Humphrey promises

Coralie Carlson

Editor’s Note: This is the second of five articles profiling the nine candidates for governor. Wednesday’s story will feature Reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura.

Nearly 50 years ago, Skip Humphrey helped his father campaign for the U.S. Senate, shaking hands with University football fans outside of Memorial Stadium before the Homecoming game.
On Saturday, Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III, 56, returned to his roots.
Donning a familiar maroon and gold University sweat shirt, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate for governor traversed the Dinkytown streets as part of the Homecoming parade, shaking every hand he could reach.
The attorney general strolled alongside of a green Ford truck laden with campaign signs while eager College Democrats handed out literature.
Humphrey has held the attorney general’s seat for a record 16 years; only predecessor Warren Spannaus can claim the same, who also left the office to run for governor.
In those elections, Humphrey was the largest vote getter in the state.
But with one week remaining until election day, the governor’s race isn’t such a runaway.
The last poll shows a dead heat, with Humphrey holding on to 35 percent of the vote. His former employee in the attorney general’s office, Republican Norm Coleman, commands 34 percent of the vote while Reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura musters 21 percent.
Yet at Saturday’s parade, Humphrey was the only candidate who promised more financial aid for college students. And he’s the only candidate with a University degree.
Paying for promises
In June, the attorney general — the leading prosecutor in the state — hit a multi-billion dollar jackpot in a high profile case against the tobacco industry. Charging that tobacco manufacturers knew the health risks of smoking, Humphrey won, banishing Joe Camel ads and landing a $6.1 billion award.
Humphrey proposed spending that money to fund his campaign promises, including a $1.4 billion tax cut and a tax credit for college students.
The $1,000 state-based tax deduction would bolster the new $1,500 federal HOPE scholarship. Combined, the tax relief would pay for about a year of school at state, community or technical colleges for students who just graduated from high school. Students would be eligible for the financial aid for two years.
“I think he would be the kind of governor that would look after students,” said Adam Tillotson, College of Liberal Arts sophomore.
Humphrey also plans to use the tobacco settlement to help fund early education programs. He proposed a state funded Head Start program so parents can send their kids to a year of cost-free preschool.
As governor, Humphrey would influence the University’s biennial budget from the state Legislature — University President Mark Yudof wants to ask for an unprecedented $1.2 billion — and the governor has the power to veto the entire bill.
Humphrey said he’s met with Yudof and supports the administrator’s goal to bring the University to the forefront of research institutions.
“If I’m your governor I’m going to be very supportive of his agenda,” Humphrey said, explaining that the University needs steady funding from the state, not just bumper years to make up for dry ones.
But he didn’t promise to fund everything on the University’s plate and denied commenting on dollar amounts until the Board of Regents approves the final budget request.
Critics claim Humphrey’s numbers don’t add up. While he is the only candidate who put out a detailed budget proposal, he didn’t figure in the typical amount of budgeted inflation and growth. Humphrey’s campaign insists that the plan will fly but Republicans charge that the money won’t spread as far as he intends.
But supporters concentrate on his overall policy, not just the numbers.
Growing up Minnesota
Humphrey said he’s no stranger to the University campus — he remembers it as home.
Humphrey first lived in the neighborhood of the University on 18th Avenue when his father, the late Hubert. H. Humphrey II, was mayor of Minneapolis.
“This is something in the fabric of my life,” he said.
In 1948, the elder Humphrey won a chair in the U.S. Senate and the family split their time between Minnesota and Montgomery County, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C.
Humphrey struggled in public school and his parents sent him to a military boarding school in Fairbault, Minn. There he learned to enjoy learning and made the track and swimming teams.
He returned to Washington and earned his undergraduate degree at American University, where he met his wife, Nancy Lee Jeffery.
After graduating, Humphrey came back to the University where he embarked on a double journey — as a law student and as a father.
“It was, ‘Hello, you’re in law school; hello, you’re a father,'” he said.
After his first year at the University, Humphrey took a year off and worked as a law clerk. He returned to the Law School in 1967 and graduated with a growing family.
Humphrey said the University was a hotbed of political activity when he attended; students protested against the Vietnam war and for civil rights. While he didn’t participate, he said it helped shape his University experience.
Activism boiled from a rift in the DFL party, between the supporters of George McGovern and loyalists to Humphrey II.
The junior Humphrey stood by his father, but Vance Opperman sided with the McGovern camp. Humphrey didn’t hold it against his classmate — who is now his campaign manager.
After the University
Humphrey worked in the private sector before moving to the state House in 1972, where he represented the New Hope area for 10 years.
He then upgraded to the attorney general’s office, where he often made headlines with his cases. He defended Dayton-Hudson’s Santa Bear against copyright infringement.
During his tenure, Humphrey made a habit of surrounding himself with the best and brightest, something Kevin Pomasl, president of the statewide College Democrats, attributed as an important strength in a governor.
“He’s been around long enough,” Pomasl said. “He knows his limitations.”
Pomasl said Humphrey also established a commitment to students over the years. The attorney general is the co-chair of the advisory board for the College Democrats and hired many young people on his campaign staff.
For many student supporters, the choice for governor was easy. As architecture junior and College Democrat Jon Bjorum said, “It’s Humphrey, it’s always been obvious.”