GOP gathers in Mpls. to endorse a candidate for governorby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Republican Party starts its state convention Thursday in Minneapolis and the main order of business comes Friday when delegates choose a candidate for governor.
The race has come down to two men: state Reps. Tom Emmer and Marty Seifert. Both candidates agree on things like cutting taxes and state spending but they differ on style and on their approach to courting delegate votes.
For weeks, Seifert has been rolling out policy papers on everything from the state budget to education to health and human services. He said Republican party delegates want to know where the candidates stand on issues.
"I believe firmly people need to know where people stands on things. They don't just want an empty suit. They want structural changes to government and they want to know how that comes about," he said.
Seifert's opponent, Tom Emmer, is offering a broader vision of a much smaller state government.
"Our mission statement would read: 'Put people back in charge of their own opportunities.' Period," Emmer said.
The two candidates generally agree on reducing government spending, cutting taxes and loosening regulations. Seifert recently told a group of Republicans that the state is headed in the wrong direction.
"Right now, Minnesota is slowly becoming a colder, smaller California. We are exiting wealth. We are importing poverty. We have people who are heading to Naples, Floria to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Texas and other places," he said. "Not just for the sunny climate but for the better business climate. The better tax climate."
Seifert said one of his key initiatives is to cut back on welfare and subsidized health insurance programs for the poor. He also wants to slash local government aid and rescale it so smaller cities aren't penalized.
Seifert is also telling delegates that he's raised more money than Emmer and is more electable, something that may appeal to Republicans nervous that Democrats already control the Legislature.
"If we have single party control of state government, it will be Washington, D.C. times 10 to the left," he said.
While Seifert talks about his electability and cutting government spending, Emmer focuses on dramatically overhauling the way government operates. For example, he said he wants to get rid of state subsidized health insurance programs like MinnesotaCare and instead give vouchers to individuals to buy health insurance in the private market. He also called for cuts to welfare and other social services. Instead, Emmer thinks churches and non-profit groups should take the lead in helping disadvantaged people.
"Ultimately we will re-educate people out in the public to understand that government cannot provide real charity," Emmer said. "Government does not eliminate poverty. Government programs, government growth actually perpetuates poverty."
Emmer said he wouldn't totally eliminate welfare but would limit the funds to "the necessities of life."
Since Seifert and Emmer mostly agree on many of the issues, the campaign in recent weeks has focused on personalities and past votes. Emmer has called Seifert a career politician.
"Marty has been essentially been raised in government and he's very good at it," Emmer said.
Seifert shoots back that Emmer has served longer in government than he has when you add in Emmer's time on the Delano and Independence City Councils.
Seifert has raised Emmer's DWI arrests in 1981 and 1991 and questioned why he authored legislation that would have privatized records related to impaired driving after 10 years. Seifert and Emmer talked about it Wednesday on MPR's Midday program.
Seifert: "People have a right to know this stuff and even if it is prospective only, if you're an employer and you have equally qualified job applicants and one has a totally clean driving record and one has multiple DWIs, I think the employer has a right to know that."
Emmer: "All I'm going to say is Marty, let's be honest with people when we talk about what we're offering. This was brought to me by prosecutors. There are articles out there, let people go look at them."
Both Emmer and Seifert say they think Friday's endorsement battle will be close.
It's critical for both candidates since both say they'll drop out of the race if they don't win party backing.
That means barring some unforeseen primary challenge from another candidate, whoever comes out of the convention with the endorsement will be the Republican candidate in November.
- Morning Edition, 04/29/2010, 7:20 a.m.