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Dayton shines as fundraising star for legislative candidates

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Not a born campaigner, Gov. Mark Dayton nevertheless is in demand this election season.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s own campaign cupboard is a little bare, but this summer he’s raised thousands of dollars for the campaigns of fellow DFLers running for the Legislature. And there’s more to follow.

According to his political director, Julie Hottinger, Dayton has headlined eight events for the state House and Senate DFL caucus, six fundraising events for individual candidates, and has 40 fundraisers pending.

“Our requests have just picked up a ton in the last couple of days,” Hottinger said. “We’re working on what we can fit in.”  

Dayton says he’s all in. “I’ve got a lot at stake in terms of the outcome of the legislative races,” he said in an interview at the governor’s residence, explaining why he’s spending political capital on races other than his own. “What the last two years have given us is an impasse and lack of meaningful progress.”

He said that Republicans have been forced to take such hard-positions that future legislative majorities will lead to gridlock. “We’ll be at loggerheads all the way through,” he said.

In demand

Not a born campaigner, Dayton nevertheless is in demand this election season. “I’ve told candidates I’ll do whatever helps them the most,” he chuckled. “I’ll campaign for them or I’ll campaign against them, whatever does the most good.”

While always popular among DFL activists, a recent poll gives Dayton an overall approval rating of 56 percent.

His popularity is a change from the 2010 election cycle, when many candidates shied away from a Dayton association, mainly because of his enthusiastic calls for an income tax increase among the state’s higher wage earners.

Hottinger says she’s heard of no similar apprehensions or concerns this year. “He’s a huge draw right now,” she said. “We are getting requests from all over the state, all sorts of legislative districts.”   

Dayton says the fundraising experience has exacerbated his frustration with the contribution limits imposed by campaign finance laws. State Senate and House candidates can received a maximum of $500 in individual contributions. The same limit applies to gubernatorial candidates in a non-election year.

“The limits are so absurdly low in this era of what it costs to have a campaign,” he said. “The limits haven’t been changed or indexed since 1994. Seems to me in this era, you should have reasonable limits with immediate disclosure of every dollar that goes in.”

Asked whether he’d endorse a bill to raise campaign contribution and spending limits, Dayton said now wasn’t the time to get specific, but “the Republicans are going to have the same problem, so there might be an interest in talking about that.”

Dayton restated his intention to run for re-election in 2014. At the moment, though, his campaign organization is spare, consisting only of political director Hottinger and a couple of interns. The most recent finance report for “Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota” shows the campaign with a cash balance $46,000. He has not made a recent major fundraising push, to the chagrin of key supporters and advisers.

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
“Every time I’m about ready to send one [contribution request] out, the DFL or one of the caucuses asks me to send one out for them. I’ve been giving them the priority.”

“I’ve gotten serious pushback from some of my folks, like Tom Borman, my excellent finance chair, and others, for not having done more,” Dayton said. “Every time I’m about ready to send one [contribution request] out, the DFL or one of the caucuses asks me to send one out for them. I’ve been giving them the priority.”

Opposes amendments

Another priority are the proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot. In a fundraising email, he describes them as “two terrible amendments to our Constitution, which would deny some Minnesota the equal right to marry legally the person they love and many others the right vote.”  Dayton has joined with the opposition groups to both amendments and headlined a major fundraiser for Minnesotans United for All Families, the umbrella group opposing the marriage amendment.

Dayton says he will focus on his own re-election campaign in good time. “Between Election Day and New Year’s, most sensible people are involved in the holidays,” he said. “Even activists need a little bit of a breather, but on January second, the bell rings and you’ve got 22 months to the election.” And in between, he points out, he is still the governor dealing with two more legislative sessions.

And he adds: “A year is a millennium in politics. Things are so volatile now, so subject to events that we can’t even see much, less control [developments].” That’s another reason, he said, that the only prize he is eyeing is the outcome in November 2012.

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Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/22/2012 - 08:18 am.

    A politician’s popularity

    is in direct proportion to how many goodies he can pass out and his history of doing so.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/22/2012 - 09:51 am.

      Reread the article, Dennis

      Dayton has not ‘passed out’ any goodies.
      He’s helped at fundraisers, convincing other people to contribute to DFL campaigns.
      He’s popular because most Minnesotans think that his actions as governor have been good for the state.
      Of course, you know better.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/22/2012 - 11:35 am.

