Representatives for both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates made stops in Minnesota this week, indicating the state will be an important part of both campaigns this fall.

President Donald Trump spoke in Mankato in mid August and his son Donald Trump Jr. visited Duluth Wednesday, where he hosted a Make America Great Again event.

On that same day, former second lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden visited Prior Lake where she conversed with Governor Tim Walz, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Education Minnesota President Denise Specht and Minnesota educators at Jeffers Pond Elementary as part of her national “Back-to-School Tour.”

Jill Biden has made stops and conducted virtual tours in Green Bay, Phoenix, Delaware and other locations. A former educator herself, Biden and Minnesota officials and educators discussed the reopening of schools amid the pandemic.

“We were honored to have some of our staff invited to be part of the discussion on back-to-school planning during this time of COVID-19," Prior Lake-Savage School Board Chair Lee Shimek said. "PLSAS staff who were invited to be part of the discussion included Jeffers Pond principal, Patrick Glynn; Jeffers Pond teacher, LeAnn Weikle; Prior Lake High School teacher, Justin Schramm; and La ola del lago teacher, Sabrina Tapia Contreras.”

Standing outside the elementary school waiting for Biden to arrive was Katie Haycraft, a coach within the Prior Lake-Savage School District and wife of a PLSAS teacher. She thought the community conversation was a positive way to draw attention to the back-to-school protocols in Minnesota and show support for educators.

“This is super cool. I have so much respect for her, even Gov. Walz,” Haycraft said. “I know that this is such a challenging time for all of them but I think what they stand for is really awesome and so I love that they are coming to our community and are here to support the whole state.”

As the spouse of an educator, Haycraft understands school officials have had to make tough decisions on behalf of students and teachers since the start of the pandemic. Educators meeting with Biden may provide insight on how other states are approaching the 2020-21 school year, she said.

“This is something that is going on all across the country and there's a lot they can learn from what other states have done ... It’s important to get the message to all of them so everybody can kind of be on the same page,” Haycraft said.

To have such an event take place in her neighborhood was “monumental,” she added.

Biden’s visit fell the day before PLSAS students' first official day of school where some will be attending in-person and others online as the district adopted a hybrid learning model for the start of the school year.

Most students are not going back to school full-time despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said.

"Kids need predictability and consistency and as adults it's our responsibility to give them that. We've failed them. Pediatricians overwhelmingly think it is in the best interest of children to get them back into school and return to a familiar routine,” Carnahan said. “Yet Democrats like Tim Walz and the Bidens are determined to make every part of the pandemic response as painful as it can be, even for children. But I hope Jill enjoys her photo op.”

Carnahan said the party was proud to have hosted members of the Trump family in Minnesota this week.

“These visits are further proof that President Trump is poised to be the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Minnesota since 1972,” she said. “The Trump campaign has made over 2.5 million voter contacts in Minnesota this cycle and that hard work is paying off.”

Even some less-enthusiastic voters are getting heavily involved this election cycle.

Parked on Jeffers Pass Wednesday was a “Settle for Biden” van, which St. Paul resident Chris Madden had wrapped to rally support for Joe Biden.

After following the primaries closely, Madden decided Biden was the candidate he would support for the 2020 election despite not being his top choice for presidential nominee.

“‘Settle for Joe Biden,’ it's an acceptance that he's the choice and we have got to do this still,” Madden said. “So I put it on the side of a van and plan to drive it around campuses, swing states, all the way to Washington, D.C.”

A friend had sent Madden information about Biden coming to Prior Lake and he thought it was a great opportunity to bring his van, he said.

“I think Minnesota is a swing state this year and we've been voting blue ... and I want to make sure we keep voting blue,” Madden said.

Madden also creates social media content under the names @settleforbidenvan and @settle4bidenvan to inspire younger people to hit the polls.

“This is an extremely important election and people shouldn't tune it out and people should make sure that they are registered to vote and have a plan for voting,” Madden said.

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