The first order of business at the forum was mingling. I saw some people I've met at other events. It was great to see them again. I also met some new people, such as John Choi, who is a candidate for Ramsey County Attorney, and Jeanna Sather. Here's a picture of them.
These are two very nice people. I'll have to learn more about John Choi and what his goals are for the Ramsey County Attorney position.
It was fantastic to see so many people come up and talk to me. I was surprised to hear how many are reading this blog. Three candidates greeted me warmly. They were John Marty, Paul Thissen and Steve Kelley. It's always good to be nice to political bloggers.
The only other two gubernatorial candidates who were there this evening were Susan Gaertner and Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Tom Bakk was supposed to be there but unfortunately he got stuck in southern Minnesota because the highways were closed due to the weather. The remaining candidates had been invited but they all had previous engagements. Quite a few people told me that they were disappointed that Mark Dayton couldn't make it. Apparently he had a fund raiser to attend that he had already committed to. "Rats!" exclaimed one woman. "That makes this a rather constricting experience."
I thought it was easier to manage a smaller forum. The candidates seemed more comfortable when there weren't so many of them. It was probably easier for the audience to keep them straight, too.
There were quite a few people there considering how slippery the roads were. Here's a couple of pictures of the crowd in the early stages.
Then the frolics began. Each candidate was given a couple of minutes to introduce themselves. After that they were given a question which each answered. Here's the highlights.
In her introduction, Susan told us that she won the election four times in Ramsey County for the Ramsey County Attorney position. This means that she can definitely win the governorship. Okaaaay. Susan had good voice projection, excellent gestures, poignant use of pauses and used her floor space fairly well. I liked the way she presented herself in her introduction. I like Susan Gaertner. She'd make a fun friend. I doubt if she will ever be governor, though.
Steve Kelley (pictured in the middle)
Steve speaks well. From a Toastmasters perspective, he did use a few crutch words. Other than that, he had a good introduction. He said that DFLers must be clear about our values. Investing in our infrastructure is important. We must put people back to work. It's imperative to invest in schools. Steve was on high energy tonight. He has toned down his voice just a tad, too, so he wasn't quite as loud. He did a good job this evening.
MAK informed us that we can do a lot better as a state. She was emphatic about this. She has great speaking skills, although much of it did seem memorized. I'd like to hear her speak more off the cuff and from the heart. I was pleased with her abundant use of good metaphors.
John Marty (he's the one in the middle)
Tonight was the best I have ever heard John Marty. He was passionate and clear. His high ethical standards and integrity were obvious. Previously I had thought that he didn't have a chance of being elected governor. Now I'm not so sure. If he can keep presenting the way he did tonight, he might get a lot of swing voters. In his opening statement he emphasized that he is for social and economic justice. He said that everyone should have access to an education, a job and health care. He made it clear that he always refuses money from PAC and lobbyists.
Me standing next to Paul Thissen
Paul was an excellent speaker tonight, as he always is. He told us that the job of the new governor will be to rebuild Minnesota. We must learn lessons from the past and we must look to the future. He talked about retirement security. He reminded us that we now have a diverse and global economy and that we must change the way we do business.
After the opening statements, the candidates were given a series of questions. I'll paraphrase the questions and then briefly tell about each candidate's responses.
Question #1: What will you do to make sure the legislators and the governor can work together?
Gaertner said that the new governor needs to put aside labels and get the job done in a non-partisan way. She will be everyone's governor, not just a DFL governor. She will be a governor for all of Minnesota.
Kelley will start his relationship with the legislature by building teams.
MAK stated that Minnesotans are looking for someone to be on their side. She emphasized that the differences between DFL and GOP will always be here. Her values are health care, equality and justice.
Marty said that standing up for what you believe in doesn't mean you can't be effective. He said that everyone must be treated with respect and dignity. This is what will bring DFL and GOP together.
Thissen said that Minnesota needs a legislature that will stand up right away at the beginning of the term and state our values. He further stated that he is willing to change his opinion on various things if the facts don't agree with his opinions. He gave an example of this. He also wants to engage the people of Minnesota.
