Kelliher leads final DFL gubernatorial debate before primary

James Nord

Dyna Sluyder looks on from her motorcycle adorned with Entenza campaign signs amid a sea of red-shirted Kelliher supporters Sunday in front of the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul. (Mark Vancleave, Minnesota Daily)

At the last public debate before Tuesday’s primary elections, the DFL gubernatorial candidates vied to separate themselves from the pack on issues like taxes, jobs and a new Vikings stadium.

A swath of red-clad Margaret Anderson Kelliher supporters at the Minnesota Public Radio-sponsored debate threw out the loudest cheers and whistles for the DFL-endorsed candidate.  She won the most applause talking about her leadership style and work ethic.

The debate’s format allowed both audience members and the candidates themselves to pose questions.

Mark Dayton’s stance on income tax increases drew some fire from Kelliher and Matt Entenza, who both said it would make Minnesota the highest-taxed state in the country. 

“You have to work in the art of possibility,” Kelliher said.

But Dayton argued his plan would make the state’s tax system more progressive.  He flatly denied some of Kelliher’s criticisms, including an oft-brandished scenario that a police officer and a nurse would be considered “upper-class” in his proposal.

Both Kelliher and Entenza called for shifting one-time payments, cutting and reducing costs and increasing income tax revenue at similar percentages to balance the budget.

As he has in the past, Entenza focused on sustainability and green jobs as part of his proposal to restart the state’s economy.  Research into grass-based ethanol at the University is a priority, he said after the debate.

Dayton specifically mentioned the University of Minnesota, Morris gasifier as the type of renewable energy initiatives the state should employ. 

The candidates also sparred over former President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and the validity of a single payer health care system in the state.

On a new Viking’s stadium, none of the candidates offered concrete details, altough each said they would weigh the benefits for the taxpayer before implementing any proposal.  Kelliher offered one nugget of information: No general fund dollars would go toward a stadium if she were elected.

The candidates took a slight respite from party-infighting to take shots at their Republican opponent, Tom Emmer, but stood together on little else.

At the end of the debate, when asked if they would support the other candidates if they lost, Dayton, Entenza and Kelliher each answered, “absolutely.”