Voters at local candidate forums not sticking to the script

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
A packed house listened to candidates during the District 49 forums on Monday night.

The Minnesota House DFL Caucus wants to talk about jobs and education. The House Republican caucus wants to talk about lowering taxes and making government more efficient. But at a pair of League of Women Voters forums Monday night in Edina — one each for House districts 49A and 49B  — voters wanted to hear about a lot more: the environment, gun control and big money in politics.

The seats, currently held by DFLers Ron Erhardt (49A) and Paul Rosenthal (49B), are targets for both parties. The GOP is particularly keen on regaining Erhardt’s seat, which covers the heart of Edina. 

Voters in the area are classic moderates. Erhardt is a former Republican, and his GOP challenger, Dario Anselmo, as well as Rosenthal and his Republican challenger, Barb Sutter, all hug the middle road of partisan politics.

And the middle right now is worried about the environment. Of the 15 topics offered for debate, four related to the environment: on climate change, invasive species, green energy initiatives and recycling.

In response, the four candidates expressed support of environmental protection, with the Republicans sounding a cautionary note of wanting to see the results of current alternative energy policies.

Another deviation from the political handbook was on the topic of gun control. The question was, “What can be done to reduce gun violence?”  The candidates’ answers were similar – enact laws that keep guns away from criminals and the mentally unstable.

Most candidates don’t like to talk about abortion. But the voters in suburban Minneapolis apparently do —or at least they want to be clear about where the candidates stand.  Erhardt, Anselmo, and Rosenthal are pro-choice. Sutter supports abortion in the case of the life of the mother.

Even education, usually a hot topic in Edina and Bloomington, prompted a question with an angle — how to close the achievement gap. Education funding, a battle ground in the legislature, was not addressed specifically; and taxes and spending came up once in each of the forums.

“I was surprised how little discussion there was on tax policy, they just touched upon it,” said Edina resident Jeff Werbalowsky, who said the environment and education were his top concerns.   

Several attending the forum noted the similar views expressed by the candidates, which is not surprising in a moderate district. That was certainly the case on the subject of campaign finance reform. When asked if there was too much “big money” in politics, all four of the candidates — all of whom appear to be bracing for a barrage of attacks from independent expenditure groups — agreed that there was. It was a sign that the candidates as well as the voters sometimes want to deviate from standard political practice.   

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/23/2014 - 10:44 am.

    Sadly, There Can Often Be Quite a Difference

    Between what a candidate says in a public forum or debate and what they’ll actually do once they’re elected.

    One side even seems to have decided to make a practice of “creating their own reality”…

    which means, in essence, that they truly believe reality is whatever they say it is,…

    no matter how disingenuous, destructive, or completely dishonest ACTUAL reality reveals their “created” reality to be.

    In a forum such as this, it seems quite likely that ONE side is pursuing this same set of practices: lying through their teeth in order to get elected,…

    while “truly believing” that their lies are justified because the results of their policies will be so amazingly wonderful.

    The amazing thing is, that the results achieved for the general public during the years of Republican control of the Governor’s mansion, then the legislature,…

    not to mention the dismal results being accomplished by those who have been free to follow their “true believer” agenda:

    Scott Walker of Wisconsin


    Sam Brownback of Kansas

    prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that our Republican friends are lying to THEMSELVES and thus can’t be trusted to accomplish worthwhile things for our state.

    The things in which they “truly believe” (the massive evidence to the contrary never even being allowed to enter their awareness), making such positive impacts impossible.

    When the things in which they “truly believe” preclude reality and their inability to allow to enter their awareness anything that might challenge or contradict what they believe leaves them no path back to reality,…

    we trust them and vote for them at our own extreme peril,…

    because their “true beliefs” lead them to courses of action which inevitably produce exactly the OPPOSITE affects from those they were seeking,…

    though they, themselves, especially the wealthiest among them, are likely to be the last victims of those effects,…

    who comprehend and feel the destruction they have long since visited upon everyone else only when it lands on their own houses and family members.

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 09/23/2014 - 11:17 am.

    Informed voters obviously want to go beyond sound-bites of ideological purity on the same tired agendas. But, despite good questions on varied topics from voters, the candidates (“moderates,” in the reporter’s terms) seemed not inclined to go to particulars. Vague answers.

  3. Submitted by David Broden on 09/23/2014 - 11:19 am.

    Voters are Again Ahead of Candidates on Issues

    In reading the article and as a I speak with neighbors and others across Mn the Mn voter has a definite desire for discussion of topics not on the agenda of any of the candidates. This is a typical case of citizens being ahead on issues and no one is listening- the parties try to speak their party line one more time and most are not interested. Lets shift the discussion to 1) establishing and vision for Mn future; 2) Address what and how the economy will evolve and what Mn must do to be a key player in the evolving ecomony- people want job and quality relevant jobs; 3) lets talk about how education must evolve to ensure the workforce skills match the jobs of the future; 4) let address the environment and climate change in a realistic way- check out the study by Bloomberg with Cargill ex CEO as a member; 50 lets fix infrastructure for the future and more.
    Will the DFL and/or GOP or candidates get the message? As a former campaign manager and strategic wonk- the focus on money ahead of message is backwards. Set and agenda and funds will come. No candidate has the nerve to try that approach. If the they did they would win the election. Good Government first– then poltics– today we play politics first and sometimes come back to good public policy.
    Your choice? My choice is good policy debate results in good government.

    Dave Broden

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/24/2014 - 09:05 am.

    It’s actually not that surprising

    Many Edina voters spent a good part of the summer with creeks and lakes in their basements… where they have never been before. The environment is hard to ignore when it floats into your house like that.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 09/24/2014 - 12:48 pm.

      That’s what I’ve always said, Paul…

      a lot of people aren’t going to care about the environment until the water reaches their lower lip or they turn on the tap and nothing comes out.

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