ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Jeff Johnson are the stars of television ads in their race for Minnesota governor. But neither can claim ownership of the spots because outside groups have done all of the airing so far.

Research by The Associated Press shows that Dayton is among only eight of 28 governors seeking re-election who has yet to go live with his own ads. Johnson is also in the minority as a challenger without a steady commercial presence by now.

Dayton has reserved time for ads that will air from next week through the November election. Johnson said he hopes to put his own up before September is over.

Until then, others have done the work.

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MINNESOTA DEMOCRATIC FARMER LABOR PARTY

The party opened a $1 million-plus ad campaign Monday with a spot that casts Johnson as hostile toward public education.

It features parents and expectant parents talking about the importance of financial support to schools while highlighting votes Johnson took as a Republican legislator that either cut appropriations to preschools and colleges or scaled back expected growth for K-12 programs. Toward the end, those same parents talk glowingly of Dayton and new state spending earmarked for schools on his watch.

The ad is part of a Democratic strategy to make Johnson an unattractive candidate, particularly to suburban moms. Dayton enjoys a wide advantage among female voters, which Johnson would have to significantly close to overtake the incumbent.

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FREEDOM CLUB STATE PAC

The Freedom Club is the only-right-of-center group in the ad game right now.

The commercial it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars airing doesn’t focus exclusively on Dayton. It also goes after Minnesota House Democrats, who are trying to retain their slim majority.

The double-barreled focus is notable because Republicans are split over where to put their attention: on defeating Dayton or regaining the House.

The Freedom Club — a conservative group with a devoted, big-dollar donor base — uses its ad to blame one-party rule for what it considers misguided spending decisions. The ad tells voters that taxes have gone up by record amounts and roads have deteriorated, all while lawmakers and Dayton approved a new office building for state senators.

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ALLIANCE FOR A BETTER MINNESOTA

Like the state Democratic Party, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota is hammering Johnson on education. But the liberal advocacy group goes even harder at the Republican nominee.

In more than one commercial, the group has branded Johnson a “tea party Republican” in an attempt to portray his as politically extreme. The ads make some leaps, insinuating that business tax breaks Johnson supported were directly tied to squeezes to education spending, but cites votes that were years apart to make the case.

The alliance is funded primarily by labor union contributions but also has deep financial ties to Dayton’s ex-wife, a Rockefeller heiress. The group played a big role four years ago in raising negative perceptions of the GOP nominee whom Dayton beat.

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