Daily Digest: Election security, knee surgery, Trump hire

Good morning and welcome to Tuesday. Time to catch up on politics news with your Daily Digest.

1. Better late than never? Work gets underway on election security. It took more wrangling with lawmakers than expected, but the state’s chief election official now has access to $6.6 million in federal funds to implement his plan for warding off hackers and potential cyberattacks. “We were the very last state to get that money,” said Secretary of State Steve Simon. Minnesota received its share of the federal election security money from the Help America Vote Act over a year ago. But political maneuvering at the state Capitol delayed the authorization Simon needed to put the money to use. He didn’t get it until last month’s special session. “It still puts us behind other states,” Simon said. “Every other state not only had it but had it some time ago in time for the last election. So, we are behind, but we can now use that money.” Simon said most of the money will go toward short-term projects that can be done ahead of the presidential primary next March. The rest will go toward a four-year project to modernize the state’s voter registration system. With the help of cybersecurity experts, local election officials and legislators, Simon put together a detailed plan months ago for spending the money. (MPR News)

2. Walz to undergo knee surgery, relinquish duties while under the knife. Gov. Tim Walz will undergo surgery on his left knee on Thursday, temporarily transferring his powers to the lieutenant governor while he is under general anesthetic. The governor’s office announced the upcoming surgery Monday, noting it will repair a “medial meniscus tear” in his knee, an injury common among runners. TRIA Orthopedic Center in Bloomington will perform the surgery. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan will take over the duties of his office during Walz’s surgery and will hold those powers until the governor sends written notice to leaders in the House and Senate. “After years of running, this minor surgery will help ensure I can hit the pavement again soon,” Walz said in a prepared statement. “I expect a smooth surgery and I have full confidence in Lieutenant Governor Flanagan to temporarily hold the power of the office while I am under anesthesia.” (MPR News)

3. Trump campaign has hired state director for Minnesota. President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign now has a full-time state director on the ground in Minnesota, a state he narrowly lost in 2016 but has hopes of flipping next year. Tim Lagerman will head up the Minnesota efforts for Trump, according to state party officials and the biography details on Lagerman’s social media accounts. Most recently, Lagerman was political director for the Pennsylvania Republican Party but has also held political jobs in Maryland and for the National Rifle Association. Trump intends to formally launch his campaign for a second term on Tuesday in Florida. In Minnesota and around the country, supporters plan watch parties for his evening rally. (MPR News)

4. AG Ellison looking into hate crimes. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has been holding talks to assemble a working group on hate — or “bias-motivated” — crimes with the aim of enhancing law enforcement’s ability to better record and head off acts of domestic terrorism before they happen. The initiative, which brought together some of Minnesota’s top state and federal officials in a recent closed-door meeting, represents a new chapter in the new attorney general’s focus on strengthening partnerships to counter rising levels of religious, ethnic, racially motivated or anti-gay crime. “The bottom line is people are nervous, they are afraid, they don’t know what to do and they’re hoping the government steps up and protects them in their houses of worship,” Ellison said in an interview. Ellison and other officials say they are reviewing longstanding inconsistencies in police agencies’ collection of data on hate crimes and Minnesota’s statutes dealing with crimes fueled by bias. (Star Tribune)

5. DFL searching for challengers to Stauber. Summer has arrived and another winter will blow in before election season 2020 is actually here. But on both sides, buildup is afoot. Rep. Pete Stauber continues to proliferate his aim to “unleash the economic engine” at manufacturing centers across the 8th Congressional District. And it’s resonating with people such as Ryan Horne, owner of Greentech Manufacturing in International Falls. “It’s nice he stops in and does a welfare check on the community and businesses up here,” Horne said of a Stauber visit in May. “It shows that, definitely this far north, we’re not forgotten.” As Stauber documents his frequent visits to manufacturing sectors on social media, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party is engaging with would-be candidates in an effort to meet Stauber at the polls with someone who can compete in 2020. Saying it doesn’t coronate but does recruit candidates, the DFL has talked with eight or more people who would at least entertain the idea of candidacy. But with no commitments yet, state DFL Chairman Ken Martin told the News Tribune this month he hoped to begin seeing some announcements sometime in the third campaign fundraising cycle (July-September). (Duluth News Tribune)

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