Convention in Rushford. Pieper was set to face off against Spring Grove School Board DFLer Thomas Trehus for the party’s endorsement in the House District 28B race. Instead, Pieper is expected to be the lone candidate vying for the Senate endorsement and Trehus will have a clear path to win the endorsement for his run against Preston Republican Rep. Greg Davids.
In an interview, Pieper said he began seriously considering a run for the Senate seat last week.
“One of the biggest reasons is we have two viable House candidates and no one was willing to stand up (to run) for the Senate,” he said.
Pieper, owner of Old Village Hall Restaurant, said he met with Senate DFL caucus leaders before deciding to run for the seat. He also met with Trehus to talk about his decision. He said he has asked Winona DFL Rep. Gene Pelowski to introduce him at Saturday’s endorsing convention.
In 2014, Pieper ran against Davids and lost by a vote of 56 percent to 44 percent.
Trehus welcomed news of Pieper’s decision to run for the Senate seat and vowed to support him.
“I think having a slate of Democrats run is a good thing. It’s not good to have an unopposed candidate,” Trehus said.
Looking ahead to the election, Pieper said he will be talking about the need to boost funding for K-12 schools — especially in greater Minnesota.
“Rural school districts are being penalized for being rural. We don’t get the funding that the Twin Cities school districts get,” he said.
Pieper also backs efforts to fund to rein in college tuition. He is concerned about the steep cuts in state aid to cities and counties since 2002. He said those cuts result in higher taxes for residents, business and farmers.
He'll be trying to unseat Miller, who won election to the Senate in 2010 after narrowly defeating Winona DFL Sen. Sharon Erickson Robes.
Pieper said he looks forward to teaming up with Trehus on the campaign trail adding, “I hope we both win.”
Former Byron head football coach John Austinson is expected to announce tomorrow that he will challenge freshman GOP Rep. Nels Pierson in November.
The Democrat plans to make the announcement on Tuesday night at Rochester Community and Technical College, according to Senate District 26 DFL Chairman Mark Liebow.
This is the first time Austinson has run for public office. He is a 1986 graduate of John Marshall High School in Rochester. He is a teacher at Byron High School and served as the school's head football coach for 19 years before retiring last year. He lives with his wife and stepson in Eyota.
Austinson will be taking on Pierson for the House District 26B seat, which covers a portion of southern Rochester and the surrounding communities of Chatfield, Dover, Eyota and Stewartville. Pierson, a Rochester real estate agent, was elected to the House in 2014.
Any hopes for a calm, cooperative start to the legislative session were quickly dashed on Tuesday as Democrats and Republicans sparred over everything from what building they were meeting in to extending unemployment benefits for Iron Range workers.
Democrats blasted Republican House leaders for going ahead with holding the session in the construction-filled Capitol. The House galleries are closed as part of the Capitol’s $310 million renovation. Only a limited number of visitors and members of the press have access to the chamber.
Rochester DFL Rep. Tina Liebling challenged GOP-House Speaker Kurt Daudt’s ability to prevent all accredited members of the press from being on the House floor.
“We are not governed by a speaker who is king and gets to make up his own rules,” Liebling said.
Republicans pushed back, saying they are doing everything they can to make sure the public and media have access to the chamber. They also pointed out that Democrats previously voted in favor of holding the session in the Capitol when they approved building the $90 million Minnesota Senate Building.
“Years ago, the plan was to have the House chamber available for both bodies to use, several (House) speakers ago. So it’s not a surprise that we’re doing that. Frankly, do we want to start the day with political posturing? That was disappointing,” said Byron GOP Rep. Duane Quam in an interview.
The Senate opted to hold its session in the Minnesota Senate Building, which sits across the street from the Capitol.
The fight over the location of the House session was just the start of the political battles. The debate soon turned to the issue of extending unemployment benefits for Iron Range workers. House Republicans backed a push to suspend the House rules and take up the unemployment bill immediately. But Democrats refused to get on board, citing concerns with another provision in the bill that would provide a $272 million rebate to businesses for unemployment insurance and lower the rate they pay.
“They just wanted to proceed, to ramrod through a provision that they want at the expense of folks on the Iron Range who are suffering,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
The move to suspend the rules to take up the bill failed to get the supermajority support needed to pass. At a news conference, Republicans accused Democrats of holding up relief for Iron Range workers.
“They simply wanted to play politics and play the blame game, when what we could have done was roll up our sleeves and worked together,” Daudt said.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will return to Rochester tomorrow night for a rally ahead of Super Tuesday.
The "A Future to Believe In" rally will be at 8 p.m. in the Exhibit Hall at Mayo Civic Center. A campaign release said Sanders "will discuss a wide range of issues important to Minnesotans, including making college affordable, getting big money out of politics, and combating climate change."
Sanders visit comes in advance of Minnesota's caucuses on Tuesday.
This will be Sanders' second visit to Rochester for the campaign. The Vermont senator held a rally in July at the Rochester International Event Center that drew 600 people. He is in Minnesota this morning for a rally in Hibbing.
The Sanders' rally is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and admission is on a first-come, first-served basis. The campaign encourages participants to RSVP ahead of time.
