Politics Friday

By Minnesota Public Radio

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Weekly updates from Mike Mulcahy and the Minnesota Public Radio newsroom staff covering politics in Minnesota.

Episode Date
Politics Friday: With one vote, the DFL can’t afford to lose any support in the state Senate

Two Democrats from northern Minnesota are key members of the DFL's slim majority and they’re facing tough votes on controversial issues including gun control, taxes and abortion. 

MPR News host Mike Mulcahy talks to Sen. Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown, and Sen. Robert Kupec, DFL-Moorhead about how they're weighing what their constituents are telling them and the agenda DFL leaders are promoting at the Capitol.

Later in the hour, we get the GOP reaction to a new two-year budget outline proposed by DFL leaders earlier in the week. MPR political reporters stop by to unpack the latest news from the Capitol.

And Rep. María Isa Pérez-Vega, DFL-St. Paul, shares her life story about growing in the Twin Cities, her music career and how it all connects with her passion for activism and politics. 


  • Sen. Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown 

  • Sen. Robert Kupec, DFL-Moorhead

  • Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake 

  • Rep. María Isa Pérez-Vega, DFL-St. Paul 

  • Brian Bakst is a politics reporter for MPR News  

  • Dana Ferguson is a politics reporter for MPR News

    Subscribe to the Politics Friday podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or RSS.

    Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.  

Mar 24, 2023
Politics Friday: A slim DFL majority works towards full marijuana legalization and universal school meals

For years, Minnesota lawmakers have been working to legalize marijuana. The latest bill is still up for debate, but can a small DFL majority make it happen or will this bill go up in smoke? 

MPR News host Mike Mulcahy talks to Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, about the movement to legalize marijuana and we’ll also hear from Rep. Kristin Robbins, R-Maple Grove, on why she’s one of the lawmakers speaking out against legalizing adult-use cannabis. 

Later in the hour, Sen. Heather Gustafson, DFL-Vadnais Heights, and Rep. Sydney Jordan, DFL-Minneapolis, explain how their bill for universal school breakfast and lunch will benefit students across Minnesota.  

And MPR News political reporters unpack the latest news from the Capitol this week.    


  • Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids  

  • Rep. Kristin Robbins, R-Maple Grove

  • Rep. Sydney Jordan, DFL-Minneapolis

  • Sen. Heather Gustafson, DFL-Vadnais Heights

  • Brian Bakst is a politics reporter for MPR News  

  • Dana Ferguson is a politics reporter for MPR News

Subscribe to the Politics Friday podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or RSS.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.   

Mar 16, 2023
Politics Friday: Women take charge at the Capitol

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, have used their slim DFL majorities to break a logjam over progressive legislation.

MPR News host Mike Mulcahy talks to three of the most powerful women in state government about what's happened at the Capitol so far this year and what's next on their agenda.

Speaker Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Dziedzic talk about Minnesota's massive budget surplus and their plans for the upcoming weeks. And Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, has made history herself as the first Black woman to lead the House Republican caucus. We'll get the GOP take on what's been happening this session and her strategy for the weeks ahead.

Later in the hour, MPR News political reporters unpack the biggest stories from the State Capitol this week.   


  • Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park

  • House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring

  • Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis

  • Dana Ferguson is a politics reporter for MPR News

  • Brian Bakst is a politics reporter for MPR News

Subscribe to the Politics Friday podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or RSS.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.   

Mar 09, 2023
Politics Friday: Gov. Tim Walz on session 2023 and that big budget surplus

The Minnesota State Legislature gaveled into its 93rd session two months ago, and lawmakers have quickly gotten to business. 

MPR News political editor Mike Mulcahy gets the latest news from the Capitol with political reporters Dana Ferguson and Peter Callaghan. And Minnesota Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, talks about the GOP agenda for the remainder of the session.

Later in the program, a conversation with Gov. Tim Walz about the state’s budget surplus and his top priorities for the legislative session.


  • Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz 

  • State Sen. Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks

  • Dana Ferguson is a politics reporter covering the Minnesota Capitol and elections for MPR News. 

