The Minnesota Green Party got disruptive at the first gubernatorial debate Wednesday at Ted Mann Concert Hall.
Green Party audience members threw out catcalls and chants, overpowering President Mark Yudof’s introduction and University political science professor and mediator Lawrence Jacobs’ explanation of the debate rules.
“Democracy is based on courtesy, and we’ll try to do that here,” Yudof told rowdy Green Party members.
After repeated attempts to get two of their gubernatorial candidates on stage, approximately 30 Green Party members took their debate outside, leaving another 150 students inside to watch the scheduled debate take place.
“We’ve worked hard to build a new political party, and our efforts are being suppressed,” said Ken Pentel, a Green Party gubernatorial candidate. “That creates real problems in the emergence of a democracy.”
The 90-minute debate featured DFL State Auditor Judi Dutcher; Sen. Becky Lourey, DFL-Kerrick; Sen. Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine; Rep. Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan; and Republican businessman Brian Sullivan.
The forum did not include DFL office-seeker Ole Savior, who went to watch the debate but left after five minutes; four Green Party candidates including Patel and Nick Raleigh who sat in the audience, and Independence Party member Gov. Jesse Ventura, who was invited but declined to attend because he has not yet decided to run for re-election.
About 10 minutes before the debate, Green Party members handed SLC executive director David Boyd a petition signed by approximately 650 University students requesting an open debate.
“We want to make sure in the future that all four major parties are represented in these types of debates,” said University alumnus Brett Stephan, a Green Party volunteer.
The debate candidates were selected based on their name recognition, capability of raising $2 million or more in campaign funds and percentage of votes garnered in previous elections, Boyd said.
All endorsed candidates will be included in the next three SLC gubernatorial debates. The Green Party will also sponsor its own debate at Macalester College next Wednesday.
All five invited candidates said they wished Raleigh and Pentel could contribute. Pawlenty even offered to share his mic, but no one motioned the Greens up to speak.
The first woman to hold the office of state auditor, Dutcher said as governor she would create a fiscally sound state budget, develop more jobs, invest in education and protect the environment.
She decided to run for governor last April, she said, after watching Gov. Jesse Ventura turn his back on the University and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.
To address the national trend of increasing tuition, Dutcher said, she would increase the state’s investment in higher education and work to ensure money is spent efficiently.
Lourey has been a state representative and senator for 12 years – one year for each of her 12 children, seven of whom attended the University.
Her main priorities include furthering renewable energy research and use, strengthening the economy and creating more jobs that pay a livable wage.
Lourey said she wants to strengthen the state’s commitment to the University and keep corporations from compromising its research.
“We need to get people in this state as committed to our land-grant institution as they are to keeping the Twins in state,” she said.
As the state’s Senate majority leader, Moe said his 32 years at the Legislature and knowledge of the state qualify him for the gubernatorial seat.
His wants to improve education, preserve natural resources, reform state tax policies and further economic growth.
He said he thinks a combination of increased financial aid and adequate state investment will help students deal with rising tuition rates and ensure every student can receive a college degree.
House majority leader and University alumnus Tim Pawlenty said his ability to bridge the generations before and after him make him prime to grab the college vote.
As governor, he said, he wants to improve education and transportation and curb government growth and child poverty.
To stanch the University’s growing tuition rate, he said, he would like to see the institution narrow its goals and examine why the University’s cost increases surpass the inflation rate.
“It has a big honking mission,” Pawlenty said. “If we give (the University) adequate funding we should ask them to demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness.”
Harvard graduate and co-chairman of an online grocery delivery company, Sullivan said his experience as an entrepreneur who has created thousands of jobs is the best background a governor could have.
His “can-do plan for Minnesota” includes improving public education, relieving traffic congestion by building more roads, creating more jobs – and doing it all without raising taxes.
He said the increasing-tuition trend is a fact of life but a stronger investment in financial aid will allow students to choose the best university rather than the most affordable.