Conservatives are a minority at U

by Chris Vetter

State House minority leader Steve Sviggum said conservative students face overwhelming odds when they come to the University.
“It must be a difficult chore being Republican on the University of Minnesota campus,” he said.
Sviggum, R-Kenyon, told about a dozen students at a College Republican meeting Wednesday that he is thankful the Republican group remains conservative at the liberal University. Conservative college students need to get more involved in politics and help Republican candidates if they want to be properly represented, Sviggum said.
“The world and politics belong to those who show up,” he said.
College students and younger people should also not hesitate to run for office because of their age, Sviggum said. Three Republicans under the age of 23 were elected to the state Legislature this year, including Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, who is the first blind member ever elected to the Legislature.
Sviggum told the students to remain vigilant in their efforts to scale back government spending. “Government should be as thrifty with a dollar as you are,” he said. “The question is if the family is going to spend your money, or the government.”
The University budget will be a major spending issue in the upcoming legislative session, Sviggum said. The Board of Regents forwarded a budget request of $580 million per year for the next two years — a 17 percent increase — to Gov. Arne Carlson on Oct. 11.
“I certainly recognize the need for increased funding, but 17 percent is a healthy increase,” Sviggum said. “Until I look at the final facts and figures, I would not give (the University) a blanket increase.”
But the University has a bigger problem that stems from the tenure crisis, which is far from over, Sviggum said. “I think the tenure debate will be put on hold until (the regents) elect a new president,” he said.
Many state political analysts and Republicans thought the GOP would win control of the state House this year because of several Democratic members retiring amid scandal allegations. However, the Democratic party gained several seats in northern suburbs and hold a 70-64 majority in the state House.
However, the election was not a loss, Sviggum said, because the country is moving in a more conservative direction regardless of the victories of Democrats such as President Clinton and Sen. Paul Wellstone.
“The silver lining is that we retained both the U.S. House and Senate,” Sviggum said. “We picked up two seats in the Senate while Clinton had a landslide in many states.”
Ironically, Sviggum blamed the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, an abortion opponent interest group, for the Democratic victory in the Legislature. He said the interest group supported Democratic candidates in races where both candidates were abortion opponents.
Sviggum has served in the Legislature since 1978. He was re-elected to the post of minority leader for a fourth consecutive term in this year’s party caucus.
The College Republicans meetings are open to the public. The group meets every Wednesday on the third floor of Coffman Union.