This week in campaign coverage: FarmFest, campaign finance updates and pre-primary wrap-ups

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Gubernatorial candidates Tim Pawlenty and Tim Walz greet attendees at this year's FarmFest near Redwood Falls.

Welcome to This Week in Campaign Coverage, a weekly roundup of notable 2018 election reporting from around Greater Minnesota.

This week has been a busy one, with gubernatorial, U.S. Senate and other key debates. For the first time, all five major candidates for governor were present at FarmFest — which is finishing up today, so be on the lookout for more coverage of its forums and other ag-related events in Greater Minnesotan news outlets. Also, here are the newly updated pre-primary campaign finances.

And finally, what we’ve all been waiting for: The primary is next Tuesday, Aug. 14.


Before Wednesday’s FarmFest debate, Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Jeff Johnson had already warmed up in their debate last Friday hosted by MPR News. They covered a lot of topics, the most notable squabble being who the bigger Trump supporter is. Kyle Potter at The Associated Press writes, “The two candidates laid out few policy differences during a nearly hour-long debate … differing largely on style rather than substance. Both vowed to eliminate the state’s taxes on Social Security income — a popular topic among Minnesota Republicans — if elected, and voiced their support for Trump’s moves to cut federal taxes and curtail illegal immigration.” If you don’t have the time to listen to an hourlong debate, here’s our own Peter Callaghan on the five things we learned from it and a few highlights. And here are Pawlenty and Johnson’s campaign finance updates.

Pawlenty recently stopped in Rochester, where he focused on education and pushed alternatives to a four-year college degree, an idea that other candidates have also talked about. Johnson has also been busy, stopping in St. Cloud, Benton County Fair, and Bemidji, where he said, “We take too much in taxes from people right now. We overtax everybody in the state. That has to change.” Both Johnson and DFLer Erin Murphy stopped in the Granite Falls to make their final pitches to area voters before the primary. 

DFLer Rep. Tim Walz touted his affinity and appeal to Greater Minnesota in a recent visit to St. Cloud’s Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility. He repeated his commitment to rural Minnesota by outlining his Small Town and Regional Vitality Act in Eyota. See some photos of the visit here.

Attorney general Lori Swanson made an appearance in International Falls, amid calls from some corners for her running mate Rick Nolan to resign. On the same day, The Intercept released an article accusing Swanson of pressuring and relying on government employees for campaign work. Swanson’s team responded the next day, denying the accusations and stating, “As we get closer to the primary, we anticipate a continued onslaught of politically motivated attacks.” 

U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith stopped by Moorhead and St. Cloud to talk health care. Meanwhile, Republican state Sen. Karin Housley discussed elder care at St. Gertrude’s Health in Shakopee. At a stop in St. Cloud, University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, who’s running against Smith in the DFL primary, said; “I think most Minnesotans are in a gray zone politically.”

All three, along with Republican candidate Bob Anderson and DFLer Nick Leonard, were part of a panel at FarmFest Tuesday. Along with explaining their views on tariffs and mental health issues, they spent some time talking about wolves. 

Attorney General

Matt Pelikan was all over the place this week, with stops in Rochester, Fairmount, St. Cloud, Winona, and Albert Lea. Though he’s 36, the DFL-endorsed hopeful continues to stress that he’s spent over 20 years in politics, starting as a precinct chair in Northfield. He’s running his campaign on ‘the three Es’ he says — economy, equal rights and the environment. “For me, empathy is so important,” Pelikan said. “I think lots of people struggle with feeling shut out of the system in different ways, and we’re trying to have a political process, economy and legal system that is open and equal for everyone.”

Fellow Democrat Mike Rothman has also been out in southern, central, and west central Minnesota campaigning recently, including in Alexandria and Fergus Falls. The former commerce commissioner has been stressing how he would protect consumers as AG: “I was the statewide consumer watchdog, no other candidate has that,” he said. “Most importantly I just want Minnesotans to know that I will work for them.”

Republican Doug Wardlow also visited Alexandria and St. Cloud. As for the other GOP candidate, Bob Lessard: he’s been reaching out to sportsment groups for support. 


First Congressional District Republican candidate Jim Hagedorn tells Rochester’s KIMT-TV that his legislative priorities are national security, growing the economy, sustaining agriculture, and protecting our human rights — in particular, the right to bear arms.

At FarmFest, the big issue for all the candidates is still trade. Hagedorn, State Sen. Carla Nelson, and Democrat Dan Feehan also discussed immigration, health care for farmers and agricultural research at their forum this week.


DFL Angie Craig held a health care forum in Northfield on July 30. While she doesn’t support a single-payer health care system, the Northfield News reported that “Craig supports a public option to buy in to Medicare, but doesn’t advocate cutting off health insurers. She looked to find common ground with the audience in Northfield,” according to the paper’s Philip Weyhe.


Though they share a lot of the same policy priorities, CD5 DFL candidates nevertheless faced off in a forum recently at a synagogue in St. Louis Park, where they got into the issue of the Israel-Palestine conflict. As FOX9’s Courtney Godfrey writes, “On all topics, most didn’t stray from party lines, but things did get personal — at least for Kelliher — when the topic of gun violence came up. Kelliher said her push for gun reform has been largely influenced by the 2012 Accent Signage shooting.”


Finally, Pete Stauber got another boost with a visit from vice president Mike Pence, who talked a lot about mining and did some fundraising.

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