DFL gubernatorial candidates debate

Published 10:20 am Monday, July 27, 2009

What do politics, barbecue pork sandwiches and horse-drawn wagon rides all have in common?

On a warm Saturday evening near Lansing, they were all part of Politics in the Pumpkin Patch, as 10 DFL gubernatorial candidates came to Farmer John’s Pumpkin Patch for an informal meet-and-greet.

The brainchild of state Rep. Robin Brown, DFL-Moscow Township, and her husband, Grand Meadow Independent School District Superintendent Joe Brown, Politics in the Pumpkin Patch was a new event this year designed to generate grass-roots interest in the party and do it in a fun way.

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“If you wanted to meet 10 candidates, you had that opportunity,” Joe Brown said. “The event was as good as the weather.”

Those 10 candidates came from all over,  representing the Twin Cities, the Iron Range and areas in between.

They also have an array of experiences — the group consists of a county attorney, two mayors, two state senators, a former state representative, two current state representatives, a former state senator and a former U.S. senator.

And with Gov. Tim Pawlenty announcing that he won’t be running for re-election, the 2010 race figures to be wide open.

“There’s a huge buzz among DFLers,” former state Rep. Matt Entenza said.

Entenza said he is the lone southern Minnesota candidate — he grew up in Worthington — and added that he best understands rural issues.

Chief among those, Entenza said, is devoting more time to rural economic development, namely alternative energy.

Entenza said wind energy could be a big plus for the state but is currently lagging behind Iowa because not enough time is being spent on the area.

“We need someone to focus on rural communities every day,” he said.

Other issues that got plenty of talking time were health care, jobs and education.

Sen. John Marty of Roseville said the current health care system needs changing.

“We shouldn’t have to have fundraisers for people who get sick,” he said, a reference to high medical costs.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said supporting education is key because it can spur the job market and, ultimately, the economy.

For someone representing a big city like Coleman does, making connections in rural Minnesota is very important — and the mayor thinks he’s capable.

“We’re one Minnesota,” Coleman said. “You can’t have a healthy St. Paul and an unhealthy Austin and have a healthy Minnesota.”

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was also going beyond the big city looking for support.

He said creating jobs is the key to Minnesota’s future — something he said he’s accomplished while running the state’s largest city.

“I know how to get big things done,” he said. 

Coming from the Iron Range were Rep. Tom Rukavina and Sen. Tom Bakk.

Rukavina, the chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, spoke on Thursday at Riverland Community College about education costs and has said education is a primary issue in 2010.

Bakk said creating jobs is a top issue.

“I’m a person that believes the most important thing is that on Friday, you have a paycheck,” he said.