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Governor candidates could affect session

Eleven Minnesota governor candidates line up at a Wednesday hunger forum. From left are Tom Bakk, Mark Dayton, Tom Emmer, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, John Marty, Marty Seifert, Susan Gaertner, Michael Jungbauer, Tom Rukavina, Paul Thissen and Leslie Davis. Don Davis/Minn. State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota 2010 governor's race is unique.

For one thing, the race is gearing up big time now, while it still is just 2009. It depends on how you count, but there are about 20 Republican and Democratic candidates already in the race, and more are bound to belly up to the bar.

With half of the candidates serving in the Legislature, next year's session is sure to be affected. Many predict that the candidates, including House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher who more than anyone can affect the tone of the session, will want to get out early and hit the campaign trail.

On the other hand, some Capitol insiders claim that the candidates will feel they can get more free publicity by filibustering at the Legislature, so the crowded race actually could prolong the session.

Eleven candidates -- eight whom are legislators -- gathered for a rare forum involving candidates of both parties on Wednesday, a forum which produced mostly small differences among candidates of each party.

Some tidbits from the Hunger Solutions Minnesota forum:

  • GOP Sen. Michael Jungbauer said one of the problems that creates poor Minnesotans is the state puts too many requirements on building, or living in, a house. That makes homes too expensive for the poor, he said.
  • DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said many Minnesotans are falling through the safety net. "Unfortunately, to a lot of Minnesotans the safety net looks like a basketball net."
  • Rep. Tom Rukavina said a big part of improving people's lives would be raising the minimum wage as inflation goes up. He also emphasized educating Minnesotans as a way to allow them to earn more money.
  • Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton explained his decision not to abide by next April's DFL convention endorsement and his plans to run in a primary election. "In a democracy, the people should decide."
  • Republican Leslie Davis may be a political outcast, but he came up with one of the best quotes. "You can't pay debt with debt and get out of debt.">/ul>

    State revenues fall

    Minnesota government continues to receive less tax money than expected.

    A recent report shows state tax revenues fell 1.7 percent from what was expected in the first three months of the fiscal year that began July 1. Individual income taxes were down $93 million from what was planned, with sales taxes falling $20 million. Corporate taxes rose $52 million above expectations.

    The Minnesota Management and Budget report is an indication only of state revenues; a full state government financial picture will come Dec. 2, when a comprehensive report on both revenues and spending is released.

    'Follow the law'

    The Prairie Island Indian Community, from the Red Wing area, has asked President Barack Obama to "deliver on the federal government's decades-old mandate" and set up a permanent nuclear waste disposal facility.

    The tribe made the plea after Congress approved an appropriations bill cutting funding for the proposed nuclear waste facility at Yucca Mountain, Nev. Until there is a permanent facility, waste is being stored near reactors, including a plant 600 yards from the Prairie Island Community. Twenty-five steel casks hold spent nuclear fuel near the Xcel Energy plant.

    "The Prairie Island Indian Community continues to pay the price for the federal government's failure to follow the law and fulfill its promise to find a permanent solution for the nation's nuclear waste." Prairie Island Tribal Council President Ron Johnson said.

    Nurses pick Thissen

    The Minnesota Nurses Association has endorsed Rep. Paul Thissen for governor.

    The president-elect of the 20,000-member organization said Democrat Thissen is a champion for registered nurses.

    "From his work to make sure all children have health insurance to his advocacy of adequate R.N. staffing for patient safety, he exemplifies the characteristics we expect of a governor," Linda Hamilton said.

    DFL attacks

    Minnesota Democrats are increasing their attacks on Gov. Tim Pawlenty for his apparent presidential bid.

    Take, for instance, this statement from Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Brian Melendez:

    "Gov. Pawlenty's ever-changing relationship with Minnesotans reached a new level this week, going from part-time governor to stereotypical mother-in-law. I wish we could say that it was nice of him to drop by, but all we got from him before he headed back out of town was harsh criticism devoid of solutions and a rehashing of old issues. The governor's inability to compromise and his unwillingness to stick around are just a few reasons why Minnesotans are facing the problems that he's so fond of criticizing. Perhaps the governor should clean up the mess in his own house before heading out to yet again worship at the feet of the right-wing elites."

    Franken's favorite

    Each Wednesday that the U.S. Senate is in session, Sen. Al Franken hosts a brunch for Minnesotans who happen to be in Washington.

    In a letter to supporters the other day, he praised the meal's highlight: "Mahnomen porridge -- a Minnesota treat made from wild rice. If you haven't had it, trust me, you don't know what you're missing. So I'll tell you -- you're missing something delicious."

    Earlier in the week, at a University of Minnesota stop, he said that he tries to serve healthy food at his weekly gatherings. But the porridge, well, it has syrup and cream, among other goodies, and Franken just licked his lips in a sign that appeared to say that the treat was there to stay.

    Party change?

    One of the Minnesota Independence Party's major beliefs is up for debate.

    The party long has rejected political action committee money, the mainstay of many other campaigns. But on Nov. 21, party delegates will meet to decide whether to break with that tradition.

    The party also will consider whether to continue endorse candidates of other parties.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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