Governor candidates vie for votes

by Charley Bruce

Many University students are more concerned about their midterms and homework than researching political candidates.

Although many students don’t know which gubernatorial candidate they’ll vote for on Nov. 7, candidates are promising to address issues important to them.

Ali Goldberg, a University journalism and political science sophomore, said she will vote this election.

Goldberg said she is a liberal Democrat swayed by candidates’ stances on the environment, social security and economic policy.

She said she tends to side with DFL candidate Mike Hatch, but will research the candidates before casting her vote.

“I would like to make an informed decision,” she said.

Darren Fan, a first-year student, said he’s “not really paying attention” to the gubernatorial race.

With so much negative publicity on television and the Internet, it’s hard to differentiate between the candidates, he said.

“Everybody seems to be doing something wrong,” Fan said.

He said he would be more engaged if the candidates would talk about what they are going to do for the state, rather than bash each other.

Josh Brown, a sociology junior, said he’ll probably vote, but isn’t sure for whom.

“(I’m) still kind of waiting to see what they have to say,” he said.

Brown said he likes politicians who listen to constituent opinions and vote accordingly.

He said he usually laughs at attack ads.

“I don’t let them affect my decision,” he said.

Tim Pawlenty – Republican

Gov. Tim Pawlenty is up for re-election and said he deserves another term.

Pawlenty oversaw the largest financial turnaround in state history, transforming a $4.5 billion deficit into a surplus.

“We have the state headed in the right direction,” he said.

Pawlenty, who received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University, said education, health care, transportation and public safety would be his priorities in the next term.

While every part of the government asks for more money, each should be accountable for how efficiently and effectively they are run, he said.

“We shouldn’t measure our commitment only by how much we’re spending,” Pawlenty said.

He said he believes he is a strong candidate for University students, contrary to the stereotype that Republicans don’t do well with the college-age voting bloc.

“The polls show one of my strongest support groups is the young people,” he said.

Independence Party candidate Peter Hutchinson has criticized Pawlenty and Hatch for not attending enough debates.

Pawlenty defended himself, saying he will have attended seven debates by the race’s end.

Running as an incumbent is different than challenging an office-holder, he said, because he has a record to defend.

“It’s always somewhat easier running as a challenger because you have no responsibility or accountability,” Pawlenty said. “You can just be a critic.”

He said he plans to keep college affordable through proposed measures like the ACHIEVE program.

The proposal would grant the first two years of tuition free to high school students in the top 25 percent of their graduating class (or with an equivalent ACT score). To qualify, students’ family incomes must be less than $150,000.

The proposal would benefit Minnesota by keeping the best and brightest students in the state, Pawlenty said.

Also, the program would free financial aid, scholarships and grants up for other students, he said.

Republicans could lose their House majority and Democrats could maintain or increase their Senate majority this year, which would leave Pawlenty as the lone Republican leader if he wins.

Although he hopes those scenarios don’t play out, Pawlenty said he believes a divided government is a good way to avoid “unbalanced solutions.”

He said he learned in his first term that legislators have to win some of their agenda “so they feel like they’re making progress and part of not only the agenda, but also the solution.”

Mike Hatch – DFL

Hatch, Minnesota’s two-term attorney general making his third bid for governor, said he’s focused on “making (the state) better for the next generation.”

Back in the 1960s, Hatch paid $125 per quarter when he attended the University’s Duluth campus. He said he was able to work through college and graduate without debt.

“That’s not possible today,” Hatch said.

He said he would tackle school financing, health care, the economy and retaining a middle class as governor.

Two of three young people who graduate high school presently have the academic and financial abilities to attend college, according to an Itasca Group-funded study. In 10 years, Hatch said, that figure will be cut in half.

“That’s not acceptable,” he said.

Citing the study, Hatch said young people without education past high school have a median income insufficient to pay for a two-bedroom apartment in the metropolitan area.

“Forget the clothing, forget food, forget transportation and forget a ticket to the movie theater,” he said.

Hatch said if college becomes less accessible over the next decade the middle class will shrink.

Pawlenty’s campaign is issuing negative ads typical of a challenger, not an incumbent, Hatch said.

“He’s in trouble and, of course, he’s responding in a Karl Rove manner,” Hatch said.

He said modern campaigning has become unfortunately negative.

“I think people turn off to this,” he said.

Hatch, also criticized for not attending debates, said he would go to any debate Pawlenty attends.

He said he would begin scheduling meetings with every legislator in Minnesota on his first day as governor in an attempt to get to know each of them and their goals for the state.

“They all, regardless of how conservative or liberal they are, have some common ground,” Hatch said. “The function of the governor is to (get) that common ground out of them.”

One of the main issues he’ll discuss with individual legislators would be tuition, he said.

“To me, financial access for the next generation is critically important,” Hatch said.

Peter Hutchinson – Independence Party

Hutchinson is a former executive at what was formally known as the Dayton-Hudson Corporation and a former Finance Commissioner under Gov. Rudy Perpich.

He said Independence candidates were better choices than Democrats or Republicans.

“Voting for those guys is, in many ways, a waste, because you just get business as usual,” he said.

Democrats and Republicans brought Minnesotans the “do-nothing session” of 2004, the “close-down-the-state” session of 2005 and “the stadium session” of 2006, he said.

The end result was very little progress for Minnesotans, Hutchinson said.

If elected governor, Hutchinson said he would focus on education, health care, the environment and transit.

On education, he said he plans to double the amount of need-based financial aid available to students.

The next governor must also get health care costs under control, Hutchinson said.

“(Health care) stands in between people and everything else they want to do,” he said.

Students end up choosing between health care and not having any extra income, or not having health insurance at all, Hutchinson said.

“That’s a terrible choice. No one should be facing that choice,” he said.

Health care is one of the fastest growing parts of the University budget, which contributes to tuition increases, he said.

Hutchinson said the state doesn’t do transit planning because there hasn’t been constant funding.

“We haven’t had reliable funding for transit in this state, I think, forever,” he said.

He also said his campaign is the only one to propose establishing a greenhouse-gas target of 1990 levels in the next 15 years, he said.

“The other two guys aren’t even talking about it,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson has run few attack ads and said Minnesotans are tired of attack ads.

“The verdict is in,” he said. “People in Minnesota want to know what good is going to come out of this, not how bad could it be,” Hutchinson said.

He criticized Hatch and Pawlenty for not debating and said debates serve as job interviews.

“No one would hire anyone based on a (TV) ad,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said he’d put his proposals in the open and campaign for them before and during the session.

“You get citizens to call their legislators,” he said. “So the legislators themselves, from their own constituents, get the message.”

He also said he will give some surplus revenue to the people.

“It’s the taxpayer’s money,” he said.

The Independence Party is a results-oriented party, not a political philosophy, Hutchinson said, and other parties often don’t pursue workable policies because it isn’t in line with their political philosophy.

“We take ideas,” he said, “wherever they come from.”

The race and the state Republicans control the Minnesota House of Representatives with 67 members (a Republican member resigned to take a judicial position. Normally there are 134 members of the House). The Democrats have 66 members. The Democrats control the Senate with 38 members and the Republicans have 29.

University professor Larry Jacobs, director of the Humphrey Institute’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, said turnout will be the deciding factor this election.

“If Democrats turn out more than Republicans by a significant margin, as appears likely at the moment,” he said, “then the Democrats will regain the House majority and widen their Senate majority.”