KSTP At Issue is doing interviews with all the 2010 gubernatorial candidates. Click on the name listed below to watch the interview.
Tom Rukavina - He says that he can connect to both the most Progressive person in Minnesota as well as to the common ordinary person. He spoke again of him being the love child between Paul Wellstone and Jesse Ventura. His slogan says he's "refreshingly honest" because he'll walk into a room and tell everyone that he's going to raise their taxes. Rukavina says he thinks people are looking for somebody who's authentic. He thinks people are looking for character and there's no bigger character at the Capitol than him. "People are looking for honesty," he said. Rukavina thinks that if we go back to the 1999/2000 income tax levels, we'd pick up a lot of revenue. The state has had problems ever since the tax rebate at that time. He talks about the tax disparities between the poor/middle income MN residents and the richest ones. He thinks people want someone who is honest and will tell them exactly what he's going to do. Rukavina has been a Representative for the Iron Range for the past 23 years. He's very much into everything being American made. He's union and was raised union. He introduced the Flag Bill. It took a long time but he persevered and it finally passed. He says American made is the way he was raised. He's going to plug ahead and try to get the endorsement. He will abide by the DFL endorsement.
(My comment: He states that he tells people exactly what he will do when he is governor. Will he actually do those things once he is governor? The talk of all the candidates is cheap. Who will walk the talk and how can we know for sure which ones actually will?)
John Marty - He also ran for governor in 1994 and 1998. He's the author of the Minnesota Health Plan. He says his work with this bill will be a very positive factor in his run for governor. He tells a story about a woman who died because she couldn't afford to go to the doctor. Marty says that's unacceptable and that's why there is such a good reception in Minnesota for his bill. Tom Hauser asked him how we would pay for universal health care in Minnesota. Marty's reply is that we currently pay twice as much for health care than any other country in the world. He says we do pay for everyone already but not until the poorest people go to the emergency room. It's cheaper to pay for it up front. He says it will be paid for by premiums paid to the Minnesota Health Plan. He thinks a fair tax code where the wealthy pay their fair share would be a good thing. Hauser asks some difficult questions but John Marty does a good job answering them all. He says that more work needs to be done in political ethics. He wants to take special interest money out of the political process. Hauser brings the topic to the stadium and Brett Farr. Marty says we should spend the public money on roads and schools, not on a new stadium. I'm surprised that Hauser took the conversation in that direction. It seems so far removed from what they were talking about. Hauser asks how he is a different candidate now than in the past. Marty says he's older now, he's matured, even his hair is gray. He also says the issues are different now and Minnesotans are ready for a change. He says that he has won many times now in his largely Republican district.
(My comment: Will John Marty's excellent work on the Minnesota Health Plan and the political ethics issues be enough to get him elected governor? Stay tuned...)
Paul Thissen - He was one of the first candidates to get into the gubernatorial race. Hauser asks him what he's learned about the difficulty of running for state-wide office compared to running for a House seat. Thissen replies that the biggest difference is traveling around the state instead of just locally. The other difference is that there is a diversity of opinion in the state. There are people with a lot of different ideas and different needs. It's been a great experience to get to know what those diverse opinions are. Hauser asks about his disappointment with the budget disagreement. Thissen thinks that we crossed a moral line when the governor eliminated GAMC. People are thinking that this is not the Minnesota we knew and loved, grew up in and felt right in. Hauser asks what the alternative is and why it's so difficult to reach a compromise on revenue and reform in the health care system. Thissen replies that we certainly can reach a compromise but that it's difficult because it's an incredibly complex issue. The compromise will include cost reductions. He has talked to both hospitals and community people of MN. He also wants to focus on cost containment for everyone, not only government budgets but also family budgets. Hauser asks if there's a limit to how much government can do. He states that government can't help everyone no matter how much they might want to. Thissen says we need the idea of helping everyone as a goal. We might not ever get there, but we have to try. He says what we need to do first is focus on the problem of insurance. There are plenty of people who have insurance but it's meaningless. They are paying 25% of their income on health insurance. Hauser asks how he will handle getting votes when the legislature hasn't been able to reach agreements. The voters are giving them low marks and will say, "You're part of the problem. Why should we vote for you?" Thissen says they have to go to the people and tell them that elections matter and if they elect a DFL governor, Minnesota will have a common sense progress, which will include a much more balanced approach to how we balance our structural deficit. Hauser asks why we should vote for Thissen and not one of the other candidates. Thissen says most families are concerned with economic security. Those are the issues that Thissen has been in the trenches fighting for. He has a record of delivering on affordable health care, retirement security and making sure that consumers don't get ripped off. He has a record of delivering on these things for Minnesotans. He also wants to prepare for the Baby Boomers retiring. He says no one in the legislature has been focusing on that or looking at solutions on how to prepare for it. He says that people are looking for something new and different and that conventional politics just aren't there in the public focus anymore.