Another big name will be paying a visit to Rochester in the lead-up to Super Tuesday. Chelsea Clinton will be making a stop in the Med City on either Sunday or Monday to campaign for her mother, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Chelsea Clinton also is expected to make stops in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.
Goodhue County Republicans are hosting a debate for 2nd District candidates on Feb. 8 in Cannon Falls.
All six Republican congressional candidates have been invited to attend the debate. Those running for the GOP endorsement are John Howe, David Gerson, Darlene Miller, Pam Myra, Jason Lewis and David Benson-Staebler.
2nd District GOP Rep. John Kline announced in September that he would not seek re-election in 2016.
The event will be in Cannon Falls High School's auditorium. It kicks off at 6 p.m. with a chance to meet the candidates. From 6:45 p.m.to 7 p.m., local candidates will address the crowd. The 2nd District debate will be from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. A straw poll will follow the debate. The party is suggesting attendees pay a $5 donation.
Voters are encouraged to submit debate questions to the party via its website.
Democrat Angie Craig is also running for the seat.
Faribault Mayor John Jasinski announced today he is challenging Owatonna DFL Sen. Vicki Jensen in 2016.
In a news release, the Republican touted his efforts as mayor to attract and expand business in Faribault, including the re-opening of the Faribault Woolen Mill.
"We've accomplished a lot here in Faribault, and I've seen how creating jobs and increasing the property tax base can improve the lives of families in a community," he said in a statement.
Senate District 24 includes the city of Claremont and the following Dodge County townships: Ashland, Claremont, Ellington and Ripley. Jensen was elected to the Senate in 2012.
After graduating from Faribault High School, Jasinski served in the U.S. Navy aboard a nuclear cruiser and was deployed twice to the Persian Gulf. After completing his military service, he took advantage of the GI Bill and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Mankato State University. He works in commercial real estate, having co-founded MDC Real Estate Services.
“I look forward to using my experience in business, real estate, and local government to help the Minnesota legislature understand what is happening every day here in Greater Minnesota,” Jasinski said.
Republicans need a net gain of six seats to win back control of the Minnesota Senate.
Red Wing City Council member Lisa Bayley announced today she will run for the House District 21A seat.
The Democrat said in an interview that if elected, she would be a strong advocate for greater Minnesota.
"Outstate Minnesotans are tired of waiting. We are tired of being told that the money and resources are going to the large urban areas because that's where the economic drivers are. I think people know that in the rural areas, we want to maintain our small communities, our small businesses and I think there's a role there for state government, so I want to be involved in doing that," she said.
Red Wing GOP Rep. Tim Kelly first won election to the seat in 2008. In an interview, Kelly said he has not decided whether he will seek re-election this fall.
"Right now, I'm focused on the job ahead of me now. I haven't even broached that subject yet," he said.
Bayley, 49, has served eight years on the Red Wing City Council and is an attorney with her own law practice, Bayley Law, LLC. She grew up in Rochester and has lived in Red Wing for 10 years. She has a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and a law degree from Georgetown University. She previously worked as a prosecutor in Hennepin and Wabasha counties.
If elected, Bayley said she would focus on economic development. That would include supporting efforts to expand high-speed broadband access and increase the amount of workforce housing.
"We actually have a relatively low unemployment rate here, and yet many of our employers can't get employees to come here because we don't have appropriate housing. That's something I worked on as a city council member, and I'd really want to continue working on that," she said.
She said she would also push for a long-term, comprehensive transportation funding package. She said it's also critical the state takes steps to address a lack of senior housing options in rural areas. You can check out her campaign website here.
Kelly did push back at the suggestion that House lawmakers have not been doing enough for greater Minnesota. He said he is confident that lawmakers will approve a sweeping, transportation funding package — something that takes more than one year to put together.
"Sometimes the process takes a little longer, and I'm very proud of where we're at," Kelly said.
Olmsted County rail consultant Chuck Michael said he was not paid by the private company seeking to build a high-speed rail line from Rochester to the Twin Cities.
Michael sent an email to the Post-Bulletin following an article published that reported Michael did some consulting work for North American High Speed Rail Group last year. In the email, Michael wrote, "you should be interested to know that my total compensation from NAHSR was $0."
In an interview, Michael said he does a lot of voluntary, pro bono work and didn't think about mentioning this was one of those cases. Michael said the work involved meeting with officials in another state. He noted that Minnesota has a statewide rail plan — a requirement in order for a state to get funding. Several states have yet to put together such a plan.
"They look to Minnesota like how can we be more like them because we want these things to happen in our state, but we don't know how to go about it," Michael said.
Joining in him in the discussions were several consulting firms, economists, developers and metropolitan planning agencies.
"Everybody threw in their two cents worth, trying to help them get to where they want to be," he said.
Michael declined to name the state where he did the consulting work.
Critics of a proposed high-speed rail route from Rochester to the Twin Cities accused Michael of having a conflict of interest because he did consulting work for the private company. Olmsted County Commissioner Paul Wilson said he did not see a conflict of interest because the work was done out of state. He noted that Michael is an independent consultant with several clients.