The first gubernatorial debate in the fall election certainly was spirited. In our open Almanac format the candidates created strong contrasts and engaged in vigorously challenging each other. Afterwards every camp seemed pleased. Each candidate scored some points and stood out at certain points. Democrat Mark Dayton was more focused and aggressive than he has been. He was clear and concise on the issues, but also tough on his opponents (one for playing PR the other for a lack of specifics). Republican Tom Emmer showed strength on issues but also a softer side on social issues. Emmer backed away from taking a stance on the marriage issue saying a governor doesn’t deal with a constitutional amendment. Independent Tom Horner poked at the big two party nominees for bickering as usual as he dug into policy specifics. He mentioned his plan for a Vikings stadium while the others have been vague.
All the candidates had some staff watching in the wings. Tom Emmer’s wife and several kids came along as well. They got a kick out of watching him tussle with me as I had to force him to show us his specific budget cuts in our Budget Slap Shot. Dayton accused Emmer of cutting education in our exercise. Emmer said he noticed Dayton’s “cornucopia of revenue.” After the debate while still on set Emmer said he has challenged Dayton to a shoot out. Dayton is a former all-state goalie; Emmer was a college hockey player.
Other news-worthy moments for the dozen media members on hand: On medical marijuana Emmer and Horner support a pill form, Dayton said won’t support anything police oppose (same position as Gov. Pawlenty). When asked about their issues with drinking Mark Dayton talked about his return to a program of “spiritual and physical” recovery and Tom Emmer said if the TV ad talking about his DWIs stops just one person from drinking and driving that’s a good thing. Every press account called the debate “feisty” and that’s more than fair. Thanks to all for the great questions via twitter all day. One follow up for the fella who criticized all the candidates for their lack of twitter use. Dayton vowed to return to twitter since it’s where people appear to be getting so much of their political news.