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Key St. Louis County returns could be slow

Heavy turnouts reported; wind turbine production drops; improved Twins training facility; judge throws out school abuse case; Mervyn’s creditors payoff; and more.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is warning about delays in processing votes out of sprawling St. Louis County. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune says: “A rare, contentious write-in campaign for the western Duluth state House seat could delay St. Louis County election results — and thus final statewide election returns — into Wednesday morning. That’s the assessment of Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who said the county’s huge size, coupled with far-flung and very rural polling places, usually mean slower election returns. But counting hundreds of ballots with write-in votes by hand in House District 7B could slow that even more. ‘Everyone is going to be watching St. Louis because it has such a big impact on the final results for a lot of races, and that write-in campaign is going to have some impact on when we see the numbers,’ Ritchie said. ‘I don’t think there are any other major write-in races anywhere else in the state.’ The 7B issue arose when DFL incumbent state Rep. Kerry Gauthier dropped out of the race after the filing deadline ended. The Minnesota Supreme Court allowed the DFL party to replace Gauthier on the ballot with Erik Simonson.”

As of early afternoon, the Strib was reporting strong voter turnout. Richard Meryhew and Paul Walsh report: “At Woodbury Lutheran Church, nearly a quarter of the 2,500 voters registered at the precinct had voted by 10 a.m., according to head election judge Nancy Showalter. ‘I don’t know what’s bringing everybody out,’ Showalter said. ‘It could be either one, either the amendments or the presidential election. If you are not here for one, you are here for the other.’ Elsewhere, lines of voters were encircling neighborhood blocks, with people at many locations waiting 45 minutes and longer to cast a ballot. In a state known nationally for high voter turnout, Minnesotans appeared to be on track to bolster the state’s reputation.”

Walsh also posts: “Several hundred people were in line this morning at the Sibley Park voting station in south Minneapolis. They covered three sides of a city block.”

A personal favorite pundit, Dan Froomkin at the Huffington Post, is writing: “President Barack Obama is expected to win Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, keeping alive a streak of Democratic victories that extends back to 1976. Though the President has held a consistent lead in the blue-leaning state, Paul Ryan arrived on the ground to campaign just two days before election day. The North Star state will be sending approximately 3 million people to the polls on Tuesday. Two constitutional amendments are also on the docket: one defining marriage and one determining voting rules. The real action, though, may come in Minnesota’s 8th congressional district, one of the nation’s most expensive and most competitive races.” As an Election Day gift, here’s a Froomkin classic from 2006.

Why capture wind when you can frack? Dan Gunderson of MPR reports: “Hundreds of workers in our region are losing their jobs as wind turbine manufacturers cut production. The federal tax credit that subsidizes wind energy is set to expire at the end of the year, and political uncertainty is putting the brakes on the wind industry. More than 500 workers are losing their jobs in the Red River Valley. By the end of November, 345 workers who make wind turbine blades at a Grand Forks, N.D., factory will be out of work. Bill Burga, who heads manufacturing in North and South America for LM Wind Power, the Denmark-based company that operates a turbine blade plant in Grand Forks, said orders for next year have dried up because no one is sure if Congress will renew the wind energy tax credit.”

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The GleanHardly a surprise … . John Shipley of the PiPress says: “A $42.5 million renovation plan for the Twins’ training facility and Class A ballpark in Fort Myers, Fla., was approved Tuesday, Nov. 6, by the Lee County Board of Commissioners, 3-1. Assistant general manager Bill Smith said the Twins anticipate the improvements will be complete by 2015, at which time a new 30-year lease between the team and county will kick in. … Among changes to Hammond Stadium will be a new entrance with a view of the field, wide concourses, more shaded areas, new restrooms and better access to concessions. Seating also will be increased from 8,000 to 9,300.” I miss the cows beyond the outfield fences.

There’s a good argument to be had over a judge’s decision to throw out a sexual abuse lawsuit. David Hanners of the PiPress writes: “A judge has thrown out a former student’s fraud suit against the tony Breck School, saying the institution had no duty to tell him that one of its teachers had been accused of sexually abusing students. … In June, Richard Covin, a retired retina surgeon now living in Rhinelander, Wis., sued Jacobs and the private school in Golden Valley, claiming Jacobs assaulted him when he was a student there in the 1970s. He argued in his suit that school officials committed fraud because they knew of allegations against the teacher — another student had complained of abuse — but failed to warn Covin, his parents or others. But in an order issued Monday, Nov. 5, Hennepin County District Judge William Howard said that because Covin didn’t disclose his abuse to anyone at the school after it happened, the school didn’t have to tell Covin what it knew about Jacobs, ‘before or after the school learned of the abuse of the other student.’ “

A (real) job creator’s revenge … . Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says: “A manufacturer has sued Gov. Scott Walker and is claiming it does not have to turn over two new train sets that have cost the state more than $42 million. The state agreed in 2009 to buy two new train sets from Talgo Inc. for Amtrak’s Hiawatha line that runs from Milwaukee to Chicago, but Walker’s administration and Republicans in the Legislature have repeatedly clashed with the firm since last year. In March, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 on party lines to reject borrowing $2.5 million for additional planning to replace a maintenance base for the trains. Walker’s Department of Transportation said that vote meant the state would not be able to put the trains into service. … Talgo’s chief executive officer, Antonio Perez, said in a statement that Wisconsin has ‘used every conceivable excuse, whether fair or not and whether lawful or not, to ensure that Talgo did not receive what it bargained for, including by refusing to pay for the trains that Talgo completed.’ ‘I don’t see how any company would in the future choose to do business with the State of Wisconsin when the state has shown that it cannot be trusted to honor contracts that it signed,’ Perez’s statement said.”

Mervyn’s creditors will be getting a fat check from Target and its investment partners. Steve Alexander of the Strib says: “The creditors of bankrupt Mervyn’s, the former Target Corp. clothing subsidiary, will collect a $166 million settlement from Target, Cerberus Capital Management and about 40 other investors in connection with a 2008 lawsuit. …  Target officials did not yet have a response to the settlement this morning. Mervyn’s, based in Hayward, Calif., landed in bankruptcy in 2008, nearly four years after Target sold Mervyn’s to Cerberus Capital Management, Sun Capital and other investors for $1.25 billion.” Why does this pattern seem so familiar?