(My comment: What kind of plan does Paul Thissen have, exactly, to prepare for the big Baby Boomer retirement? I keep hearing people close to retirement saying they won't be able to retire at all now because the economy is so bad and because they lost so much money in their stock portfolios. Which Baby Boomer issues does Thissen see as being the most important and how will he resolve them?)
Matt Entenza - He thinks the number of gubernatorial candidates is stabilizing. There are currently a total of 19. Matt Entenza is the former House Minority Leader and a regular contributor to At Issue. Hauser thinks the number might get up to a couple dozen before we're finished. Hauser wants to know why anyone would want to jump into a job that will have to eliminate a projected budget deficit between four and seven billion dollars by 2011. Entenza says it's a sign that things aren't working, that we need a change, and we need to get the Minnesota economy working again. As governor he would work with business, labor and everyone across the state, because the economy is not working for the average Minnesotan. Unless we create a lot of jobs, there's nothing else we'll be able to do. Hauser states that many people are worried that with a DFL governor and a DFL majority in the legislature, there will be no firewall between huge tax increases and the people of Minnesota. Entenza points out that Pawlenty won't raise income taxes but instead raised property taxes and fees (by 65%). He further states that with a DFL governor the taxes just wind up being a different kind of tax, i.e. income rather than property and fees. We can't cut ourselves to greatness nor tax ourselves to greatness. We have to have a strategy for economic development. The only way we'll get the revenue base to do the things both Democrats and Republicans want, such as education, health care and economic development is to create jobs. He thinks we need to become the Silicon Valley of clean energy. One of the reasons he's so focused on biotechnology and clean energy is because those are things we can do without raising taxes and handing out tax breaks. He disagrees with Governor Pawlenty and his so-called job z approach. That's the old economy: low scale, low wage manufacturing jobs. We need to be working with the Medtronics, the Boston Scientifics, the Mayo Clinics and the Hormel Institute down in Austin. It's the future economy. We do it by moving to clean energy and biotechnology and being a part of the future economy rather than trying to grow a past economy that is leaving us behind and moving to other countries. Entenza totally disagrees with Pawlenty's propensity for borrowing for transportation and other things. Entenza's strategy will be to go with economic growth now. We need to be growing an economic base now that's based on high value jobs and based on things like making the University of Minnesota gets the support it needs. Hauser asks if income tax increases are inevitable. Entenza says we can't solve things by just cutting taxes and cutting services. That just contributes to more unemployment and going backwards. Minnesota is a high service state and a high value state. We had to have the gas tax increase in order to improve our roads and bridges. Entenza states that there are some Democrats who think that Minnesota problems can be solved just by raising taxes. He disagrees and says that's not the solution. Then Hauser asks whether he thinks Margaret Anderson Kelliher will be able to both run for governor and still be Speaker of the House. Entenza replies that Margaret is very smart and is a person of high integrity. He says it will be very difficult to do both, but if anyone could do it, it would be her. He himself is focusing on being governor.
(My comment: This is the best I've ever heard from Matt Entenza. He actually shares more of what he wants to do as governor. Plus, he didn't say anything about his childhood or his father. Could he have actually been listening to me in my previous blogs? Or did he just feel that Tom Hauser was a lot more intelligent than the audiences at the forums and debates? I'm glad I watched this interview. It makes me think that maybe there's hope for Entenza to be governor after all. He's got some excellent ideas for the future. He didn't really answer Hauser's question about whether he'll raise taxes, though. I don't think he wants to talk too much about it. Although he did allow that people expect that it will happen.)
