Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Beaux Arts Ballroom, BSU Campus

Mary and I went to Bemidji last night to hear the GOP candidates for MN Gov speak. So I gotta write this down or it was a wasted evening-because I'll forget. The photo above is spliced together. sorry it looks bad. The Beaux Arts Ballroom was moderately full. All seats were occupied, but they could have set up more seats.  I think there were 12 rows of 9 chairs, so, I guess seating for just over a hundred, and then about 20 or so people standing.

The event started at 6:30 and was hosted by the Bemidji State University College Republicans.

Candidates present were Leslie Davis, Rep. Tom Emmer, Bill Haas, Sen. David Hann, Phil Herwig, and Rep. Marty Seifert.

We were in the back row, so taking pictures without a flash was a bit of a challenge. 

In general the main Q&A from the moderators showed a lot of similarity between most of the candidates: pro-life, less government involvement in private lives and business, smaller role for government in education (with a couple of puzzling answers), rejection of the proposed Fed health care laws, rejection of Cap and Trade (with a puzzling exception), enforcement of immigration laws, persuing American energy resources (with one notable exception), Second Ammendment rights-to the extent that MN should not need a "license" to carry but should allow all citizens to carry simply because the 2nd Ammendment states that right.

During the Q&A from the audience there were three issues that caught my attention.

Higher Ed-there is some difference among the candidates on how much, and in which ways Higher Ed (that is the state colleges and universities) should be funded and how costs should be controlled.

Immigration vs. National Health Care: the apparent contradiction is that all the candidates stated under the topic of Immigration that the country is bound by law and should enforce those laws. Yet, under National Health Care almost all of them said that as Governor they would refuse to abide by such a law. The difference between these issues is pretty easy to explain, but they didn't explain it in their presentations. For me the difference is that Immigration Law is the Constitutional Duty of the Fed Gov. Nat. Health is unconstitutional in several ways. And the Constitution is the highest law of our land.

The third issue was Affirmative Action. While the candidates did well to argue and show that Affirmative Action has not answered the problems of racial bigotry but rather exacerbated them, they failed to answer the main questions put to them about redress of wrongs caused by racism. They did however start to get the point later in the Q&A after the question had been put to them three different times. Then they spoke about the need to change the way that the gov addresses these problems as a law enforcement issue.

Mary and I went to the candidates' tables to get more detailed literature, but only Leslie Davis and Phil Herwig had more substantive information at their tables. The rest just had the campaign fliers that they send out to every mailbox. Mary picked up Leslie Davis' book agains Jessie Ventura (She's more curious about what Mr. Davis has to say,and how he says it, than whether or not Gov. Ventura is a compulsive cheater) and Mr. Davis' "Money Plan." I grabbed Mr. Herwig's pamphlet.

Then we went to talk with the candidates. We got to three: Rep. Tom Emmer, Phil Herwig, and Rep. Marty Seifert.

So, now, what did I take away from this, what are questions and differences? I'll try to summarise. I put links to each candidate's web page.

Mr. Herwig advocates Reaganesqe reduction of both taxation, beuracrocy, and regulation. One place he emphasizes is the abuse of funds in state sponsored colleges and universities where adminstrators command very high salaries. (I'd add, what about the football coach?) I'm puzzled by his notion that reducing the number of school districts would lead to savings. He said that he didn't want to reduce the number of schools, just reduce the number of administrators and the administrative costs associated with public schools. I wasn't satisfied with his answer when I told him I thought that his idea might lead to less local control and responsibility.

Sen. David Haan

On the issue of education, Haan stood out as advocating a stronger local responsibility and authority over the schools. While all the candidates echoed similar sentiments, Haan was the most clearly spoken on this issue.

