Live-blogging: The people who would be governor

MPR’s Midday with Gary Eichten is hosted a gubernatorial candidate forum from the UBS Forum at News Cut’s World Headquarters today. The DFLers are up first, then the GOP. Republican candidate Tom Emmer pulled out of today’s forum two hours before it was to start.

Can we learn much about candidates in these sorts of forums when there are so many candidates? Let’s find out as I live blog both hours.

Here’s Gary’s introduction:

Tomorrow night, all three of Minnesota’s major political parties hold neighborhood meetings — or caucuses — around the state to begin the process of selecting each party’s candidate for governor. Tim Pawlenty is not running for re-election this year so the field is wide open and there is no shortage of men and women who want to succeed him. Today, to help you get ready for the caucuses tomorrow night, we’ve been joined here in Minnesota Public Radio’s UBS Forum by all of the DFL and Republican Party candidates. We’ll hear from the DFL candidates this hour, the Republicans at noon. And we should note that even if you aren’t a party activist, you can still stop by your caucus tomorrow night, cast a ballot for governor in your party’s straw ballot, and leave. So, stay tuned. We might be able to help you decide who you want to vote for tomorrow night.

The format for the hour is pretty simple. No stopwatches or formal statements. But we have encouraged the candidates to keep their comments relatively short so everyone gets a chance to speak, we’ve encouraged the candidates to talk with each other as we go along, and we’ve also encouraged the candidates to identify themselves before they speak so you folks listening on the radio know who is speaking. It sounds a little stilted but it makes it easier to follow and I’ll also try to do a play-by-play as we go along.

One more note before we get started. There are three major political parties in Minnesota, and the Independence Party is also holding precinct caucuses tomorrow night. There is also a contest for the IP Party endorsement, but there wasn’t a contest when we set up this program so we weren’t able to incorporate them into the program today. However: if you go to your IP Party caucus tomorrow night, you now have a choice of five candidates. In alphabetical order, the IP candidates for governor are: Rob Hahn, Tom Horner, John Uldrich, Joe Repya, and Rahn Workuff. We’ll hear from them as the campaign goes along. We don’t want to give anyone short shrift.


  1. Listen Featured Audio

These are the candidates: Tom Bakk, Mark Dayton, Matt Entenza, Susan Gaertner (no show), Steve Kelley, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, John Marty, Felix Montez (no show), Tom Rukavina, R.T. Rybak, Ole Savior, Paul Thissen.

Q: Why should Democrats pick you?

Entenza: People are tired of not seeing things accomplished. We need a leader to stand up for core principles. I’ve got a proven track record who’ll put white-collar criminals in jail. We saved MinnesotaCare.

Thissen: Health care is a huge issue; it’s the thing that’s going to bankrupt Minnesota and I don’t think there’s anybody in the race with as much knowledge to solve that problem. We’ve fallen into a routine of looking to the past for our candidates and our ideas.

Rybak: I’ll support whoever gets the nomination but we have to remember what the governor’s job is. It’s to be chief executive of a multi-billion dollar corporation. It’s a job similar to mine. I walked into a city in a mess and showed you can have strong management.

Kelliher: Our economy is on the ropes and we don’t need someone who has to learn the ropes. I’ve put together three consecutive state budgets. The next governor will have 12 weeks to put the budget together and six of those weeks you’re not the governor.

Dayton: I offer 35 years of public service. I’m the only DFL candidate who’s headed a state agency and I’ve headed three of them.

Rukavina: I’ve walked the walk. I’ve done a lot of innovative things at the Capitol. I have a proven track record.

Savior: Republicans want to cut the budget and affect poor people. They don’t care about that. My idea is to bring more money into the state. A lot of Democrats want to raise our taxes and I don’t. It’s not necessary.

Marty: I have the vision to put together a health care plan that covers every Minnesotan and gives health care as a right to people.

Bakk: My theme is jobs, jobs, jobs. I’m the candidate with the most believable message. Spent my entire working career as a carpenter. In the ’80s, I ran out of unemployment. I know what it’s like not to have a paycheck.

Kelley: I’m the candidate who can win in November. I won five teams in a swing suburban district. I had opponents, but not enemies and that’s the leadership we need in the governor’s office.

Q: Should it matter to DFLers whether you honor the endorsement?

Thissen: Yes. I’m going to honor the endorsement.

Rukavina: I’ve been going to precinct caucus since 1972. It’s very important we have an endorsement process. I can’t run against my good friends who got a million bucks in this race.

