Pawlenty weathers attacks as GOP groups await DFL nominee

Published 8:17 am Wednesday, August 1, 2018

ST. PAUL — Republican political groups might be waiting to see which Democrat emerges in an Aug. 14 primary in the race for governor, but campaign finance reports released Tuesday make clear that Democratic organizations believe former Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be the GOP nominee.

Tim Pawlenty, Republican candidate for governor.
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Alliance for a Better Minnesota had spent nearly $2 million in attack ads on TV and online against Pawlenty as of July. A liberal campaign organization that spends millions of dollars backing Democrats and trying to take down GOP candidates every election cycle, Alliance for a Better Minnesota still has $755,000 saved up for the campaign and will likely get millions more from a handful of Democratic campaign organizations that collect donations.

Pawlenty is running for his old job against 2014 nominee and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who won the party’s endorsement last month. And with more than $1 million saved up in the homestretch to the primary, Pawlenty holds a fivefold cash advantage over Johnson.

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But GOP outside groups haven’t spent much through the summer as Democrats fight it out in a three-way primary. State Rep. Erin Murphy, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and Attorney General Lori Swanson are competing for their party’s nomination.

Walz held a two-to-one cash advantage heading into the final weeks of the primary campaign. Swanson entered the race in early June and raised more than $600,000, though that includes a $20,000 personal loan and a $40,000 transfer from the Attorney General campaign account that she abandoned. Murphy more than doubled her fundraising since winning the DFL party’s endorsement in early June.

All eyes are on the Minnesota governor’s race as Gov. Mark Dayton leaves office after two terms. And it’s not just Minnesota voters who are paying attention.

The Republican Governors Association reserved $2.3 million in ad space in Minnesota days after Pawlenty entered the race in the spring. The Democratic Governors Association has more than $5 million parked in a Minnesota account.

But the race to replace Dayton is one of several competitive elections on the ballot this fall, an election cycle that will also decide on two U.S. Senators, at least four swing districts in the U.S. House and control of the state House and Senate.