By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN Heading into the home stretch of a long campaign season, Sen. Norm Coleman has been on a tour of more than 90 communities across the state as part of his “Hope Express Tour.”
Coleman, who is running for re-election against DFL opponent Al Franken and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley, made a stop in Delano Oct. 19 at the Juke Box Restaurant, and spoke to the crowd briefly before meeting one-on-one with a number of residents present.
Coleman was welcomed by Watertown Mayor KJ McDonald, who was standing in for the Delano mayor, Joe McDonald, who had an out-of-town commitment, as well as State Representative Tom Emmer and State Senator Amy Koch.
Prior to his stop in Delano, Coleman had been in 25 communities, and said his stops are being well received.
“The reception, for me, has been wonderful,” Coleman said after his Delano appearance. “These are challenging times, and Minnesotans are hopeful people. When I talk about Minnesota’s ability to deal with adversity, and I tell the story when it gets to be zero, we just button the top button, it always gets a smile, and folks say, ‘Yeah, we can overcome this.’”
Coleman said his vision is pulling people together with a plan, and said he wants to continue to work toward getting control of the federal budget, keeping the government within its means, and holding those responsible for the present economic conditions.
“I think folks are looking for somebody with a vision and the ability to turn that vision into reality, and I get a very good response to that,” Coleman said.
Because of the recent change in economic conditions, Coleman decided to pull all negative campaign advertising. He said it is fair to question an opponent’s record, but in times like these, said he doesn’t want to worry Minnesotans more than they already are.
“It is fair in politics to challenge your opponent’s record, their temperament those are things that factor into whether they can do the job, so I think that’s very fair,” Coleman explained. “You don’t parachute into Minnesota and say, ‘I want to become a senator.’ Ads that contrast or challenge a record are perfectly legitimate.”
He said the reason he made his decision to pull negative campaign advertising is not a statement on the advertising, in general.
“It’s that, in these times, when people are so anxious and so unsettled, I don’t think we should be feeding the anxiety,” Coleman said. “We’re living in some uncharted times when it comes to our economy, and so my response is to say, ‘let’s not feed the fear.’ Anybody else can do what they want to do. I just don’t think it’s helpful in these times.”
He went on to say that there is, though, a legitimate role for requesting certain information from opponents in political races.
“There a legitimate role for requesting ‘OK Al what have you done in your life to convince Minnesotans you can actually bring somebody together and solve a problem?’ I think it’s fair to raise that. If they want to challenge my record, then that’s there and I’ll explain, but in these times, I just think folks are really nervous. They’re angry. They’re upset. They’re worried, and I just don’t think we should be feeding the fear.”
When Coleman stopped in Delano, there were 15 days left before election day. He said he was continuing the Hope Express tour, and said he planned on visiting 91 communities in 18 days.
“I’m going to be out there, listening to the people of Minnesota, and telling them ‘here’s my plan for fixing things, here’s my plan for holding people accountable, here’s my plan for energy independence, here’s my plan for everyone to have health insurance but without the federal bureaucrat running it, and by the way, here’s my record to prove that I can do it,’” Coleman said. “It’s very one-to-one retail, listening to people, telling them what we can do, and in the end, I hope that they will then look at the contrast, and then make, what I believe the right judgement, and give me the chance to continue serving them.”
Coleman has spent a majority of his adult life in public service, having served as the mayor of St. Paul in the 1990s, then being elected to the United States Senate in 2002.
“I’ve spent a lot of my adult life in public service, and I’m proud of that,” he said. “I’m proud of dedicating my life to serving the people of the State of Minnesota. I’d like to continue doing that. Is that all I’ll do in my life? I don’t know, but certainly, right now, I’m focused on the opportunity to continue to serve the people of Minnesota because I think they need someone who has the ability to overcome the partisan divide.
“Someone who has had experience in growing jobs I have that experience. I think people need that now more than ever, and that’s what I’m offering. I always tell my kids, ‘focus on what’s in front of you,’ and that’s what I’m focused on.”