Emmer on Seifert and his own campaign for governor

It looks like a two-man race for governor on the GOP side. State Rep. Marty Seifert won the straw poll at last week’s GOP caucuses, and state Rep. Tom Emmer finished a strong second. I talked to Emmer before the caucuses, and I plan to do an interview with Seifert in the coming weeks as well. Here’s my q-and-a with Emmer:

MinnPost: Seifert says he has the lead. How do you plan to overcome that?

Tom Emmer:
I think Marty has been the perceived frontrunner from Day One. He’s been doing this for more than a decade. What I plan to do is continue my door-to-door effort to introduce myself to voters. We detect a groundswell that is attracting new supports, many from Marty’s camp. I think we have momentum.

MP: One of the things that is emblematic of support is campaign contributions. You’re raised about $105,000 from contributors, considerably less than Seifert’s $220,000.

He or she who has the most money doesn’t always win. I really don’t have a history of running statewide campaigns; the campaigns I have run I’ve done with Band-Aids and bubble gum. Marty’s been the primary fundraiser for the House Republican Caucus for three years, so I’d expect his name recognition alone would pull in money. In December, we raised more than $50,000 on an average contribution of $41. We’re catching up.

MP: You’ve been described as a “staunch conservative” and “the most conservative member of the Legislature.” What is your definition of a conservative?

I have to tell you honestly that I don’t have one. I believe that government is not always the answer. What we’ve had happen in this country is that government has intruded into every area of our lives. If we are going to raise the prosperity of the nation, we have to get government out of the way.

MP: DFLers describe you as “ideological” and “divisive.”

State Rep. Tom Emmer
State Rep. Tom Emmer

TE: Look, we could say that about our children at times because they don’t agree with us. I mean, please, if that is just an attempt to say that someone else’s point of view is somehow a problem, the reality is we are not going to agree on everything. I’m just a guy from Delano who is willing to look you in the face and tell you honestly what I believe.

MP: You’ve spent five years in the Legislature, yet you’ve cast yourself as a Capitol-outsider. Isn’t that a contradiction?

I’ve heard people say, “Oh, Emmer’s been in government for 13 years” — because I’ve served on city councils and church boards. The difference is between those who want to make elective office a career and those who see it as a way of giving back. Politics absolutely will not be my career.

MP: What would you do if you weren’t in politics?

My dream would be to teach and coach. I’ve coached youth hockey from 1985 till this year. That has been the most rewarding experience of my life, that and having the great blessing of being a parent.

MP: You’ve said that if you don’t win the GOP nomination you won’t continue your run for the governor’s office. Still true?

Yes. Absolutely.

MP: What in your view are the most critical issues facing Minnesota?

The No. 1 issue is how we put this state back on the path to prosperity. That’s what it’s all about. People are scared to death. They may be out of work any day, they’re having trouble paying the mortgage. They’re having trouble feeding and clothing their kids. Government has a place, but not the place it has occupied for years.

MP: What place should government have?

If you go back to 1960 or ’61, government in proportion to the rest of Minnesota was much smaller. Since that time, every two years our government has grown an average of almost 22 percent. This unrestricted growth is literally sucking the atmosphere out of the private economy. It needs more and more of our working citizens’ income to feed this engine we’ve created.

MP: Where would you cut government?

Welfare. It should not be in the business of providing charity, because government is not virtuous. Only people are. There are departments that outlived their usefulness.

MP: For instance?

There is no reason to maintain the Department of Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission at the same time. With some exceptions, they do the same things. Also, the Department of Natural Resources has grown out of out of control.

MP: Be more specific.

We are taking “legacy” funds from the recently approved constitutional amendment and buying more land. Why? The state of Minnesota is the fourth largest landowner in the entire country! It’s staggering.

MP: Any other examples?

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is also out of control. It has become a regulatory agency unto itself. These agencies need to be resources, not political fiefdoms that are constantly expanding their power and their payrolls.

MP: How does that affect the state’s economy?

It’s my understanding that Marvin Windows opened a new production facility in North Dakota, not Minnesota, because of the permitting requirements coming, in part, from agencies like Pollution Control. That agency started as a board within the Department of Health, and it has now become a gargantuan regulatory monstrosity.

MP: The unallotment fight in St. Paul revolves around Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s authority to unilaterally cut the state budget, in this case $2.7 billion. Is this different from a line-item veto?

