U students vie for Republican endorsement

Coralie Carlson

Under the banner, “Going, going, Kahn,” two University students squared off Wednesday for the Republican endorsement of District 59B and the chance to take on Rep. Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis.
In their first official debate, College of Liberal Arts junior Tom Gromacki and second year law student Robert Fowler revealed differing campaign tactics. But during the hour-long debate the pair showed similarities in issue stances.
District 59B includes all of the Minneapolis campus except Middlebrook Hall. Kahn, an outspoken DFLer, has held the seat for more than 25 years.
Gromacki won the Republican endorsement in this district two years ago, but was soundly defeated in the general election.
In similar form as the 1996 campaign, Gromacki said Wednesday that candidates should run on their character and beliefs rather than reflect the desires of constituents.
“I’m not just working for this election; I’m working for a set of beliefs,” Gromacki said.
Meanwhile, Fowler said he wants to promote Republican beliefs from within the Legislature by beating Kahn.
The candidates both stand for lower tuition, lower taxes and improving the University’s infrastructure. In turn, they both oppose abortion and Goals 2000, an initiative to centralize K-12 education under the government.
Gromacki and Fowler told the 20 people in attendance that lower tuition will help make the University more accessible.
“It’s the responsibility of the University to keep costs low,” Fowler said. The law student advocates tax exempt status for all University students. Under such a plan, students would not have to pay a state income tax, meaning more of their paychecks could be devoted toward school costs.
Gromacki said he would also lower both the tax and tuition burden on students.
Fowler also proposes forcing the University to run a leaner operation by cutting out administrative costs. University President Mark Yudof has endorsed such a mind-set since taking office last year.
Yudof reported to the Board of Regents last week on his plan to cut more than $6 million from his administration.
But Gromacki and Fowler aren’t on the same page on all issues.
They differ on how intertwined the government and religion should be as well as how election campaigns should be run. Gromacki said he believes parents should choose whether their school is secular; Fowler supports the separation of church and state.
“It’s the peripheral, the farthest right issues that become controversial. I don’t embrace all of them,” Fowler said.
It illustrates the vast nature of the ideological spectrum within the Republican party, Fowler said.
Fowler announced his candidacy in early January. He earned his undergraduate degree in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before moving to Minneapolis.
Gromacki, a Wisconsin native, is also a political science major and he announced his candidacy in late January.
Kahn said she will stay clear of the happenings in the Republican party until the field is narrowed to one candidate.
The Republican Party will elect delegates at district precinct caucuses on March 3. In April, those delegates will endorse one candidate. Both candidates agreed to honor the endorsement and not run without the party’s backing. They both said they did not want to split the party at the ballot box.