MINNESOTA GOVERNOR RACE: Candidates' elbows get sharper
ROCHESTER, Minn. Minnesota's three major-party candidates for governor debated again Friday, talking health care policy and budgets at a forum hosted by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce. With just over a week to go before the Nov. 2 election, it...
Minnesota's three major-party candidates for governor debated again Friday, talking health care policy and budgets at a forum hosted by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce.
With just over a week to go before the Nov. 2 election, it was the latest of nearly two dozen debates staged among DFLer Mark Dayton, the GOP's Tom Emmer and the Independence Party's Tom Horner.
While most of those have been generally civil, the three candidates displayed slightly sharper elbows Friday, primarily criticizing each other's plans regarding state taxes.
In a subject close to home in Rochester, one questioner mentioned the Mayo Clinic's criticism of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's decision to opt out of early enrollment in Medicaid coverage, included in the new federal health care law, and to cut medical benefits for poor Minnesotans.
While Emmer said he also would forgo opting into the program, Horner and Dayton said they wouldn't. Saying that opting in would bring $1.4 billion to the state, Dayton said "it should be the easiest, most common-sense decision a governor should make" and that he'd sign documents to do so "on Day One."
Horner said cutting medical aid to the poor was "one of the worst decisions the governor has made." He added that Pawlenty's stance on Medicaid "wasn't about Minnesota. It was about presidential ambitions."
One new wrinkle came when the candidates directly questioned each other, which produced relatively pointed exchanges.
Horner accused Dayton of being a career politician, with "a whole career of moving from one job to the next without completing the job," asking him if he has the "stick-to-it-ness" and "stability" to be governor. Dayton replied that he would "serve two terms at least" if elected.
Emmer went after Dayton for what he called "a hole" in his proposed budget and challenged him to produce a balanced budget by Election Day. Dayton acknowledged that his proposal is $890 million short of balancing, but he said he would delay paying the state's school districts money they are owed in state aid.
Dayton posited that Emmer's plan to reduce aid to local governments would force those governments to increase property taxes, an assertion Emmer called "a complete fallacy."
Horner, who has consistently lagged behind Dayton and Emmer in polls, stressed a long string of newspaper endorsements he has accumulated and the backing he has gotten from former Govs. Arne Carlson, Al Quie and Jesse Ventura. "We have to get beyond narrow ideological slices" that his rivals represent, Horner said. "The status quo isn't working."
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.