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A look at this week on the Minnesota campaign trail – Oct. 23

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It’s a busy time for Minnesota politicians on the campaign trail, with less than two weeks to go before the Nov. 4 election. Here’s a quick look at what’s been happening.

Big names campaign for DFL

A few big names were in Minnesota this week to urge Democrats to go vote.

Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden were in Minnesota Thursday to campaign for the Democrats, while First Lady Michelle Obama made an appearance in Minneapolis earlier this week.

Biden held a get-out-the-vote rally in Hibbing Thursday afternoon, hoping to give a boost to first-term Democrat U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who's in a tight race with Republican candidate Stewart Mills.

The 8th District race is one of the country's top five races in terms of outside spending, The Associated Press says.

Prior to the rally, Biden spoke at an event on domestic violence in Duluth, where he highlighted "The Duluth Model" of collaboration between intervention programs and government agencies.

Clinton came to the Twin Cities Thursday afternoon held a rally at Macalester College pushing people to vote, then she plans to attend a private fundraiser to raise money for Gov. Mark Dayton.

Biden and Clinton's visit was proceeded by First Lady Michelle Obama, who headlined a get-out-the-vote rally Tuesday afternoon at Patrick Henry High School in north Minneapolis. She was joined by Dayton, Sen. Al Franken, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.

She, too, encouraged Democrats to vote in the upcoming election.

"When the midterms came along, too many of our people just tuned out," Obama said, according to MPR News. "And that's what folks on the other side are counting on this year. Because they know when we stay home, they win."

Westrom vs Peterson in 7th Congressional District

In the first debate between Rep. Collin Peterson and state Sen. Torrey Westrom, MPR News reports the Republican challenger tried to push the Democrat Peterson closer and closer to President Barack Obama.

Westrom, who was elected to the state Legislature in 1996 and has never lost an election, described the Affordable Care Act, the national debt and the overall lack of action on the Keystone Pipeline project as failures that can be attributed partly to Peterson, who has served the northwest Minnesota district since 1991, MPR reports.

Peterson tried to paint himself as an independent however, saying he was the third most likely Congressman since his time in office to vote against party lines, MPR says.

Both Westrom and Peterson also criticized the outside money that has funded negative attack ads against both.

Bachmann successors debate in 6th CD

In the race to succeed outgoing Rep. Michelle Bachmann in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, the DFL candidate Joe Perske used his final remarks to aggressively target Republican opponent Tom Emmer, the St. Cloud Times reports.

According to The Uptake, Perske (the mayor of Sartell) called Emmer (a former state lawmaker) "uncooperative" and "divisive," and accused him of being a bully during the debates closing remarks. Emmer declined to respond when offered the chance to rebuttal.

The St. Cloud Times says Independent Party candidate, 28-yea-rold John Denney, "made his presence felt throughout the debate" as well.

Emmer is considered the favorite in the district, which leans conservative.

Video of the full debate is available here via The Uptake.

Secretary of State candidates debate

It's an open battle for the Secretary of State's chair, as incumbent DFLer Mark Ritchie is not running for re-election.

Four candidates – Bob Helland (IP), Bob Odden (L), Dan Severson (R) and Steve Simon (DFL) – took the stage at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs Monday afternoon for a public forum.

According to the Minnesota Daily, the candidates discussed absentee voting policies, the possibility of more ranked-choice voting, military voter participation and more. The story says the tone was "never combative," but did serve to highlight the differences between all the participants.

You can watch the full debate here, courtesy of The Uptake.

Dayton, Franken lead in polls

With under two weeks until Election Day, Dayton and Franken still hold double-digit leads over their Republican challengers, according to the most recent KSTP/SurveyUSA polls.

The gubernatorial poll shows 50 percent of likely voters surveyed would vote for Dayton, while 40 percent would cast a vote for Republican candidate Jeff Johnson. Three percent would vote for Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet.

In this week's poll, Dayton dropped one point, while Johnson went up one compared to the previous poll.

In the Senate poll, Franken leads Republican challenger Mike McFadden, 53 percent to 38 percent, while 3 percent support Independence Party candidate Steve Carlson. The poll only slightly tightened since the previous poll, which showed Franken with an 18-point lead over McFadden.

Ballot questions to dictate school funding

How much money school districts will have to pay operating expenses will be determined on Election Day.

KSTP is reporting that voters in 39 districts will decide if they're willing to pay more on property taxes to help fund school district operating expenses – that's the lowest number of levy requests since 1996, according to the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA).

Voters in 48 districts will decide on bonds, capital project levies or one-day bonds, which is the highest number of requests in more than a decade, the MSBA says.

KSTP adds that voters in 59 districts will have the option to renew tax levies, which in most cases doesn't increase property taxes.

Last year, 51 of 59 school districts passed an operating levy referendum question – an 86.4 percent passage rate, which is the highest since the MSBA started recording results in 1980. The 2013 building bond and capital lease question on the ballot also passed at a record 88 percent, with 23 of 26 districts passing at least one question, MSBA notes.

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