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Hoeven, Mathern face off in N.D. gov debate

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Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501
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Hoeven, Mathern face off in N.D. gov debate
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven and his challenger, Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, have a debate Wednesday in Bismarck. People statewide can see it online.


The debate is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the County City/County Office Building's Tom Baker Meeting Room. It is sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the North Dakota Newspaper Association, the Bismarck Tribune and the Bismarck community access cable channel.

The live audience will be limited to 100 attendees, but a webcast will air at and on the Bismarck cable access channel. Plans are to rebroadcast the debate over cable in Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown and Minot as well as Bismarck several times leading up to the election.

Panelists asking the candidates questions will include NDNA President Jason Nordmark of the Turtle Mountain Star, Rolla, and Mike Jacobs, publisher and editor of the Grand Forks Herald.

Two Pawlentys

After claiming he was not disappointed after being passed over as John McCain's running mate, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty presented two personas.

In one, he delivered a rousing speech praising McCain during the last night of the Republican National Convention. In the other, he appeared defeated and uninterested.

The 47-year-old governor sat in a private box to watch McCain's acceptance speech Thursday night, looking far less than enthusiastic about the candidate whose campaign he is co-chairman. He offered what appeared to observers to be tepid applause.

He often sat down long while others in the convention hall remained on their feet cheering, and he seemed uninterested.

On the other hand, we was in good spirits during a skit on NBC's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."

The governor was "interviewed" by a puppet called Triumph the Insult Comic Dog at the convention. The puppet said Pawlenty was "keeping a brave face after having been rejected, humiliatingly so. He toyed with you for like a month or two and then he chose Sarah Palin for vice president. How excited are you about that?"

Pawlenty laughed, unable to get a word in.

Long's ad is long

Former Workforce Safety and Insurance employee Jim Long, now a Democratic-NPL candidate for the state Senate, has a four-minute campaign ad on ridiculing the WSI office's security measures and taking after former Chief Executive Officer Sandy Blunt and other WSI officials. Titled "The Agonizing Death of the American Worker," it can be found at

Quick response

The Minnesota Capitol Security corps was ready to respond if protesters caused trouble during the Republican National Convention - but the House minority leader?

Officers responded quickly to catch him, too.

Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, was taking a late-night tour of the House chamber with convention guests. As he was reaching to turn on the light switch, he hit the alarm button instead. Within half a minute, he said, officers were there.

As one of the few Minnesota lawmakers who also was a convention delegate, Seifert offered tours - at any time of the day - to visiting lawmakers.

Hoeven's card game

Max Laird, the challenger to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne Sanstead, said Hoeven's proposal last week for $500 million worth of property and income tax cuts as well as enhanced education spending reminded him of a card game - a card game "where someone gets such a good hand that they raise their own bid before their opponent has said a word."

Laird, who hopes Hoeven's proposal can mitigate voters' support for a state income ballot measure, said he backs the governor's push for the state to pay 70 percent or more of local school expenses.

But, he said, "The downside of this is in the details" and any caps on what school districts can levy in property taxes must be "soft caps."

"We must retain some local control of schools," Laird said.

AgNite gala

An agriculture-related party thrown during the Republican National Convention brought out a handful of current and former state lawmakers.

But even they admitted the AgNite gala in downtown Minneapolis was more about wining, dining and socializing than it was a place to talk serious ag issues.

"For me it's about coming up and seeing friends," said Rep. Rod Hamilton, a Mountain Lake Republican and pork producer.

Another rural lawmaker, Rep. Dean Urdahl of Grove City, was asked what he got out of making the rounds at the late-night event.

"Sore feet," he responded.

Admission wasn't cheap for those Minnesota lawmakers. Ethics guidelines required that they pay $60 to attend the event, which featured drinks, food and live music.


Democratic-NPL candidates Tim Mathern (governor's race), Cheryl Bergian (Public Service Commission) and Jasper Schneider (insurance commissioner) announced the North Dakota AFL-CIO endorsed them at the labor unions' recent annual meeting. The unions interviewed both candidates for those positions before voting on endorsements.

The National Federation of Independent Business has endorsed Gov. John Hoeven for a third term.

And the North Dakota Association of Realtors' PAC has endorsed one Democrat, state auditor candidate Daryl Splichal of Mandan, who is facing incumbent Bob Peterson. Splichal's wife is a Realtor and former legislative candidate. All the rest of the Realtors' endorsements are for Republicans.

Watching Pawlenty

Many will be watching for what Pawlenty's political future holds, including a top lawmaker who negotiates with him on legislative issues.

Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said the fact that Pawlenty was not chosen as a vice presidential candidate means he has a decision to make in the coming months.

"I think it's going to be very interesting whether this launches Gov. Pawlenty into a much longer national audition for the presidency," Kelliher said, "or whether Gov. Pawlenty kind of has this experience and comes back and says, 'I really want to accomplish some big bold things for Minnesota.' "

Pawlenty can cite a few major legislative accomplishments, but mostly has had a "tumultuous" relationship with the Legislature, she said.