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Tame Dayton-Johnson debate focuses on small-bore issues

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Gov. Mark Dayton, Jeff Johnson and Hannah Nicollet during Wednesday night's gubernatorial debate in Rochester.

The first debate between Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican challenger governor Jeff Johnson proved the adage that all politics is local.

At the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Dayton, Johnson, and Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet fielded questions on small-bore questions on issues like support for high-speed rail between Rochester and the Twin Cities (they all gave a tepid yes), the fire-sprinkler requirement in new homes (Dayton is in favor, Johnson and Nicollet not), and Sunday liquor sales (yes from all three).

The narrow focus of most of the questions offered few openings for any feisty interaction among the candidates. Response to a question on MNsure — on the geographic disparities in insurance rates — came the closest to a direct exchange between Johnson and Dayton. “It’s been an unmitigated disaster and it’s hurting thousands of people. We’ve seen rates increase after MNsure, they’re about to spike next year,” Johnson said. As governor, he said, he would ask for a waiver from the Affordable Care Act and “fire every member of the board and staff because they’re incompetent.”

Dayton responded indirectly. “You can cite some statistics that are misleading.  A hundred and forty thousand people were [on] health plans that were not ACA compliant,” he said. “The insurers had to adjust those plans and offer them something better than what they had before.” 

Dayton and Johnson also sparred briefly on jobs related to the expansion of mining in northern Minnesota, under review by the state and federal environmental agencies. “We’re kind of slow walking that process,” Johnson said.  “I don’t think Polymet [mining company] will open if the governor is re-elected.”

“To jump at this point of the environmental review process … is going to pander to northern Minnesota,” Dayton countered.

In the hour-long debate, the candidates also didn’t delve too deeply on transportation and taxes and spending.  All three agreed that transportation funded needed to be a priority. 

On taxes, Dayton defended his tax increases but said he sees no need to for another increase.  Johnson promised a reform of the state’s tax system, and Nicollet said she’d repeal the corporate income tax.

Newcomer Nicollet, a former software developer, has not been invited to join the next four debates.  Dayton and Johnson face off again Wednesday in Moorhead. 

Video of the first 2014 gubernatorial debate, held in Rochester on Wednesday night, courtesy of the UpTake.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by E Gamauf on 10/02/2014 - 11:16 am.

    Internet Expertise

    As a former software developer,
    Mz Nicollet kept pinging internet concerns in the debate.

    Fast access is important to business. Internet access is what telephone service USED to be – and possibly more.

    I would like a better explanation of her position about service providers & broadband in the state.

    Anecdotally, once you get away from hub cities, the broadband speed & cost is a bigger problem for residents in the state.

    She seemed to take issue with cities that set up their own broadband vs private companies managing cable & internet. (Assuming I understood her comment accurately).

    Yet, in many cases – those private companies, once set up – are often the only game in town, or are very nearly monopolies.

    Why is that any different than local governments seeing to their own needs?

  2. Submitted by E Gamauf on 10/02/2014 - 11:20 am.

    Sprinklers not a big issue, is it?

    Did I understand that the sprinkler systems are required, but only for homes of 4500 sq feet and more?

    Pretty sure that its not a serious hardship if you can afford a house that size already.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/02/2014 - 11:50 am.

      It’s about FREEDOM!

      No one’s going to force these guys to put in sprinklers, no, sir. They’re going to take their chances with fire, and rely on taxpayer-sponsored fire departments and ambulance services to save their bacon.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 10/02/2014 - 01:39 pm.

        and the light bulbs, RB..

        don’t forget about the commie light bulbs. Thank God we had Bachmann to point out the tyranny of energy efficient light bulbs.

      • Submitted by E Gamauf on 10/02/2014 - 01:59 pm.

        Don’t Know Much ‘bout Sprinklers

        I don’t have a position on the sprinklers.

        Nicollet isn’t going to be in future debates, even though Guv said he was fine with her being in them & maybe that makes this a moot point about a minor topic.

        I don’t feel like scrubbing back to check, because I think I heard correctly the cutoff is 4500 SQ FT.

        That’s larger than my house & larger than most people’s I know (not sure what the median size is).

        Whether its a good thing to put sprinklers in or not aside,
        I just don’t think its arguably a “hardship” case if it costs the $5K as somebody mentioned in the video, if they’re already building a 4500 sq ft house.

    • Submitted by Mark Kulda on 10/02/2014 - 02:40 pm.

      You are correct about the sprinklers

      They are required but only in single family homes above 4500 sq. feet and what’s important here….only in areas where the code is actually enforced. The code is not enforced in places that don’t have a code enforcement official. I don’t know how much the average new 4,500 sq foot home costs but once last year I did a search of for sale older 4500 sq ft homes and the least expensive I found was going for more than $800,000.

      • Submitted by E Gamauf on 10/02/2014 - 06:00 pm.

        Thanks for checking!

        Is this really a debate topic?
        The goofiest “stuff” gets brought up that has little bearing on anything.

        Sprinklers. Name-dropping “the internet” didn’t make a strong point about it.
        Eliminating taxes without a plan to replace the revenue – might as well put out fly paper.

        Any chance we can add kitchen sinks to the list.

  3. Submitted by Mike Worcester on 10/02/2014 - 12:02 pm.

    Independence Party Candidate?

    “Newcomer Nicollet, a former software developer, has not been invited to join the next four debates.”

    Why is that? The Independence Party is listed as a major party under state election rules. In 2010 their candidate received 12% of the vote.

    If we are going to confer major status on a political party, why then exclude them from being a part of the educational process that will allow voters to make an informed choice?

    Seems a bit unfair.

  4. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 10/03/2014 - 01:17 pm.


    No questions about E85?

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