  • Peter Callaghan is a state government reporter for the MinnPost.

    Subscribe to the Politics Friday podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or RSS.

    Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

Mar 01, 2023
What will the DFL do with its (small) majorities?

With the DFL poised to take control of the Minnesota Senate and keep control of the House and governor’s office, some Democratic priorities may become law in 2023. Mike Mulcahy talks abortion, marijuana, paid family leave, sports betting and more with newly selected Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis) and Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park).

Mike also talks with newly reelected DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon and political analysts Todd Rapp and Chas Anderson.

Nov 11, 2022
3rd District debate and campaign for Minnesota Senate

In a 3rd Congressional District debate, incumbent Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) debates his Republican challenger, Tom Weiler. Mike Mulcahy moderates a debate about what Congress can do about abortion, inflation, public safety, social security and more.

Later in the hour, Mike talks to Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) and Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) about next week’s election.

Nov 04, 2022
The Gubernatorial Debate

The DFL and Republican candidates for Minnesota governor met for their third and final debate Friday on MPR News. DFL Gov. Tim Walz and his Republican challenger, Dr. Scott Jensen, sparred over crime, the economy, education and more. MPR News politics editor Mike Mulcahy moderated the debate.

Oct 28, 2022
Meet the candidates for Minnesota state auditor

With just over two weeks to go until Election Day, polls show many Minnesota races are very tight, including the race for state auditor.

MPR News host Mike Mulcahy talked with DFLer Julie Blaha, who is seeking a second four-year term as auditor, and with Republican challenger Ryan Wilson. They talked about the big issues, where they agree and disagree and what the state auditor actually does.

Plus, an update of the week’s political news with MPR News political reporter Dana Ferguson.


  • Minnesota State Auditor Julie Blaha is the DFL candidate for state auditor.

  • Ryan Wilson is the Republican candidate for state auditor.

  • Dana Ferguson is an MPR News political reporter.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

Oct 21, 2022
The Attorney General debate

MPR News politics editor Mike Mulcahy moderates a debate between the candidates for Minnesota Attorney General — incumbent DFLer Keith Ellison and Republican challenger Jim Schultz.

Oct 14, 2022
Politics Friday: The economy, pardons for marijuana possession, and a 2nd District update

Economist Louis Johnston discusses inflation and other economic issues that will have an impact on the upcoming election. And attorney Carol Moss talks about President Biden’s recently announced federal pardons for simple marijuana possession and how marijuana policy could affect the 2022 election. And MPR News's Mark Zdechlik gives us the rundown on the 2nd Congressional District race between DFL incumbent Angie Craig and Republican challenger Tyler Kistner.

Oct 07, 2022
Frey on his police chief nominee and Jennifer Schultz, challenger in the 8th District

Host Mike Mulcahy talks with Mayor Jacob Frey about Frey’s choice for the next Minneapolis police chief.

Then, a conversation with State Rep. Jen Schultz, DFL-Duluth. She’s an economics professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth and she’s challenging U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., for the 8th District seat in Congress and not running for reelection to the Minnesota House. (We have invited Rep. Stauber on the program, but he has not yet agreed to an interview.)

Finally, Mike rounds up this week’s political news stories with MPR News’s Dana Ferguson and Brian Bakst and Minnpost’s Peter Callaghan.

Sep 30, 2022
Rep. Angie Craig and a Hennepin County Attorney debate

This week on Politics Friday, Mike sits down with Representative Angie Craig to talk
about her re-election campaign, and Brian Bakst moderates a debate between the two candidates for Hennepin County Attorney.

Sep 23, 2022
Legislative leaders and retiring rural DFLer Paul Marquart

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, join host Mike Mulcahy to talk about why their party should get control of the House in November's election. Then Mike talks to retiring Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, a rare rural Democrat in Minnesota.

