Dayton's call for positive campaign ads gets 'no' for an answerby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — DFL gubernatorial nominee Mark Dayton is calling for a political cease fire by independent organizations that are funding TV ads against him and other candidates.
Those other candidates say they agree with Dayton's goal for a positive campaign. But the two groups that have already come out with harsh ads say they have no plan to stop.
Two days after winning the DFL nomination for governor, former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton said Minnesota voters deserve a campaign that sticks to the issues. Dayton held a state Capitol news conference to call on all outside political groups, including state political parties, to refrain from negative personal attacks against him or other candidates.
"Let's have a clean campaign. Let's have a positive campaign. We have honest disagreements on the issues -- that's democracy," said Dayton. "I think my two opponents are decent men, and I will treat them as such. And I think that's the kind of campaign that Minnesotans deserve."
Dayton's call for a cease fire comes just one day after he became the target of an ad from the Minnesota Republican Party.
GOP ad: "Time magazine called Dayton erratic after he closed his office fearing a non-existent terrorist threat. Dayton's behavior was called a strange aberration, perplexing, panicky."
Dayton said the GOP ad contains distortions, but he did not dispute its content. He also said the ad should run as long as an earlier ad from the labor-backed organization Alliance for a Better Minnesota.
That ad, which went on the air last month, targets Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer and mentions his past arrests for drunken driving.
Alliance Ad: "When I heard that Tom Emmer sponsored a law to reduce penalties for drunk drivers, I was outraged. And then I read that Tom Emmer has been arrested twice himself for drunk driving. And this man wants to be governor?"
Dayton said he thinks the anti-Emmer ad crosses the line. Still, he waited until now to publicly denounce it.
"I thought it would have been presumptuous for me to say, 'I'm the DFL nominee and I ask you to do or not do that,'" Dayton said. "I haven't discussed this with either of my DFL primary opponents, and I didn't think it was appropriate until I was the nominee."
Republican officials quickly rejected Dayton's cease fire plan. State GOP Deputy Chairman Michael Brodkorb said Dayton was a hypocrite for not criticizing the anti-Emmer ad earlier.
Brodkorb also pointed out again that several Dayton family members have donated to the Alliance for a Better Minnesota the producer of the anti-Emmer ad.
"Three weeks ago, the Republican Party of Minnesota called on him to denounce the money that was being spent in this campaign, funding attack ads against Tom Emmer, and he was silent," said Brodkorb. "He was silent until after he won the primary, and after The Republican Party of Minnesota hit him with the ad. It is the absolute height of hypocrisy."
The proposed cease fire was similarly rejected by the other independent group running ads. Brodkorb said the GOP ads against Dayton will continue. Denise Cardinal of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota said the ads against Emmer will continue.
"With all due respect to Sen. Dayton, Alliance for a Better Minnesota has been working to try and talk to Minnesota voters about what kind of leader Tom Emmer would be for our state," said Cardinal. "We plan to continue doing that through the election because it's very, very important that we have a strong leader, and we just don't think that Tom Emmer is that person."
Tom Emmer didn't respond directly to the Dayton plan. Instead, his new campaign manager issued a statement saying Emmer will continue to run a positive campaign based on the important issues for Minnesota.
Tom Horner, the Independence Party's candidate for governor, said the state cannot afford a negative campaign.
"If this campaign only reinforces the polarization of politics, we're never going to get anything done. And Minnesota can't survive four years of stagnation," said Horner.
Legally, none of the candidates can tell outside groups what to do. But both Horner and Dayton said they still plan to speak out whenever they see an independent ad that they feel is inappropriate.
- All Things Considered, 08/12/2010, 5:20 p.m.