The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 9, 2009

Gubernatorial hopefuls speak at Gustavus

Stage weighted heavily toward Democrats

ST PETER — Nine men and two women filled the stage at Gustavus Adolphus College Monday night — representing roughly half the people running or considering a run for governor of Minnesota.

And the 11 candidates nearly outnumbered the 12 people sitting in the 44 seats that made up the first two rows of audience seating.

A hundred or so others were on hand to hear the candidates who want to replace Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the two-term Republican incumbent who’s not seeking re-election. But those folks were seated further back — maybe a little bit nervous about getting too close to a group of people who actually want the job facing the winner of next year’s election.

The new governor is expected to face another large budget deficit upon taking office, red ink that might approach $7 billion, according to some estimates.

Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, repeated one of the most frequent questions he hears.

“Why would you want to run for governor?” said Bakk, a carpenter who credited that trade for an ability to work out problems. “Minnesota is in bad need of a problem-solver.”

The stage was weighted heavily toward Democrats — there were seven with the late addition of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who formally entered the race only in the last few days.

Two Republicans participated, along with representatives of the Green and Grassroots parties.

After watching the Republican Party hold the governor’s office for 15 of the past 19 years, with the Independence Party accounting for the other four, the Democrats talked about returning Minnesota to previous glory days.

“I’m running for governor because I believe Minnesota can be a great state once again,” said Sen. John Marty, a Roseville Democrat who proudly reminded the audience that he was the only vote in the Senate in opposition to massive income tax cuts early this decade. “I was the one ‘No’ vote because I thought it was unsustainable. I thought it was unfair. And I thought we needed to invest the money.”

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