Welcome to a new week, a big one for Democratic presidential hopefuls hoping to make a mark in the debates. A look at Amy Klobuchar's challenge tops your Monday Digest.
1. Can she stand out in the crowd? Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has struggled to stand out in a crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls. Klobuchar is in 9th place nationally and 8th place in Iowa, according to an average of public opinion polls compiled by RealClearPolitics. As Democrats meet to debate over two nights this week in Miami, Klobuchar and other trailing candidates are hoping for a breakthrough moment that will shift momentum in the race. In Iowa last week, Mason City resident Crystal Ely said she’ll vote Democratic in next year’s presidential election, and that she has some qualifications in mind. “I’m looking for a candidate that’s more centrist than what maybe I would have looked for in years past, just because we need somebody that’s going to pull in from both sides.” Ely could be describing Klobuchar, who’s campaigning on a record of attracting support not just from Democrats, but from Independents and even Republicans. But Klobuchar’s message is lost on Ely. “I actually don’t know anything about her.” And that’s Klobuchar's problem. (MPR News)
2. What the paperwork says about Omar's marriages. New investigative documents released by a state agency have given fresh life to lingering questions about the marital history of Rep. Ilhan Omar and whether she once married a man — possibly her own brother — to skirt immigration laws. Omar has denied the allegations in the past, dismissing them as “baseless rumors” first raised in an online Somali politics forum and championed by conservative bloggers during her 2016 campaign for the Minnesota House. But she said little then or since about Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, the former husband who swept into her life in 2009 before a 2011 separation. The questions surfaced again this month in a state probe of campaign finance violations showing that Omar filed federal taxes in 2014 and 2015 with her current husband, Ahmed Hirsi, while she was still legally married to but separated from Elmi. Although she has legally corrected the discrepancy, she has declined to say anything about how or why it happened. The new documents also detail the Omar campaign’s efforts to keep the story of her marriage to Elmi out of the press, arguing that detailed coverage would legitimize the accusations and invade her privacy. (Star Tribune)
3. Hagedorn makes pitch as conservative reinforcement in Congress. In January, Blue Earth Republican Jim Hagedorn followed in the footsteps of his father to become a U.S. representative for southern Minnesota. Since then, he’s championed conservative causes and supported President Donald Trump’s agenda as a minority member of the House of Representatives. Hagedorn’s worked with Democrats on a variety of smaller bills, but has reinforced his right-leaning roots on major issues. “I’m totally humbled to be a servant of the people of southern Minnesota,” Hagedorn said. “I promised people, especially in the campaign, that if elected I would be a conservative reinforcement in Congress.” Hagedorn’s approach to Congress isn’t typically found in Minnesota. The longtime conservative pushes further right than his fellow Minnesota Republicans on several issues, and he stands with Trump on almost every issue even when some of his conservative allies hold back their support. All that means the lifelong Republican is building a reputation as a staunch conservative in Congress from a politically purple district, just as Democrats are targeting him in advance of next year’s election. (Mankato Free Press)
4. Officials work to minimize ignorance of hands-free law. A new law requiring drivers to use phones in a hands-free mode goes into effect Aug. 1, and in the coming weeks Minnesotans can expect to hear a lot about it. Messages about the law — some witty and others somber — will be on billboards, splashed across social media and even handed out at local hospitals. The State Patrol has already done live Facebook chats to answer questions about the law and continues to stop by community events to explain it to drivers. “Anybody who lives in Minnesota will have to work hard not to know about this,” said Mike Hanson, director of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety. “Every Minnesotan should have some exposure to what is coming.” (Star Tribune)
5. New laws coming next week. Starting July 1, Minnesotans who rape their spouses can be charged with sexual assault, wage theft becomes a crime and drug manufacturers will help shoulder the state’s costs of responding to the opioid epidemic. Those are some of the new laws taking effect July 1 along with the state’s new $48 billion budget. Here are some of the highlights. (Associated Press)