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Star Tribune endorses Horner; ignores Vikings, client conflicts

Consummating a relationship that featured public displays of affection all summer, the Star Tribune endorsed Tom Horner for governor Sunday.
If Republican Tom Emmer lost an opportunity when the conservative Forum Communications chain picked Horner,

Consummating a relationship that featured public displays of affection all summer, the Star Tribune endorsed Tom Horner for governor Sunday.

If Republican Tom Emmer lost an opportunity when the conservative Forum Communications chain picked Horner, Mark Dayton failed to get a Strib endorsement that went to fellow DFLer Mike Hatch in 2006.

Horner dominates the nascent 2010 Endorsement Scorecard, sweeping all four so far, including Bemidji, Duluth and Fargo-Moorhead. Like any third-party candidate, Horner must overcome fears that a vote for him is a wasted vote, and the writers address this directly:

This editorial appears one week earlier than this page traditionally announces its preference in a gubernatorial election year in order to speak directly to Minnesotans who feel caught in that voting dilemma. Our advice: Talk to your fellow Minnesotans in the next two weeks. Think about the obligation citizens bear to vote their consciences. And don’t let fear cause you to vote for a candidate you consider to be the second-best choice.

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The Strib has never been anti-tax but has often inveighed against higher business taxes, so Horner’s sales and sin taxes, plus corporate tax cuts, are practically made-to-order:

Horner’s blend of an expanded sales tax base, higher cigarette taxes and a cap on income tax deductions that advantage upper-income earners would not punish the middle class. He’s proposing $350 million in measures to lighten the burden of the sales tax increase on Minnesotans of modest means. But his plan wouldn’t try to exempt the middle class, either, as Dayton’s claims to do.

In other words, Horner intends to invoke something fundamental to Minnesota’s 152-year success story, something that has been eroding in recent years — a sense that Minnesotans are all in this together. He stands for neither “soak the rich” nor “sink the poor” (which is what “no new taxes” increasingly means). He wants wide participation, both in the costs of solving the budget problem and in the benefits from investing strategically in the public goods — education, research, infrastructure, health care reform — that will form a foundation for widely shared prosperity in years to come.

Not unexpectedly, writers were tougher on Emmer than Dayton, offering better bon mots for anti-Emmer attack ads:

Emmer’s nomination says much about today’s Minnesota Republican Party. He was a bombastic, ultraconservative legislator for six years, seldom close to major decisionmaking. Though he has toned down his rhetoric as this campaign has progressed, he does not demonstrate executive-level knowledge of the enterprise he aspires to lead.

By contrast, DFL primary voters chose a veteran public servant who sits on the left side of his party’s ideological spectrum. No one can question the sincerity or depth of Dayton’s commitment to public service, or his compassion for those in need. But his capacity to rally support for his ideas outside DFL ranks is in doubt.

The Strib, of course, has a major stake in one issue: a new Vikings stadium, which could pump tens of millions into newspaper coffers if its downtown Minneapolis land and oversized headquarters are purchased. All three candidates support a new stadium but Horner — whose Himle-Horner P.R. firm worked with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission — has been the most out front with the most specific plan.

While the endorsement does not mention the paper’s Vikings interests (as recent editorials have), it includes a photo of Horner at a recent pre-game rally.

Another thing unmentioned: the Strib editorial page’s own call four months ago for Horner to release a full client list from his Himle-Horner days. In June, the paper believed, “His business ties are germane to how he’d govern.” Horner spurned that request, and Sunday, editorialists declared, “Horner seeks to apply the lessons of a lifetime spent working in and around public policy to the restoration of this state’s vitality.”