IP candidates Hahn, Horner debate on eve of primaryby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Although the DFL primary will be the most closely watched gubernatorial race Tuesday, two Independence Party candidates are engaged in a spirited race of their own.
IP gubernatorial candidates Tom Horner and Rob Hahn met for their final debate late Monday morning on MPR's Midday program.
Horner, a long-time Republican strategist and public relations executive, accused Hahn, a publisher, of angry personal attacks. Hahn had demanded that Horner name his former public relations clients.
"We ought to have a discussion about the issues Rob, not about personal attacks," Horner said.
In the exchange, Horner made a comment about Hahn having an anger problem -- a possible allusion to a domestic dispute Hahn had with his ex-wife last year that led to a restraining order. Officially, Horner hasn't commented on the issue since it became a news story less than two weeks ago.
The Independence Party endorsed Horner over Hahn and four other candidates last spring. Horner has been saying his political experience suits him better than any of the others to run a strong campaign.
"I've been somebody involved in public policy and politics for the last 35, 40 years," Horner said. "I think what Minnesotans are looking for this year is a governor who has solutions, who can talk to Republicans and Democrats, who has proven an ability to reach across the aisle and bring people together."
To help balance the state budget, Horner has been calling for expanding the sales tax to more items, but reducing the overall rate. He has said food and clothing would be subject to his broader sales tax along with personal services, but not professional services. He has not said what the new rate would be.
Hahn has criticized Horner for not providing more specifics. During the debate, Hahn called Horner a political opportunist.
"I maintained from day one that for the Independence Party to be successful in November that the face on the ticket cannot be someone going through political rehab," Hahn said.
"I really think that for the Independence Party to lure that middle-of-the-road, independent with a small 'i' voter, we have to have someone who's completely, or at least mostly completely independent."
Hahn is proposing state-run riverboat gambling as a way to raise money. Horner calls Hahn's revenue projections "pie in the sky," and accuses Hahn of failing to understand the complexities of state government.
Horner also said Hahn has not demonstrated that he can build a statewide campaign. Through the middle of July, Hahn had raised just over $4,000 compared to Horner's nearly $200,000.
University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs said whoever ends up winning the IP primary could have a big impact in the November general election.
Independence Party candidates have historically attracted more Democratic than Republican voters, Jacobs said. This time around, Jacobs said the opposite scenario could unfold. Jacobs said Republicans who feel their party's candidate, Tom Emmer, is too conservative could be looking for someone else.
"Clearly, the IP candidate this year is going to have a much greater chance of doing damage to the Republican Party, not just the Democratic Party," he said.
If Horner ends up winning, he might have to spend more time fundraising than campaigning between now and November. He was able to raise only about $200,000 through the middle of July, and maintains he'll need $2.5 million to compete with the Democrats and Republicans.