- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Calls for cooperation to see test at state Capitol

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Withholding their policy agendas for now, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and newly emboldened Minnesota House Republicans struck an early tone of cooperation Wednesday that will be put to the test when the Legislature convenes in January.

The mixed result from Tuesday’s election - Dayton handily secured another four years while Republicans grabbed a 72-62 House majority - returned divided government to a state where Democrats had free rein the past two years.

“It’s a prescription for gridlock unless we all rise above that,” was Dayton’s assessment the morning after his win. He also placed a call to Republican Rep. Kurt Daudt, the favorite to be House speaker, and later told reporters he’s willing to meet the GOP in the middle as long as they enter with a similar commitment to collaboration.

“It takes two to tango,” Dayton said. “You can’t dance alone.”



Daudt, surrounded by veteran members and incoming freshmen at a jubilant news conference, said his caucus is realistic about a two-on-one Capitol dynamic with Dayton and majority Senate Democrats opposite them. The focus, he said, needs to be on the practical.

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Minnesota GOP regroups after being odd state out

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - As the GOP faithful in neighboring states celebrated, Minnesota Republicans are coming to grips with the latest series of disappointing losses, especially for federal seats.

Tuesday was a banner night for Republicans nationwide, yet Minnesota’s candidates for governor and U.S. Senate barely mustered a fight against Democratic incumbents Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken, stretching the prospect of a GOP-held statewide office until at least 2018 - a 12-year drought. Those lackluster performances also likely dragged down strong Republican hopefuls in tight U.S. House races in northwestern and northeastern Minnesota.

Republicans retook the U.S. Senate by driving out Democratic incumbents in states such as Alaska, Arkansas and North Carolina, while also picking up governor’s seats in the Democratic strongholds of Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois. And though state GOP chairman Keith Downey insisted that taking back the state House was Tuesday’s top prize, other Republicans saw it as a silver lining in an otherwise dismal party showing.

“If there was a wave nationally, it didn’t hit the state here in Minnesota,” Downey conceded.

Gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson did worse than 2012 presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in all but 15 of Minnesota’s 87 counties; Senate candidate Mike McFadden underperformed Romney in 86 of 87 counties. The GOP’s strongest showing for a Minnesota statewide office came from a Supreme Court hopeful whom the party essentially disavowed for a DUI arrest. Michelle MacDonald got 46.7 percent of the vote, compared to Johnson’s 44.5 percent.

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Daudt, Dean angle for top job in House

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - There will be competition among Republicans for who leads the party’s new House majority.

Minority Leader Kurt Daudt of Crown and former Majority Leader Matt Dean of Dellwood both say they’re running to be House speaker when the Legislature returns to action. They are asking for support from the 72-member caucus, which meets Friday to pick its leadership.

Traditionally, minority leaders who shepherd their caucus to the majority rise to the speaker post without a fight. But Dean told members in a letter that he has the experience to help the caucus go toe-to-toe with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the head of the Democratic-led Senate.

Dean was majority leader for two years when Republicans were last in charge.

At least two GOP lawmakers, Tara Mack of Apple Valley and Joyce Peppin of Rogers, are angling to be second-in-command.

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MNsure racing toward open enrollment

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - With open enrollment just 10 days away, officials racing to get Minnesota’s health insurance exchange ready for its second act said Wednesday that there are risks ahead and they’ll need all the remaining time for final testing.

Jesse Oman, assistant commissioner with the state information technology agency MN.IT, gave the MNsure board its final update on system readiness before open enrollment begins Nov. 15.

“This is a high-risk project from Day One and remains a high-risk project and will be so until we go live,” Oman said. “… All of our resources at this point are 24/7, heads down, focused on being able to deliver a quality product and the best consumer experience that we can.”

MNsure got off to a rocky start in its inaugural open enrollment period last year due to serious technical glitches, though it helped reduce the ranks of Minnesota’s uninsured by an estimated 40 percent. About 365,000 people have enrolled in coverage since last October to comply with the mandates of the federal Affordable Care Act. Most qualified for the publicly funded Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare programs for lower-income people, but the customers also included nearly 56,000 people who enrolled in plans through private insurance carriers via MNsure. Getting them to re-enroll is a major focus of the upcoming campaign.

Brian Keane of Deloitte Consulting, which MNsure brought in to fix the system earlier this year, said the extensive testing before and after a new release of computer code in a few days will have to continue right up until when consumers start comparison shopping again.

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