By Lynda Jensen
DARWIN, MN Organizers say the chili was hot and the speakers were fired up at the annual Meeker County DFL chili cook-off at the Darwin Rod & Gun Club, Oct. 3, with nine of 11 Democratic candidates for governor in attendance.
Moderator Nancy Larson of Dassel noted that each candidate was given five minutes to speak and honored this time frame, so that all would be able to wrap up their speeches in only one hour.
DFLer Darrin Anderson of Litchfield, who is running for a seat in House District 18B, was also present to address the crowd.
Those in attendance were able to learn a lot in that time slot, however, and they also had a chance to visit individually with the candidates before and after the speeches, Larson said.
Among the candidates at the event were four legislators: Rep. Paul Thissen, Rep. Margaret Kelliher, Sen. John Marty and Sen. Tom Bakk. There were also two mayors: Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (who has since dropped out of the race), two former legislators: Steve Kelly and Matt Entenza, and one county attorney: Susan Gaertner.
Some common themes heard during the speeches included the need to stimulate the economy and provide jobs for people, the need to balance the state’s budget in order to support education and provide for needed infrastructure, and the need for a better health care system.
Chili judging was also on the agenda, and Merle Larson, Dassel, was once again awarded the trophy for outstanding chili.
Both Merle and Nancy Larson provided the entertainment as well, with Merle serving as auctioneer, Nancy holding up the sale items, and both of them bantering with the audience.
It should be noted that not all candidates have officially declared their candidacy, such as Ryback, and that two candidates did not attend the chili event, State Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia and former Sen. Mark Dayton.
The following is a thumbnail profile of each candidate:
Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak underlines his experience in executive leadership. He was first elected mayor in 2001 and re-elected in 2005.
Ryback is fiscally conservative, and known for his ingenuity when it comes to energy consumption, along with encouraging the use of alternative energy sources.
John Marty of Roseville has characterized himself as “feisty” and called for single-payer health insurance system and laws that permit same-sex marriage, which are issues that rank high among more liberal voters, as reported by MPR.
Marty has taken political heat before for his stand on taxes, being forthright about raising them, according to St. Paul Legal Ledger.
State Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook has argued for a middle-of-the-road approach.
With an economy in recession and serious unemployment concerns, Bakk said the Democrats won’t win the governor’s race with a candidate with a leftward platform of tax-and-spending issues, according to MPR.
DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher has underlined her experience in leading the House DFLers as speaker during the last three legislative sessions.
In the past, Kelliher won over votes from Republicans to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the transportation funding bill that increased the gas tax and allowed metro-area sales taxes for transit.
However, she is widely associated with the inability to come up with a bipartisan budget this past session, which prompted Gov. Tim Pawlenty to use his executive powers to forcefully balance the state budget.
State Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook has been chair of the Senate Tax Committee since 2006. His priorities are job growth and job security, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
Former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza emphasizes clean energy and wants to make Minnesota the “silicon valley” of clean energy, according to his web site.
He wants health care for every American. “Having graduated from high school in Worthington, in far southwestern Minnesota, I have a special place in my heart for our state’s small towns and rural communities. These communities have helped shape the values and renowned work ethic of Minnesota. In no small way, these values made me who I am,” according to his web site.
Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner was elected Ramsey County attorney in 1994, and was re-elected in 1998, 2002, and 2006.
She is only the fourth person to hold the office since 1933, and is the first woman to hold the office.
State Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis says “We must be responsible stewards of our incredible national resources and promote conservation and sustainability for the betterment of future generations,” according to his web site.
“The next governor must be committed to build a statewide infrastructure comprised of 21st century roadways and environmentally responsible mass transportation systems that supports economic growth in all parts of the state,” as posted on his web site.
Former State Sen. Steve Kelley served as a Minnesota DFL state senator for District 44 (St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Golden Valley) from 1997 to 2006 and as a state representative for District 44A from 1993 to 1996.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and political economy from Williams College in Massachusetts, and a degree from Columbia University School of Law in New York.
Kelley is currently a senior fellow at the Humphrey Institute and director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy.
State Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia emphasizes jobs and education on his web site. He is the son of working parents, who grew up on the Iron Range.
US Sen. Mark Dayton is heir to the Dayton’s Department Store fortune.
Dayton served as a legislative assistant to Senator Walter Mondale. He was state auditor in the years 1991-1995, and was elected to the United States Senate in 2000, defeating Republican incumbent Rod Grams.
Dayton decries special interests and has stated that it makes sense to tax the very rich more. His campaign theme is “A Better Minnesota.”
“I’m running for governor of Minnesota, because our state is in crisis,” Dayton has said.
“We need a strong, experienced, and effective leader. I have served Minnesotans for the past 34 years. I know our state; I know its problems; and I know how to make Minnesota better!”