In first debate, 20 candidates square off

Gubernatorial candidates discussed issues including the state budget, health care and education.

Mackenzie Martin

In the largest debate so far in the 2010 governorâÄôs race, 20 candidates from MinnesotaâÄôs three major parties met Wednesday night to discuss key issues facing the state. From solving the state budget crisis to reforming the health care system, 10 DFLers, six Republicans and four independent candidates offered their solutions to a crowd of about 200 at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel. The event was sponsored by the Minnesota News Council and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota with the Minnesota Newspaper Association. To begin the debate, candidates were divided into small groups, each group answering a different set of questions. Due to time constraints, all candidates did not have the opportunity to respond to each question. Responses were fairly consistent with party lines, with DFLers pushing for income tax reform and Republicans proposing more spending cuts to rescue the state economy. Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, like most other DFLers, supported a more progressive income tax reform but said it would have to be part of a larger solution. âÄúYou cannot raise taxes enough to solve this problem,âÄù Bakk said. âÄúThe deficit is the symptom, not the problem.âÄù Higher education affordability was a common goal among candidates of all parties. Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said he would push legislation that would allow one year of the typical four-year degree to be completed online to help cut costs. âÄúThe best form of financial aid is keeping tuition affordable,âÄù Seifert said. DFLer Paul Thissen of Mineapolis proposed keeping college-educated workers in-state after school by instating a tax credit to help students pay off tuition and loans after graduation. In the final round of the debate, candidates answered hot-issue questions with simple âÄúyesâÄù or âÄúnoâÄù responses, in which DFLers spoke out against Gov. Tim PawlentyâÄôs controversial use of unallotments. While several Republican candidates supported the governorâÄôs use of the authority, Phil Herwig said he would not only use the unallotment power if elected, but would expand on it. Mayor of Minneapolis and gubernatorial candidate R.T. Rybak, DFL, announced he would support state funding for a new Vikings stadium, while most DFLers, including House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFLâÄìMinneapolis, said they would not support the project âÄúat this time.âÄù