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Why a Republican group is already going after DFL legislators

The Minnesota Action Network has already launched a mail campaign targeting DFL state Senators and Representatives.

The new year starts with evidence that outside Republican campaign groups intend to play early and often in response to concerns that they run a poor second to their DFL counterparts. 

One such outside group, the Minnesota Action Network, which is headed by former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, has already launched a mail campaign targeting DFL state senators and representatives.

“Call Senator Melisa Franzen,” reads a flyer that landed Saturday in the mailboxes of district 49 voters in Edina and Bloomington.  “Tell her to start 2015 off on the right path and oppose wasteful spending.”

Franzen is one of nine DFL state senators that many Republicans believe are vulnerable in 2016. In addition, the Minnesota Action Network is directing mail at three DFL House members who they also believe could be vulnerable in 2016.  The messages — on taxes and education — vary slightly, but the intent is the same: to get out early on the next election cycle to help Republicans retain control of the Minnesota House  — and re-take it in the Senate.

After Mark Dayton’s reelection as Governor, Republicans were quick to point out the need for a rich, coordinated and committed group to take on the DFL’s most prominent and effective “outside” group: Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a non-profit education and advocacy group that legally receives contributions in unlimited amounts from donors whose names are not required to be disclosed.

In a New Year’s Eve email to supporters that assessed his campaign, GOP candidate for governor Jeff Johnson acknowledged Democrats superior operation by extending a sideways compliment to ABM. “It appears that third-party spending against me was between 4 and 6 times greater than third-party spending against Dayton,” Johnson wrote.  “People love to complain about negative advertising, but if done correctly, it is very effective.”

Johnson also urged the formation of a third party group “dedicated solely to winning the governor’s office.” 

But 2016 will be all about control of the legislature. Republicans, who gained House seats in rural districts in 2014, have yet to recover from the ground they lost in the suburbs in recent election cycles, hence the focus on Franzen. 

A first-time candidate, Franzen defeated then state representative Keith Downey in 2012, a year when the ill-fated marriage amendment ballot measure galvanized not only liberals but social moderates, the kind of people who count for a lot of votes in Edina and Bloomington. 

The political arm of the Senate Republican caucus, under the leadership of David Hann, has already begun the groundwork of finding the right candidates.

In the meantime, the Minnesota Action Network is trying to soften the ground for those candidates, telling voters that as the legislature prepares for its 2015 session, “it’s time for them to start spending responsibly.”

As the legislative session progresses, it’s likely the Minnesota Action Network will continue similar voter outreach efforts, essentially starting the 2016 campaign before the book is closed on 2014, with an eye on a campaign even further out: the 2018 governor’s race.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/05/2015 - 09:51 am.


    And none of this effort is devoted to better government, just less expensive government, or simply winning an office. They’re not synonymous… “Softening the ground” for Republican candidates will – I hope – do little good if those candidates continue to center their campaigns on the intolerance and disdain for the poor that has characterized Republican campaigns over the past several years.

  2. Submitted by mark voorhees on 01/05/2015 - 10:27 am.

    GOP Agenda

    I’m noting many references by the GOP to cut wasteful spending. But last year under Gov. Dayton’s ‘unsession’ to make government more efficient and reduce costs, the republican party dismissed this movement. My senator, David Hann, criticized Dayton by saying ‘we have more important things to work on’.

    It seems their focus is to win the next election. As many republican campaigners like to say ‘work across the aisle’, this isn’t the tone to do so. It’s all about winning for themselves instead of working for Minnesota.

    It’s also noted the GOP created more committees. I thought that was a problem with government?

  3. Submitted by Sally Sorensen on 01/05/2015 - 11:11 am.

    Bluestem Prairie was all over yesterday

    It’s really unfortunate that Brucato continues her habit of ignoring the online sources that first break news. It’s not only ignores best media practices, but doesn’t link readers to earlier reports. (One earlier example was her “breaking” news on MN GOP House candidate Bob Frey’s anti-sodomy views, which had been covered for months by LGBT online news source The Column and Bluestem Prairie

    Bluestem Prairie was all over this yesterday and unlike Brucato, it named a number of Senators across the state whose constituents had received the postcards.

    Here are the posts:

  4. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 01/05/2015 - 12:33 pm.

    Thanks Norm.

    You are the poster child for all that is wrong with our political system. You did a fine job as mayor of St Paul: responsible budgeting and recognizing when tax dollars can be spent effectively to boost the local economy: The Xcel Energy Center and return of the NHL prove that to this day. Unfortunately, its all been down hill from there: 6 Years as a party line echo chamber in the Senate followed 7 years of doing anything for money except working for it. If you’re upset with the current status quo, run for office again; but, you really do like the current partisan political reality because flaming partisan fires is a vehicle for you to make easy money and that trumps all of your other needs and wants.

  5. Submitted by E Gamauf on 01/06/2015 - 08:29 am.

    Cutting to the Chase in the WHY question posed…

    …because they CAN.

    Its attack politics. Playing “gotcha” & getting the lobbyists in high gear.
    Rally the villagers & storm the castle.

    The Daily Show just did a segment about how “2015” is old news already,
    its all about 2016 & electoral politics a whole year out.

    Should I be amazed that this group was identified as a Republican group, not a PAC?
    Makes me glad Coleman is not a senator or mayor any longer.

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