Candidates target campus in 11th hour of campaigning

Jeff Johnson and a star actor campaigning for Al Franken visited campus last week.

Taylor Nachtigal

Just days before voters hit the polls, University of Minnesota students and employees became targets for the campaigns vying to win two of the highest offices representing Minnesotans.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson made a last-minute pitch on Thursday, discussing his platform with students and faculty members. And the next day, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., apparently flexed his Hollywood ties, as comedian and actor Fred Armisen made a stop on campus to campaign for the incumbent.

Johnson, who serves as a Hennepin County commissioner, is running against Democratic incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton in Tuesday’s election.

On Thursday morning, Johnson spent an hour with a group of about 40 students and faculty members at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Humphrey Forum, where he addressed what he described as problematic trends in higher education.

For the University, Johnson said he wants to examine administrative expenses and the recent hikes in tuition costs.

“What we’ve got do within the system is figure out what we can do to bring down the cost curve,” he said. “A tuition freeze for another year or two would be fine, but long term, that is not going to solve the problem.”

The gubernatorial race so far hasn’t had a strong emphasis on higher education, instead focusing on issues like the state’s health care system and the economy.

Armisen’s Friday visit for Franken, which was sponsored partly by the University’s College Democrats, also served as a rally aiming to get University students out to the polls.

Students seemed excited by the “Portlandia” star’s appearance, with some posing for photos with him.

Armisen was flanked by both Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

Polls as of Sunday night showed Franken had about a 10.5 percentage point advantage over Republican challenger Mike McFadden.

In the gubernatorial race, polls showed Dayton having about an 8.5 percentage point advantage over Johnson.