Politicians stake out territory at State Fair

By RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER
ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS

The Minnesota State Fair is traditionally the start of the political season — and this year, challengers for the 2018 race for governor and U.S. Senate will be trying to entice the corndog-munching, game-playing, sweat-smeared crowds.

Linda Christensen carves the butter face of Emily Annexstad, the new Princess Kay winner as she is interviewed by a Mankato radio station in the Dairy Building on Thursday, August 24, 2017 at the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights. “I couldn’t believe it was me! The other 11 finalists are so special with unique talents and stories to share,” said Annexstad. (Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press)

Five candidates for governor or Senate will have their own booths on the fairgrounds. Another half-dozen or so will make regular appearances, some nearly every day, at various other locations.

That means if you want to schmooze — or avoid — your would-be leaders, you’ll have to plot your route through the fair very carefully.
Here are the places you are most likely to bump into a politico:

– The Republican Party booth. On Carnes Avenue, between Nelson and Underwood streets, the booth will feature a corn poll in which fairgoers deposit kernels to “vote” for their favorite 2018 gubernatorial contender. In 2015, Donald Trump overwhelmingly won the party’s president corn poll. This year, the party will also feature panels with candidates, veterans, immigrants and others.

– The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party booth. Near the Snelling Avenue exit at Cooper Street and Dan Patch Avenue, the booth was redesigned this year. It will be packed with politicians since the DFL invited all statewide candidates to set up shop inside. Gubernatorial candidates Rebecca Otto, Erin Murphy, Tina Liebling, Paul Thissen and Tim Walz will all be posting hours at the booth.

– Chris Coleman’s booth. The St. Paul mayor and gubernatorial candidate is the only DFL candidate to plunk down the cash and effort to get his own booth at the Fair. It is just on the other side of Cooper Street from the DFL booth and will feature the candidate himself nearly every morning.

– Matt Dean’s booth. Dean, a state representative and a Republican candidate for governor, has staked out a fair stop in the middle of Cooper Street, across from the Kidway.

“This is our first time here; we did our ride on the gondola and she ate a 18-inch corn dog,” said Aaron Scherer, center, from St. Cloud, who carries his daughter, Wednesday, 5, on his neck as they thread their way through the crowds on Thursday, August 24, 2017 at the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights. Wednesday is carrying a back scratcher. (Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press)

– Jeff Johnson’s booth. The Republican gubernatorial candidate is near Costgrove Street between Randall and Dan Patch avenues. Johnson was the Republican nominee for governor three years ago and made at least a dozen stops at the event to campaign in 2014.

– Keith Downey’s booth. A former Republican Party chairman and now gubernatorial candidate, Downey too has logged lots of fair time in recent years. His booth this year is located off Underwood Street, also between Randall and Dan Patch avenues.

– Other political booths. If Democrats and Republicans aren’t to your liking, the State Fair offers you lots of choices. The Constitution, Green, Independence and Libertarian parties all have staffed locations at the fair. Black Lives Matter, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and FairVote Minnesota booths add to the political array, as does the politics-related Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.

– U.S. senators on display. As they have every year since they were campaigning for office, both U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken will have State Fair moorings. Klobuchar will be up for re-election next year. The senators will not be at their booths at every moment of the fair but staff on hand can likely tell you when they will be.

– Legislative booths. The Minnesota Senate and House will take up their traditional spots in the Education Building. Expect to find a rotating parade of lawmakers, interactive displays and an opportunity to make your voice heard in a non-scientific survey.
Last, if you are more into hot dough with only a bit of the hot mess of politics, the fair can offer you that as well. For the last five decades, one mini-doughnut stand

— near the grandstand — has donated its profits to local Democratic-Farmer-Labor groups. While Republican lawmakers were outraged about the long tradition this year, Marc Asch, a former Democratic lawmaker who has worked at the booth for 30 years, says over the years many media organizations have “exposed” the connection.

“We enjoy the coverage because every time we get exposed, our business increases — and we make great doughnuts,” Asch said earlier this year.

– Forum News Service