Eagan Senate and House Candidates Come Out Swinging at Political Forum

"Obamacare", job creation and education funding were the topics of choice at the forum, held Wednesday night at Rasmussen College in Eagan.

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Job creation and education funding dominated much of the conversation Wednesday night as six local Senate and House candidates met at an hour-long candidate forum in Eagan.

A standing-room-only crowd packed the event, which was held at Rasmussen College and organized by the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Forum participants included Senate District 51 candidates Sen. Ted Daley (R) and Jim Carlson (DFL), House District 51A candidates Rep. Diane Anderson (R) and Sandy Masin (DFL) and House District 51B candidates Rep. Doug Wardlow (R) and Laurie Halverson (DFL).

Two pictures of the previous legislative cycle quickly emerged at the forum, with the three Democratic challengers describing the last two years on Capitol Hill—punctuated by the state shutdown and the Michael Brodkorb dismissal and lawsuit—as dysfunctional and scandal ridden.

"Republicans have focused on social issues and tried to bury their own failings," said Carlson.

The Republican incumbents, on the other hand, pointed to the state's budget turnaround, more per pupil funding for Minnesota schools despite continued borrowing from school districts and an overall decline in the unemployment rate over the last two years as proof that their policies were having a positive impact.

"We're moving the right direction, no doubt," said Daley. "Our funding for schools is getting better, not worse."

Each participant at the forum was given two minutes for an introduction, and then one minute each to answer a set of five questions posed by the forum moderator.

Asked to name their top priorities if elected, most of forum participants selected job creation and the economy as their answer. But how the government can help bolster private sector growth was a subject of disagreement between the candidates. Wardlow, Daley and Anderson advocated heavily for the elimination of unnecessary regulations, addressing what they believe is a burdensome tax climate in the state and streamlining business permitting processes.

But Carlson argued that the state should instead use its annual bonding bill process as an opportunity to create jobs. Both he and Masin also felt pending health care reform could prompt small business growth in Minnesota by reducing the cost of health care access for small business owners and employees. Halverson said she wants to simplify the state's tax code to make the system easier to navigate for businesses.

While the candidates generally agreed that the state needs to create a better education climate and address a paucity in school funding, they sparred over whether teacher seniority or job performance should be the basis of layoffs.

"We need to reward teacher excellence, and we need to make sure there are consequences for teachers who are performing poorly," said Wardlow. Layoffs, when they do occur, should be based on teacher performance and other factors besides seniority, Wardlow said.

Masin and Halverson opted for a wait-and-see attitude until the state adopts a new teacher accountability program that will likely be implemented in 2014.

Masin added that legislators should focus on reducing class sizes, rather than addressing teacher performance.

"We’re talking about the wrong issues," she said.

Clarification: This article has been changed to clarify a statement. In the event of teacher layoffs, Rep. Doug Wardlow believes the layoffs should be based on job performance and other factors besides seniority.

Click here to watch the candidates at the forum discuss their top priorities, if elected.

Dee September 27, 2012 at 04:30 PM
I also found Diane Anderson's presentation a bit odd. With every question she simply read from a prepared text. It seemed as if she knew the questions beforehand in order to have such a targeted prepared answer. Were all candidates given the questions they would be asked?
Dee September 27, 2012 at 04:57 PM
One more answer I found interesting was the Republican candidates being against the state insurance exchange when the Chamber of Commerce whose endorsement they all flaunt supports the exchange and has publicly encouraged the Republican's in the Legislature to support it. The Chamber sees the benefit to small business from the insurance exchange. And they see that it encourages the competition, transparency, and efficiency that Ted Daley was talking about. They also see the benefit to MN developing the exchange rather than having one developed by the federal government for MN. I find it odd that candidates who say they are "pro-business" ignore this pro-business approach.
ellen holmes lafans September 28, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Why did the Chamber endorsed ALL of the Republican candidates BEFORE the forum. This forum was very tightly controlled and the public really did not get any time to ask questions.... Well, I wanted to ask a few questions: Question # 1: Why all three Republican legislators (Daley, Wardlow and Anderson) came to our town hall forum last fall at the Wescott Library supporting Paul Ryan's budget plan to vouchering Medicare and privatizing Social Security. Ryans plan is called Path to Prosperity but is really the Path to Poverty for most. Who are they kidding - I hope not us! Questions # 2: Why are Ted Daley and other Republican legislators members of ALEC. We should all beware because ALEC is that super PAC funded by special big corporate interests (Koch Brothers and others) who do NOT represent us. Bill Moyers will be doing a show on ALEC this friday night on PBS. What the "devil" is ALEC, this is an excellent question that should have been asked at the forum. ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) involves using state politicians and powerful corporations to remake America, one state house at a time. Check out ALECexposed.org Perhaps the Chamber should watch it and change their endorsement today! VOTE for the DFL party of Carlson, Masin, and Halverson on November 6th. Your vote is SO important and the stakes are HIGH! Ellen "the Nurse"
Mark September 29, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Your Question #1, Medicare is a FEDERAL program and Social Security is a FEDERAL program. These are STATE legislators. Votes on those programs happen at the federal level - talk to your Congressman or US Senator. Your legislator could support any federal plan or idea, that does not give them or a vote or even a voice on that issue - any more than you. If a road needs to be built in Minnesota, they might have a bigger voice and impact on requests for federal money. However, it is important to keep things in perspective. Why do you paint with such a broad brush ("and other Republican legislators")? You make if sound like all republicans must be supporters of ALEC? Anderson is not. I expect that Wardlow is not. Why do people join groups? Have you asked them? One more thought, just because Ryan supports privatizing all or a portion of Social Security does NOT mean he will have the votes necessary in both houses of Congress to cause that idea to become legislation nor to get it passed.
Ken in MN September 30, 2012 at 01:55 PM
I'm positive that Ted Daly is a member of ALEC. In fact, he's a member of the ALEC committee that's been pushing the so-called "stand your ground" laws that led to the murder of Trayvon Martin...


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