It’s the same principle. The problem I have with the Democrats in the House is that they appear to have asked non-partisan staff, who are paid by the taxpayers, to draft an amicus brief to challenge the governor’s authority. That is a completely inexcusable breach of their authority.

MP: Why have they done that?

The only reason, I believe, is to take a shot at a Republican governor. They have not proposed a solution to the budget shortfall. It’s all politics.

MP: Who has had the most influence on you politically?

My parents and the instructors at St. Thomas Academy. But the two most influential persons outside of them were Ronald Reagan and Herb Brooks. To me, Brooks epitomized Minnesota. It was his ethic. His life taught me that if you do your job well, you behave in a humble manner, you give credit to the team. And if you’ve done poorly, you take responsibility for it, vow to do better, and move on with your life.

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Theo Kozel on 02/10/2010 - 09:27 am.

    “They have not proposed a solution to the budget shortfall”

    Blatent, unarguable lie. The DFL budget proposal balanced the budget by dividing the deficit into thirds: 1/3 of the shortfall would be covered by SPENDING CUTS, 1/3 would be covered by revenue increases, 1/3 would be covered by accounting shifts.

  2. Submitted by Dee Ann Christensen on 02/10/2010 - 12:14 pm.

    I wonder how this gentleman feels about right-to-life laws proposed by the GOP? Would he believe that this is another way “that government has intruded into every area of our lives.” or is this somehow an acceptable intrusion?

  3. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 02/10/2010 - 12:21 pm.

    Get rid of welfare? Completely? How many poor people is Emmer willing to push under the wheels of the SUVs of the “cake eater” western suburbs.

    Unbelievable arrogance!

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/10/2010 - 01:52 pm.

    Whatever your feelings on government’s appropriate role, isn’t is pathetic that in the 21st century, we even need to discuss *a law* to protect our *right to live* at all?

    The most blood thirsty savage of the 15th century might have killed you in battle, but he wouldn’t have denied you the right to ever have set foot on the planet….talk about regression to the dark ages.


    Emmer’s common sense and willingness to truthfully say what he thinks is one of the things attracting people to his campaign.

    This summer, when the Tea Party Leviathan awakes from hibernation, Tom will be well positioned to surf the tidal wave they will create.

  5. Submitted by Leslie Davis on 02/10/2010 - 03:52 pm.

    Emmer never says he’s an an insurance company lawyer. How come? Is he ashamed? He calls himself a small businessman and is careful to hide from being a lawyer. I don’t blame him. Minnesotans WILL NOT elect another lawyer as governor. Why would you want Emmer when you can have Leslie Davis? Emmer may be a good hockey player but he couldn’t carry my jock in helping the people of Minnesota. He’s just another power hungry lawyer who hasn’t done squat and wants a promotion. What a joke.
    Leslie Davis

  6. Submitted by Dave Thul on 02/10/2010 - 08:23 pm.

    ‘Emmer may be a good hockey player but he couldn’t carry my jock in helping the people of Minnesota.’

    Apparently getting six tenths of one percent in the straw poll makes a guy bitter. I didn’t follow your campaign very closely, Mr Davis, so I thank you for confirming that I didn’t need to.

    Emmer strongly believes in his conservative principles. You can disagree with the principles he espouses, but attacking the man personally is pathetic.

  7. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 02/10/2010 - 10:32 pm.

    I prefer and do this without all the drama that Swiftee likes to use. Hold up there Tom, let me fetch my fiddle.

    It’s great that that GOP has two fine choices with Mr. Emmer and Mr. Seifert. As such they will bring upper case C back into the term conservative.

    The DFL will more than likely have a quasi liberal as the flag bearer.

    This has got to be one of the best years for an Independent candidate to win the governorship. It will be interesting to see what the voting public has in mind and how the percentages will break down. Independent voters will be the key.

  8. Submitted by Leslie Davis on 02/11/2010 - 12:16 am.

    Hey Thul, principles for Emmer the ambulance chaser? C’mon. It’s the man we are electing governor and he’s fair game. So am I. There’s too much at stake to whine and whimper along and elect another lawyer to the Executive Branch. Or didn’t you know that lawyers take an oath of ‘fidelity’ to the Judiciary. And what makes you think that your opinion means anything more than nothing?
    If you’re the Thul who was or is in Iraq, I appreciate your service but would rather see you home right now. RIGHT NOW!

