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Political notebook: N.D. senators top area in poll

Survey USA says its June tracking poll shows Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., as the second most-approved-of U.S. senator and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. is eighth. First place went to Illinois Democrat Barack Obama, whose approval is one percentage point...

Survey USA says its June tracking poll shows Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., as the second most-approved-of U.S. senator and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. is eighth. First place went to Illinois Democrat Barack Obama, whose approval is one percentage point above Conrad's.

Conrad had a 71 percent approval rating and 22 disapproval in June, up from May's poll, when he had 63 percent approval and 27 percent disapproval.

Dorgan got a 70 percent approval rating and 24 percent disapproval in June, up 2 points in approval since May.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., is in 71st place. He has a 52 percent approval and 39 percent disapproval score. Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., is in 92nd place with 46 percent of Minnesotans approving his performance and 41 percent disapproving.

In South Dakota, Democrat Tim Johnson claims 11th place with 67 percent approving and 25 percent disapproving, while John Thune is 72nd with approval of 52 percent and disapproval of 42 percent.


Dead last among all senators is Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who gets approval from only 40 percent of those polled in his state.

See all the numbers at www.surveyusa.com . Click on "50 state tracking."

Campaign ads start

No one is likely ready for this, but Minnesota's 2006 campaign advertisements have begun.

Kelly Doran, an Eden Prairie shopping center developer, is taking his U.S. Senate campaign to billboards statewide. Doran is less well-known than two fellow Democrats running for the office - nationally known child advocate Patty Wetterling and Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.

They want to replace U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, another Democrat who said he will not run for a second term. Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy is the leading Republican candidate.

Doran recently filed paperwork indicating his assets are between $57 million and $210 million. Other candidates listed assets of less than $1 million each.

Doran has indicated he expects to tap into his own checking account to fund his campaign. He said his name needs to be known throughout the state, which is why he's leased 31 billboards.


The first-time candidate also is traveling around the state.

Hear me now?

Tonight is LaMoure area residents' chance to tell the North Dakota Public Service Commission about the cellular phone coverage and other cell phone issues in their area.

The public forum is at 7 p.m. in the Omega City Plaza in LaMoure.

All three commissioners, Tony Clark, Kevin Cramer and Susan Wefald, plan to be there.

Quiet, please

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty asked reporters to a meeting last week worthy of Deep Throat, but later rescinded the invitation after reporters objected to the rules.

Ground rules Pawlenty's office handed out indicated the "session is entirely off the record" and information gathered there could not be attributed to "an unidentified source." Reporters would have been allowed to use information gleaned from the meeting to ask questions of other news sources, but not say the governor provided the information.


It is not known what Pawlenty wanted to discuss, but it may have been about budget talks that were at an impasse.

Many news organizations are reluctant to participate in such meetings, especially in recent years when using off-the-record sources has come under fire from several quarters. Politicians sometimes use such hush-hush meetings to plant questions in the minds of reporters covering controversial topics, while keeping themselves out of the fray.

Not a tough choice

It wasn't surprising Thursday when North Dakota University Chancellor Robert Potts assured legislators he'd see that a $600,000 software system surplus is returned to the state general fund, even though the law doesn't require it and students' fees were recently increased to pay for the same program.

After all, who you be more afraid of? Tens of thousands of powerless students passing through the state's colleges and universities on their way to the rest of their lives? Or 141 lawmakers who could slash your next budget?

Missing in action

Sen. Mike Every, D-Minnewaukan, who recently was the subject of news stories when he was investigated for improper purchases of surplus state property (he then resigned as mayor), was among missing the North Dakota Legislature's Budget Section meeting Thursday.

It's not unusual for legislators to miss interim committee meetings and several others were absent Thursday, but Every's absence fits a pattern.


Last year, when he ran for tax commissioner, news reports exposed his late child support payments. Four of the six interim committee meetings he missed in 2004 were held in the summer after those stories came out and he announced he was suspending his campaign.

Missing interim meetings can have a political cost of its own. In November, Sen. Nick Hacker, R-Grand Forks, defeated the incumbent, Democrat Mike Polovitz, after a campaign in which Hacker told voters that Polovitz had missed the majority of the interim meetings he was assigned to.

Dayton touts ethanol initiative

Dayton asked the Senate last week to join Minnesota in requiring gasoline to contain at least 10 percent ethanol.

Minnesota has mandated the 10-percent ethanol use for eight years, and this year lawmakers decided that by 2013 at least 20 percent of the state's gasoline should come from ethanol, which usually is made from corn.

After introducing an amendment and talking about it, Dayton withdrew it, saying the country is not ready for an ethanol standard as high as Minnesota's.

There's only so many

Senate Majority Leader and Legislative Council Chairman Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck, told fellow members of the council on Wednesday that he tried to honor all requests to assign legislators to their first and second choices of interim committees. It couldn't be done in part because, he said, there were some committees to which no Democrat asked to be appointed.


In North Dakota, Republicans outnumber Democrats by about a 2-to-1 margin in both the Senate and House.

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