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Judge orders 35 random ballots tossed in tight House race

City Center building sold again; home sales on rise; Rukavina roasted; Accretive pays 90 in settlement; DUI patrols bolstered; Best Buy stock battered; expensive races; and more.

What century is this? WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler reports on the rather medieval approach to House District 8B’s mangled election: “A Minnesota judge has ruled that election officials must randomly cancel 35 ballots in a tight legislative race due to a counting error. The law says judges must close their eyes, reach into the pile of votes and pull out excess ballots at random. The action has ramifications for the unresolved contest between Republican Rep. Mary Franson and Democratic challenger Bob Cunniff. Franson is ahead by a single vote pending a probable recount. A Douglas County judge sided Tuesday with Franson and ordered that the county canvassing board remove the ballots before a tally is certified on Wednesday.” How about we throw a dead cat over a nun’s left shoulder and see if it floats?

Once derided as “a giant salmon loaf,” the main building of Minneapolis’ City Center has been sold … again. Says Janet Moore in the Strib: “Terms were not disclosed, but sources have previously put the price at about $207 million. Formerly known as the International Multifoods Tower, the 50-story 33 South Sixth building occupies an entire city block bordered by Nicollet Mall, Hennepin Avenue, 6th and 7th streets. The 29-year-old building, which was sold by Brookfield Office Properties Inc., spans 1.6 million square feet of commercial space, including 1.1 million square feet of Class A office space on top of City Center, which spans 489,000-square-feet. The deal also includes a 687-stall, three-story parking garage, and a ground lease for the adjacent 583-room Minneapolis Marriott City Center Hotel.”

Echoing a national trend, Minnesota’s home sales took a healthy upward tick in October. Jim Buchta of the Strib says: “Minnesota home sales last month got a healthy boost from record low mortgage rates and strengthening consumer confidence, but the gains weren’t felt evenly across the state. That’s according to a monthly report from the Minnesota Association of Realtors (MAAR), which said that during October there were 7,662 closings, an 8 percent increase from last year. … In six regions the number of closings was either flat, or had fallen compared with last year. In the Southwest Central Region, for example, sales were down 21 percent, and in the Headwaters sales were off a whopping 26 percent.”

Veteran Iron Range DFLer Tom Rukavina got a farewell roast. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune reports, “More than 400 people crammed into the Community Center here Monday night to munch on brats and Polish sausage, sip beer and tell stories about retiring state Rep. Tom Rukavina, most of which probably were true. … The feisty, vertically challenged DFLer announced in May he wouldn’t seek re-election. ‘Tommy Rukavina knows the Range. Tommy Rukavina speaks for the Range. Tommy Rukavina is the Range. I begin my remarks with those three quotes from Tommy Rukavina,’ Franken joked. Rukavina countered that he and Franken, who is nearly as short, were really twin brothers, separated at birth. ‘I was the runt of the litter,’ Rukavina claimed.”

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Being thrown out of the state is one thing, but having to actually cough up cash is another. Christopher Snowbeck of the PiPress says: “Attorney General Lori Swanson’s investigation of collection tactics at Fairview Health Services reached a milestone on Tuesday, Nov. 20, with the distribution of $364,000 in awards split among 90 people who claimed they were wrongly pressured for payments while receiving care. The money comes from a July settlement in which a Fairview vendor called Accretive Health paid $2.49 million to resolve allegations that the company broke state debt collection and consumer protection laws. … Checks were sent to claimants on Monday and Tuesday, said Ben Wogsland, a spokesman for Swanson. Individual awards vary in size from $1,000 to $7,000, with the average award about $4,000.”

Thirteen of Minnesota’s 87 counties are going to get the most DUI patrols over the weekend. Says Alejandra Matos of the Strib: “The counties, selected because they have the highest combined totals of drunken-driving deaths and alcohol-related serious injuries, include the state’s population centers of the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester and St. Cloud. But other counties don’t fit that description. … two new counties on the list, Becker and Meeker, had unusually high numbers of fatalities and injuries compared to the ‘miles traveled’ in those areas.”

