Down to the wire

Published 6:36 am Sunday, November 4, 2012

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato tells Democrats gathered at the Union Center in Albert Lea the reasons why they need to get people to the polls Tuesday to vote for Shannon Savick, right, a former Wells mayor who is running in House District 27A. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Big money is being spent in House District 27A on political advertising, not only by the candidates but by outside groups, too. On Friday, big names came through the district, as well.

It’s because in recent elections, 27A has been a close district — two years ago, 57 votes separated the winner from the loser — and leaders on both sides know that a few key districts resulted in the changing of power in the state Legislature just two years ago.

State Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, pointed out Friday that less than 700 votes flipped the House from DFL to GOP and less than 2,200 flipped the Senate.

House District 27A Rep. Rich Murray introduces fellow Republicans Bob Gunther, the District 24A representative from Fairmont, and Tony Cornish, the District 24B representative from Vernon Center, Friday at the Freeborn County Republican Party headquarters. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Email newsletter signup

“Less than 3,000 votes flipped the direction of the state of Minnesota,” he said.

He was among a parade of Democratic leaders who came to the Union Center in Albert Lea on Friday to push Freeborn County DFLers to turn out the vote. About 90 people attended, along with District 27A challenger Shannon Savick of Wells, U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minneapolis, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato, state Rep. Terry Morrow of St. Peter, DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin and former Minneapolis Star Tribune writer Jim Klobuchar, the father of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

After it was over, people lined up to snap photos of so many Democratic Party leaders in one place. Gov. Mark Dayton had been slated to be there, too, but he wasn’t. One handler said the governor had oral surgery Thursday and had to get ready for the deer hunting opener this weekend.

The Freeborn County Republican Party also held a rally Friday. About 25 people turned out to hear District 27A incumbent Rich Murray of Albert Lea speak with two area Republican leaders. With him were state Rep. Bob Gunther of Fairmont and state Rep. Tony Cornish of Vernon Center.

Murray has raised more money for his campaign than Savick, according to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 22, Murray raised nearly $30,000, while Savick had just over $22,000.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken describes his close race in 2008 and gestures to workers who helped turn out voters to come forward.

Murray had $7,076 in his campaign chest on Jan. 1, and on Oct. 22 had $36,942 in contributions. He spent $18,013, leaving him a balance of $26,005 going into the final days.

Savick had $1,699 on Jan. 1, had $24,069 in contributions and spent $22,486, leaving $3,282.

Murray, as he says in advertisements, did not take any contributions from political action committees, while Savick took about $4,100, mainly from labor unions.

That said, many of the ads being purchased in the race are neither from the candidates or their contributors. Tracking where that money comes from gets a bit more difficult, as it requires sifting through stacks of campaign disclosure files from a wide array of interests, rather than merely looking at the filings of the two candidates.

Still, on Friday in Albert Lea, both Republicans and Democrats bashed each other for misleading fliers that come in the mail and confusing ads on the TV and radio. But the main reason they gathered was to motivate their supporters to action.

Among the parade of Democrats, the talk by Walz had people buzzing afterward. He said while politics can seem ugly at times the final weekend push in an election is his favorite four days of the year. The former high school history teacher and football coach said billions died for the right to vote and billions more dream of it.

“Politics is an extension of our dreams and society,” he said.

Republicans gathered at the party headquarters in downtown Albert Lea hear the words of three Republicans, left to right, state Reps. Bob Gunther, Rich Murray and Tony Cornish.

He blasted Republicans for protecting the interests of the wealthy by raising taxes on the middle class and cutting services the middle-class uses, even noting how cuts to state funds caused reduced hours at city pools.

“If you got a pool in your backyard, you don’t care if the public pool is closed. We do,” Walz said.

He said Republicans have cut school funding before asking people at the top to pay more in taxes. He said Republicans don’t deliver on tax-relief promises. He said state cuts to local governments result in increased property taxes.

“Gutting the middle class is not only immoral. It is stupid economically,” Walz said.

Over at the GOP headquarters, Murray made his pitch, saying teachers are important for the economy. He said schools help make people productive members of society and said educating a workforce helps get people without jobs back on their feet.

“We can’t just hand out money,” Murray said.

He said the state needs to look at excess spending and praised the formation of a sunset commission that aims to do just that.

Gunther said Murray has worked on bills that save taxpayer dollars. He cited a bill that reduces the need for the state auditor to audit every county and Class 1 city when many already have independent audits.

Murray helped cut state spending to the lowest levels, he said, since 1962.

“If we put Democrats back in charge, all those things will be erased,” Gunther said.

Cornish, a career law enforcement officer, touted Murray’s support of law enforcement.

He said Murray worked on bills to battle synthetic drugs, increased penalties for organized retail theft, made fleeing on foot as illegal as car chases, required more notification for sex offenders and enhanced penalties for abusing vulnerable adults, among others.

Former Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Jim Klobuchar, father of incumbent U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, speaks Friday at the Union Center to a crowd of about 90 people.

“He actually acted to protect public safety,” Cornish said.

Officers from the Albert Lea Police Department showed up in the basement at the Union Center to hear the Democratic speakers.

Savick, a former Wells mayor, said she decided to run for office because of how cuts to local government hurt the quality of life, education and public safety of residents. She touted her background in technology and said how Minnesota needs to invest in education for a changing workplace.

“We cannot keep borrowing from education,” she said.

Klobuchar, the father, described his grandfather coming from Slovenia to work in the Minnesota mines so his children could go to high school and grandchildren go to college. Now, his daughter is a U.S. senator. Out of the misery of the Depression, America expanded its middle class to form a strong post-World War II economy. He charged that Republicans want to destroy the middle class so that they can defeat the Democratic Party supporters.

The longtime Minnesota journalist told the crowd that every vote is needed.

“If we maximize the number of votes available to us, we are going to win,” Klobuchar said.

Franken described the close election he had with Coleman in 2008, winning by 312 votes. He talked about how he lived in Albert Lea as a young boy before his father moved to St. Louis Park. The comedian-turned-politician had the same kindergarten teacher as some of the people in the room.

He said America needs to focus on education, infrastructure and innovation.

“Those are the things that create prosperity. Always have. Always will,” Franken said.

Gunther said Minnesota needs to compete with neighboring states yet struggles with “one of the highest commercial/industrial taxes in the USA.”

He said Republicans can make Minnesota competitive with other states “if we wouldn’t have a governor who vetoes everything we do.”

A big priority for southern Minnesota Republicans, he said, is finding an incentive that replaces the sunsetting Job Opportunity Building Zones measure enacted under Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He said any new measure wouldn’t require a zone to get the incentive.

Murray asked the people in attendance to get their friends to the polls so he can win a second term.

“We are at the point we need to turn the tide here,” he said.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

email author More by Tim