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Primaries for Minnesota governor looking wide open

August 4, 2018

On primary Election Day, Aug. 14, Ill be writing about the results in the governors race. Ill have to be ready to write three different results on the DFL side and two on the Republican.

Sure, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is favored to beat Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson on the strength of money and familiarity after two terms as Republican governor. But Pawlenty is spending serious cheddar to beat Johnson more than $500,000 in mail and TV ads alone as of July 31. That tells you its no blowout.

On the DFL side, the race feels even more unpredictable. Attorney General Lori Swanson is best known to statewide voters, but her campaign has been stung by accusations that her running mate, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, didnt take seriously sexual harassment by an aide. The story has received wide airing in Nolans home turf of Duluth, where the local newspaper endorsed U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

And state Rep. Erin Murphy may be peaking at the right moment, just as she did before the DFL convention.

The broader point here is that its pointless to prognosticate because all scenarios seem possible, and we dont really know whats happening because good primary polling is too expensive. The pollsters have to make too many calls to reach a random sampling of likely primary voters, who are hard to find because of relatively low turnout.

Lewis vs. Craig?

U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis invitation to DFLer Angie Craig to do five debates was intriguing, and would provide useful information for the voters making their decision if Craig agrees to the debates.

Lewis is an accomplished radio talk show host, in which he was paid to be provocative, as his campaign said in response to CNN stories about some of his, well, provocative opinions about all kinds of things, most recently that the black community had traded one plantation for another.

Point being, for better or worse, he can speak fluidly about a range of subjects, whereas Craig is newer to this kind of format.

But offering to debate five times doesnt sound like the move of an incumbent who thinks hes in fine shape for re-election.

Lewis campaign manager, Becky Alery, told me its simply a matter of getting Craig to engage on important issues shes thus far avoided.

I asked Alery if they would be offering to debate five times if they were up 10 points.

She replied: Jason Lewis has concrete ideas on how we can move Minnesota and the country forward. And hes running against a candidate who seems to have trouble communicating why she deserves to represent Minnesota. Seems like a win-win to me.

Replacing Peppin

The internal battle in the House GOP caucus is on to replace Joyce Peppin as majority leader following her retirement. Reps. Tony Albright, Jim Nash and Pat Garofalo are all fundraising for colleagues and whipping votes, a GOP source tells me.

Separately, another source told me to watch Rep. Ron Kresha, long believed to be on the rise.

J. Patrick Coolican 651-925-5042 Twitter: @jpcoolican patrick.coolican@startribune.com

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