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The 1st Itasca DFL candidate forum for Governor's race in 2018

Trond Knudgaard

Friday October 20th  the Itasca DFL party and SAGE- Itasca Community College's Sex and Gender Equity group sponsored a DFL governor candidate forum.  The general public were welcome and overall the evening was well planned with fair, reasoned questions by moderator Aaron Brown

In attendance were Rep. Tina Liebling, Rep. Erin Murphy, MN State Auditor Rebecca Otto, Rep. Paul Thissen and Congressman Tim Walz.  St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman was absent due to a funeral. 

Aaron Brown began the evening by allowing each candidate time to introduce themselves and the issues they cared most deeply about.

Liebling:  She described herself as having political backbone.  "A bold progressive who will work on behalf of working class heroes of MN, not insiders".

Murphy: She talked about her working class background and working hard to become a nurse and in her 11 years in the MN House.  She described herself as being fueled by her mother's struggle with health insurance companies during her illness.

Otto:  She described herself as teaching middle school, serving on the school board and her 3 terms as MN Auditor.  "I'm running against the politics of greed".

Thissen:He talked about wanting to pay it forward like his parents did as teachers.  As House Minority Leader he said he had the credibility to get things done as governor.

Walz:  He talked about being a high school teacher and coach and that he is the highest ranking miltary currently serving in Congress.  He stressed health care as a human right.

Coleman: (via letter read by Aaron Brown) He writes about the rich progressive history of MN and his commitment to economic justice and opportunity and championing racial justice and inclusion. 

The questions Aaron asked during the evening included DFL party's discord over jobs vs. environment and how to patch disagreements, healthcare for all, rural economics, schools and school funding and Indigenous People's Day (as submitted by students). 

Candidate responses to copper nickel mining debate  all had a tone of finding common ground.  Liebling was the only candidate who said "I'm opposed to copper nickel mining" and "the risks are too high". 

The other candidates stressed the complexity of the issue in northern MN.  Murphy said "I believe we can do both - good jobs and clean water".  Otto stated she was against multinational corporations coming to MN, that only Minnesotans could protect MN and she said there are red flags.  Thissen rejected the binary choice of jobs or environment.  He said "the DFL is the party of science" and that "there is a way to have smart, safe mining".  Walz said the people of northern MN should make the decisions and that "we should be building electrical cars but the Governor shouldn't stand in the way". 

Final remarks for the evening included the priorities of each candidate.  Many priorities were talked about by each of the candidates, but the list is the first priority they mentioned.

Walz - Health Care

Thissen - Economic Security for Families

Otto - Bread & Butter economy

Murphy - Education

Liebling - economy

One DFLer I talked with after the forum said, "I thought they all performed well.  I'd happily vote for any of them.  I was surprised that Paul Thissen would bring up the endorsement and called other candidates to also agree to support whoever gets the endorsement."  Thissen did this in his closing remarks and it wasn't addressed by other candidates. 

DFLer and Making Sausage commentator Colleen Nardone sent the results from the straw poll.

Thissen 17 Walz 14 Otto 11 Liebling 4 Murphy 3 Coleman 0

You can hear interviews of DFL and Republican candidates for MN Governor in 2018 on KAXE/KBXE.

Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.