        Taxpayers be damned

        “The tentative contract agreements negotiated by Gov. Mark Dayton with the state’s two largest unions are representative of the problem today in state government: protecting the status quo and asking Minnesota taxpayers to pay more for it. Members of AFSCME and MAPE have been working for the past year and a half without a new contract. That wasn’t a problem for their members. The current contract, which includes a $43 million increase for built-in autopilot pay increases and free health insurance for state employees, remains in place until a new deal is approved. In other words, the unions have all the leverage. They can continue working until Dayton offers them a contract even better than the ever-increasing pay and benefits they currently receive. … The new contract also ignores substantial pay-for-performance reforms approved by the Legislature in 2011 and 2012. The governor preserved the status quo of rewarding employees for length of service with virtually automatic ‘step’ increases as a proxy for employee value and performance.”

        I guess you wouldn’t care if you belong to government union or don’t pay taxes.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/22/2012 - 03:47 pm.

          Is this who you’re quoting?

          At the URL you posted:
          “Three GOP legislators take Gov. Dayton to the woodshed for supporting … unions.”

        • Submitted by tony nelson on 08/23/2012 - 12:36 pm.


          So Mr. Tester hates unions. Unions created the middleclass. They gave us the 40 hour week overtime pay, paid vacations, pensions & some job security. All contracts are approved by the management. Without unions you have no bargaining chip w/mgmt in today’s world. With todays glut of unemployed, mgmt is cutting pay, reducing vacations & increasing the cost of health insurance covered by employees. The loyalty to employees in years past has been replaced with a feudal version where the employees are serfs to their lords instead of partners with their employers. Thsi is what we had before unions. Dont like union pensions? Where is yours, your father had one, why is he smarter than you? The middle class needs to return to unions or there will be no middleclass.

          • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/23/2012 - 10:02 pm.

            Yeah, unions are so popular

            that they only exist through the force of law. As we’ve seen in Wisconsin and elsewhere, if given a choice of being in the union or freedom, most people vote with their feet.

    • Submitted by Solly Johnson on 08/22/2012 - 11:41 am.


      Perhaps that explains the popularity of Ronald Reagan, who had one of the largest deficit spending records of any of our presidents.

  2. Submitted by Dale Torgerson on 08/22/2012 - 10:05 am.


    He hunts, he fishes, he played hockey, he spends his own money getting elected. He states his positions. He stays in Minnesota. By contrast, look at his predecessor and the guy he defeated, and the state of the Minnesota State GOP before and since Dayton’s election. He’ll get the job again if he wants it.

  3. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 08/22/2012 - 11:53 am.

    Governor Dayton turned out to be more of a gem than I initially thought. He has been courageous and stood up to bluster and made decisions that were not necessarily popular, although right. He has done his best to compromise with the republicans and when he could not because they would not budge a centimeter, he’s stood his ground.

    • Submitted by Pete Barrett on 08/22/2012 - 04:19 pm.

      Aid For Dependent Franchises

      Except for Ziggy’s welfare check. That wasn’t right. It was wrong, and at minimum it could have cost us a lot less than it will.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/22/2012 - 07:30 pm.

    I do wonder…

    …what level of compensation for state employees would be acceptable to Mr. Tester?

    Mr. Dayton appears to be doing exactly what Governors typically do, no matter what political party they come from, and even if they come from no party at all. I wasn’t here, so I can’t vouch for it personally, but I suspect Jesse Ventura wasn’t afraid to make a speech or two to support people who’d supported him. It’s not just politics, it’s human nature. Mr. Dayton is not… how to put this delicately… a dynamic speaker, but he comes across as caring and sincere, and those are qualities I like to see in my fellow humans, including those that are elected officials.

  5. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 08/24/2012 - 09:07 pm.

    public vs private

    I wonder why conservatives keep repeating how envious they are of public workers when public workers make less than private ones. A comparison of private sector jobs and public sector — state and local government employees — shows that ALL WORKERS make an average of about $71,000 and public about $69,000. If you compare employees by education, at every level public employees make less. E.g., those with master’s degrees in private industry make almost $119,000, those in public employ make over $82,000. Benefits are usually better, but all workers should have decent benefits in terms of health care, sick leave, vacation, retirement, and so on.
    I worked for a state agency for 10 years, then left to go into private industry and made more money but did not have as many benefits.
    Is this class envy? Class warfare?
    Ordinary workers should get decent pay and benefits no matter where they work and no one should begrudge them. When one group of employees makes more money, eventually all employees do. That’s why when unions get higher wages for employees, everyone’s pay eventually goes up to match.

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