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Political notebook -- Teachers union won't back Norton

By Matthew Stolle

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union, released its endorsements for the state House of Representatives recently, and the list included one genuine surprise.

Rep. Kim Norton, a first-term DFL incumbent and former two-term Rochester School Board, failed to receive the union’s endorsement. It offered no recommendation in the race between Norton and GOP challenger Jason Johnson.

"It’s very concerning, frankly, since I’ve spent my entire life working in the area of advocacy for education," Norton said.

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Norton received Education Minnesota’s endorsement two years ago when she made her first bid for the state House, but since she was sent to St. Paul, Norton’s voting record hasn’t always pleased the union.

Norton voted against legislation that would have created a state health insurance pool for school employees, which was Education Minnesota’s top legislative priority.

Barb Mahovlich, chairwoman of the Political Action Committee for Education Minnesota, cited what the union considered other "bad votes." Norton voted against a teachers-pension-fund merger plan and abstained on minimum wage legislation, but the health insurance pool was the big one.

"If she had been a supporter of that, then she probably, based on all other factors, would have gotten the recommendation," Mahovlich said.

Business award

Perhaps on a note not totally unrelated to Education Minnesota’s decision, Norton has been receiving plaudits from the business community. On Friday, the National Federation of Independent Business, the state’s largest small-business group, announced that Norton had earned its "Guardian of Small Business Award."

"Rep. Norton is strong supporter of small-business at the capitol," said Mike Hickey, state director for NFIB/MN.

Davis endorsement

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Brian Davis, the Republican candidate challenging DFL Congressman Tim Walz, received the endorsement of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, an abortion opposition organization.

"It is an honor to be recognized as the candidate in this election who will clearly, and without reservation, voice the cause of pro-life citizens both in Minnesota and Washington," Davis said.

Davis-Walz debate

The first debate between Davis and Walz since Davis won the GOP’s nomination earlier this month will be from noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Ramada Hotel & Conference Center, 1517 16th St. S.W., Rochester. The event is being sponsored by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. The cost is $20 for members and $30 for nonmembers, and includes lunch.

Registration is required. Register online at rochestermnchamber.com or call 288-1122.

Voter registration record

A record number of Minnesotans has registered to vote in this year’s election.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says Minnesota has 3.145 million registered voters, or about 84 percent of eligible voters.

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That tops the previous record from the 2004 election by about 12,000 voters.

Ritchie is predicting that at least another 20,000 voters will register before Election Day, Nov. 4. That’s not counting those who register at the polls on Election Day. Preregistration closes Oct. 14.

Ritchie says he expects voter turnout to reach his goal of 80 percent this year. Turnout four years ago was slightly better than 77 percent of eligible voters.

Coleman endorsement

A former DFL legislator from northern Minnesota says he’s supporting Senator Norm Coleman’s re-election bid.

Former state Senator and gubernatorial candidate Doug Johnson says Coleman is the first Republican he’s supported in more than 40 years. He says he’s confident that Coleman can work with Democrats and Republicans to pursue legislation that benefits the Iron Range and the state.

Johnson, who served in the state Legislature for 32 years, says he’s planning to vote for Democrat Barack Obama, Jim Oberstar and the DFL-endorsed candidates for the Legislature.

Obama in area

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will be campaigning in downtown La Crosse, Wis., on Wednesday, the day before his running mate, Joseph Biden, and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin meet for their only debate. Gates open for the rally at 8 a.m., and event begins at 10 a.m.

Matthew Stolle covers politics for the Post-Bulletin. His Political Notebook column runs every Monday with items concerning political issues affecting southeastern Minnesota.

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