MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You’ve seen his campaign ads on TV, and on Tuesday night I had an opportunity to visit with U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden at football practice.

McFadden easily won the Republican primary last week to challenge Democratic Sen. Al Franken this November.

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But McFadden has quickly come under fire over a couple of key issues, including remarks about the gas tax and what steel he would use to build the Keystone Pipeline.

As one of the coaches of the Mendota Heights’ 5th and 6th grade football program, McFadden speaks in football terms. And his gridiron metaphors often carry over to his television ads, and to the campaign trail.

“I want to hand off to them a country that’s back on the path of growth and prosperity,” he said. “On the right track, not the wrong track and I believe I can do that.”

But while the businessman and father of six easily won his primary, he drew a flag from his skeptics at an event in St. Cloud when he said he supported a raise in the gas tax. Then, minutes later, he insisted he opposed a gas tax hike.

McFadden said it was a “misstatement.”

“We need to figure out a better way to fund transportation in this country,” he added. “We continue to kick the can down the road, and it’s an example of how Washington is broken.”

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McFadden is also a big supporter of the Keystone XL Pipeline and took some heat for allegedly saying he would include steel from China if it helped get the project done.

On Tuesday, he said he also supports Iron Range steel.

“Yeah, I absolutely support using steel,” he said. “In fact, I’d love to see copper from northern Minnesota being used. I support getting those copper mines open.”

He calls himself a businessman and a problem solver.

“I want to roll up my sleeves and figure out a way to do that,” he said. “And I think I can do that in a bi-partisan way.”

In his latest campaign ad, McFadden said that Franken keeps missing the mark because he’s voted with President Barack Obama 97 percent of the time.

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To which, Franken’s camp called the ad an “attack ad” and an “attempt to change the subject after recent bad headlines.”

John Lauritsen