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Civility Rules in DFL Senate Race
by Mark Zdechlik
February 23, 2000
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The six announced DFL candidates for U.S. Senate agree with each other on most political issues and, so far, the wide field of DFLers hoping to unseat Republican Rod Grams is saving criticism for the incumbent. They gathered last night for a debate in St. Paul.

THE PARADE OF DFL CANDIDATES is making its way from debate after debate, all six of them trying - and succeeding - to keep the dialogue positive; to avoid ripping into each other; happily opening fire instead on Republican Senator Rod Grams. Here they are alphabetical order; Mike Ciresi, Jerry Janezich, Steve Kelley, David Lillehaug, Steve Miles and Rebecca Yanisch.
Candidates:Rod Grams has done next to nothing in the U.S. Senate.
This isn't only about Rod Grams, it's about the conservative right.
Rod Grams made the choice to vote with his Republican friends rather than vote with Minnesotans.
He stood up for every big special interest in Washington. He put ideology over people.
To me the shortcomings of Mr. Grams is the flood of 1997.
The DFLers seem to agree on almost everything. Federally-funded school vouchers are wrong, federal hate-crimes law should be expanded to cover crimes committed against people because of their sexual orientation. The government should not decriminalize drugs but should be spending more money on prevention and treatment programs.

Each also agrees Social Security should remain a government - not privately-administered - program. U of M Physician Steve Miles.
Miles: The reason that Social Security withholdings are not meeting the needs of people tomorrow is because the idle class has been left out of the tax engineering of Grams and his cohorts of the benefits of this economy.
The Democrats also all say reforming health care policy is important so that more Americans will have access to on going medical attention. Rebecca Yanisch.
Yanisch: I did not have access to health care. I know what it's like to have a child where every sore throat, every ear ache, you wonder, "Can I get her into the doctor, can I pay for it?" I think the first priority must be insuring those 11 million children in the U.S. that do not have access to health care.
On world trade the candidates agreed the U.S. needs to demand more from its trading partners, that the playing field would be much more level if workers worldwide enjoyed compensation Americans have come to demand. State Senator Jerry Janezich, son of an iron range miner.
Janezich: Our country has to engage other world powers and other nations in what is right for society and for human beings. We have the same responsibility that my dad had when he went on strike. And that was bringing those other workers to our level.
There was some disagreement. Candidates Janezich, Kelley, Miles and Yanisch oppose the death penalty. David Lillehaug and Mike Ciresi say there's a place for capital punishment. Here's Mike Ciresi.
Ciresi: I think most people believe in limited circumstances, the death penalty is appropriate. The problem with the death penalty today is in its implementation. It falls disproportionally on people of color and on the poor.
Another area of disagreement has to do with the party endorsement process; only four of the six promise to step aside if they fail to win party endorsement this summer. Since last fall Ciresi has said he'll run in the September primary. Yanisch says she's considering her options.

State Senator Steve Kelley.
Kelley: I'm going to work as hard as I can to get the endorsement and persuade people that I will be the best candidate to beat Rod Grams and bring this party victory at all levels this fall. If I don't get the endorsement, I will not challenge the endorsed candidate.
Hoping to stir things up, the moderator asked the candidates to single out each other for criticism, but no one really took the bait.

Here's David Lillehaug.
Lillehaug: I'm going to decline you invitation to fight. I think what we need to do in this election is unify to the extent we can.
The candidates meet again for a debate Thursday. How long they'll refrain from attacking each other is anyone's guess. So far in keeping the discussion about issues and reserving criticism only for Rod Grams, they're avoiding the internal DFL bloodbath observers predict could hurt the party's chance to unseat what leaders believe is one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the U.S. Senate.