Voters make last-minute decisionsby Michael Caputo, Minnesota Public Radio
A race as tight as Minnesota governor can hinge on a few votes. As Election Day arrives, the number of people undecided can be quite small. But there are a number of people walking into polling places who have either just made up their mind -- or are still struggling to come to a conclusion.
St. Paul, Minn. — Count Nancy Austin of Stillwater as one of those still trying to decide.
Austin, 52, who often votes for DFL candidates, said she's torn between the Democratic candidate for governor, Mike Hatch, and Independence Party candidate Peter Hutchinson.
Republican Tim Pawlenty plays into her indecision. She likes Hutchinson's message but, she says, "I'm afraid a vote for Hutchinson is a vote for Pawlenty, and that's not what I want."
Even Sunday night's gubernatorial debate at the Fitzgerald Theater didn't help clarify matters.
"I'm even more confused that I was when I went in," she said. "What I found frustrating was that I didn't feel a connection with any of the three men running for governor on an emotional level. I didn't see anything that made me go 'Oh, you know, he might be OK.'"
So what does Austin do now?
"I don't know," she says laughing. "I just don't know."
Larry Schmitt's indecision was actually his game plan. Schmitt, 62, a Republican from Plymouth, said he wanted to wait until the last possible moment before committing. And he was willing to give DFL candidate Hatch a chance because Pawlenty seemed to wavering from his conservative ideals.
"I thought Pawlenty was starting to waffle," Schmitt said. "So I wanted to see what Hatch was bringing to the party."
The decision came at the end of last week after a report that Hatch's running mate, Judi Dutcher, couldn't answer a question about the ethanol-based fuel, E-85. Hatch lashed out a reporter who questioned him about Dutcher's E-85 response. Schmitt said it showed Hatch "can't deal with anybody in a tough situation."
Meanwhile, Schmitt said recent television ads by Pawlenty convinced him that the Republican incumbent won't waver from his fiscal conservatism.
Roxi Tschida's indecision was not planned. The 25-year old St. Paul resident said four years ago she agonized between DFL candidate Roger Moe and Green Party candidate Ken Pentel. She wanted Pentel, but went with Moe, figuring he would have the best shot at winning.
Moe lost and that made Tschida think twice about this election. She walked into the Fitzgerald Theater undecided between Hatch and Hutchinson.
After the debate, Hutchinson got her support. Why?
Tschida, who describes herself as left of center, said she needed to hear a nuanced, well-thought out response that aimed directly at the question asked. She thought Hutchinson delivered, pointing out the answer to the question about when the candidate, if elected governor, would use the veto power.
"Hatch responded with a sort of a vague answer that (he'd use the veto) if it wasn't representing the will of the people, and that is sort of abstract political speak," Tschida said.
Hutchinson, however, gave a list of eight issues he'd veto and that was a more "straightforward, no-nonsense, get-to-the-heart-of-the-question" answer Tschida said she preferred.
For Matthew Prois, a self-described independent voter, Hatch's answers at the debate cinched his last-minute support.
Prois said he finds himself in the middle of a family that leans to the Republicans and friends that veer to DFL candidates. He was undecided going into November.
He wanted a candidate who would agree with his views on education and the "lower classes." The debate allowed him to hear Hatch talk about making college tuition more affordable and working to ease the burden on the middle class.
That was enough for Prois, although he admitted to liking Pawlenty more than he first thought he might.
Vicki Lechelt, another holdout with her vote, said she was disgusted by all the major party candidates. Lechelt, who calls herself an independent voter, follows a more conservative view on issues like taxes and illegal immigration. She is also annoyed with the way state officials landed funding for a new baseball stadium in Minneapolis.
Lechelt listened in to the gubernatorial debate for some signals about where to cast her vote. The three participants apparently did push her to a conclusion.
"I didn't like anything I heard," Lechelt said. "I'm going to be voting for Leslie Davis," the candidate running on the American Party line.