Sep 16, 2022
Jensen on education and more; Simon on election integrity

For this special state fair edition of Politics Friday, Mike Mulcahy talked with GOP candidate for governor Scott Jensen and DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon. And the MPR News politics reporting team looked ahead to the fall campaign season.

Sep 02, 2022
Attorney General Keith Ellison looks ahead to general election

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison easily won the DFL nomination on primary night. He’ll take on Republican nominee Jim Schultz in November.

Aug 10, 2022
Jim Schultz on winning GOP nomination for Attorney General

Republican Attorney General nominee Jim Schultz talks with MPR’s Mike Mulcahy.

Aug 10, 2022
Brad Finstad will be Minnesota's newest member of Congress

Congressman-elect Finstad talked to MPR’s Brian Bakst about his priorities for his short term in Congress and the campaign ahead.

Aug 10, 2022
DFL's Ettinger loses special election, will get another shot in November

Former Hormel Foods CEO Jeff Ettinger talked to Brian Bakst about what his next campaign will look like.

Aug 10, 2022
Scott Jensen on how he'll try to unseat Gov. Walz

Former GOP state senator Scott Jensen is his party’s nominee for Governor. He’ll try to unseat incumbent DFL Gov. Tim Walz in November.

Aug 10, 2022
Gov. Tim Walz looks ahead to the general election

Governor Tim Walz is seeking re-election after a term dominated by his response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fallout from the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Aug 10, 2022
DFL, GOP political analysts weigh in on what gas prices, Jan. 6 hearings mean for MN politics

While politics may not be on the top of many people’s minds as summer vacation season sets in, political watchers are tuned into campaign finance reports, polling data and the mood of voters. 

This week saw the release of reports showing Democrat Tim Walz has a big campaign cash advantage over his Republican rival Scott Jensen. But there was also news of an 8.5 percent jump in inflation in May as gas prices hovered near $5 per gallon. 

There are conflicting signs in the political tea leaves, and Republicans and Democrats are reading them differently.

This week on Politics Friday, host Mike Mulcahy talks with two veteran political analysts —Democrat Abou Amara and Republican Brian McDaniel — for their takes on the news and what it all means for the August primary and the November election.

Jun 16, 2022
GOP candidates for Minnesota attorney general; the high price of gasoline

A key statewide office on the ballot this fall is Attorney General, a job Minnesota Democrats have held since the early 1970s. Republicans believe they have a real chance to flip the office, but who will be their candidate? 

Last month at their state convention, the GOP endorsed political newcomer Jim Schultz. But before he can focus his campaign on unseating DFL incumbent Keith Ellison, he must deal with a primary challenge from the party’s 2018 candidate Doug Wardlow. 

This week, Politics Friday host Mike Mulcahy is joined by Minnesota GOP attorney general hopefuls Jim Schultz and Doug Wardlow. We’ll hear why each candidate thinks they are best for the job, how they plan to reverse the statewide losing streak for Republicans and why they believe they are most qualified to take on Ellison. We’ll learn why primary challenger Doug Wardlow is staying in the race despite his pledge to abide by the party’s endorsement. 

Mike talked with DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is running for re-election, back in March.

Plus, industry experts expect gas prices to stay high for a while. University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management professor Akshay Rao joins the show to discuss why prices went up, if they will continue to rise and how politics intersect with gas prices. 


  • Jim Schultz, Republican endorsed candidate for Minnesota attorney general

  • Doug Wardlow, primary challenger

  • Professor Akshay Rao, General Mills Chair in Marketing, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

Jun 09, 2022
What’s next for the budget surplus — will there be a special session?

This week, Politics Friday host Mike Mulcahy led a roundtable discussion with folks who keep a close eye on state politics: MPR News politics reporter Brian Bakst, Star Tribune politics and government reporter Briana Bierschbach, and Dave Orrick from the Pioneer Press' Capitol Bureau. They talked about the latest politics news at the Capitol and in the upcoming elections and shared analysis.

Jun 03, 2022
The race in Minnesota’s first Congressional District and what's next at the Capitol

The special primary election in Minnesota’s first Congressional District this week narrowed the field of candidates for an August special election.

