Keith Downey, former MN GOP chairman, drops out of governor’s race

Former Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey today pulled the plug on his campaign for governor, saying he could not “see a path to victory” after former Gov. Tim Pawlenty joined the race this month.

Downey, a former state representative from Edina, said in a letter to supporters he believed he had the right message. “But the opportunity for me to win in November has closed,” he wrote.

Keith Downey (Courtesy of the candidate)

When Pawlenty entered the race, “the landscape changed dramatically,” he said.

The former governor raised more than $1 million for his campaign less than a month announcing he’d seek a third term.

Downey reported raising $182,338 this year, placing him third in the GOP money contest behind Pawlenty and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.

Downey finished second in a straw poll at the Republican precinct caucuses Feb. 6 with 15 percent of the vote. Johnson won the straw poll (45 percent) and was considered the frontrunner for the GOP endorsement until Pawlenty entered the race.

Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens and teacher Phillip Parrish are also seeking the Republican endorsement for governor.

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Edina’s Sammy Walker is AP Player of Year for prep hockey | The Modesto Bee

Edina senior Sammy Walker is the Minnesota Associated Press Player of the Year award winner for high school boys hockey.

Walker totaled 33 goals and 41 assists in 30 games this season for the Hornets, who lost to Duluth East in the Class 2A semifinals. Walker, who has committed to play in college for Minnesota, helped lead Edina to a 27-3 record.

The AP all-state team was announced Monday in partnership with the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association and the State of Hockey, the Minnesota Wild-backed booster organization.

Joining Walker on the first team were Duluth East senior forward Garrett Worth, Elk River junior forward Jack Perbix, Duluth East senior defenseman Luke LaMaster, Edina junior defenseman Ben Brinkman, and St. Thomas Academy senior goalie Atticus Kelly.

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Developers eye potential at former Hillcrest, Mississippi Dunes golf courses – Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal

Golf season will resume soon across Minnesota, but it’s the end of the line for two east-metro courses that closed last fall.

The Pioneer Press has updates on the prospects for the Hillcrest Golf Course and Mississippi Dunes, which both shut down last year and are being marketed for redevelopment.

The Business Journal reported on both shutdowns when they happened, so the new stories are useful as a refresher and update on market interest so far. Hillcrest’s owners decided last summer to close the site after the season ended. The 110-acre site could become hundreds of homes, though some neighbors are also holding out hope for some sort of commercial development to boost jobs in the area.

RELATED: Some metro-area country clubs headed for the green while others risk the hazard

Housing is also the likely future at Mississippi Dunes, which closed in October and put up for sale after its owner was sued by former employees for sexual harassment. The 185-acre course has 1,900 feet of Mississippi River shoreline in Cottage Grove.

The course was listed by Edina Realty for $10 million and could hold more than 350 homes. Several developers have reportedly expressed interest.

The List: Golf Courses

Ranked by USGA men’s slope rating

Rank Name USGA men’s slope rating 1 Hazeltine National Golf Club 152 2 Spring Hill Golf Club 151 3 The Wilds Golf Club 150 View This List

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Proposal Would Raise MN Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

Minnesota could raise the minimum age for tobacco purchases under a proposal in the Legislature.

Five states and nearly 300 cities across the country have raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, including five Minnesota cities. The so-called “Tobacco 21″ bill – House File 3532 – would add to that momentum by raising the minimum age statewide.

Laura Smith, communications manager for ClearWay Minnesota – a nonprofit aimed at reducing statewide tobacco use – says it’s a simple change that would go a long way to reduce health problems and health-care costs in the state.

“If we can prevent people under 21 from starting,” says Smith, “then we can really reduce the number of young people who are becoming addicted smokers.”

Opponents argue that there’s little evidence raising the purchase age will curb the use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or vaping supplies, and retailers also worry about losing sales. But the bill has bipartisan support, with 14 co-sponsors – five of whom signed on just this week.

The chief sponsor of the measure is state Rep. Dario Anselmo, R-Edina, the first city in the state to raise the tobacco-purchase age. He believes the healthcare savings would more than balance the estimated two to four percent lost annual revenue for retailers.

“Three billion dollars of hard costs to our state of Minnesota, another $4 billion in lost productivity – so, $7 billion,” he says. “If people talk about saving healthcare costs, this seems like a pretty easy target to me.”

Anselmo adds it’s about more than just money.

“There’s an economic piece to everything we do,” he says. “We just have to make the better choice.”

The Tobacco 21 bill has been assigned to the Health and Human Services Reform Committee in the House.

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Minnesota bill would raise smoking age to 21 statewide

A small but bipartisan group of Minnesota lawmakers on Thursday proposed increasing the statewide age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, after several Minnesota cities independently raised the smoking age in the last year.

Five Minnesota cities have increased the age for tobacco sales since May, including major Minneapolis suburbs such as Plymouth and Edina, while five states have done the same in recent years. Flanked by school children wearing anti-youth-smoking shirts, several House Democrats and Republicans announced their proposal to make Minnesota the sixth state. They argued it would steer young adults away from smoking and eventually lower health care costs.

"Smoking has been with us for so long and so many people just shrug it off," said Edina Republican Dario Anselmo, the bill’s author. "Yet, it kills more people in Minnesota than any preventable disease."

Tobacco use among Minnesota teens has dropped in recent years, but officials have noted an increase in e-cigarette use. Anselmo’s bill would apply to e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. Adults younger than 21 wouldn’t be penalized for smoking, but shops who sell them tobacco would face stiffer penalties.

"The state needs to act now to ensure we don’t backslide," said Molly Moilanen, who co-chairs the Minnesotans for Smoke-Free Generation Coalition.

Advocates say the push for statewide restrictions is similar to lawmakers’ passage of the Freedom to Breathe Act. The 2007 act banned indoor smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants amid health concerns over secondhand smoke.

"I’m hopeful that 10 years from now, we’ll be remembering ‘Tobacco 21’ in the same way," said Minnetonka physician Caleb Schultz.

But Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he doesn’t see widespread support for a statewide age increase this year. Gazelka, of Nisswa, said new tobacco laws aren’t a top priority in a shortened session.

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