Rybak: With this crop of candidates, whoever comes out of that endorsement, I’m going to support.

Dayton: The delegates at state convention comprise less than 1/3 of one percent of DFL primary voters want not to just recommend who the candidate should be, they want to dictate who the candidate should be. I’m running in the primary.

Bakk: I intend to abide by the endorsement. Both parties should pick their candidates by the first of May.

Savior: My views are similar to Mark Dayton’s. I will be in the primary. The Star Tribune and Pioneer Press have excluded me.

Kelley: Sen. Dayton has too narrow a view of what democracy is.

Marty: It matters some.

Kelliher: It matters. An endorsement process is important to have a diversity of candidates. The Republicans are not going to have a primary.

(Susan Gaertner has arrived. Describes why she should the choice. “I have executive experience and lots of experience making tough decisions.”)

Q: Many people would like to see an end to partisan gridlock. Is there an idea that Republicans have been promoting that’s a good idea?

Kelliher: An angel investor tax credit to promote biosciences. It attracts private capital.

Rybak: (Talks about what he’s done in Minneapolis, but doesn’t really answer the question other than to says both parties should “invest in Main Street.”)

Entenza: Says he’d get rid of No Child Left Behind. (Cleverly notes that some Republicans agree)

Savior: None.

Dayton: Says he worked with Sen. McCain on “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon,” to provide services to Iraqi war veterans.

Bakk: We have to look at regulatory environment. Taxes matter but every year we pile more rules on business community and if Minnesota is going to grow jobs, we have to look at environmental regulations.

Rukavina: Republicans have a lot of good ideas and I vote with them on a number of bills. We have different philosophies and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that.

Gaertner: Says she’s heard Republicans embrace consumption-based taxes. And use of ignition locks for drunk drivers.

Thissen: Says he’s been working with Republicans on initiatives to help people save for retirement.

[ Rybak just tweeted: Listen to me right now on MPR 91.1. Last debate before Caucuses!!] Does he tweet his own material or does someone else?

Kelley: Talks about high-speed Internet and a metro-wide public radio system.

Marty: Republicans have come to me to carry bills for consumer protection. Says the Republican who asked me said “it doesn’t really fit with my philosophy of government.” (Names, senator, give us a name!)

Rybak: I spend a lot of time talking to mayors. We have too much government in the state of Minnesota. Government needs to get back to basic: Police, fire, roads etc. (Well, that does get to the issue, doesn’t it. Since the bulk of the state budget is human services, how does that square with “getting back to basics”? Is that code?)

Kelliher: I respect people as individuals. That’s where that bipartisanship can start again. “We’ve seen too much name calling out of the governor’s office.”

Q: Should teacher pay be tied to student performance/test scores?

Kelley: There should be a team approach in schools. Music can contribute to a student’s learning of mathematics. Radically connecting test scores to teacher pay wouldn’t incorporate role that music teacher plays.

Entenza: The obsession with tests is completely nuts.

(Let’s go back to this item from today’s Five at 8: One of every four graduating high school boys can’t understand a newspaper article)

Rukavina: 99% of our teachers do a good-excellent job in our state. We should just let teachers teach again.

Gaertner: The teacher is held accountable for the student no matter what his/her background. But we need to come up with a way to evaluate project. The method needs to come from teachers themselves.

Dayton: We need to give teachers more tools.

Savior: You can’t always blame the governor. Between the governor and legislature, they’re against poor people. (Didn’t answer question)

Kelliher: Stresses need for early childhood education.

Thissen: This points out the need for experience.

Rybak: I don’t know a parent, teacher, or student who’s afraid of being measured. The challenge is we’re measuring too narrow and we’re not measuring community.

Dayton: The tests aren’t fair.


  1. Listen Featured Audio

Robert Carney, Leslie Davis, Bill Haas, David Hann, Phil Herwig, Marty Seifert.

Q: Why should caucus-goers choose you?

Haas: Because I have experience and knowledge of state budgeting process. I’ve got the energy it will take to get the job done.

Seifert: I have experience, knowledge and vision to lead this state. I downsized government.

Davis: People are tired of the misery. People who support me support the history of Minnesota. Vote for someone else and you support the misery.

Carney: I want to work with people of all party or no party who are independent minded. We have to talk about how to restrain growth of government, but governor can’t act as the third house of the Legislature.

