For Emmer, focus on jobs means tax cuts, small gov'tby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — In the closing days of his campaign to become Minnesota's next governor, Republican nominee Tom Emmer has been working on turning out his party's core voters, speaking at Republican-sponsored rallies throughout the Twin Cities suburbs.
Over the past two months, Emmer has been steady in both his campaign attire and his talking points. Clad in khaki pants, a button down shirt and a rugged barn coat, the state representative from Delano insists that he's the only candidate who would cut taxes and reduce government regulations.
Emmer has been encouraging Republicans to make phone calls and remind their friends to vote.
"Here's the message folks: over the next 10 days, we have to tell everyone we know, 'Vote Republican and you are voting for jobs in the state of Minnesota.'"
Though Emmer has been remarkably disciplined on the campaign trail in recent weeks, it hasn't always been that way.
Over the summer, he changed his campaign team after donors and activists raised concerns about his standing in the polls. In July, Emmer faced major scrutiny for suggesting that restaurant employees made $100,000 a year and for proposing to cut the minimum wage for tipped employees. Since then, he's backed off those comments and started running ads that focus on the economy.
"The biggest issue facing Minnesota? Jobs," he tells voters. "I'll attract and keep jobs here by reforming and redesigning government. My opponents have lived off government or in government for years. We need someone from the outside to shake things up."
But Emmer's outsider status is debatable. He's served in political office since 1995, first as city council member for the cities of Independence and Delano. In 2004, Emmer was elected to the Minnesota House. Counting the city offices, Emmer has served more time in elected office than Democratic nominee Mark Dayton and the Independence Party's Tom Horner.
But as a member of the Legislature, Emmer seemed more interested in making points than policy. Just five of the 100 bills he's authored have become law. He spent most of his time questioning efforts to expand the role of government.
At a State Capitol protest of the federal health care overhaul in April, Emmer repeatedly said: "Shred the bill. Shred the bill! Say no!"
Part of the reason Emmer overwhelmingly won the Republican Party endorsement is that he was best able to harness the frustration of tea party members with comments such as this one:
"I want to thank you all for taking time out of your busy day. Taking time away from your jobs and your families to come down to this great place, this temple to bureaucrats and elected officials. Thank you."
In recent months, Emmer has tempered his anti-government rhetoric a bit. That's one reason he has a solid shot at one day running the so-called "Temple of bureaucrats and elected officials."
Sherokee Ilse, a Maple Plain resident who owns a publishing business, said she likes Emmer's plan to help business.
"My small business is barely hanging on," said Ilse, who attended a rally for Emmer in Woodbury. "I cannot sustain higher fees, higher taxes, higher sales tax, any of that. I need cuts if I'm going to keep my doors open."
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has also been active on the campaign trail for Emmer. He's reminded voters that Emmer is the best candidate to continue the eight years of work he's done.
But Pawlenty is the only governor or former governor to back Emmer. Former Republican governors Arne Carlson and Al Quie are backing Horner.
Emmer needs to convince other Republicans and conservative independents to stick with him on Election Day. If he can, it could help determine whether Emmer is governor in January or back to being the political outsider he says he is.
This story is part of our candidate profile series airing in the last days of the election season.
- All Things Considered, 10/27/2010, 5:20 p.m.