Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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Another wave of Minnesota National Guard soldiers will return home this week after an extended deployment in Iraq. More than 700 Minnesota National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division -- the "Red Bulls" -- will return to 10 armories around the state. That includes eight Northland members of the unit who will return to the Duluth National Guard Armory on Airpark Boulevard sometime after 1 p.m.
ST. PAUL -- The ease of making a "dirty bomb" from nuclear material no longer is a dirty secret. "There are gaping holes in the system," U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said, adding that federal officials promise to change that. At a hearing last week, Coleman talked to Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials about a Government Accountability Office report showing it was easy to obtain nuclear material for use in a dirty bomb. Federal officials said that they did not think terrorists had the technical ability to make a bomb that spreads dangerous nuclear radiation.
Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign is struggling, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty admits there are problems. "Obviously, it has not gone as well as he had hoped," McCain's national co-chairman said on WDAY radio's "Hot Talk." Pawlenty said he still thinks McCain would be a good president and offered hope that he can "restart" the campaign. The governor may have a big title, but Pawlenty said his co-chairmanship "is really a ceremonial job." His only role has been to fill in when McCain cannot speak at an event, about once a month, Pawlenty added.
Freshman U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat serving southern Minnesota, says there is no way he will challenge U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman next year. "No means no," he said, reacting to repeated rumors that he will enter the race against Democrats Al Franken, Mike Ciresi and others. But, Walz said, he understands why people ask him: "There is somewhat of a concern right now that none of our candidates have won a federal race." "The frustration with Sen. Coleman is almost so thick you can almost cut it with a knife," he added.
A new blog boasts accomplishments of Minnesota's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty. The blog, www.partyofpawlenty.com , touts "one of the conservative movement and Republican Party's most significant new voices," said one of its authors, Chris Tiedeman. If you visit, expect rhetoric like this Tiedeman comment: "Some say great leaders are defined by their time; by a particular moment in history. Others say great leaders transcend their time. Tim Pawlenty does both." Pawlenty often is mentioned as a national candidate in 2008 or 2012.
There was a lot of discussion in some quarters last week about the possibility Minnesota will lose a congressional seat after the 2010 census. That was not news to people who follow national politics because mostly rural states have lost congressional seats to the rapidly growing urban states for decades. If the federal census were taken now, Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy says the state would lose one of its eight U.S. House members.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota's Democratic activists are taking sides in the Al Franken-Mike Ciresi Democratic race for U.S. Senate 16 months before the election. Both candidates, the two leading Democrats for the post, are touting endorsements they are receiving from legislators and others. Franken plays up his Teamsters endorsement, adding it to an earlier United Steelworkers announcement of support. The comedian and radio talk show host also produced names of legislators in his corner, including Rep. Tom Anzelc of Balsam Township, the first Iron Range legislator to endorse Franken.
Minnesota will receive $500,000 to improve math and science education. Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced the grant from the National Governors' Association, which he leads for the next year. "This grant helps us continue our work to ensure that even more students understand the role math and science can play in their future success," Pawlenty said.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's premier rural economic development program has come under fire on two more fronts. A new left-leaning think tank called the Job Opportunity Building Zones program "ineffectual." And southern Minnesota firms took JOBZ to court, saying it gave their competitors advantages by offering big tax breaks. The program already has survived one court challenge. The new think tank, called Minnesota 2020, issued a report claming the state spends too much time luring big manufacturing plants to rural Minnesota and offering tax breaks under JOBZ. A long-time St.
ST. PAUL - Judges could be for sale to campaign contributors if Minnesota follows other states and judicial campaigns begin soliciting big donors, the state chief justice told fellow lawyers Friday. "Minnesotans do not want judges to be beholden to special interest groups," Russell Anderson said during his annual State of the Judiciary speech to the Minnesota State Bar Association. "Minnesota has a lot to lose. Let it not be said it was lost on our watch." Anderson has talked about the issue of money in judicial campaigns for the year and a half he has been Minnesota's top judge.