To protect and serve, fine. But don’t talk to us. Madeleine Baran of MPR writes: “ Our newsroom received an interesting press release today from the Minneapolis Police Department. Apparently, reporters around town have been acting like — get this —journalists. And the police department isn’t too pleased. From the release: During recent months, members of the Minneapolis Police Department have received telephone calls directly from various members of the media. This practice needs to discontinue immediately. Unless you are directed to do so, please do not contact them directly. The statement, titled ‘Message to the media,’ instructs reporters to contact one of the two official spokespersons for the police department to ‘discuss any media related interviews with any City of Minneapolis police employees.’ … I called the Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Stephen McCarty to find out what sparked today’s news release and left a voicemail. If I hear back, I’ll update this post.
Update: Sgt. McCarty called me back. He said there wasn’t one specific call from a reporter that led to the statement. I asked him why he issued it. ‘We just don’t want everyone talking to the media, that’s why,’ he told me.” Hey, someone has to decide what the public has a right to know.

It was a kind of Black Tuesday for Best Buy. The Wall Street Journal’s Ann Zimmerman and Joan E. Solsman wrote: “Best Buy Co.’s BBY -13.02% third-quarter financial results, which came in even weaker than the company had warned, underscore how difficult it will be to turn around the consumer electronics giant and suggest its holiday selling season will be gloomy indeed. The news prompted a selloff of the Richfield, Minn., retailer’s shares, which touched a 10-year low of $11.74 before closing off 13%, at $11.96 on Tuesday. The stock is down almost 50% so far this year. Retail experts said investors were particularly spooked because the company lowered its forecast of annual free cash flow by as much as $500 million, to a range of $850 million to $1.05 billion. Just three months earlier, it predicted it would have $1.25 billion to $1.5 billion in free cash flow. For retailers, dwindling cash flow is a problem because it can rattle suppliers, who may worry that they won’t get paid.”

Mark Sommerhauser of the St. Cloud Times has a good piece on a half-million in outside money poured into two state races in his area: “Two local legislative campaigns that attracted big bucks were in Senate District 14, the [John] Pederson-[Jerry] McCarter race, and in House District 14B, where DFLer Zachary Dorholt ousted GOP Rep. King Banaian. The figure of more than $540,000 spent in those races doesn’t include the final days of the campaign or certain types of spending by outside groups that doesn’t have to be reported. Most spending wasn’t by the candidates’ campaigns, which face strict limits on what they can spend in Minnesota, but by political party units or outside groups allied with various interests. A leading outside group that shaped the Dorholt-Banaian race, the pro-DFL Alliance for a Better Minnesota, was bankrolled by groups funded by a wealthy donor who supplied more than $800,000 for the cause. … Alliance for a Better Minnesota — the pro-DFL group funded by groups bankrolled in part by Gov. Mark Dayton’s ex-wife, Rockefeller heiress Alida Messinger — was the biggest outside player in the Banaian-Dorholt race, spending more than $70,000 against Banaian. Minnesota’s Future, a pro-Republican group, was Banaian’s chief outside ally, spending more than $50,000 for Banaian and against Dorholt. Pro Jobs Majority, a group created by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, loomed large in the McCarter-Pederson race, forking over nearly $40,000 in support of Pederson.”

As a chaser, you might want to reader conservative blogger Gary Gross’s take on this matter. It concludes with this semi-classic threat: “What this means is that Gov. Dayton’s words, Pat Kessler’s words and other biased media’s words didn’t have a hint of truth to them. It’s worth noting that ABM didn’t hesitate in using them in their statewide smear campaign against GOP candidates. It’s time for Mr. Sommerhauser and other reporters to blister Alida Messinger, Gov. Dayton and the Twin Cities media for telling the whoppers that they told. If he won’t, citizen journalists like Mitch Berg and myself will expose the DFL for the corrupt political party it is.” Hey, guys, can I see your “citizen journalist” badges?