Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I'm doing a series on the gubernatorial candidates and what they said on Tuesday and Wednesday (today) on MPR MIDDAY regarding several issues. I'll take the candidates one at a time, one per blog. Mark Dayton was the first one to speak in this series, so I'll take him on first. For each candidate I'll show what he or she said in bold print, then put my comments in normal print.

Mark Dayton at a Meet and Greet

Question #1:  Why are you running for governor?

Minnesota needs to go in a fundamentally different direction. The theme of my campaign is A Better Minnesota. Having just travelled over 9,000 miles throughout our state in all 87 counties, I'd say that Minnesotans are looking for a better direction. They need jobs. We've seen massive unemployment under Governor Pawlenty. We've seen budget cuts for our schools of over $1400 per student. We need to reinvest in education. We need to reinvest in our infrastructure. We need to make taxes progressive once again in Minnesota to pay for these essential investments so we can create a better Minnesota.

He consistently overuses the word "fundamentally." I've heard "fundamentally profound," "fundamentally wrong," and now "fundamentally different." I've also heard "profoundly and fundamentally wrong." Would someone please send Mr. Dayton a thesaurus? As far as the context of his answer, it doesn't really tell me anything new. Mr. Dayton is very good at telling us what Minnesota needs to do in a vague way, but there is nothing definite and nothing to tell us how to get there. He raises more questions than he answers. What does he mean, exactly, when he says we have to reinvest in eduation and infrastructure? What does he mean, exactly, by progressive taxes? Does he have specific figures? Does he know how long it will take Minnesota to get back on its feet once taxes are raised on the wealthy? Tom Bakk used to say, and probably still does, that raising taxes alone just won't be enough. Also, "looking for a better direction" is just not specific enough. That's extremely vague.

Question #2:  Should seeking the endorsement rather than going to the Primary without it matter to DFL voters?

I believe in democracy, and in a democracy all the people decide in a free election where the voters have choices of candidates. That means all the people. I'm running based on what I offer the state of Minnesota. I think it's much more important that 400,000 DFL primary voters get to decide who our party nominee is than 1300 party activists and leaders who I respect, but who should not be in a position to dictate to all the rest of the primary voters who their choice should be.

It seems to me that Mark Dayton is going to the Primary without even bothering with the endorsement because he doesn't think he can win the endorsement. I know many others who agree with me, including some of our candidates. The endorsement process is akin to representative government. Does Mr. Dayton believe that representative government should have no place in a democracy? Or is this just something he pretends to believe so that he can rationalize the avoidance of the DFL Primary? Why did he run for the U. S. Senate if he doesn't believe in representative democracy? (An even better question: why did he quit after only one term?) It appears that Mark Dayton is running to prove something to himself. He wants Minnesotans to like him again. Does he not know that his beloved Minnesotans can like him without him attempting to be governor? Does he not know that his chances of being the best candidate to run in November are slim to nil? Does he think that everyone is just going to forget about his fisasco in Washington? On the other hand, yes, Mark Dayton has 35 years of public service experience. Yet he never stayed in one position long at all. One term as State Auditor and one term as senator. Does he really think we're going to believe that he will spend eight years as Minnesota's governor even if he does by some remote chance win in November?  I want a DFL governor who can win the Primary and win in November. If the Universe is kind, it will give us R. T. Rybak, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Paul Thissen or one of the other DFL candidates. We would have an excellent chance of winning the governorship with any of these people. Mr. Dayton, please go home and enjoy your millions. It's time to retire. 

Question #3: Do you have someone in mind to be your Lt. Governor?

I want a partner; someone I can work with over the course of eight years; someone who brings expertise that I might not have in areas and also a balance in terms of persepective on the state because it is a big job and the Lt. Governor not only serves as the constitutional officer with the governor but also on the executive council and a member of the State Board of Invenstments. She or he has a major responsibility that is statutorily and constitutionally established. So I want someone who will be a co-equal and strong partner in this undertaking.

