Mondale absent as Senate candidates debate issues

Andrew Pritchard

Minnesota’s elder statesman, former Vice President Walter Mondale, made his political presence felt by an absence Friday as he declined to appear on a televised Senate candidate debate sponsored by KSTP-TV and the Star Tribune.

Mondale announced Saturday he will participate in his only debate with Coleman at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Paul’s Fitzgerald Theater.

The debate will be broadcast live on Minnesota Public Radio and CNN.

Coleman, Independence Party candidate Jim Moore and Ray Tricomo of the Green Party discussed issues without Mondale during Friday’s debate.

Special education

moore said the federal government should provide more funding for its special education mandates by closing tax loopholes.

He also said he would propose more federal research on students’ learning styles to help classroom teachers adapt their curriculum.

Coleman said unfunded special education mandates require a bipartisan solution.

“The problem with special ed is that we pit one parent against another, one kid against another,” he said.

Tricomo said the government should make more money available for special education and better teacher pay by reducing bureaucracy and administrative costs, closing tax loopholes and addressing “this tapeworm we have called the Pentagon that’s eating up our resources like there’s no tomorrow.”

Bush tax cuts

coleman said he would keep the 10-year tax cuts proposed by President George W. Bush and passed by Congress last year.

“When people have more money in their pocket, they spend it, they buy a good or service,” he said. “Whoever provides that good or service provides a job.”

Coleman said while he was St. Paul’s mayor, the city did not raise taxes for eight years.

Moore called the tax cuts premature in light of the nation’s debt, which he called an “anchor on the economy.”

He said government should not compete with private business for investment, and he favors repealing part of the tax cut plan.

“I would focus on applying all of that to the deficit,” Moore said.

He also said eliminating the debt would provide the government with resources to stimulate the economy during an economic downturn.

Tricomo said he would repeal the tax cuts and impose a progressive income tax, which taxes higher-income individuals at a higher rate. Tricomo said he would place a particularly heavy tax on “rich CEOs” who make many times their employees’ salaries.

“To call that obscene is overdoing the art of understatement,” he said.

War with Iraq

moore said he would have opposed the resolution Congress passed Oct. 11 giving Bush authority to use the military against Iraq.

“We need to have the U.N. involved in all world problems,” he said.

Moore said U.S. action that let the United Nations “abdicate responsibility” would not build a better world.

Tricomo said he also would have voted against the Iraq resolution.

“We need a United Nations with teeth,” he said. “We need to understand that there are limits to sovereignty.”

Coleman said the Iraq resolution was a good decision because U.S. support would spur the United Nations into action.

Ballistics database

moore said the country should have a national database that would allow police to trace fired bullets to the weapon’s owner, but he said such a database would require oversight to ensure the government used it properly.

“I have a major concern about the government using this for untoward purposes,” Moore said.

Tricomo said he supports the database, but he also said he would like a “conversation between the people and the government” about the nation’s “love affair with guns.”

“If you want to hunt, use bows and arrows,” Tricomo said.

Coleman said he respects a citizen’s right to bear arms, but he said the database should be considered.

“I do get troubled by government having lots of information,” he said. “What are they going to do with it?”

Coleman said the real problem is not being tough on criminals.

Alternative energy

tricomo said Minnesota could play a pivotal part in promoting alternative energy and fuel sources, leading the nation away from fossil fuels.

“I would like nothing better than to tell Saudi Arabia to go hang – we don’t need their oil anymore,” he said.

Moore said the United States should end the national security threat produced by its dependence on foreign oil.

He said he would promote more science to find alternative fuel sources.

Coleman said he supports developing alternative energy sources, such as soy diesel and ethanol.

“In fact, this is one of the areas where I’ve broken with the president,” he said.

However, Coleman said the government should support alternative fuels in a way that would not raise energy costs for farmers and small businesses.

Social Security

coleman again clarified his position on Social Security, saying he was in favor of allowing workers to invest some of their own Social Security money in the stock market but not in favor of putting the government’s Social Security resources into the private sector.

Moore said he would develop a plan to both help retirees keep their benefits and ease the burden on workers who currently pay into the system.

“I don’t run from the word ‘privatization,’ ” he said.

Tricomo said there has been “an unnecessary degree of mild hysteria” on the issue and that he would convene an expert commission to study the problem.

However, he said any privatization plan would be “dead on arrival.”


Andrew Pritchard covers state politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]