Republican Tom Emmer has declined to attend Thursday's Coalition of Greater MN Cities debate in Winona. The organization invited Emmer, Democrat Mark Dayton and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner. Dayton and Horner say they'll both attend. Emmer says he can't attend because of scheduling issues. He, like Dayton and Horner, will meet with the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce in the morning. Emmer's staffer also says he Emmer a fundraiser scheduled with the Truckers Association. When asked about his decision, Emmer said he couldn't make the commitment work and apologized to the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities..
"They are very important. It's just one of those scheduling things," Emmer said. "We've had a candidate (Democrat Mark Dayton) now for a week and we've already had three debates."
Timothy Strand, Mayor of St. Peter and President of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities issued this statement after Emmer announced his decision:
The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is excited to be joined by gubernatorial candidates Mark Dayton and Tom Horner for a forum on rural issues at our annual summer conference, Thursday, August 19, at 4:00 p.m. in Winona. We look forward to hearing how their visions for improving the economic viability of our communities fit into their overall solutions for bridging the state's $6 billion budget gap.
"There is no better opportunity to explain why you will be a champion for rural Minnesota than by debating the other candidates for governor in front of the mayors, city council members, and city staff that make up the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. That is why we are disheartened that Rep. Emmer has declined this opportunity. We hope Rep. Emmer reconsiders his invitation and joins Mark Dayton and Tom Horner in an open and honest conversation on the critical issues that will affect the 2.4 million Minnesotans living in greater Minnesota. We also hope Rep. Emmer reevaluates the message that his absence at this critical forum sends to greater Minnesota communities.
Emmer and his campaign may have also been weighing the impact of attending the debate. The Coalition is a strong supporter of Local Government Aid, which has been reduced under Gov. Pawlenty. Emmer has proposed phasing LGA out and creating another, unspecified, formula.
When told of Strand's comments, Emmer said it was unfortunate. He said he has stressed the "recovery in the state will come from greater Minnesota ultimately."