Question #2: What will you do as governor to create jobs and help small businesses?
Gaertner said that she will make sure that small businesses can have health care. She stated that our tax system needs to be kind to entepreneurs and small businesses.
Kelley wants to make sure that small businesses have access to credit. He will work with businesses. He wants Minnesota to invest in infrastructure and update homes to conserve energy.
MAK said she did a survey of 1,000 small businesses. The result showed that they want a network. MAK believes that Angel Investment will be viable. She's a believer in strong education for K - 12 and post high school. This will stimulate small businesses. She said she wants all Minnesota kids to have the same great education that her own kids are having. (She didn't tell us where they go to school.)
Marty wants to invest in a bonding bill and get our infrastructure moving again. He also stated that the Minnesota Health Plan will reduce age discrimination in jobs.
Thissen wants to get banks to make loans again. He's in favor of Legacy dollars and investing in a good transportation system. He wants to make sure that small businesses can compete in a global economy. He's also supportive of creating and protecting union jobs.
Question #3: What is your stand on tax policy and reform?
Gaertner talked about Pawlenty's tax policy and used the word "Duh!" a couple of times. The audience laughed. This was a great technique to connect with the audience, but as the election draws closer she will need to start cleaning up her slang and using proper English as befitting the position of governor. Everything a candidate says is being recorded by the GOP and usually ends up on MDE. Regarding taxes, Gaertner stated that it will take a lot of political courage to have tax discussions. (Remember that courage is her middle name.)
Kelley told his humorous story again of how Pawlenty should take his budget class but he didn't invite him to because he doesn't have the prerequisites and because Kelly doesn't like to flunk anyone. Ok, I've heard this story before many times so it's losing its impact for me. He should have used his few minutes to be more explicit about what tax reforms and policies he will push for if he is governor.
MAK stated that Minnesota's tax system is outdated. She went on in her sing-song voice and I have to admit that I dozed off and didn't catch all of what she said on this question.
Marty stated that we should rely on income taxes far more than on property taxes. He also stated that a food tax is the most regressive tax there is.
Thissen said that his answer will be short because most DFL candidates agree on taxes. He assured us that Minnesotans are fed up with Pawlenty's tax policy. He then stated that cutting the services of people is the same as a regressive tax.
Question #4: What will your major reform be that people will remember you for 40 years from now?
Gaertner said that she will dream big. She wants every child to have great educational opportunities. She talked about a program in a Minneapolis neighborhood called Baby Space which nourishes children from a very early age. She thinks that if our children get what they need when they are small, that in 40 years our prisons could be empty. The audience around me gasped. I don't think they believed that could happen, although I heard murmurs of how nice that would be.
Kelley said that his big goal is that every child in Minnesota will graduate from some kind of post-secondary school. He humorously added, "so kids can take care of us when we're old."
MAK wants a new Minnesota Miracle.
Marty wants to be remembered for a New Minnesota Miracle and for the Minnesota Health Plan. He reminded us that he authored the latter. He fully believes that everyone is entitled to comprehensive health care as a basic right.
Thissen said that Minnesota needs to be ambitious for the public good. His big reform is what he calls the Silver Tsunami. He wants every senior to be able to live in comfort and with dignity. The Baby Boomers retiring will change a lot of things in Minnesota and across the country. Thissen wants Minnesota to be ready for this.
My Take: My top two picks at this forum were John Marty and Paul Thissen.
I thought MAK was going to get through the evening without a reference to the dairy farm she grew up on or her four brothers. She almost made it. Unfortunately, she couldn't last the entire evening and in the final segment she had to throw it in.
Susan Gaertner was determined that she is the best candidate for governor. Funny how all the candidates think that. Gaertner came on too strong about it and the audience was not amused.
Steve Kelley was good tonight but I don't think he'll be our next governor. Sorry, Steve, I like you and you're Irish and all, but there's something missing in your presentation. Google Craig Valentine and get him to be your coach.
Here's some pictures of other people you should keep your eye out for.
Stephen Cusulos, DFL Outreach Director
This is the secretary of SD50.