On November 24, 2009 Minnesota’s DFL gubernatorial candidates met at the Hopkins Center for the Arts for a debate moderated by Tom Hauser of KSTP. The lineup included Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, former Sen. Mark Dayton, Ole Savior, State Sen. Tom Bakk, former State Rep. (and DFL Minority Leader) Matt Entenza, State Rep. / Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, former State Sen. Steve Kelley, State Sen. John Marty, State Rep. Tom Rukavina, Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak and State Rep. Paul Thissen. In their final comments, candidates thanked the audience and hosts of the debate and tried to leave voters with a reason to remember them – and a reason to vote for them.
Ole Savior said there ought to be a limit on healthcare executive pay and spoke about the poor, disadvantanged people in our state who have been taken advantage of. He said we need to refinance the budget – not cut programs, concluding, “Anything Pawlenty cut, I will restore.”
Susan Gaertner pointed out her position as an “outsider” who, as Ramsey County Attorney, has been fighting crime which she says is “a winning formula.” She said she is a proven vote-winner and a go-getter, “I said I’d reduce gun violence, get kids back in school, increase child support enforcement – I got it done…I’ll bring progressive values and passion for the state and get job done.”
Mark Dayton recalled his teaching stint right out of college in lower east side New York City. At the time, he lived with a welfare family in New York City which experience has shaped his political values. He said these children were born into circumstances completely different from his own and seeing the injustice done to them through no choice and no fault of their own is profoundly wrong. Dayton said that progressive taxation is a fundamental value of the DFL party and that the wealthiest 10% of Minnesotans are not paying their fair share.
Tom Bakk said people are looking for easy answers but there has to be a debate about the problems Minnesota faces. He said the government has to be totally different from what it’s been like under Gov. Pawlenty. The new governor has to be a uniter, set the tone at the capitol, bring in business and labor, and have an honest debate. He said the candidate who can connect with people on the “jobs” message will be the next governor.
Matt Entenza drew upon his experience growing up in Worthington, Minnesota when, at the age of 15, he lost his father. His family had no health care and were facing homelessness, but lived in a state and a town that rallied around his family, a state where education was a priority. Entenza said, “It’s not like that now.” He said we opportunities to become an economic powerhouse and a leader who has a vision of where we can go. He believes we can pay ourselves for energy, that we can put money back into our state through clean energy – building wind turbines and using solar collectors.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher said she’d been personally thanked by a man who said he had a job because of her. Kelliher’s work building a coalition to override Gov. Pawlenty when he said no to needed investments brought road construction jobs to our state. During the past three years in the MN House of Representatives, she has helped ” put together a coalition to pass funding progressive taxation for education, renewable standards, the legacy amendment, and health care reform.” She said Minnesota needs a governor who understands them and who will be as hardworking as they are.
Steve Kelley said Minnesotans need a governor who will “pay attention to the long-term greatness of Minnesota to make sure our grandchildren prosper in this state.” He wants to create the same prosperity for working families that his grandparents enjoyed, the kind of small business environment his parents enjoyed, and opportunities for all kids to graduate from post-secondary education. He said, “I know we can. One governor and five million heroes in the state will get it done.” In 1992, he was able to win his seat in the MN House [from the Republicans] and hold it. “With your help,” Kelley said, “that’s what we’ll do in the governor’s office in 2010.
John Marty said he wants to build a great future for Minnesota, where everyone has educational opportunities, health care, a clean environment and a safe community. He reiterated that he does not take PAC or lobbyist money. He believes in “health care for all, not insurance for some.” He said this race needs someone who can win and that he lost in 1994 (during the “Gingrich Contract for America” years) because he was ahead of his time, but his time is now. He has won seven times in his Republican-leaning district in the state senate race.
Tom Rukavina said, “Tough times call for innovative leadership” and that he is running a “refreshingly honest campaign.” Proud of his University of Minnesota-Duluth education, he returned to the Iron Range after graduating. He’s been a steel worker, owned his own business and has been a legislator for 12 years. Upon closing, he referred to himself as a cross between Paul Wellstone and Jesse Ventura.
R. T. Rybak spoke about the American Dream and how his mother had to run the family store after his father passed away, and was able to put herself through college. He said the community had a basic core value not shared by leaders in the capitol today. He said we need to rebuild common value and that “Minnesota needs leadership that’s about us, not him or her,” and that we can move the state forward together.
Paul Thissen said it’s been a privilege serving in the legislature and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of his family. He doesn’t like the consequences of Pawlenty’s decisions but sees how some Minnesotans respect his decisiveness and that “Democrats have been lacking that for too long in this state.” He said we have a moral imperative to cover every child in this state and that health care legislation has passed here because someone said we are more than a balanced budget. We need to “create a moral vision for this state and lead this state forward this way” and that “your involvement is what’s going to take back the governor’s office.”
Read more about the debate here.