Twins stadium main issue in House primary raceby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
State Rep. Neil Peterson, of Bloomington, faces a Republican challenger in next Tuesday's primary election. Peterson's opponent is upset about his support of the tax increase for the new Twins stadium, and hopes voter discontent over the ballpark tax helps his campaign.
Bloomington, Minn. — For the most part, Mark Chamberlain is a one-issue candidate. The issue is the Twins ballpark and the Hennepin County sales tax that will fund a portion of it.
Chamberlain says he's running because Republican Rep. Neil Peterson should have voted against the stadium bill. He says at the very least, Peterson should have insisted that Hennepin County voters be allowed to decide if the .15 percent sales tax increase would be enacted.
The district covers parts of Hennepin County. Chamberlain says he's upset that Peterson supported the bill and thinks many voters agree with him.
"All of a sudden, they're being forced to pay for a sports stadium, basically to subsidize a major industry, when businesses all over the state have to buy their own buildings and their own facilities and take care of them," said Chamberlain.
Chamberlain says he didn't want to challenge Peterson but he said no one else would sign up. So here he is, stomping for votes in the district that includes Bloomington and Edina.
On a hot and sunny August day, Chamberlain knocked on doors along Normandale Ave., making his pitch to voters. He told potential voters that he's not against the Twins, per se, but is upset with how the process was handled in the Legislature. He found a supporter in Jason Milkie.
"It shouldn't be an issue so much of whether we like the team or don't like the team, but it's the process. Was it the right or wrong thing to do," Chamberlain said.
I think they kind of bulldozed it, kind of like what they normally do," Milkie responded. "When you bulldog something like that, that's what happens. I'd like a new house, but I have to pay for mine."
Chamberlain hopes other Republicans in the district share Milkie's view and vote for him on Tuesday.
During the legislative session, stadium opponents threatened lawmakers that they would pay at the ballot box if they voted for the financing package. For the most part, those threats haven't materialized to date, except here.
While Chamberlain is optimistic that he's striking a nerve with some disgruntled taxpayers, he's also running into some who don't mind paying the tax. One homeowner, who didn't give his name, listened to Chamberlain's pitch and simply replied "I'm all for the Twins stadium, so I'm fine paying the tax."
Rep. Neil Peterson is banking on that type of response from most voters. Peterson, who is in his first term in the Legislature, says he hasn't heard many voters complain about the stadium. Instead, he says they're focused on other things.
"We've got all kinds of issues, like education and transporation and those kinds of things, that are far bigger fish to fry than the stadium," said Peterson.
Peterson says he voted for the Twins stadium financing plan because he didn't want to see the Twins move, especially after he watched the Minnesota North Stars hockey team leave while he was mayor of Bloomington in 1993.
"I was mayor at the time and I could have helped them stay. I took the position that no, we were not going to help a millionaire, and we were not going to take public money and try to help them stay in the old Met Center. I was dead wrong. I was absolutely wrong."
Peterson seems at ease with his vote and says he isn't too worried about Mark Chamberlain's challenge in Tuesday's primary. But with only a small number of voters likely to turn out, a diehard group of stadium opponents could make the difference in this primary.
Whoever wins the Republican Primary faces DFLer Paul Rosenthal in the November election.
- Morning Edition, 09/08/2006, 7:24 a.m.