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Government spending chief concern at candidate forum

CANNON FALLS — Ask Morrie Hjermstad what issues he is most concerned about this election year and he sums it up in one word — spending.

The Wanamingo resident was one of nearly 150 people who packed the Cannon Falls VFW/American Legion Hall on Monday night to hear from about a dozen candidates running for federal, state and local offices.

The event was sponsored by the Goodhue County United Veterans, and featured candidates running for everything from governor to Goodhue County Board. One thing became clear — many of the voters at the event were concerned about government spending.

Zumbrota resident Gary Floan is one of them. His biggest concern this election year?

"Spending too much money and not prioritizing and expanding the size of state government," he said.


Several candidates touted their commitment to reign in government spending. Republican Attorney General candidate Chris Barden scored some of the loudest applause talking about excessive government spending.

"The government has got to stop spending so much money that puts crushing burdens of debt on our children," he said.

He vowed that if elected, he would join the lawsuit brought by other state attorneys general to block the federal health bill, another idea that won favor with much of the audience.

Candidates also talked about their commitment to veterans.

Democrat Mark Dayton was the only gubernatorial candidate who showed up for the forum. While in the U.S. Senate, he said, he helped secure funding for the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign, which helps veterans and their families.

In an interview after the forum, he said he was surprised that his opponents — Republican Tom Emmer and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner — failed to appear.

"I hope (the audience) will remember the fact that I am the gubernatorial candidate that came here," Dayton said. "It shows the priority I give to veterans’ concerns."

During a question period, candidates running for the state Senate District 28 seat differed sharply about what they would do to support veterans' homes when the state faces massive budget problems.


DFL candidate Joe Fricke of Red Wing said he would support increasing taxes to support veterans' homes.

"We can’t afford to skimp on veterans," he said. "I would be willing to raise a tax for it if we need to."

Republican candidate John Howe argued that taxes are not the way to go.

"Well, I don’t think it's going to be as easy as just raising taxes," Howe said. "We’re going to have to find efficiencies on how we can deliver better services."

Audience member Jerrie Samuelson of Cannon Falls said she would like to improved government efficiency. But after listening to the candidates, she said she is also wary of politicians who vow to make sweeping changes when the reality is that they can only do so much on their own.

"You can’t promise the world," she said.

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