Campaign Notebook: Democrats dominate Mankato ad buys

Democrats are winning the ad war, at least when it comes to Mankato’s airwaves.

Take Sen. Al Franken, whose campaign has paid for almost as much ad time for the last week of the election as his opponent, Mike McFadden, has budgeted for the last month.

Franken's campaign spent $23,275 to air 122 spots on KEYC-TV and FOX Mankato during the last week of the election. He’s by far the biggest spender overall, buying about $63,000 worth of ads between Sept. 23 and Election Day, Nov. 4.

McFadden has ordered about $25,000 in Mankato ads between Sept. 8 and Election Day.

The DFL advantage in Mankato TV ad spending holds true for every race.

Rep. Tim Walz’s campaign has budgeted $24,150 in October TV ads, while his opponent, Jim Hagedorn, hasn’t bought any time after the Aug. 12 primary.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s campaign has spent $23,830 for ads to run between Sept. 30 and Oct. 20. His Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, has spent $7,240 for ads between Oct. 9 and Oct. 22. The Independence Party candidate, Hannah Nicollet, has spent about $2,500 so far on ads that ran during the week after Sept. 25.

In the attorney general’s race, Lori Swanson has bought $14,095 worth of ads to be aired Oct. 26 to Nov. 3. Her Republican opponent, Scott Newman, hasn’t bought any Mankato ads.

Political parties and political action committees spent heavily in September, but haven’t bought October ads from KEYC-TV or FOX Mankato.

The Minnesota DFL Party bought $32,635 in ads to support Dayton and its legislative candidates. They aired Sept. 16 to Sept. 29.

The conservative Freedom Club State PAC spent $20,050 in Mankato on a mid-September ad blaming DFLers for increasing taxes while approving a new state Senate office building.

Readers who are curious about TV ad spending can get all these figures online. As of July 1, every TV station has to post their campaign contracts on the Internet. To read them, visit stations.fcc.gov.

GOP auditor hopefulstops by Mankato

Randy Gilbert, who is challenging Rebecca Otto to become the state auditor, stopped by Mankato to make his pitch: Voters should look at the race as more of a job interview than an election. And he thinks he has the superior resume.

“I’m the only person who’s running who is an auditor,” he said. “It’s a very technical position.”

The Office of the State Auditor oversees the spending of local governments, which spend more than $20 billion a year.

Gilbert spoke about the rollout of the MNsure health insurance exchange, which was carried out in large part by counties subject to the auditor’s oversight.

Gilbert, who served three terms as mayor of Long Lake, also said he wants to address the liabilities created by the state’s underfunded pensions.

“An auditor can lead the discussion,” he said.

Gilbert said Otto’s office has been too low-key.

“When is the last time you’ve heard something come out of that office?” he asked.

Thissen talks MnSCU tuition

Rep. Paul Thissen, speaker of the Minnesota House, visited Mankato to discuss a proposal to freeze in-state tuition.

The Minneapolis Democrat said the Legislature had frozen tuition — by spending tens of millions of dollars in place of tuition hikes — for the most recent two-year cycle. If another two-year freeze is funded next session, a freshman who starts college in 2013 would have no tuition increases for their four-year college career.

Thissen said the Democrats will also propose to assist recent graduates by repaying 20 percent of their student loans, or up to $3,000 per year, if they take certain jobs in Greater Minnesota. Its aim would be to reduce “brain drain” and relieve debt.

Finally, Democrats want to provide debt relief to graduates who serve the state in AmeriCorps.

The tuition freeze would be by far the costliest; the final two proposals would cost in the range of $10 million over the two-year biennium. The final amount is likely to change as the budget comes into clearer focus, but the Legislature has a two-year surplus of $600 million.

Jack Considine, who is running for Mankato’s House seat, accompanied Thissen and added a proposal of his own: Financial counseling for students who take out college loans.

Thissen acknowledged that a tuition freeze doesn’t help solve the long-term issue of increasing higher education costs. It’s easy to see how the reverse might be true — tuition hikes are bad for students, but they put pressure on the state to lower costs. 

But Thissen said the state will focus on bringing “light and transparency” to the budgets of state colleges. And he noted that the state's assistance to higher education has declined in recent years, which contributed to tuition hikes.

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