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Political notebook: Minnesota candidates collecting war chests

Political activists must be getting tired of answering the telephone, only to hear pleas for cash more than a year before the election. Candidates for Minnesota's U.S. Senate race are raising donations at a rapid pace considering how far away the...

Political activists must be getting tired of answering the telephone, only to hear pleas for cash more than a year before the election.

Candidates for Minnesota's U.S. Senate race are raising donations at a rapid pace considering how far away the election is. U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, the leading GOP candidate, and Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, who most insiders think is ahead in the Democratic race, each have nearly $1.5 million sitting in the bank. And both have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars already.

Other candidates have raised considerably less.

The contest is high on the national list of prominent races, and has been since Sen. Mark Dayton said earlier this year he would not run for re-election.

Well-known child advocate Patty Wetterling got into the Democratic side of the race Sunday, a few days after she sent a letter to supporters saying that if elected she would call for American troops to leave Iraq by Thanksgiving of 2006.


"The war in Iraq is costing this country and Minnesota in lives, treasure and opportunity, and we can no longer afford to continue down the path we're on," she wrote.

She said it was not an easy decision, "but with Saddam Hussein removed from power and an Iraqi government now in place, it is time to return our focus to making America stronger and safer."

Wetterling said Minnesota's share of the Iraqi war so far is more than $4.5 billion.

Who gets dibs?

In July, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., issued an invitation to Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt to come to North Dakota to help explain the new Medicare prescription drug program to seniors. Leavitt said he'd "love to."

Conrad issued the invitation during a Senate Budget Committee hearing and his office put out a news release about it the same day.

Well, Leavitt is coming to Fargo on Oct. 28. But it was Gov. John Hoeven's office that announced it at midmorning on Friday, saying Leavitt had accepted Hoeven's invitation to visit.

A few hours later, Conrad's staff, no doubt feeling a bit peeved, put out a news release that said, "As you may recall, Senator Conrad had extended the invitation ... at a July hearing."


Perhaps it is intraparty courtesy that a Republican Cabinet official lets the Republican governor announce the visit instead of deferring to the Democratic senator.

Anyway, when Conrad invited Leavitt to join him in North Dakota at Medicare meetings he planned to hold in churches, Conrad added: "Can I just say you haven't lived until you have gone to a Lutheran church basement lunch?"

No word yet whether Leavitt will be visiting a church basement for lunch on Oct. 28. Arrangements for the visit are still being worked out.

Exciting headache

Rod Skoe was working in his potato fields during Game 6 of the 1991 World Series.

When Kirby Puckett hit his famous 11th-inning home run that allowed the Minnesota Twins to come back and win baseball's title, Skoe was so excited he jumped up and hit his head on the tractor cab. But that excitement for the state's Major League Baseball team does not mean Skoe - or most other legislators - favor a special Minnesota legislative session to approve stadiums for the Twins, University of Minnesota or Vikings.

"We are all Twins fans, but we have to keep this in perspective." the Clearbrook state senator said by telephone last week as he finished his potato harvest.

Lesson one


When North Dakota Commerce Commissioner Lee Peterson's departure was announced and his successor, Shane Goettle, was introduced on Tuesday, someone asked what advice Peterson would give the new commissioner.

Without a hitch, Peterson said, "Take very good care of the people who work for the Department of Commerce. Make sure he does everything he can to keep those people in place."

Looking at beans

Otter Tail County-based Central Minnesota Soybean Producers will receive a $40,000 federal grant to determine if a soybean processing facility is feasible in central Minnesota.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said the grant comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through a fund created to support advances in agricultural production, processing, marketing and distribution.

Behind bars

The North Dakota Legislature's committee studying state correctional facilities goes to New England on Tuesday to visit the Dakota Women's Correctional Rehabilitation Center, and then will tour the main State Penitentiary in Bismarck on Wednesday.

Legislators are considering what to do with the state's increasingly spread out corrections system that has components in Jamestown, New England, Mandan and Bismarck. It also houses about 50 inmates in a private prison in Appleton, Minn.


At the committee's last meeting, Warden Tim Schuetzle recommended the state give up on the piecemeal building and expanding efforts of the past 10 years. Just build a new prison in Bismarck, he said.

The committee is the Budget Committee on Government Services. Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, is chairman.

Readers can reach Forum Capitol reporters Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830 or Don Davis at (651) 290-0707

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