Hey, big spenders

minnesota: This year's campaigns could bethe most expensive the state has seen. ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's primary election is history; now campaigns turn historic as spending soars. It appears the state's big races for the Nov. 7 general election w...

minnesota: This year's campaigns could bethe most expensive the state has seen.

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's primary election is history; now campaigns turn historic as spending soars.

It appears the state's big races for the Nov. 7 general election will set spending records, with other races following right along.

``We have so much outside money coming into the state (that) I hope Minnesota is not for sale to the highest bidder,'' state Republican Chairman Ron Carey said the day after Tuesday's primary vote produced few surprises.

There is little doubt the U.S. Senate race featuring Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy battling Democrat Amy Klobuchar and the governor's contest with GOP incumbent Tim Pawlenty facing DFL Attorney General Mike Hatch will be the most expensive in Minnesota history. However, Carey said he also sees the 5th, 6th and 8th congressional district campaign costs adding up.


President Bush recently visited the Twin Cities for a Republican congressional campaign fundraiser and former President Clinton plans a Saturday stop to help Democrats.

Carey said Minnesota never used to be a stop for presidents, but with the state now much more politically competitive, such visits are becoming commonplace. Besides those visits, Washington political organizations are sending money to the state.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chairman, Brian Melendez, was less concerned about outside money. He said Washington political committees sending money to Minnesota is no different than the federal budget allocating road money to the state.

``They generally have strong opinions about how the money is spent,'' Melendez said about out-of-state political committees, but laws somewhat insulate candidates from outside influence. ``The Washington pressure is to win your state.''


Nov. 7's contests became clear Tuesday when voters opted to back the favorites in most races. The only surprise to some came in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party attorney general race, where Lori Swanson beat two better-known politicians.

Swanson, one of Hatch's top aides in the attorney general's office, collected 42 percent of the vote, compared to state Sen. Steve Kelley's 37 percent. Former U.S. Rep. Bull Luther, a Fergus Falls native, trailed with 21 percent.

Kelley had won the DFL endorsement, but Melendez said Democrats are fully behind Swanson now that she won.


Melendez credited Swanson's victory to her ability to tell voters she is among Hatch's top attorneys.

Swanson's main Nov. 7 opponent is Jeff Johnson, a Republican state lawmaker from Plymouth and a Detroit Lakes native.

Johnson beat Sharon Anderson 58 percent to 42 percent in the primary. Anderson is not a lawyer and is a frequent candidate that some Republicans feared because Anderson is a good Minnesota ballot name.


On Wednesday, campaigns heated up even more than they were before.

Republicans, for instance, released a 17-page document that in a large part quotes Democrats complaining about Hatch. It quotes news coverage of state Sen. Becky Lourey -- whose primary challenge to Hatch fell far short -- saying that Hatch is too angry to win: ``You need someone who's not angry and who really believes in the future.''

After conceding to Hatch Tuesday night, Lourey said she would support him.

The GOP released a report similar to the Hatch one about Klobuchar.



Most attention Tuesday was centered on the Minneapolis-area congressional race won by state Rep. Keith Ellison. He collected 41 percent of the vote to succeed Martin Sabo, who has been in the U.S. House 28 years.

The district is heavily Democratic, but Republicans are high on Alan Fine and Independence Party candidate Tammy Lee gives herself a good chance.

Lee is an Alexandria native who attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., worked for Fox News, served as press secretary of Democratic U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and became a Twin Cities business executive.

Independence insiders privately said before the primary that Ellison would be an easier candidate for Lee to challenge than some of the others in the seven-person race. On Wednesday, Lee touted her business background and said she is more fiscally prudent than Ellison; she pretty much ignored Fine.

Ellison is thought to have little money left in his campaign and Lee has raised only $80,000 so far.

Normally the Democrat wins in the district, the state's most left leaning. If Ellison keeps that tradition alive, he would be the first Muslim congressman.

Ellison's Tuesday victory came despite extensive Twin Cities' publicity about his failure to pay parking tickets and violating some campaign finance rules.


Carey said GOP candidate Rod Grams ``is working his tail off'' in Northeastern Minnesota's 8th Congressional District.

The party chairman tipped Grams' hand on Wednesday when he said Oberstar ``seems to have found his way back to the 8th Congressional District.'' Grams, a former U.S. senator, plans a news conference today criticizing Oberstar's use of government-paid travel outside of Minnesota.

Grams and other Republicans claim Oberstar spends little time in Minnesota, although the congressman says he is back home most weekends.

Melendez downplayed Grams' chances.

``I don't think the 8th really is in play,'' the DFL chairman said.

``Lightning can strike,'' Carey said of Grams' chances.

Oberstar has never had as strong a Republican challenger as Grams. At the same time, the southern part of the district -- which stretches nearly to the Twin Cities -- is becoming more Republican.

What To Read Next
Get Local