The three major candidates for governor debated at the Minnesota State Fair on public radio. It was feisty, fun and full of energy thanks to an active and multi-partisan crowd. Republicans worked hard to get their supporters out after Democrats dominated the crowd at this venue in the past. Republican Tom Emmer worked the crowd ahead of time, as did Independent Tom Horner. DFLer Mark Dayton appeared to head straight to the stage. It was combative out of the chute. The first topic was the budget and Dayton and Horner went after Emmer for his lack of a budget plan. Dayton said it’s been more than 100 days of waiting for Emmer’s plan. When Emmer went after Dayton’s plan to tax the rich, Dayton shot back that it’s “hypocritical” for Emmer to criticize anyone’s plan when he doesn’t have one.
The chilly crowd cuddled up to warm up on this blustery day and they played a key role booing, laughing and cheering. Emmer got booed for saying he hasn’t read the specifics on health care strings attached to federal health care money. Dayton got booed for criticizing President Bush. Dayton got applause for saying he’d increase education spending. Emmer got applause for saying he won’t increase anyone’s taxes. Dayton and Horner said they’d support an anti-bullying bill, Emmer said he’s not sure. Dayton said he won’t close any higher education campuses, Emmer and Horner wouldn’t take it off the table. When an audience member asked if they could work with the other party, they all claimed they could. Dayton pointed to bi-partisan bills he sponsored in the U.S. Senate. Emmer said he worked with Democrats in the legislature, the crowd chuckled. Horner said he’s glad to get heat from both sides and if he doesn’t get elected to a second term he’s “fine with that.”