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POLITICAL JOURNAL 'Penny-Moe-Bile' hits town

CORRECTION RAN MONDAY (10/14/02)

A headline on Lenora Chu's political column on Page 3B and a 1B reference to the column were incorrect in early copies of Saturday's editions.

----------------------------------------------------------- CORRECTION RAN MONDAY (10/14/02)

Former state Sen. Nancy Brataas has chosen to endorse Republican Carla Nelson for the District 30A House seat, replacing the retiring Dave Bishop. Some editions incorrectly stated that Brataas was endorsing Nelson but not Sheila Kiscaden. Brataas is backing Kiscaden, an Independence Party candidate for the District 30 Senate seat.

The Post-Bulletin regrets the error.

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The campaign of Republican Tim Pawlenty drove its "tax-guzzling Penny-Moe-Bile" into Rochester on Tuesday to call attention to what they dub the "tax-raising philosophies" of Pawlenty's leading opponents in the race for governor -- DFLer Roger Moe and the Independence Party's Tim Penny.

Pawlenty is the only candidate in the race to promise not to raise taxes during his term, a position opponents have criticized as unwise given Minnesota's gaping state budget deficit. Moe and Penny have said a combination of tax increases and spending cuts will likely be needed to balance the budget for the coming years.

The "Penny-Moe-Bile" is a 1974 Buick LeSabre painted in both Moe's and Penny's campaign colors. Displayed on the car's sides, hood and trunk is a list of years -- dating back to the 1970s -- in which Moe and Penny voted to increase various taxes, from the cigarette tax to income taxes.

"The economy's taken a bit of a hit right now, and the last thing we need to do is raise taxes," said Josh Mercer, a GOP researcher for Pawlenty's campaign.

"We're such a high tax state already," said George Cable, the deputy chairman of the state Republican Party.

Plans for the car after the Nov. 5 election include auction on e-Bay or "maybe it'd be a great museum piece," Cable and Mercer joked.

Although Penny and Moe are "tax-guzzlers" in the eyes of the GOP, the Buick is an undisputed gas-guzzler; Monday, in the first part of its statewide tour, the car's 20-plus gallon tank had to be refilled at least twice for a 450-mile run. But the automobile is certainly getting its share of attention.

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"We've gotten some thumbs-ups on the road," said Mercer, "but some people use another finger."

Insider baseball

In the aftermath of an erroneous headline that topped my column last Saturday, which ran in some of the newspapers distributed over the weekend, clarity has emerged regarding Nancy Brataas' choice of a political candidate for endorsement.

To state the facts, Brataas, a Republican and former state senator for Rochester, "unconditionally supports" Sen. Sheila Kiscaden's re-election campaign. Kiscaden is in many ways the protégé; of Brataas, who recruited her and campaigned for her in 1992, the year she was first elected to the state Senate.

Asked for a comment, Kiscaden reiterated Monday that she still has "a lot of support from moderate Republicans" despite her recent exit from the GOP -- after it gave its endorsement to someone else -- to join the Independence Party. Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson and former U.S. Sens. Dave Durenberger and Rudy Boschwitz, all Republicans, will be appearing at a private rally for her campaign volunteers in two weeks, Kiscaden said.

In a separate race, Brataas has chosen to endorse Republican Carla Nelson in the District 30A battle for southern Rochester's House seat, reasoning that Nelson has the "best qualifications" to serve the city of Rochester.

Some in the community expected Brataas to instead support the Independence Party's Joe Duffy, who recently converted from the GOP. Brataas and Duffy share similar philosophies and once worked together in the political scene.

Brataas acknowledged that Duffy is a "moderate Republican as I am," but said that she decided to endorse "the more conservative of the two (Nelson) because I think this would be the best for Rochester."

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DFLer Tina Liebling is also contending for the southern Rochester House seat.

Rochester's IP caucus?

The only two Independence Party candidates elected to the Legislature this year will come from Rochester, according to the election predictions published in the latest "Politics in Minnesota" newsletter.

The three editors of the political insider's newsletter and the "150 lobbyists" they polled pick Kiscaden to win re-election in Senate District 30, and Duffy as the victor in the race to replace the retiring Rep. Dave Bishop in House District 30A.

Both Kiscaden and Duffy, known previously in the community as moderate Republicans, are now members of the Independence Party. Kiscaden is being challenged by DFLer Rich Wright and Republican Lynn Zaffke. Duffy is facing DFLer Tina Liebling and Republican candidate Carla Nelson.

Informed by attendees of the Minnesota Government Relations Council's bi-annual election review, the newsletter's editors also venture a guess at the balance of the Minnesota House and Senate next year.

The Senate DFLers will keep the majority over the Republicans by 10 seats, they predict, and the GOP will retain control of the House with a one-seat advantage. In a House scenario with such a tenuously held majority, a non-Republican or DFL legislator would wield significant power and be courted by both sides.

Of course, the newsletter's forecasts have been wrong before, and nearly all political discourse has more to do with whom, rather than what you ask. But speculating is half the fun.

Announcements

Steve Andreasen, the Democratic 1st District congressional candidate, has received the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Pawlenty has been endorsed by the Game and Fish Coalition, the North American Hunting Club and the North American Fishing Club.

Feminist and author Gloria Steinem campaigned in St. Paul today on behalf of DFL gubernatorial candidate Roger Moe and his running mate, Julie Sabo, lauding the ticket's support of reproductive freedom.

The candidates for U.S. Senate and Congress in the 1st District will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at a forum sponsored by the Post-Bulletin, the League of Women Voters, Minnesota Public Radio and the Mankato Free Press. The public is invited to attend the forum, which will be at the University Center Rochester's new fieldhouse.

Chu covers state government for the Post-Bulletin. You can reach her via e-mail at lchu@postbulletin.com or via phone at 507-285-7706.

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