Tom Bakk - He's the Minnesota Senator from Cook, Minnesota.He's well known as the Chairman of the Senate Tax Committee. Hauser asks him why he's running for governor. He replied that Minnesota has some very serious challenges. As he travels around Minnesota, he's trying to have an honest conversation with Minnesotans about our future. He built a reputation at the Capital of being someone who wants to solve problems. It goes back to being a carpenter all his life. (Here we go.) In the building trades you learn how to solve problems, because if you don't, you never get a building built. That's the attitude he has brought to the Capital...someone who wants to roll up his sleeves, work hard, get things done and try to work together with other people. Right now Minnesota needs a chief executive who is a problem solver and a uniter who will bring in the business community and labor community and try to build a bridge between Democrats and Republicans. Governors set the tone at the Capital. He thinks he has the right kind of temperament and has built the right kind of relationships to take on the State's problems. Hauser then brings up Bakk's experiences in losing a job and being on unemployment and being without health insurance. This was in 1982 during a deep recession. Bakk explains how worried he was and says he has never forgotten it. He wants everyone to have a paycheck on Friday so they can take care of their families. Thus his main concern and focus is that everyone has a job. Bakk things the budget deficit is just a symptom of a bigger problem. The main problem is that we have an economy that is performing very poorly. This leads to poor income tax revenue and poor sales tax revenue. We've got 170,000 people on unemployment; over 500 people per week exhaust their unemployment benefits. "What are those families gonna do?" asks Bakk. He then states that the next governor has got to make turning this economy around the number one priority. Hauser asks how he will defend himself against the Republicans who will talk against his tax platform. He responds that the tax committee has the responsibility to balance the budget. He says you have to be very careful regarding taxes. Tax policy matters because the tax climate impacts our economy and whether we're going to grow jobs and personal income in this state. Right now Minnesota has a built-in structural budget deficit. We don't have the money to do the things that Minnesotans think are important. One thing he does know for sure from being the tax committee chair, he assures us, is that you cannot raise enough revenue to solve the state's budget problems. He's going to raise some revenue and he's going to cut some spending. He thinks most Minnesotans agree with that. Those two areas, though, he claims, are not enough. We have to figure out how to get the economy going. Bakk thinks there are not enough wealthy people in Minnesota whose taxes we can raise enough to solve the budget problem. He disagrees with some of his Democratic cohorts who say that you can just raise taxes on the people who have over $500,000 per year income. Bakk says there are not that many wealthy Minnesotans. He claims that there are only 20,000 of them. He then blatantly stated that candidates who don't understand tax policy shouldn't talk about taxes. (It's obvious who Bakk is talking about here and I blatantly disagee with him. I think the candidate he's talking about knows more about wealthy people than Bakk could ever hope to.) Bakk also wants to know why banks aren't lending to businesses who want to expand and says that if he gets elected governor, he will call in the bankers to find out why.
(My comment: Bakk obviously thinks he knows everything about revenue and money and it's making him very negative. He says there are only 20,000 wealthy Minnesotans. I suspect that there are more than that; he's only counting those who have a reportable income of more than $500,000.00. If you take away all the tax loopholes that the wealthy enjoy, you would see what the real numbers are. Bakk doesn't really know much about the wealthy, as he himself has never been wealthy. Being the tax committee chair doesn't mean that he knows everything there is to know about taxes.)
Susan Gaertner - She's currently the Ramsey County Attorney and has been since 1994. She wants to be the first woman to hold the governor's office. She's not running as a woman governor candidate. She's running as an executive with a great deal of experience making tough decisions. That's exactly what this state means and that's the key issue, not gender. She wants to change the leadership style in state government. She strongly feels that she's the right candidate at the right time. The public is very tired of the partisanship and the gridlock at the Capitol. They want someone to come in and make tough decisions that are best for the community as opposed to what is best for the individual's political career. As county attorney, she's had to do that for fifteen years. It's time that someone took the helm at the state to make these kind of decisions. Hauser says that sometimes the system doesn't allow for that. Gaertner responds that with enough courageous leadership, things can change. The governor can set the example. She reminded us how many people took exception to Pawlenty's unallotments and knew that these were not in the best interests of the state. Gaertner says she is used to working with others to get things done without regard to partisanship or idealogy but just using common sense project solving. Hauser then asks her about her tax platform. She replies that we have to look at redesigning government services and look at where we can cut spending. We also need to look at some increases in revenue. She wants the sales tax plan to keep up with the reality of our economy. We need to talk about having a tax on clothing. She thinks it can be structured so it isn't regressive. Hauser then asks her about health care reform. She doesn't think that Minnesota is ready for Senator Marty's Health Care Bill.