Republican Brad Finstad came out on top in his party and Jeff Ettinger won the DFL primary.

Now they’ll compete in a special election in August to determine who fills the remaining months of former Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s term. Hagedorn died in February after battling cancer. 

And the Legislature ended its session after lawmakers missed a deadline to pass major tax and spending bills. Some Republicans say the work can wait until after the November election, while Democrats want a special session. 

MPR News host Mike Mulcahy talks to Brad Finstad and Jeff Ettinger about how they won their parties' nominations and how the next round of the campaign is shaping up. Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen also will join Mike to talk about what he thinks should happen to Minnesota’s budget surplus and DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman will weigh in on a special session.


  • Brad Finstad is a Republican candidate for Congress.

  • Jeff Ettinger is a DFL candidate for Congress.

  • Dr. Scott Jensen is Republican candidate for governor.

  • Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) is Speaker of the Minnesota House.

May 27, 2022
DFL to hold its state convention in Rochester

A week after Minnesota Republicans held their state convention in Rochester, Democrats will be there for their convention. 

Unlike the Republicans, DFLers know who they will endorse. The party holds every statewide office in Minnesota, and the convention will endorse all of their reelection campaigns. 

But with inflation and gas prices up and President Joe Biden’s approval down, can Democrats hold on to those seats? And how do they intend to do it? 

Politics Friday host Mike Mulcahy talks with Minnesota DFL Party chairperson Ken Martin about the party’s prospects and strategy. Plus state Sen. Matt Klein joins to respond to the Republicans’ endorsement of Scott Jensen for governor.

We’ll hear the latest from Rochester and get an update on where things stand at the Capitol headed into the final weekend of the legislative session.   


May 20, 2022
GOP delegates weigh in as party holds state convention in Rochester

More than 2,200 Minnesota Republicans gathered in Rochester starting Friday to endorse candidates for all the statewide offices on the ballot this fall. Candidates for governor, attorney general, secretary of state and more hope this weekend will propel their campaigns for the 2022 general election. Republicans are fired up and think this year they have their first real chance since 2006 of winning statewide. Host Mike Mulcahy talked with delegates, party leaders and observers about Minnesota Republicans’ chances in 2022.

May 12, 2022
Reactions to possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned; plus remembering Walter Mondale

The leak of a draft Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has sparked questions about access to abortion, other rights at risk and how this issue will define the midterm elections. We’ll get reaction from DFL Sen. Tina Smith and state Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake. Plus, historian Jon Meacham remembers Walter Mondale.

May 06, 2022
Voting and elections with Secretary of State Steve Simon

Laws about voting have always been the subject of debate, but in recent years voting--and election integrity---has become a controversial political issue.

Politics Friday with Mike Mulcahy talks with Secretary of State Steve Simon about this year’s election, the election system and what if any changes the Legislature might make to elections and voting.  

Plus, MPR politics reporter Tim Pugmire and Dana Ferguson, capitol correspondent from the Forum News Service for an end-of-week politics round up.


  • Secretary of State Steve Simon

  • Dana Ferguson, Capitol Correspondent, Forum News Service

  • Tim Pugmire, MPR Politics Reporter

Apr 29, 2022
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rich Stanek and author of 'Democracy Under Fire' Lawrence Jacobs

This week, Politics Friday continued our conversations with Republican candidates for Minnesota governor.

Rich Stanek, former Hennepin County sheriff, joined Mike Mulcahy to talk about what sets him apart in the campaign for the GOP endorsement.

Plus, have historical forces in America’s electoral system widened political inequity and rewarded political polarization? Lawrence R. Jacobs, Director of the Center for Politics & Governance at the University of Minnesota joined us to discuss his new book, “Democracy Under Fire: Donald Trump and the Breaking of American History.”


  • Rich Stanek, former Hennepin County Sheriff and candidate for governor

  • Lawrence R. Jacobs, Director of the Center for Politics & Governance at the University of Minnesota

Apr 22, 2022