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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published September 01 2012

Minnesota Political Notebook: Redistricting throws voters into unknown territory

ST. PAUL - Many Minnesota voters don’t know where they are.

At least, many don’t know where they live in terms of political districts after congressional, legislative and many local boundaries were redrawn earlier this year.

Fewer than a quarter of Minnesotans stopping in the state Senate’s State Fair booth knew their new legislative district and candidates, said longtime Senate public information official Scott Magnuson.

“We have looked up hundreds” of districts for fair visitors, he said.

The confusion comes after the every-10-year redrawing of political boundaries. In some cases, districts changed little. But some districts retained little of their old territory.

The Senate booth featured computers visitors used to check their legislative districts and candidates on their Nov. 6 ballots.

Magnuson said most voters have heard there are new districts, but they do not know specifics.

Minnesotans who did not look up their districts at the fair may visit mnvotes.org.

Wrong Hancock

Republicans are enjoying an advertisement Democrats placed in the Bemidji Pioneer blasting two GOP lawmakers running for re-election.

The ad accuses Reps. Larry Howes of Walker and David Hancock of Bemidji of not “telling the truth” about their votes on the state budget. Next to photos of two men, quotes attributed to the lawmakers are labeled “false.”

The problem is that the Hancock photo is not the Minnesota politician. Republicans pointed out on Twitter that it actually is a Canadian politician of the same name. One GOP activist wondered on Twitter why House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, cannot recognize the Bemidji man he has served with for 18 months.

The ad concludes: “If we can’t trust Rep. Hancock and Rep. Howes to tell the TRUTH about the budget, what CAN we trust them on?”

Thissen shrugged his shoulders when asked about the photo mix-up but quickly found his voice when thinking about Hancock: “He hasn’t left much of a legacy.”

DFL tries for House

Democratic-Farmer-Laborites are making a strong play to retake the Minnesota House.

Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, sent an email to supporters featuring the number 681.

“It’s the number of votes it took to give the GOP the House majority in St. Paul,” Thissen wrote. “And what did they do with that majority? Republicans pushed an amendment to ban gay marriage and another restricting voting rights for many Minnesotans. They even shut down the government for purely partisan reasons.”

At a State Fair event, Thissen and other Democrats grumbled that Republicans have not repaid $2.4 billion the state has borrowed from schools by delaying payments. But that is an issue Republicans also use, saying Democrats also delayed payments and have not paid them back.

‘Alliance’ calls

The Minnesota Revenue Department says it is not making calls to taxpayers asking for payments to get a tax refund.

A group calling itself “Alliance” is calling Minnesotans claiming to be “Minnesota internal service representatives,” the department reports. The caller claims there is a large refund waiting, but a payment must be sent before the refund is processed.

The department says it never charges a fee before sending out refunds.

Also, Alliance asks for some personal or banking information, although it already may have some information on the taxpayer. The department says it never calls and asks for personal information.

A vested interest

Minnesota’s lone Republican National Convention vote for Rick Santorum came from Bill Batchelder, the Bemidji man whose sweater factory hosted Santorum when the former Pennsylvania senator still was a presidential candidate.

Santorum is fond of Bemidji Woolen Mills sweater vests, and often could be seen in one as he campaigned.

“I was totally committed to Rick Santorum,” Batchelder told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. “The only reason I’m here today, the only reason, is because of Rick Santorum.”

Supporting Klobuchar

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar received support Friday from the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation Political Action Committee.

The Republican-leaning organization endorsed Democrat Klobuchar over GOP challenger state Rep. Kurt Bills of Rosemount.

“Sen. Klobuchar is a strong and effective advocate for Minnesota farmers,” said Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation PAC Chairman Randy Kramer. “She understands the issues facing farmers and has shown a rare ability to work across the aisle to stand up and do what is right for our state.”

The Farm Bureau has 78 county organizations and nearly 30,000 members across the state.

Like the Democratic-leaning Farmers Union, the Farm Bureau praised Klobuchar for working to develop new federal farm law.

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Don Davis reports for Forum Communications