(My comment: Gaertner started out pretty good and I was impressed with what she had to say. I was almost going to put her back in my top candidates list. The end of her remarks, though, made me take her off the list. Shame on her for not being fully supportive of the Minnesota Health Plan bill. This is something that Minnesota needs and wants no matter what is done at the Federal level. If she waits for them she'll be waiting forever to get single payer. After she said that, I decided I could not in good conscience vote for her.)
Margaret Anderson Kelliher - She's currently the Speaker of the House. Hauser's first question is that all important one: what's going to happen to the Minnesota Vikings? Kelliher doesn't see that issue playing a big role in this session. There are more important priorities, which include the budget deficit, the bonding bill, and jobs. She's hearing from a lot of Minnesotans who want to make sure we're having a public debate about this. Kelliher would like to see a panel that would investigate the options. She realizes it's important to a lot of Minnesotans. However, she knows that Minnesota has a lot more pressing issues than the Vikings. Hauser then asks about creating jobs in Minnesota. Kelliher says that in the short term, they can pass a bonding bill that will create jobs. We need a statewide economic development plan. She has spoken to a lot of people about this and no one thinks that we have a good plan in this area. The next question Hauser asks is in regard to Pawlenty's unallotments. He says that people will say that she allowed the governor to do this. Kelliher says that no governor should ever walk away from the legislature or from the people of Minnesota, but that's exactly what Pawlenty did. Pawlenty put his own interests above the interests of Minnesota. Ever since, the legislature has had to try to clean up his mess, especially with GAMC. Groups of people are working very hard to come up with a legislative solution to fix GAMC. We need to keep these people in the system in terms of their basic health care needs. In 2013 all these people are likely to be covered by the Federal government. Now Hauser segues into the budget deficit. Will taxes have to be raised? Kelliher thinks it will take a balanced approach. She thinks we can take waste out of government, as MAPE pointed out to her. She also thinks it will take tax fairness. We need to go back to a progressive tax system. She agrees with Dayton that the wealthy should pay their fair share. She thinks that taxes should be raised fairly and progressively and that reductions should be made in inefficient spending. Hauser then asks what she thinks of the Rasmussen poll that put Dayton and Rybak at the top and Kelliher only third. She skirts around the question and says that she feels good about all her endorsements, which are growing her support base across the state. She says that early polls are a measure of name recognition.
My comments: Kelliher certainly has a big shot at the governorship, although she's not in top place by any means. We have a long way to go before next November rolls around. Can Kelliher win against such big names as Dayton and Rybak? Even if she wins the DFL endorsement, can she succeed against the big money campaigns of Dayton and Entenza? Are all her endorsements enough to get her elected? Time will tell. We need to keep an eye on Kelliher.