Herwig: When the party was founded, they decided to call it Republican because it best expressed the idea of equality. For years, I’ve been active in the party. Heard people say they’d reduce government, do something about Pro Life issues… and I haven’t seen anything yet.

Hann: I’ve demonstrated my interest in voting for conservative principles. Have a strong commitment to education and reform of education.

Q: Do you see yourself as a Tea Party conservative or traditional Republican conservative?

Hann: I’m a traditional Republican with a commitment to limited government. Focus on doing the right thing.

Seifert: Says government shouldn’t spend more than it takes in. That resonates with both. A lot of it is about putting a demonstrable movement together.

Herwig: I started out demonstrating and protesting back in 1963 when I was on a Freedom March with Martin Luther King Jr. I protested Obama health care bill. The Tea Party has an open letter to Republicans. We are conservatives, capitalists, and political people. I see myself as a freedom fighter.

Hass: Tea Party people are good people. People want their voice heard.

Davis: Tea Party people are the guns and rumbling crowd.

Carney: Moderate, progressive candidate. I’m the MPR candidate. (huh? MPR has no horse in the race.) Republican Party is rooted in local government.

Herwig: It bothers me to hear Republican Party is rooted in federal and local government. The Republican Party is rooted in freedom (I don’t think Carney mentioned “federal”)

Q: Will you sign a “no new taxes” pledge?

Davis: Yes.

Carney: No

Hann: Yes

Herwig: Yes (and feeds)

Seifert: I haven’t been offered one. I’ve signed on in the past.

Haas: I’m not real high on signing pledges. I stand on my integrity that I won’t raise taxes.

(This brings up an interesting point. If a matter of integrity is saying you won’t do something, what does signing a pledge matter?)

Q: Can you name a good idea that Democrats have?

Seifert: We’re all for jobs. But we’re for less government and less welfare. Democrats are interested in some reforms. I want to be more aggressive.

Hann: Cites a John Brandl book and says there must be other Democrats who believe that money isn’t the answer to everything. Says Democrats have too strong an allegiance to government employee groups.

Hass: Elderly care, as cited by Paul Thissen. We’ve got baby boomers coming through the system and our elderly care system is not prepared for it. Also cites health insurance costs.

Davis: Just naming problems isn’t an idea. I didn’t hear them outline any solutions. Talk about pie-in-the-sky ideas. Jobs don’t grow. You can’t create jobs without money; none of them indicate where we’re going to make the money. You can’t cut and tax.

Carney: Sen. Bakk talked about deregulation; that’s something we want to look toward. He talked about ethanol plants getting built in Iowa because of regulations here. (Side note: Minnesota has a producer payment program for ethanol producers, however. How does that square with less government?)

Herwig: The question gets back to Republicans and Democrats working together. Because of the times we’re in, both will be more interested in working together.

Q: Should federal government spend more money on education?

Hann: No, there’s nothing in the Constitution that authorizes the federal government to set education.

Davis: He’s right. The idea of putting more money into it. In Minneapolis they convinced voters to approve a bill that would give them another half-billion dollars. If you look at math, reading, science scores, in both of those cities, they’re “F” in every category.

Haas: Too many strings attached. Outcome-based education, Profiles of Learning, all failed programs. We have to have more control at the local level with parents having a voice in the education of their children.

Seifert: It’s a local responsibility. 20-30 percent of children in Minneapolis drop out. We have old laws that allow 16 year olds to drop out.

(Seifert just pointed out that he voted to withdraw from No Child Left Behind. He did. I wonder if he brought it up because his perceived main competition — Tom Emmer — was one of 9 legislators who voted against it. Here’s the roll call.)

Q: Give one area where you could see the state making a substantial savings by cutting the budget?

Davis: Get rid of all the PR people at the Dept. of Commerce. There’d be some trimming. I’d trim the Judiciary staff.

Hann: You have to look where the money is. Half the money is in education. Another 20 percent is in human services and health care. We could look at meeting education objectives at a lower cost.

Seifert: Contract out administrative functions like MinnesotaCare. There’s hundreds of millions to be saved by cutting entitlement programs. Wants crackdown on people who move to Minnesota for social service programs.

Carney: If you set budget caps and provide stability, organizations will adjust to the budget. (Didn’t really hear an answer there).

Herwig: Pawlenty administration doesn’t have any ideas; they’re busy running for another office. Recommends fewer school districts. Would save $600 million per biennium.

Haas: Why is health and human services going up $2.5 billion? You can’t say you’re go after just one program?

End of the program.