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Candidates endure 'job interview'

ST. PAUL -- Politics aside, Tom Emmer, Tom Horner and Mark Dayton say they are ready to run Minnesota.

In what was termed a "job interview" in front of about 150 people, each of the three major governor candidates Wednesday night told about their faults and their strengths as they campaign to be the state's chief executive officer.

Horner, the Independence Party candidate, admitted to making a mistake as U.S. Sen. David Durenberger's chief of staff when he did not believe a staff member. The staffer was right.

"It was a good lesson in ... the importance of trusting people," Horner said.

Republican Emmer admitted to a weakness and offered to make changes: "You don't have to take on every battle."

He said he would make another change. "Pace. My pace is about 150 mph all the time.

And for Democrat Dayton, he needs to learn something: "Patience."

"I'm demanding of myself and I'm demanding of the people who work for me," he added.

Dayton could not give the audience an example of a mistake he has made at work, but said: "I believe my best years lie ahead."

A 3M employee in the audience asked Horner to give an example of innovation. The Independence Party hopeful said that his economic policy and campaign in general are innovative.

"Taking on a tax system ... that matches the economy" is a good example of that, he said, reminding the audience that he would expand the sales tax to services while lowering the overall tax rate.

Emmer said he would not blindly follow Republican teachings. "I would rise above party politics."

Dayton promised to hire the best people available to run his team to transition into the governor's office, and later do the same for agency leaders. For instance, he said, he wants a practicing farmer to run the Agriculture Department and an educator for the Education Department.

Emmer refused to answer a question about which governor he is most like. And when the questioner followed up, he only said that he is like Tom Emmer. "I am not Al Quie and I am not Tim Pawlenty."

The forum was sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio and KARE 11 television and mostly featured questions like those asked at normal job interviews.

Horner was a public relations executive for most of his career. He left the firm he founded to run for governor. He also has been a newspaper reporter and editor.

Dayton served as state auditor, in two state commissioner jobs and as a one-term U.S. senator. He taught in New York City and did social work in Boston soon after college, where he was a hockey goalie. Dayton is a department store heir who has spent millions of his own money in five election campaigns.

Emmer is a lawyer, served on two city councils and spent the last six years as state representative. He is known among fellow lawmakers as very conservative, and he often has not taken part in Republican Party House meetings.

The three major candidates have two more joint appearances before election day on Tuesday. They go on public television Friday, at 7 p.m., live in much of the state, on Twin Cities Public Television's "Almanac" for an hour-long discussion. All Minnesota public television stations will air the debate at 10 p.m. Friday.

Their final appearance will be 4 p.m. Sunday on Minnesota Public Radio, also for an hour.

In other campaign news:

-- Dayton joined Republicans Wednesday in criticizing a Democratic mail advertisement in the southern Twin Cities that showed what appeared to be a Catholic priest wearing a button saying: "ignore the poor." "I believe the brochure's picture showing a man of the cloth is inappropriate," Dayton said. "I believe that it is inappropriate to bring religion into a campaign as this image and others do."

-- Strong winds forced the Independence Party to postpone until Monday mass sign-holding events in Duluth and Minneapolis.

-- The conservative group Minnesota Majority says it has found more than 60 cases that could be voter fraud from the Aug. 10 primary election in Hennepin, Ramsey, St. Louis and Anoka counties. It also has sent the names of 59 suspected ineligible voters to St. Louis County and 11 to Crow Wing County from the 2008 election.

-- Emmer's fifth television commercial talks about jobs: "We don't need more taxes, we need more jobs. I'm Tom Emmer. My plan to balance the budget funds our schools, but requires the rest of government to live within its means. I'll end the automatic spending increases. ... I won't raise taxes because it hurts families and it costs jobs."

-- GOP secretary of state candidate Dan Severson plans to campaign with Iowa secretary of state candidate Matt Schultz today in St. Paul, Rochester, Austin and Mason City, Iowa.

-- Independence Party official Peter Tharaldson send an e-mail claiming organizations outspending Republican and Democratic parties actually are taking over. "It means that these groups are now the functional heads of the liberal and conservative politics in the state of Minnesota. They are now passing the parties they support, they use the ugliest attack ad politics possible and they are not accountable to the public in any meaningful caucus or primary."

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., parent company of the Woodbury Bulletin.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.