Democrats and Republicans hold their state conventions this weekend, but most of the drama will come from the Republicans in Rochester as GOP contenders line up to try to take on Democratic Sen. Al Franken and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
Family: Wife - Franni; Children - Thomasin, Joseph; Grandchildren - 1
Biography: Franken won his seat in the U.S. Senate after a lengthy and expensive recount. He sits on four committees, including one that deals with health and education issues and one that oversees the judiciary system. During his time in office, Franken has sponsored a few high-profile legislative successes, including a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars on direct medical care. The provision resulted in sizeable rebates for more than 12 million insurance policy holders, including about 9,100 Minnesotans. Franken has also been an outspoken opponent of a proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner as well as new campaign finance rules that allow corporations to invest more money in elections. One of Franken's first legislative efforts was a bill that paired service dogs with veterans who have mental or physical wounds from combat.
Franken's opponents have tried to link him to an Internal Revenue Service effort to give more scrutiny to some political groups applying for non-profit status. But the evidence in support of Franken's involvement is sparse.
Franken is a fundraising powerhouse, bringing in much of his campaign money through a vast network of donors in Minnesota, California and throughout the East Coast. Some of these donors are Franken's friends from his former life as a comedian, actor and writer.
Notable Policy Positions: The Federal Communications Commission recently issued new rules that will allow Internet companies to charge more for faster connections. Franken has long advocated for what is called Net Neutrality and has promised to continue working on the issue if he is re-elected. Franken has been working on legislation that would address a backlog in veterans benefits. Franken has said he wants to cut the nation's deficit by reducing spending and raising taxes on corporations and top earners, and that economic recovery must also be paired with investment in education and infrastructure to create jobs.
Abide by endorsement: Yes
Family: Husband - Ray; Children - Raymond, Ellie, William, Sam
Biography: Ortman is a lawyer by training, but has represented her district located in the western suburbs of the Twin Cities in the state Senate for more than a decade. In 2011, she became the first female chair of the Senate's tax committee. From that position, Ortman was involved in negotiating a plan to close the state's budget deficit and end a government shutdown in the summer of 2011. At the Legislature, Ortman has been a leading proponent of updating the state's criminal record expungement rules so some offenders have a better shot at a fresh start. Though Ortman won re-election in 2012 by a wide margin, she failed to secure her party's endorsement because activists in her district thought she had veered from core party principles. Now, Ortman is relying on the GOP endorsement to continue her quest to unseat Franken. An early statewide GOP straw poll put Ortman in the lead to secure her party's backing.
Notable Policy Positions: If Ortman is elected, she says she will vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But she also believes that it's a good thing people who have preexisting conditions now have an easier time getting insurance coverage. Ortman has also said that she would push for immigration legislation that includes tighter border security. Finally, Ortman has raised concerns about the National Security Agency surveillance of U.S. citizens.
Abide by endorsement: No
Hometown: Sunfish Lake
Family: Wife - Mary Kate; Children - Conor, Patrick, Molly, Sean, Brendan, Danny
Biography: McFadden is a newcomer to politics, spending the last two decades at the helm of financial services firm Lazard Middle Market. He is taking a leave of absence to run for Senate. So far, McFadden is the most successful candidate at raising money, and has earned him the support of members of the GOP establishment. It's something McFadden boasts about on his website: "Since joining the race for US Senate, Mike has proven to be a very adept campaigner, having raised more than $2.85 million in just 10 short months."
Notable Policy Positions: More than any other candidates, McFadden has been criticized for evading reporters' questions and for being vague about his positions on a number of key issues. In a video on his website, McFadden says that the cost of health care needs to be addressed but that the "Un-Affordable Care Act is not the solution." On Social Security and Medicare, McFadden says he won't change anything for current recipients or people close to retirement, but that he would like to reform the program for younger people. He would also support legislation to secure the boarders, but opposes amnesty for people in the country illegally.
Abide by endorsement: "Not pledged to abide by the endorsement"
Family: Wife - Barb; Children - Jamie, Jessie, Jordan, Josiah, Jude, Judson; Grandchildren - 3
Biography: A chiropractor by training, Abeler has represented the Anoka area in the state Legislature for 15 years. During that time, he hasn't always walked the party line. In 2008, Abeler was one of six House Republicans who voted to override then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of a nickel-a-gallon gas tax increase. He's had the support of teacher's union and he pledged to work with Democrats to set up the state's health insurance exchange, though he has criticized the Affordable Care Act. Abeler says these positions will show voters he can work across the aisle. While in the Legislature, Abeler served as the chair of the Health and Human Services Finance committee, where he says he worked to reduce human services spending by millions. He will not seek re-election to focus on his campaign.
Notable Policy Decisions: Abeler says he is inspired to run for office is because he wants to change what he says is government's out-of-control spending. He doesn't think raising taxes is a good way to close the nation's deficit. Abeler believes the premise of the Affordable Care Act "was entirely wrong" but that he would try to address flaws in the healthcare system by relying on the strengths of Minnesota's health care system.
Abide by endorsement: Yes
Family: Children - Maija
Biography: Dahlberg has been the chair of the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners since 2008. On his website, Dahlberg touts his efforts to save St. Louis County money by privatizing services, including the county nursing home. Dahlberg also points to his union endorsements, saying that it underscores his ability to work with people who don't necessarily share his views. Dahlberg told MPR News last year that GOP donor heavyweight Stan Hubbard recruited him to run. He is a veteran, including a tour in Iraq, and runs a law office in Duluth. He describes himself as "somewhat of a populist."
Notable Policy Positions: Dahlberg says he will vote to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a plan that would allow people to buy insurance across state lines and encourage health savings accounts. Dahlberg would support efforts to secure the nation's borders, but doesn't support giving citizenship to people who are already here illegally.