Okay, this was hard in spots to take down verbatim in writing since Dayton stumbles over his syntax sometimes. There are also incomplete sentences that just trail off into a new thought. Sometimes his sentences get a bit long and are held together with words such as "and, "but," and "or." It's nice that Dayton wants to work with a lt. governor over the course of eight years, but realistically, he has never held one office for that long. He ended his State Auditor duties after only one term; he ended his senator duties after only one term. Why should we trust him to be governor for more than one term? Especially since he's not getting any younger and has a couple of health issues.

Question #4: Why would you be a better governor than Marty Seifert or Tom Emmer?

Both the Republican candidates would push Minnesota even further to the extreme. They both said that they will not raise income taxes on the wealthiest people in this state, which means our taxes will continue to be terribly unfair. It also means that property taxes will continue to rise for middle income Minnesotans and senior citizens and farmers and small business owners as they have been over the last decade. Representative Seifert said the government is a parasite, which is ironic considering that he's now collecting two government paychecks. Representative Emmer said that he would abolish local government aids. Having been in all 87 counties in the last two months and met with county commissioners as well as mayors and city council members from all political persuasions, that would virtually eliminate local government in the rural and property tax poor areas of the state. So I think they demonstrate a very poor understanding of the realities that Minnesotans are facing all over the state, and they would just push us farther and farther to the right wing extreme. 

This is a pretty good answer, although Dayton does need to work on his sentence structure, his habit of connecting phrases with "and" far too often, and varous other grammatical stumblings. He did get his point across that Seifert and Emmer just don't care about poor Minnesotans nor the plight of many who live in rural areas. Dayton makes a big effort to point out the huge discrepency in revenue goals between the Democrats and the Republicans. It's unfortunate that the Republicans do not have a more moderate candidate to offer up rather than two extreme right wing candidates. On the other hand, that's probably a good thing for the DFL winning the governorship this time around.

Question #5: Why would you want to take this mess on? How will you appeal to those who don't affiliate with any party?  

I don't wat to be part of the first generation in our nation's history to leave our state and our nation worse off to our chidren and grandchildren than we inherited it, and that would be my judgement today. These are challenging times; very difficult times. These are going to be difficult and probaably many very unpopular decisions that the next governor has to make. The political leaders I admire, and I don't put myself in their category, are people like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, who led during difficult and perilous times. I think that's when it matters even more who the leader is and what direction he or she wants to lead. I just see that if we continue in the direction we're going today, if we're going to continue to cut back funding for education - Governor Pawlenty has cut per people aid formula by over $1400 per student - we have overcrowded classrooms all over the state. We have school districts in Minnesota that operate four day school weeks like rural Louisiana - so great, now our education policy is going to follow in the footsteps of rural Louisiana? Minnesota? As the state demographer and state economist have been saying to anyone who will listen, we are sacrificing the strengths of this state by disinvesting in education, infrastructure and essential services, health care, quality of life, and we're sacrificing the future of the state. I don't wanna see that happen. I wanna change direction and make it better. I think that's a broad appeal that applies to the vast majority of Minnesotans who recognize that things are getting worse. They don't have a job, they worry about property taxes going up, they want to see a better Minnesota.

Ok, this answer is very good. The problem is that this is from Dayton's repertoire of canned speeches. This is one he's got memorized. It's when he's asked a question that he's unprepared for that he has problems. Mark Dayton is not known for his ability to think on his feet. Don't get me wrong, he's very quick witted, but the words don't come out right if he doesn't have them prepared in advance. This particular answer is one he's told to audiences many, many times before. These are good ideas, but not all that original. I wonder who his speechwriter is. On the other hand, we all know that Minnesota is in deep trouble. Now the main question becomes who is the best suited candidate to put Minnesota back on track? I honestly don't think it is Mark Dayton. Word is out that he's of the old school of politics. We need someone younger; maybe someone with executive experience like R. T. Rybak. Maybe someone with new and fresh ideas, like Paul Thissen. Maybe someone who understands both rural and urban issues, like Margaret Anderson Kelliher. So maybe not Mark Dayton.


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