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Don Davis and Janell Cole, Published March 09 2009

Political Notebook: Minn. GOP leader running for chairman

Longtime Minnesota Republican Party leader Tony Sutton is running to be party chairman.

The former Hibbing resident, who lives in the Twin Cities, said he is not happy with the party’s direction.

“I have been frustrated by the philosophical and ideology drift our party has experienced in recent years,” he said in a statement on his campaign Web site.

“What was the party of fiscal responsibility doing? Spending money like drunken sailors in Washington. And what about the party of traditional values? We had page-chasing congressmen and a ‘wide-stance’ senator.”

Sutton is chief executive officer of Baja Sol Restaurant Group, a Mexican restaurant chain. Current Chairman Ron Carey has not announced whether he is running for re-election. The State Central Committee will pick the chairman in June.

Hamm’s tweets

We haven’t checked how many North Dakota state offices and agencies are on Twitter, but the Insurance Department’s public information officer, Andrea Fonkert, said last week she’s excited that the department now has more than 100 followers on the microblogging service.

The department posts “tweets” about insurance-related legislative bills being scheduled for hearings, news about flood insurance, and links to news stories and

news releases.

Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm said the department has been on Twitter since October so it can share information from the department and insurance industry perspective.

Insurance Department news releases now include, “Follow us on Twitter.” See http://twitter.com/ndid.

Donations sought

Former Sen. Dean Barkley, who finished a distant third in the 2008 U.S. Senate race, wants donations to pay campaign bills.

“Unfortunately I have to do something that I did everything to avoid,” he wrote to supporters. “I need to ask for your help covering some unanticipated costs that the campaign incurred at the end of the race. I know that asking for money to retire debt is that last thing that a candidate wants to do but I am asking you one last time to make a contribution to help with these costs.”

Can you spell WSI?

Bruce Furness, the former Fargo mayor and interim director at Workforce Safety and Insurance the past year, had a ready answer for critics of his successors Friday.

The incoming chief at WSI, former Highway Patrol commander Bryan Klipfel, and new deputy director, Clare Carlson, don’t have experience in insurance or workers’ compensation. Klipfel starts March 16, and Carlson on May 1.

It shouldn’t be an issue, said Furness, who is universally praised for

his performance running the agency despite no

relevant experience.

“Talk about not knowing anything about insurance. I didn’t even know how to spell WSI,” he quipped. Turning serious, he added, “It’s about getting people with outstanding track record of performance.”

Gov. John Hoeven began Friday’s announcement saying, “I really am indebted to Bruce,” for leading WSI at a time of turmoil. Both knew Furness wasn’t interested in it long term.

Furness said he and his wife, Lorraine, are looking forward to taking a vacation, “someplace warm.”

Money coming

Federal funds will give unemployed Minnesotans $25 a week more starting March 15.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced the federal money will be available through year’s end.

Out-of-work Minnesotans do not need to take any action to get the money; it will be part of the regular unemployment insurance process.

Egg-xactly wrong

Last week, the Rutgers University (New Jersey) student paper, the Daily Targum, ran an editorial alleging a strange possible effect of North Dakota’s House Bill 1527 – the personhood bill. A few days later the link to on the paper’s Web site went dead and dailytargum.com posted this:

“The editorial ‘Sonograms, child porn’ ” which ran in (a recent) opinions section was completely inaccurate and based on false sources. No bill has been passed in North Dakota that states a picture of a fertilized egg is now considered child pornography. … We wrote an editorial based on what we later learned was a satirical piece. … We at the Targum deeply regret the error … please accept our deepest apologies for not checking our sources.”


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