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Hoeven is 'average' governor, Cato says

Using its customary colorful language, the libertarian Cato Institute grades North Dakota Gov.

Using its customary colorful language, the libertarian Cato Institute grades North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven a "C" in its biennial governors fiscal report card ( www.cato.org ).

Report author Stephen Slivinski writes that Hoeven is prone to cut taxes such as the corporate income tax but gets merely an average grade because of his "penchant for corporate welfare boondoggles" such as support for ethanol subsidies and because the state budget has grown an average of more than 4 percentage points in real per capita terms during the past two years.

Slivinski said the governor should "get his big-spending tendencies under control" to earn a better grade.

Hoeven said through spokesman Don Canton that Cato doesn't have its facts straight and that he doesn't govern based on what grade Cato might give him.

"He's been squarely focused on what best serves the people of North Dakota," Canton said.

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Larger numbers

Low- and middle-income Minnesotans appear ready to vote in larger numbers than usual.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN, collected more than 13,000 voter registrations by last week's registration deadline. That is the most ever for the organization.

ACORN focused on low- and moderate-income families, which make up its membership. The group said so many people wanted to vote this year because they are not satisfied with the status quo.

"This is a first step in mobilizing people to get involved in their communities and make sure politicians pay attention to our communities' concerns," state ACORN leader Kim Vaye said.

Quick capitulation

Education and health care are among the organization's main concerns, Vaye said.

A company that made an illegal "robo-call" to North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's home this month quickly complied with his office's demand that it promise in writing never to do it again.

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The e-mail from Win Your Race LLC - whose call originated in Wyoming, but which lists Longwood, Fla., as its address - came with the subject line: "NO MAS" (no more) and the message: "I will not send any additional automated calls into the state of North Dakota," signed Ernest M. Wright Jr.

In a recent national development on robo-calls, the Federal Trade Commission decided it would not allow companies to use taped telemarketing calls anywhere in the country even if they claim a "prior business relationship" with the recipient. The only exception is if the consumer had consented in writing to such calls.

Big names possible

John McCain, U.S. senator and potential 2008 presidential nominee, might not be the only high-profile Republican stumping for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's re-election bid in the next couple of weeks.

McCain, R-Ariz., is scheduled to appear with Pawlenty on the Minnesota campaign trail Nov. 1. Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said last week that other popular Republicans could be swinging through the state to help Pawlenty, but he didn't identify any.

"It's exciting, particularly for your base, your volunteers, to have a big name come in," McClung said. "I don't know that it has really a big impact on the overall race."

It was not immediately known whether similar plans are being made with top Democrats for the campaign of Mike Hatch, Pawlenty's DFL opponent and the current attorney general.

Doing better

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October SurveyUSA results show an uptick in President Bush's approval ratings among North Dakotans, from 43 percent in September to 46 percent this month.

Gov. John Hoeven scored his highest rating in the past year and a half, rising from 78 percent to 82 percent.

SurveyUSA has not posted October results for Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan.

Better days

Minnesota House Democrats apparently are getting along better these days.

It was no secret there were some problems when Rep. Matt Entenza of St. Paul led the caucus, especially when he became very active in running for attorney general (before he dropped out amid controversy).

"There were some more tensions under our last leader than under our current leaders," Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said.

Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis took over when Entenza left.

Guard and legislators

North Dakota National Guard officials and the enlisted and officer associations begin a series of breakfast and lunch meetings with legislators around the state this week, beginning Tuesday morning in Dickinson. They will also be in Bismarck, Jamestown, Williston, Minot, Devils Lake, Grand Forks and Fargo.

Food, trail don't mix

Candidates get plenty of offers to eat while they're campaigning, but some say that's a bad habit to get into.

Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch said he makes a conscious effort not to eat at most of his gubernatorial campaign events, such as when he recently greeted electricians at a union hall. They were feasting on pork and fixings, but Hatch didn't dig in. He said campaign functions often have good food, but said he avoids it to maintain a slender frame.

"I make a point not to eat" while campaigning, he said. "But I'd rather eat."

That's a lot

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that voters nationwide will consider 205 state ballot measures on Nov. 7. This, the NCSL says, is the second-highest total of measures in the past 100 years: "Hot issues include property rights, same-sex marriage, tobacco bans and minimum wage."

Daily dose of Hatch

Losing track of the days remaining before Nov. 7? Don't worry. The Minnesota Republican Party last week distributed desktop calendars featuring "20 days of tax increases" it says DFL governor candidate Mike Hatch has embraced.

The calendar "sets the record straight about Hatch's record on taxes," GOP Chairman Ron Carey said.

Don't expect a similar gimmick from Hatch's notoriously frugal campaign.

"We're going to save our money," Hatch spokeswoman Leslie Sandberg quipped, suggesting Republicans aren't as fiscally conservative as they claim.

Readers can reach Forum Capitol reporters Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830 or Don Davis at (651) 290-0707. Forum Communications reporter Scott Wente contributed to this report.

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