Five candidates, two Republicans and three Democrats, who are vying for the chance to serve as Minnesota’s next governor took part in a forum at Farmfest Aug. 8. Those candidates included Democrats Tim Walz, Erin Murphy and Lori Swanson, as well as Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Jeff Johnson.
One Democrat and one Republican will move on to the November general election following the primary election being held in Minnesota Aug. 14.
The forum Wednesday provided an opportunity for the candidates to get their message out to the voters one more time before they vote Aug. 14.
As the venue focuses on the agriculture industry, the questions posed to the candidates related to the rural way of life. Each of the candidates was given time to address the questions that ranged in topics from trade tariffs and water quality to taxes and health care.
A major theme of many of the comments made by the candidates centered on the idea that there needs to be more of a focus placed on ending the rural versus metro divide in Minnesota.
The candidates all agreed it is important for the state to see itself as “one Minnesota,” but how it gets to that point differed.
For Lori Swanson, that means not pitting the two sides against each other, especially when it comes to everything from roads and bridges to providing broadband to the entire state. She said broadband is a critical element for the future of the state, adding kids need it now just to do their homework and the move to more telehealth means hospitals across the state need to have good access.
Tim Walz said the issue of pitting rural roads and bridges against transit in the metro area need to come to an end. He said there is a need for multimodal forms of transportation, that also includes locks and dams.
All of it is necessary, said Walz, and it is important to move beyond the idea that one mode is more critical for the state than the others.
Erin Murphy agreed that broadband is absolutely critical statewide, and she said as governor she would use sales tax dollars that will come in to the state from online sales to help cover the costs to get broadband available for everyone in the state.
Jeff Johnson said in Minnesota the past seven-and-a-half years of leadership has had a more metro-centric focus, adding one can see the impact that has made in Greater Minnesota. He said state leaders need to do a better job of prioritizing needs statewide to ensure everyone has their fair share.
For Tim Pawlenty, it is about fair distribution, but more than that he said it is about finding a funding source. He said one of the things that could be done in Minnesota when it comes to transportation funding is to dedicate funds that come in to the state from sales tax on auto parts for that.
Each of the candidates expressed support for the use of renewable energy, including ethanol and biodiesel, and they also agreed that creating more efficiencies in government as it relates to the ag industry, whether it be speeding up the permitting process or supporting farmers and their efforts to feed the world is critical.
At the conclusion of the forum, each of the candidates was given two minutes to tell those listening why they should vote for them.
“I grew up in a small farming community,” said Walz, adding there were 24 kids in his graduating class.
Walz referred to his experience in the military and in the classroom as valuable tools he believes have helped prepare him to serve as governor in Minnesota.
“I never prepared in my life to run for office,” said Walz, adding, however, life has prepared him for it.
Walz said his role as governor is to bring people together under common goals and to help them see in the end Minnesotans really want the same things.
“This state’s future is bright and this state’s future is strong,” said Walz.
Walz said it’s critical to offer a world class education to every child in the state, adding getting that right must be a priority.
Politics does not need to be petty or nasty, said Walz, adding he believes he can unite this state to make it a place of opportunity, fairness beauty and a place people are proud to call home. Tim Pawlenty admitted that running for office is not easy, and he offered words of respect for his fellow candidates running for governor.
Pawlenty added Minnesota has a high quality of life, but added for that to continue means having a good job. Pawlenty said finding the answer to what it means to have a good job does not lie in politicians or bureaucrats.
“It resides with the people who are the entrepreneurs, the dreamers, the innovators who go out and try to grow things and build things that create economic opportunities and jobs,” Pawlenty said, adding when those people are asked what it will take they offer some variation of “please get the government off my back.”
That he said may be taxes, or it might be regulations.
“We need to bring common sense back to Minnesota government,” he said.
Pawlenty believes he can do that again.
He said his record has proven that he can do it, adding he doesn’t need the title of governor because he already has that.
He is running again because he believes the state has gotten off track and needs a leader who can get the train heading in the right direction again.
Pawlenty said the decision comes down to a matter of personal belief about the role of government. He believes less government is the right approach for the state.
Lori Swanson referred to her ancestors who came from Sweden, Norway and Ireland with the ideal of finding a better life for their children.
“I want all of Minnesota to have the same opportunity that I got from my parents,’ said Swanson. Swanson added the state grows best from the middle out, not the top down.
She believes that the next generation should be able to dream bigger than their parents, adding that happens when everyone is playing by the same rules and has the same fair shot.
“We have so much gridlock in politics today,” Swanson said, adding that has to end for the state to move forward. Swanson said the past 12 years she has served as state attorney general are evidence of the fact that she is someone who can get things done.
“We’ve gotten the job done on issue after issue,” she said.
She said a nation that put a man on the moon and found a cure for polio can offer the best education system and can find a solution for affordable healthcare.
“I’m running for governor to change the culture in St. Paul,” said Jeff Johnson, adding that means not having government tell people how to run their businesses or farmers how to run their land or parents how to raise their kids. “Our state agencies exist for one reason only, and that is to serve us and not to control us.”
Johnson said quite frankly Minnesota has seen a war on agriculture for the past seven-and-a-half years, adding if he is elected to serve as governor that will come to an end.
Erin Murphy said she grew up learning about the kind of politics that is “about us.”
“I’m running for governor, because I want to build a bright future for everybody in the state of Minnesota,” said Murphy.
For the past 12 years that she has served the state the people of Minnesota have been her very best teachers, said Murphy.
“We love the place we call home,” said Murphy, adding when you love something you want to do what is best for it – building a progressive future for Minnesota.
Murphy said in St. Paul the powerful, status quo interests are making the decisions, adding if she is elected to serve as governor that would come to an end.
“They are holding us back from the things we need to achieve together,” Murphy added. “They are the ones underfunding our schools across this state. They are the ones that are denying people healthcare. They are the ones that are polluting our water.”
The status quo is stripping opportunities, said Murphy. It is time for the people of Minnesota to stand up and fight for the things they believe in, she said.
Murphy, who is the DFL endorsed candidate, will face off against Walz and Swanson in the primary election, while Johnson, the endorsed Republican candidate, will face off against Pawlenty.
The top two vote recipients will then move on to face each other for the chance to serve as governor in the November election.