Mark Dayton - Hauser started right out asking Mark Dayton why DFL voters should vote for him when he dropped out of the Senate after only one term. I thought Dayton answered this question well. Hauser could have started out with a less antagonistic question. I wonder if the candidates had any input into what the questions would be. On the other hand, Dayton needs to be prepared for when the Republicans throw all this stuff up at him. His answers were the same as what I've been saying all along. First, he's far better suited to an executive position than just being one of many, many senators. After all, he ran three state agencies and is the only candidate who ran any state agency. He stated that he is best suited to be the governor of any of the candidates. He said he left the senate to run for executive office for the same reasons that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden left the senate to pursue the executive branch. It was very difficult for Dayton to get things accomplished in the Senate because he was in the minority party and was a junior senator. He was foiled at almost every attempt to pass excellent legislation because of the Republican majority. Hauser then asked how Dayton would respond to the Republicans who would say that Time Magazine dubbed him as one of the five worst senators because he closed his Senate office. Dayton explained that there was a terroristic threat. He received a memo about it which he read three times before making his decision. The memo said that there was a serious threat against Washington. He was very concerned for the safety of his young staff. (I wish he would hire my son to work for him. He'd be a great role model and I wouldn't have to worry about my son's safety.) The real question is why the other senators didn't care enough about their own staff to get them out of harm's way. It's like 9/11. We heard reports of people who sat on the upper floors waiting for management to tell them what to do. They didn't leave because no one told them to. So they died. So many more could have been saved. Dayton was in Washington during the 9/11 attacks and knew the reality of how ill prepared Washington was to face a terroristic attack. Our defense system was negligent, which was made obvious when planes wandered into the protected zone. Dayton states that he knew the realities and made the assessment and decided to protect his staff. He states that he would make the same decision again. Good for him. It was a good decision. Ask the parents of his young staff. He pointed out that the mayor of Houston evacuated a million people after seeing what happened to New Orleans. The hurricane missed Houston, but no one has a crystal ball (well, actually, there are probably a lot of crystal balls in New Orleans) and it's better to make the right decision. Dayton says he will make the hard decisions as governor of Minnesota. (The other thing about closing his Senate office was that the legislature wasn't even in session. Most of the senators were gone. Most left their staff behind with no thought for their safety. Also, Dayton moved the staff back to Minnesota where they continued to carry on their duties.) Hauser next asked why it's been so hard for the DFL to win the governorship back. Why such a long dry spell and what would Dayton do to change that? Dayton said the people of Minnesota need to decide which direction they want Minnesota to go. We currently have a regressive tax system which causes chronic budget deficits, steep unemployment, overcrowed classrooms and schools that are going to four-day school weeks. Do people want to continue to see this state get worse, or do they want to go in a basically different direction? Hauser's next question is in regard to what Dayton will do about the projected 5.4 billion dollar budget deficit. Dayton states that it's a projection based on economic assumptions that will certainly change before the new governor takes office in January of 2011. If the wealthiest ten percent of the people of Minnesota paid the same rate as everyone else, it would bring in 3.8 billion dollars of additional revenues. So yes we have a budget crisis, but we also have a revenue crisis. Tim Pawlenty is the best tax shelter the wealthy of Minnesota have ever had. They're paying less than their fair share. This isn't fair to the rest of Minnesotans and it's costing us revenues that we desperately need to provide the basic services, starting with public education. Hauser argues the point by saying that 3.8 billion is too high of a figure. (Hauser should quit listening to Tom Bakk.) Dayton replies that it's basic math. He then says that he will make taxes fair in this state before he looks at anything else. He says that everyone's property taxes have gone up in the last few years and fees have gone up. Pawlenty doesn't call these taxes but they really are. So Dayton won't raise taxes on the rest of the people in Minnesota until the wealthies people in this state pay their fair share. (AFSCME has been saying this for years.) We'll start with a flat tax, then make the taxes progressive, then we'll look and see what else is necessary. Hauser's next question is whether Dayton would support a new stadium for the Vikings. He replied that he would support a stadium only if it's in the best interests of the people of Minnesota, which means that the financial benefits of the stadium would be greater than the financial costs. He then stated that Rudy Perpich made things happen for the benefit of the people of Minnesota, and that's the kind of governor that he will be. Governors are supposed to make things happen in the public interests. That's what Dayton will do. Hauser then asked about the DFL endorsement. Dayton replied that he will be in the primary no matter who gets the DFL endorsement. He is prepared to self-finance.
My comments: I didn't really care for this interview. I sensed that Hauser was purposefully antagonistic toward Dayton. I could feel some tension going on. I saw Hauser do the same thing with one other candidate. The interviewer should be neutral, but I didn't think that he was in this case. In view of the situation, I thought Dayton did a great job answering the questions. It was apparent that he was rather irritated with Hauser. I was too. I was disappointed that Hauser didn't bring out all the good things that Dayton did when he was a Senator, such as the legislation in favor of seniors and veterans. On the bright side, Dayton will be going to 87 counties in 87 days. (Oh oh...when will he have time to do my Meet and Greet? I've got so many people who want to come and meet him in person.) Dayton does fabulously when he goes out to meet groups of people. They all love him. No matter what the Republicans try to throw his way, the fact remains that he is very popular with a very large percentage of DFL voters. He's got an excellent chance of winning the governorship.
R. T. Rybak