  9. Submitted by Dave Thul on 02/11/2010 - 08:15 am.

    ‘And what makes you think that your opinion means anything more than nothing? ‘

    As a campaign strategy, insulting the delegates whose vote you need to get endorsed leaves a bit to be desired.

    And for Theo #1, is it really a budget solution if it isn’t feasible? Can you find an economist who recommends a massive tax increase during a recession? What is the point of balancing the budget if you damage the state economy further? You will have to raise taxes more next biennium to make up for the expanded shortfall in revenue.

  10. Submitted by Theo Kozel on 02/11/2010 - 11:21 am.

    “And for Theo #1, is it really a budget solution if it isn’t feasible? Can you find an economist who recommends a massive tax increase during a recession?”

    No, but we don’t have a choice between “good during a recession and bad during a recession”. Our choices are “bad during a recession or worse during a recession”. Both government spending cuts and tax increases are bad during a recession. I DO have a study to cite that says that government spending cuts are WORSE-


    You may disagree with Romer’s conclusions, but the paper is subject to peer-review, so yes I can find an economist (actually more than one, but you just asked for one) who supports my position.

  11. Submitted by Dave Thul on 02/11/2010 - 02:12 pm.

    But what happens after the recession? We can lower taxes after the budget shortfall is done, right? Sure, because Minnesota has a great history of temporary tax increases.

    The report you cite is fairly impressive, but I would disqualify it for two main reasons. The data used in the report did not come from non-partisan sources, such as the CBO. It was gathered from reports released by politicians (both on the left and the right) and is not always the most trustworthy, nor is it consistent from one administration or congress to the other.

    Second, the analysis of the economy of the United States is not the same as the state of Minnesota. Political motivations for solving a budget deficit at the federal level, where deficits are commonplace, is completely different than motivations for solving Minnesota’s budget, where revolving deficits are not allowed by law.

    By any objective measure, Minnesota is already a high tax (and correspondingly high service) state. Raising taxes runs the very real risk of incentivizing more businesses and individuals to leave Minnesota for more economically viable states. More businesses leaving the state mean a smaller tax base in the future, triggering more tax increases, ect, ect, ect. See also: California.

  12. Submitted by Theo Kozel on 02/11/2010 - 02:22 pm.

    “It was gathered from reports released by politicians (both on the left and the right)”

    No, it wasn’t…not sure where you’re getting this idea from. It was a peer-reviewed paper put out by economists Christina and David Romer. Being that it is peer-reviewed, any leap of logic or unsupported data would be challenged in the peer review system.

    Also, as far as the question goes regarding whether government spending or tax increases are more damaging in a recession, I don’t buy that there is a difference between the state and federal level. Cutting government spending immediately impacts not only government and government employees, but the quite large portion of private businesses that contract with government to a greater or lesser extent.

    And finally, the original point was that Emmer blatently lied when he said the DFL did not provide a balanced budget proposal. Nothing you have said has truly argued against that point. The DFL proposal may not have been to Emmer’s liking, but it isn’t so dissimilar from what 30+ other states have actually done during this downturn to completely wave it aside. Emmer knows about the DFL proposal- there is no way he could have been in the legislature over this past year, as he was, and be ignorant of it. He lied, in black and white, to Micheal Bonafield. He should retract his statement.

  13. Submitted by John Smith on 02/11/2010 - 10:21 pm.

    “I wonder how this gentleman feels about right-to-life laws proposed by the GOP? Would he believe that this is another way “that government has intruded into every area of our lives.” or is this somehow an acceptable intrusion?”

    “Right to Life” laws are an intrusion as much as laws against first degree murder are intrusions. Abortion IS First Degree Murder.

    Now, for Leslie Davis. Spouting poetry, ranting about how all “his friends and supporters aren’t here because they’re at the methadone clinic”, and hawking books about Jesse Ventura may seem like a good way to campaign for Governor in the world of Alice and Wonderland, but it doesn’t appear sane in the real world. Davis has run as a green, democrat, independent and now as a Republican. We are conservative, Davis; not insane. Go away. No one cares about your campaign except you.

    As for Seifert’s claim that he is “conservative”. I can only laugh. Let’s see, how did “squishy” Seifert vote on Baby DNA, Tobacco Tax, Smoking Ban, Primary offense seat belt laws and another travesty, the MN. version of Cap and Trade? What’s up with that Marty?

    The DFL has only one solution: RAISE TAXES, RAISE TAXES, RAISE TAXES. Every dollar paid to a government worker is a dollar removed from the private sector that supports government. Period.

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