Live-blog: The Seifert-Emmer debate

There’s been very little coverage so far to help voters determine the difference between two Republican stalwarts, vying to be the Republican-endorsed candidate for governor of Minnesota. Issues have taken a backseat to some very unusual (for Republicans) mudslinging in the battle between state representatives Marty Seifert and Tom Emmer.

Both are Gary Eichten’s guest on MPR’s Midday and I’m live-blogging the conversation starting at 11:06 a.m. Feel free to provide comments below but, for the record, I’m not blogging from the studio and passing them along.

Opening statements

Emmer: I’m a 49 year old, married, father of seven kids from Delano. Been serving in the Minnesota House for five years, engaged in defending people and their business in civil court for 20 years. The next governor should understand what it’s like to run a business and meet a payroll successfully.

Seifert: I was born and raised in SW Minnesota, my wife and I have two kids. We have a property-management business in Marshall. Have been a teacher and worked in mission. Have been in the Legislature for 13 years. I have experience in downsizing government. We face the challenge of unemployment and juicing up the private sector.

Q: How would you differ as governor from your opponent?

Seifert: We’ve laid out what a Minnesota economy looks like — agriculture and health care. When it comes to government, I’ve been able to downsize government. I’m the only one either side of the aisle who’s downsized government. I’m more electable. I’m the only candidate with a team in every single county. You have to attract conservative independents and Democrats.

Emmer: Marty’s a good guy, but I don’t think it’s what Minnesota needs right now. We need people who’ve been trained outside of government how to negotiate for the people. People like Seifert put out policy; they tell people in the real world ‘this is what you need to do to succeed.’ People need government getting out of the way. I’ve had to run my own business. I’ve never been guaranteed a paycheck. In my office, we look at Friday as two more working days until Monday.

Q: How much weight should be put on Rep. Emmer’s DUI? (See link above)

Emmer: Every once in awhile it’s not bad to have someone who stumbles and gets back up. People recognize that.

Seifert: It’s a factor but it’s not the factor. It’s the judgment issue that delegates have talked to me about. It’s the authoring of a bill that prosecutors are opposed to… that all of the folks are saying we’ve got problems with the law. Why would you end up erasing people’s records after 10 years.

Emmer: Let’s be honest. This was brought to my be prosecutors. Politicians like to play fast and loose with the way things are authored. This is political doublespeak when we’re offering this supposedly for the purpose of honesty. For the most part, our campaign has stayed on focus about what we need to do to put Minnesota back on the path to prosperity.

Seifert: If people want to look at it’s HF1035. Make your own decision.

Q: Discuss the taxpayer’s pledge against no new taxes.

Seifert: I’ve signed it. This is the worst time to be raising taxes.

Emmer: Marty signed this pledge a few years ago; he broke it. Now he’s signed it again. You don’t pledge to third parties, you pledge to the people of Minnesota. We’ll reduce the state workforce. We’ll reduce taxes. Let people keep their own money.

Q: Critics say the no new taxes environment has resulted in huge local property tax increases. Will property taxes continue to go up if you’re elected?

Emmer: You have to get rid of the mandates. You can’t allow government programs to grow and then say you’re cutting spending. You must redesign a smaller government. We have government duplicated at every level. The issue is redesigning government so it’s smaller and meets the priorities with the ample resources we have. This state spends almost $60 billion every two years. Colorado spends almost a third less. It’s not an issue of whether we have enough revenue; it’s a matter of what priorities we should fund.

All taxes should be local.

Seifert: We have to reduce spending at all levels. You can’t say we need to get rid of local government aid, and then be on the city council and lament not having local aid. We cut the governor’s office, the department of IT, we wiped out commissions. Out of 10 finance committees, mine was the only one that downsized government in a meaningful way. We should have a tax cap.

Q: How do you maintain a commitment to the environment and the Pollution Control Agency?

Seifert: We have the Legacy Fund. But politicians in St. Paul are putting in bills to fund dog parks. That money was intended to be for clean water. We’re dumping raw sewage into Lake Superior. It’s time for us to prioritize cleaning up polluted waters. That’s what the money should be going for.

Emmer: We all believe in clean water and clean air. When you talk about a strong Pollution Control Agency, I’d say the agency has gone beyond what it’s original mission was.

Q: Recently we saw Arizona pass a law targeting illegal immigrants. Where do you stand in connection to that law and what are you going to do in connection with illegal immigration?

Emmer: I don’t know that it’s targeting illegal immigrants. It’s enforcing the law. Illegals cost all of us. We have to be human, but you also have to enforce the law. What Arizona did was a wonderful first step. I’m disappointed at the federal government that’s taking issue with the state of Arizona.