Bill Haas

Haas emphasized his qualifications based on his experience. If I remember right, he has the longest experience at the level of State government. In some eyes this would make him the biggest insider. I didn't really disagree with him on any issues, I wish his web crew would get his website working again. Maybe it's just me, but Haas kept saying he "passed legislation" when all he could do was vote on it so it could be submitted to the standing governor for signing or veto. I think he meant he "introduced" legislation. But then, I don't know. And the claim that he "passed" the legislation seems like taking all the credit for himself. There were two or three other men sitting up at the table who had to give their votes in order for such legislation to "pass". They were polite and didn't call Haas out on this. But I am, because I don't want my governer to have delusions of grandure, nomatter how small.

On Higher Ed., Haas seemed to dismiss the notion of LIberal Arts education, the notion of post-secondary education as self-improvement, in favor of a strictly utilitarian vocational view. I summarize what I think he meant: If the student can't get a job with what he or she has learned, then the school system is not serving the student.

For me, taking classes at a college is an agrement between me and the school, the government has nothing to do with it unless I am taking money from the Gov for a specific career path. That's what is so scary to me about Obama's proposal to take over financial aid.

Rep. Tom Emmer

While all the candidates were strong on 2nd Ammendment issues, Emmer stood out. It also says something to me that he has 7 children.

On post secondary education, if I remember right, Emmer advocated the notion that when a student begins his college degree track, the costs do not change as long as the student is on track for the degree. The idea is that the student can then make better plans on how to pay for school.
In person Mr. Emmer was able to speak very clearly about his ideas on a variety of issues not covered in the debate. He was able to make a good distinction between the issues of Immigration and National Health Care and why the first should be enforced, but the second (and Cap and Trade)--if it passes--should be rejected by the governers of states.

Leslie Davis, and Rep Marty Seifert

Marty is from my home area and knows some of my relatives. He also has the most "Minnesotan" accent of all the candidates. I think Mr. Seifert has the most clearly laid out aggenda for his campaign. But I also think he depends too much on slogans and not enough on explanations when he speaks. I'd like to know how he thinks about these things; not just hear the slogan "Reduce, Rightsize, and Economize!"

Phil Herwig and Leslie Davis

Mr. Davis is a puzzle to me. He said some things that I would stand up and shout, "Yes!" But then he'd open his mouth and out would come some environmental talk that boarderd on statism. Having read through his "Money Plan" I am not sure that Mr. Davis understands where money comes from, how jobs are made, nor why businesses hire employees. I don't know what he thinks on this, but he presented himself in a way that made it seem that as Governor he could declare things by fiat.

The first three points in his "Money Plan" are:
  • 1. Support and sign House File 888 (companion is Senate File 705).
  • 2. This will allow state-regulated-banks to create money to pay for construction, repairs, and maintenance, of all state, county, city, and township, roads and bridges.
  • 3. The new money is not a loan. It is final ‘debt-free’ payment for transportation construction and maintenance. This new does not have to be paid back.
The claim is that HF888 will get rid of gas taxes, transportation taxes, etc. However, what it does is impose fees upon banks chartered in Minnesota. That really means that anyone who invests their money an any of the hundreds of state banks chartered in Minnesota will be footing the bill for the transportation system. I would think that this would discourage bank formation in Minnesota, and possibly encourage banks that were chartered here to move elsewhere. 

Points 2 and 3 in Mr. Davis' "Plan" lead me to think that he does not understand that banks make their money by taking risks on people and their ideas. Banks loan for homes, businesses, purchases thousands and thousands of times over. I think that it is pretty easy to understand that to confiscate the profit the bank makes from these venture risks will drive the cost of those loans up, reduce the number of loans, and discourage such entrepreneurial behaviour that generates income and jobs. 

Some banker, correct me if I misunderstand.

Afterwards, Mary and I went to Applebees and had a nice dinner. Since DineEquity (Applebees parent corporation) may soon disappear due to the economy, if you like the place and want one last meal there, get there soon.

Update: Politics in Minnesota has this article

Gubernatorial debate to be streamed online

"A debate among Minnesota’s gubernatorial candidates during the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s 2010 convention at the Bloomington Sheraton will be streamed live online on Wednesday evening.
The debate is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and can be accessed on the Minnesota News Council’s website."

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