Senators not invited to Bush address

Joanna Dornfeld

When President George W. Bush visited Monday, he was warmly received by most local officials.

But two of Minnesota’s heaviest hitters were nowhere to be found at Bush’s Eden Prairie High School appearance – just a day before the start of one of the closest Senate races in the country.

Current Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton and Paul Wellstone – whom Republican Coleman seeks to unseat – were not invited to attend the education talk, though Coleman was in attendance.

But neither senator said he felt he was being snubbed.

“Mark certainly doesn’t expect to be invited to every event the president holds,” said Sara Howard, Dayton’s press secretary. “Certainly there are some questions that are raised that officeholders weren’t invited but a candidate was, but I wouldn’t say he feels slighted.”

Wellstone said he was not invited to Monday’s event because he does not agree with Bush’s education legislation.

“The president said I shouldn’t be there because we have very different views on education, and he’s right. We do have very different views and very different priorities,” said Wellstone in a recorded statement.

“President Bush is coming to Minnesota Ö and I say welcome to the president. This is good for our state,” he said.

Wellstone opposed the education bill because he said he feels the money that could be made from tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent should go toward education, said Allison Dobson, his press secretary.

Dayton voted against the bill because he felt it was not fair to Minnesota school children, Howard said.

It is not uncommon that politicians who do not support a president’s plan are not invited to such events, said Coleman spokeswoman Leslie Kupchella.

White House officials issued the invitations to local politicians as well as Minnesota residents, said White House spokesman Ken Lisaius.

Lisaius said he could not comment about why Wellstone and Dayton were not invited. Coleman was invited because he supports Bush’s education plan, Lisaius said.

Lance Olson, spokesman for Jim Ramstad, R-Minn. – who represents the Eden Prairie area – said Wellstone and Dayton should have extended their welcome to Bush, regardless of invitation to Monday’s discussion.

“When the president comes, you make an effort to meet him,” Olson said. “They could be more polite when the president comes to the state of Minnesota. It’s a rare event.”

Ramstad supports most of the president’s agenda but opposed his education reform bill, Olson said. Olson said the priority was that Eden Prairie teachers, students and parents were invited.

The White House also invited Gov. Jesse Ventura to the Eden Prairie meeting, but he was unable to attend due to a prior commitment, said Ventura spokesman Paul Moore. Ventura greeted Bush upon his arrival at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Air Reserve Station.

“He feels like it’s a governor’s duty to welcome a president to his state,” Moore said.

Joanna Dornfeld welcomes comments at [email protected]