ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Candidates running for Minnesota governor hit the road Monday on the homestretch to the primary, with campaigns focused on making a final personal touch rather than pointed political attacks.
All five candidates running to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton fanned out across the state. Democratic state Rep. Erin Murphy hoped to drop in and out of coffee shops across the metro area Monday as Rep. Tim Walz joined a high school football practice and Attorney General Lori Swanson hosted final events in Duluth and the Iron Range.
Republican former Gov. Tim Pawlenty swung through southern suburbs before a trip across southern Minnesota while GOP opponent Jeff Johnson made media stops in the Moorhead area and Rochester.
Tuesday's primary will decide which candidates from each party advance to the November election, but the governor's race is just the top billing in a drama-filled ballot. Voters also will choose nominees in the race for attorney general, both U.S. Senate seats and three competitive U.S. House elections that could factor into the fight for control of the chamber this fall.
Walz spent Monday morning on a high school football field, patting players' backs and trading war stories with Como Park Senior High head coach Kirby Scull. It was a recall to his own background as a school teacher and football coach — a biography Walz has leaned on in ads and throughout the campaign.
Rather than make a pitch to prospective voters, Walz gave a pep talk to the team that hardly mentioned the election. Instead, he talked about helping turn around a winless Mankato West football team.
"One person doesn't do this," Walz told the crowd of kneeling Cougars players. "You don't have to make an ESPN highlight reel to win football games."
Elsewhere in St. Paul, Murphy was also talking football. Going table-to-table to introduce herself to customers at the New Louisiana Cafe, the Wisconsin-bred former nurse assured one patron who asked about her National Football League allegiances that she had since painfully converted from being a Green Bay Packers fan to a Minnesota Vikings Supporter.
"I won't go behind your back," she joked, before turning serious that her career as a nurse helped her to stay honest as a politician.
Several elections could turn on recent allegations against individual candidates. A former employee in Swanson's office accused her of pressuring staffers to boost her political career — a charge Swanson denied, and that her office responded to by disclosing charges on the ex-employee's criminal history that have since been dismissed.
And in a crowded Democratic primary to replace Swanson as attorney general, presumptive front-runner Rep. Keith Ellison faced allegations from an ex-girlfriend that he had once dragged her off a bed by her feet while cursing at her. Ellison denied any abuse in their relationship and said a supposed video of the incident does not exist.
More than 117,000 votes are already locked in, as more Minnesota voters take advantage of the state's no-excuse absentee voting law. The deadline for voters to claw back their ballots passed last Tuesday.