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The gubernatorial campaign between the Republican and DFL candidates began in earnest following the GOP convention over the weekend. Fresh from receiving the Republican Party endorsement, House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty started a statewide bus tour. His DFL opponent, Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, toured flooded areas in northwestern Minnesota. Each one is accusing the other of being out of touch with mainstream Minnesota views, a theme likely to continue until November.
Moe was in Norway when Republicans endorsed Pawlenty, but says he saw enough of the state convention coverage to determine that Pawlenty had to move far to the right to get the endorsement. He says Pawlenty wants to back-track on abortion rights and human rights. Pawlenty opposes legalized abortion and benefits for same-sex domestic partners.
Moe says he and his running mate, state Sen. Julie Sabo, weren't forced to move to the left to get the DFL endorsement. "Julie Sabo and Roger Moe did not have to move one degree off of our political philosophy in order to get the endorsement. We're not flashy, we know that, we are workhorses. We're going to be straight up with the voters of this state, we're going to deal with reality in this campaign," Moe said.
Moe says if candidates are honest with voters, they have to acknowledge that the state could face another major deficit in the next two-year budget cycle. He says Pawlenty is irresponsible for signing a "no tax increase" pledge. Moe says such a promise limits the options available for balancing the budget.
Pawlenty says he has no regrets about signing the pledge, and calls it one of the fundamental tenets of his campaign and the Republican Party.
"Government and the tax structure in Minnesota is big enough. And somebody, sometime, somewhere, has to draw the line in the sand on behalf of Minnesota's families and taxpayers and say, you know what, when you have the highest tax state in the nation, or one of them, and one of the highest government spending state in the nation, and in many categories, by a long shot, enough is enough," he said.
Pawlenty disputed Moe's contention that the Republican Party platform is extreme and out of touch. He says he could make the same charge about Moe's party.
"You go over to the DFL convention, or the DFL caucuses - you know, they got the loony left. You know, that party - at the grassroots level - is frightening. And then they got the Green Party telling them the DFL isn't left enough," Pawlenty said.
The Green Party has endorsed field organizer and lobbyist Ken Pentel for governor. Pawlenty and Moe could also face Gov. Jesse Ventura, if he decides to run again. Ventura just returned from a trade mission to China, where he hinted he might announce his decision this week. He later said he might not say whether he's running for re-election until the filing deadline in mid-July.
Moe says Ventura's decision won't affect his campaign. "It doesn't make one bit of difference to us. Not one bit of difference. Whether he decides to run or not, that is his business, he will have to defend his record, he will have to also spell out a vision for the future of this state, like you will expect all of us to do."
"I think it'll be more interesting and entertaining if he's in the race, so I welcome him in if that's what he wants to do," Pawlenty added. "But it doesn't change my views on the issues, or my vision for the state of Minnesota; we're going to be talking about the same priorities and the same, you know, positions and issues that we would whether he's in or out of the race."
Neither candidate wanted to speculate on whether Ventura will run again or not. Ventura says he'll make his decision after discussing it with his family.