(Gary asked if Minnesotans should carry papers) This is the scare tactic. Right now, anybody can be asked under certain circumstances to establish U.S. citizenship. I’ve carried the photo ID bill for the last five years in this state.

Seifert: We’re unveiling our position paper today. You can find it on the Web site — the ending of sanctuary cities in Minnesota, the ability to work with ICE to be sure local law enforcement can work with this. When people are released from prison, you have to make sure they’re deported.

(Gary repeats question asked to Emmer) There’s states like Colorado, we’re going to take their laws and try to pattern after it. I vote against a bill giving illegal immigrants driver’s licenses in Minnesota. Your driver’s license should have a way to determine if you’re here as a legal citizen.

Q: Would your administration consider government to be efficient or inefficient and what is a moral standard for government in Minnesota if people don’t have enough food or health care. Is that a moral failing of government?

Seifert: Pull out your Constitution. It establishes the role of government. Charity by government has been so overblown. I was taught in terms of true charity, look to yourself, then your family, then non-profits, and the government last. We look to government only now. If you think we’re attracting thousands to Minnesota now because of welfare programs, have us be the only state that has socialized medicine and see what happens.

Emmer: Go look at the Constitution. Article I says the government will protect the citizens and their property, a system of roads and bridges, a uniform system of education. People have come to believe the government is supposed to provide social safety nets. That’s well-ingrained in the mindset of the public. Government can’t provide charity. Only human beings can provide real charity. Only human beings can be virtuous. Government perpetuates poverty.

Q: The state is facing a $5 billion deficit, should K-12 be protected from cuts?

Emmer: No area should be off limits. We’re going to redesign every agency. Our constitution says one of our priorities is to provide a uniform education. It does not say it has to be the way it is today. The more money we throw at the system, the worse the system becomes.

Seifert: If you have a dropout rate in Minneapolis of 28 percent, that’s unacceptable. We’re going to have to revise policy and funding.

Q: How would you align yourselves w/Gov. Pawlenty’s policies?

Seifert: I’m going to talk about the future. Gov. Pawlenty has served us well. There are some fantastic initiatives that he’s started, but if you take a look at what we need to do, we have to have a downside of government.

Emmer: Neither of us is running against Tim Pawlenty. All we’ve been doing in the last few decades is putting Band Aids on this boat. You can’t just rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. The Department of Human Rights should be cut. We have an EEOC that does the same thing. We have to start looking at duplication.

Seifert: I’ve heard this at the last three debates. Where’s your plan? Getting rid of the Department of Human Rights gets rid of $2 million out of a $5 billion deficit. The delegates are looking for more substance.

Emmer: When you talk to us and you tell us you’ve redesigned this by yourself in the middle of the night, that scares us.

Q: You talk about downsizing and reorganizing. Let’s say the biennium budget is $30 billion. If you could wave a wand, what should be the size of the budget?

Seifert: I don’t have a specific number; it has to be smaller than today. A 10-15% reduction is achievable.

Emmer: A cut of a third. But you can’t just talk about it at the state level. You can reduce state budget by 20 percent easily.

Q: Was it a good idea to use public money to build Target Field?

Emmer: No

Seifert: No

Q: Should there be any changes in Minnesota’s abortion laws?

Seifert: Yes. I’ve authored numerous pro-life pieces of legislation. The tax-funding of abortion is wrong.

Emmer: We have seven kids. Life begins at conception and ends at death. This next election is about the economy.

Q: Would you extend the JOB-Z program?

Emmer: No. You shouldn’t be creating winners and losers within the state of Minnesota.

Seifert: No. Marvin Windows has gone to North Dakota. It’s got to be a statewide plan.

Q: (Caller) What’s your position on medical marijuana?

Seifert: I voted no on the bill. There are too many concerns from law enforcement.

Emmer: What we’ve been offering for health care bills, they’re not the right answer. We have to put competition back in the market. We have to put patients back in charge of their own decisions.

No on marijuana. If it were presented as a true medicine, the vote might’ve been different.

Q: The 5th District delegates approved resolution supporting secession. Would you consider it a legitimate option for Minnesota?

Emmer: No

Seifert: Absolutely not.


Emmer: I started out coaching the T-ball team, then ended up on a church finance council. That’s called community service. Someone said I should run for the Legislature and I’ve seen people there who make it a career. It’s time to go back to servant-leaders, to lead the state and then return to the business they had before they got there.

Seifert: We have a serious contest. We have a lot of problems. We have plans in place. We have the ability to win the election. People are looking for serious solutions. I’m going to humbly stand before people on Friday and ask for their endorsement.