Mike McFadden, GOP Franken challenger, taking heat for not talking about the issues

McFadden has let his money do the talking so far.

McFadden has let his money do the talking so far.

For months, the DFL has been sending out a steady stream of releases taking shots at Mike McFadden, a leading GOP U.S. Senate hopeful, for being unwilling to engage his fellow Franken challengers in debate.

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McFadden, a businessman with no history in politics, has been laughing all the way to the bank. Earlier this month, he reported having $1.7 million cash on hand for his campaign, an amount that dramatically exceeds the other GOP contenders, including MNGOP Sen. Julianne Ortman.

Who needs to appear at debates when you can raise that sort of dough from the sidelines?

The DFL put McFadden on blast again yesterday after news broke that his first debate appearance might end up being at a high-dollar Freedom Club event next month. It's unclear whether the debate will be open to the public or media at all, and membership in the club costs at least $3,000.

"In what world does investment banker Mike McFadden live where he believes the average working Minnesotan can afford to pay $3,000 just to hear him talk about the issues?" DFL Chairman Ken Martin said in a release. "That's more than the average Minnesotan pays a month for their mortgage, car payments and groceries combined. It's a testament to not only how out of touch McFadden is with middle-class Minnesotans but also shows he has no desire to talk to them."

Debates (or lack thereof) aside, McFadden hasn't made it clear what his brand of Republican politics is all about. His website doesn't contain an "issues" page, and its "Meet Mike" biography limits itself platitudes of this sort: "If there's one other thing you should know about me, it's that I am passionate about educating our youth."

McFadden's official response to the State of the Union provides another shining example of his campaign's lack of substance.

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"The state of our union is divided because Washington politicians care more about political games than creating opportunity for every American to succeed," McFadden wrote. "As the most partisan Senator, Al Franken is standing in the way of opportunity for millions of Americans who want an economic recovery that will create jobs, put more money in their pockets and get rid of Obamacare. We can do better."

McFadden's campaign says he'll likely compete in a primary regardless of whether he secures the MNGOP endorsement, which seems an unlikely prospect given how little effort he's invested in connecting with rank-and-file Minnesota Republicans.

That possibility is "troubling," Ortman said in a November radio interview. (Just today, Ortman promised to abide by her party's endorsement.)

"It is troubling that McFadden has said he's not going to honor the endorsement and does not appear at events where he's been invited to come and speak about the Republican candidacy," Ortman said. "But I'll leave to others to sort out whether or not they can trust him since he's never had really any public experience and seems to be unwilling to talk about many of his positions."

DFL officials, meanwhile, say they don't have any particular ax to grind with McFadden. They say they'd go after any political candidate who's as unwilling to engage on the issues as McFadden has proven to be.

McFadden Deputy Campaign Manager Tom Erickson didn't return a voicemail and email seeking comment for this story.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]