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MINNESOTA POLITICS: GOP governor hopefuls poll strong ... Comic features Franken ... Pawlenty ready for unallotment loss ... more

GOP governor hopefuls strong in polls ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota governor's race looks to be close, with a new poll giving Republicans reason to smile. The poll shows that Republican state Reps. Marty Seifert of Marshall and Tom Emmer of Delano ho...

Al Franken
U.S. Sen. Al Franken will be featured in a comic book biography due to hit the stores later this spring. Photo by Don Davis, Minnesota State Capitol Bureau.

GOP governor hopefuls strong in polls

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota governor's race looks to be close, with a new poll giving Republicans reason to smile.

The poll shows that Republican state Reps. Marty Seifert of Marshall and Tom Emmer of Delano hold their own against better-known Democrats, a sign of what some are saying will be a good GOP election year.

For Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidates, the Rasmussen poll seems to indicate three would play strong against Seifert and Emmer: former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

Rasmussen reports that Emmer and Seifert match-ups with any of the top three Democrats are virtual ties, with something close to 20 percent of voters not sure who they would pick.

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Republicans put on an even better showing when pitted against other Democrats, state Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook, state Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia and former state Rep. Matt Entenza of St. Paul.

One point in the poll sure to bolster Republican attitudes is that it appears fewer know Emmer and Seifert than know Dayton, Kelliher and Rybak, but the GOP candidates still do better.

The state conventions are little more than a month away. GOP delegates said they will abide by their convention's decision, but Dayton and Entenza likely will challenge the convention-endorsed candidate in an Aug. 10 primary.

Franken subject of comic

Al Franken has avoided most national publicity since he took office in the U.S. Senate last summer, and has especially tried to stay out of the comedic spotlight.

But others just will not allow that. There is a lot of national interest in the former "Saturday Night Live" star.

The Minnesota Democrat soon is to become the subject of a comic book-biography. "Political Power: Al Franken" will become the latest in a Bluewater Production series when it debuts in May.

"Al Franken has this reputation -- not completely unfounded, if you read the comic -- as a metaphorical bomb-thrower, a guy who hates his enemies and has an in-your-face style," comic writer Jerome Maida said. "While I did find some stuff that would support that perception, I also found out a lot more interesting stuff that makes him a real person, a character instead of a caricature."

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Maida reports that he discovered Franken fell in love with politics at an early age and that the now-senator co-wrote the movie "When a Man Loves a Woman."

Bluewater, which will sell the comic for $3.99, also has produced good-selling ones about Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy.

Pawlenty ready for unallotment loss

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he is ready to deal with an adverse court decision about his power to unilaterally cut the budget.

The state Supreme Court hears arguments Monday morning in a case challenging Pawlenty's summer decision to eliminate a meal program for the needy. While the case technically is only about the $5 million program, a district court ruling against Pawlenty puts his entire $2.7 billion budget-cutting action into question.

When reporters asked him if he was ready for a high court ruling that goes against him, Pawlenty replied: "We have those plans in place. ... We have gone through 10 different scenarios."

A loss would "put Minnesota in a very difficult spot," he said, adding that it "would force us to cut spending even more."

Shedding light on bulbs

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Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, wants to draw attention and fight a federal plan to stop the sale of traditional incandescent light bulbs.

He authored a bill that would exempt Minnesota from a federal law that he says essentially phases out incandescent bulbs as the country transitions to bulbs that use less energy.

The Westrom bill would allow light bulbs made in Minnesota to be used in Minnesota.

"A lot of people are unaware this ban of our everyday light bulbs is coming," Westrom said. "We should to take note that our federal government's meddling has reached the point where now Washington is telling us what light bulbs we use. This intrusion into the free market and our lives can't be tolerated, regardless of the product."

Westrom said he knows of no Minnesota factory that makes bulbs, but his bill could lead to one opening.

Swanson pushes agribusiness competition

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has submitted documents asking the federal government to keep competition strong in agri-businesses.

Swanson's documents, given to the Justice and Agriculture departments, called on federal officials to look into what she called anticompetitive practices in specific industries.

"Anticompetitive practices in the railroad, seed trait and livestock sectors generally mean higher prices and less innovation," Swanson said. "This ultimately impacts both our farmers and our consumers. The U.S. departments of Justice and Agriculture should closely scrutinize anticompetitive practices in these sectors and meaningfully enforce the antitrust laws to promote fair and efficient competition."

A year ago, federal officials announced they would review competition issues, and the first hearing was held Friday.

Swanson said large businesses dominate "what we eat at the table and how our food is delivered and the farmer and consumer has little clout or influence."

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, both Minnesota Democrats, want more food and other exports to Cuba.

Existing law restricts sales to the communist island country.

"American famers can greatly benefit from access to new markets in Cuba at a time when our economy needs it most," Klobuchar said. "This bill will create jobs by promoting U.S. agriculture exports. In addition, Cubans and Americans will be able to engage in open communication, an important step toward improving relations between our two nations."

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

Governor race comments

"We need to recover the Minnesota governor's office -- we haven't been there in 20 years."

So said former Minnesota State Senator John Hottinger, speaking at Thursday night's convention of the Becker County Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Detroit Lakes.

Though Hottinger was speaking on behalf of his candidate of choice, R.T. Rybak, he told the group of party faithful Thursday, "Whomever you support tonight (for governor), please support the ultimate nominee."

Hottinger was referring to the fact that the DFL Party in Minnesota has more than a half dozen people seeking its endorsement as the official gubernatorial candidate for the party in the upcoming election.

Representatives speaking on behalf of governor candidates Paul Thissen, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Tom Bakk, Tom Rukavina and Matt Entenza all spoke at the convention -- while candidate John Marty spoke for himself, as the only one who was able to attend the event in person.

While each of the candidates' representatives spoke of their respective candidate's platform, and goals if elected, their ultimate message was the same -- the DFL needs a win in the governor's race.

Sharon Josephson, aide to U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson, also spoke briefly on Peterson's behalf, noting, "The election in 2010 is absolutely critical."

While the governor's race is the most important, Josephson added, the other elected offices are also "absolutely critical in our mission."

One such office is Minnesota Secretary of State, where incumbent Mark Ritchie will be seeking re-election.

As Ritchie's representative told the group at Thursday's convention, Ritchie's office is a particular target of the Republicans for this fall.

The reason? They hold Ritchie responsible for "sabotaging" the re-election campaign of then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, who lost to his successor, DFL'er Al Franken, in an extremely drawn-out election recount process.

This item was from Vicki Gerdes, a reporter at the Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune, which, like the Herald, is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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