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Candidates for governor sharpen rhetoric
By Tom Scheck
Minnesota Public Radio
October 31, 2002


Two of Minnesota's four major party candidates for governor are focusing their campaign attacks on each other as the campaign enters the final weekend before election day. Republican Tim Pawlenty and DFLer Roger Moe are engaged in a close contest, along with Independence Party candidate Tim Penny and Green Party candidate Ken Pentel. All four candidates are in the midst of their second day on the trail after suspending campaigning following Sen. Paul Wellstone's death last week.

Tim Pawlenty
Republican Tim Pawlenty campaigned with Norm Coleman in northwestern Minnesota, including a stop in Moorhead.
(MPR Photo/Dan Gunderson)

Republican Tim Pawlenty hit the campaign trail early Thursday morning in northwestern Minnesota. He appeared at the Fry'n Pan restaurant in Moorhead, where a crowd of about 75 faithful gathered to hear him and Senate candidate Norm Coleman.

Since returning to his campaign, Pawlenty has stepped up his criticism of DFLer Roger Moe, by charecterizing him as a career politician with old ideas. Pawlenty says Moe wanted to fix the current budget deficit with tax increases, a move he says would hurt small and midsize businesses. Pawlenty, who signed a no new-tax pledge, touted his plan to implement tax freeze zones in Greater Minnesota.

"Those are the kinds of new ideas and bold approaches and fresh approaches that we need for Minnesota in 2002 and beyond. We're not going to turn back the clock, we're going forward. Minnesota needs new and bold and innovative leadership. I believe I offer that as a candidate for governor," Pawlenty said.

"The choice is very very clear. Who will be able to govern? Who will be able to lead this state? And this ticket is the ticket that will lead this state," said DFLer Roger Moe, also campaigning as if he's in a two-man race.

Roger Moe
DFLer Roger Moe spent part of the day in the northern Twin Cities suburbs, including this stop in Blaine.
(MPR Photo/William Wilcoxen)

Moe spent the day in the northern Twin Cities suburbs, touting his political experience and criticizing Pawlenty for his campaign finance problems and his work as House majority leader.

"A campaign that has violated the campaign laws, a campaign that has run divisive ads. A campaign that has made phony promises that cannot be delivered. A campaign that has denied state employees their contract," Moe charged.

Neither Moe nor Pawlenty mentioned Indpendence Party candidate Tim Penny by name. That's a departure from a month ago, when both candidates directed a large part of their criticism Penny's way. A Star Tribune poll taken earlier this week also shows support for Penny has declined.

Penny, however, says the race is far from over. His campaign issued a press release Thursday, touting a St. Cloud State poll that shows Penny, Moe and Pawlenty are in a statistical dead heat.

In the poll, 30 percent of the 611 people questioned would vote for or are leaning toward voting for Republican Tim Pawlenty.

Tim Penny
IP candidate Tim Penny campaigned in the Twin Cities suburbs. He spent part of the day speaking to students at Anoka-Hennepin Technical College.
(MPR Photo/Tim Penny)

Another 27 percent say they'll vote for or are leaning to vote for DFLer Roger Moe, and 26 percent say they'll vote for or are leaning to vote for Tim Penny. Green Party candidate Ken Pentel is a distant fourth with 2 percent. And 14 percent say they don't know. The poll, which was taken before Senator Wellstone's death, has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Penny spent the afternoon in northern Twin Cities suburbs after starting his day shaking hands in the Minneapolis skyway system. He says his campaign message and style will resonate with voters, following the death of Sen. Wellstone last week.

"We can't go back to the same partisan bickering. We can't go back to the nastiness and the negativity that the two major parties forced upon us," Penny said. "Even today, in just a few short hours after the memorial service for the senator and the others, you've got the Democrats and Republicans back up on the air with ugly, nasty attack ads. They just don't get it. People are sick of this stuff."

Green Party candidate Ken Pentel spent a large part of his day campaigning in southern Minnesota. He's telling voters that he's been the most specific about the issues. Pentel says he's also urging people to vote their conscience.

While he says he's working to win the race, he says his goal is also to more than 5 percent of the vote. That would give the Green Party major party status in the next election.

"That to me is something that people should be thinking about. Because when we limit our choices then we limit participation, and democracies fail when people do not engage. The enemy of democracy is apathy," Pentel said.

All four candidates will participate in a televised debate Friday night.

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