Capital Chatter: Voters thrown into unknown territory
ST. PAUL -- Many Minnesota voters don't know where they are.
At least, many don't know where they live in terms of political districts after congressional, legislative and many local boundaries were redrawn earlier this year.
Fewer than a quarter of Minnesotans stopping in the state Senate's State Fair booth knew their new legislative district and candidates, long-time Senate public information official Scott Magnuson said.
"We have looked up hundreds" of districts for fair visitors, he said.
The confusion comes after the every-10-year redrawing of political boundaries. In some cases, districts changed little. But some districts retained little of their old territory.
The Senate booth featured computers visitors used to check their legislative districts and candidates on their Nov. 6 ballots.
Magnuson said most voters have heard there are new districts, but they do not know specifics.
Minnesotans who did not look up their districts at the fair may visit mnvotes.org.
Even if some voters were confused, Magnuson said, visitors to the Senate booth were "in a much better frame of mind" than a year ago when a government shutdown just had ended.
U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., was in the region recently, but don't expect the congressman to visit a Duluth community hall any time soon, Duluth News Tribune reporter Mike Creger said.
Cravaack said that his next public appearance in his district's largest city will be Oct. 9, the date of a debate with Democratic opponent Rick Nolan sponsored by the News Tribune and the Chamber of Commerce.
On Wednesday he was in Two Harbors for a "meet and greet" campaign event after stopping in Taconite Harbor to talk about what he is calling onerous Environmental Protection Agency proposals that will stymie growth of the mining industry.
Cravaack's campaign Website and Facebook page offer no event information. The News Tribune learned about Cravaack's Two Harbors evening appearance because a supporter called to inform the newspaper in late afternoon, saying he had heard people grumble about Cravaack not spending time in the region talking to the public about issues.
Cravaack made a sweep through Duluth after the primary election Aug. 14, when Nolan emerged as his opponent. He spent part of one day at the State Fair in the Twin Cities.
The congressman acknowledged that because he has been on the road, he did not watch much of the Republican National Convention.
"This is how I get ideas," he said of rooms like the one at the Two Harbors Community Center.
Republicans are enjoying an advertisement Democrats placed in the Bemidji Pioneer blasting two GOP lawmakers running for re-election.
The ad accuses Reps. Larry Howes of Walker and David Hancock of Bemidji of not "telling the truth" about their votes on the state budget. Next to photos of two men, quotes attributed to the lawmakers are labeled "false."
The problem is that the Hancock photo is not the Minnesota politician. Republicans pointed out on Twitter that it actually is a Canadian politician of the same name. One GOP activist wondered on Twitter why House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, cannot recognize the Bemidji man he has served with for 18 months.
The ad concludes: "If we can't trust Rep. Hancock and Rep. Howes to tell the TRUTH about the budget, what CAN we trust them on?"
Thissen shrugged his shoulders when asked about the photo mix-up, but quickly found his voice when thinking about Hancock: "He hasn't left much of a legacy."
DFL tries for House
Democratic-Farmer-Laborites are making a strong play to retake the Minnesota House.
Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, sent an email to supporters featuring the number 681.
"It's the number of votes it took to give the GOP the House majority in St. Paul," Thissen wrote. "And what did they do with that majority? Republicans pushed an amendment to ban gay marriage and another restricting voting rights for many Minnesotans. They even shut down the government for purely partisan reasons."
At a State Fair event, Thissen and other Democrats grumbled that Republicans have not repaid $2.4 billion the state has borrowed from schools by delaying payments. But that is an issue Republicans also use, saying Democrats also delayed payments and have not paid them back.
Free Dakota day
The Minnesota History Center, near the state Capitol, will host a free-admission day Sept. 29 to honor Dakota Indians.
The event will feature Dakota artwork, flute music, a drum and dance expo, a cooking demonstration, games, a craft activity and other activities.
The Minnesota Revenue Department says it is not making calls to taxpayers asking for payments to get a tax refund.
A group calling itself "Alliance" is calling Minnesotans claiming to be "Minnesota internal service representatives," the department reports. The caller claims there is a large refund waiting, but a payment must be sent before the refund is processed.
The department says it never charges a fee before sending out refunds.
Also, Alliance asks for some personal or banking information, although it already may have some information on the taxpayer. The department says it never calls and asks for personal information.
A vested interest
Minnesota's lone Republican National Convention vote for Rick Santorum came from Bill Batchelder, the Bemidji man whose sweater factory hosted Santorum when the former Pennsylvania senator still was a presidential candidate.
Santorum is fond of Bemidji Woolen Mills sweater vests, and often could be seen in one as he campaigned.
"I was totally committed to Rick Santorum," Batchelder told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. "The only reason I'm here today, the only reason, is because of Rick Santorum."
Business vs. politics
The leader of J.C. Penney will share ideas with Minnesotans about how to deal with public policy issues.
In an Oct. 25 Minneapolis appearance, open free to the public, Edina native Ron Johnson will talk about how his work is related with public policy discussions. He created the concept of the Apple Store and Target's upscale merchandising.
"The world has become so partisan that people have opted out, putting our nation's future at risk," Johnson said.
The event will be 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 25 at Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis.