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Campaign stop draws both fans, detractors

U.S. Senator Norm Coleman signs a hat for June Haas of rural Detroit Lakes during his appearance at Zorbaz Tuesday morning. Coleman talked to a gathering of supporters for about 45 minutes.1 / 2
A George Bush look-alike waves at Coleman supporters leaving his rally at Zorbaz Tuesday. The DFL has had the impersonator following Coleman to his appearances showing his link to the president.2 / 2

When U.S. Senator Norm Coleman walked in at Zorbaz Restaurant in Detroit Lakes Tuesday morning for a brief campaign stop, he was greeted by warm applause.

A group of more than 50 GOP faithful from the lakes area was on hand to show their support for Coleman, who is embroiled in a hotly-contested race with Democratic challenger Al Franken and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate for the next six years.

As Coleman ran through a brief speech outlining his "five principles" for dealing with the fiscal/economic, moral/ethical and global relations challenges facing America should he be re-elected, it was obvious that he had a receptive audience. The crowd frequently erupted into spontaneous applause and enthusiastic cheers.

But not everyone who showed up for the rally was so supportive: Standing a short distance outside the restaurant were two figures, a woman and a man -- the man wearing a full-head mask bearing the visage of U.S. President George W. Bush.

As Coleman left the restaurant, the duo also applauded him -- but it was clear that the hand claps had a mocking quality.

When asked what they were doing at the rally, the woman, who identified herself as Kelly Bjorklund, a Democrat from the Twin Cities, said she and "George Bush" had been following Coleman throughout his campaigning in the state.

They wanted to show how Coleman has been "a rubber stamp" for Bush's policies during his tenure in the Senate.

"His record speaks for itself," Bjorklund said. "He's voted for the president 98 percent of the time.

"We think the people of Minnesota deserve someone who works for them (in the Senate) and doesn't advance Bush's agenda and Washington's corporate special interests."

It was clear that tensions were running high as the election race entered its final stretch: the protesters' presence was greeted with visible hostility from some Coleman supporters.

Coleman, however, seemed to take it in stride, continuing to smile and greet passers-by as he drove away.

Coleman's principles

Earlier, Coleman delivered a short but impassioned speech to his supporters, noting that with just four weeks remaining before the Nov. 4 general election, "It's decision time...and it really does make a difference who serves, who represents you (in Washington).

"These are times of great challenge, but also times of great hope," he continued, noting, "I'm an optimist."

Despite the upbeat tone of the rally, however, Coleman did take a few pointed jabs at his Democratic opponent.

"Don't parachute into this state and say, 'I want to be your senator,'" Coleman said. "...Tell me what you have done to help Minnesotans. It's not enough to point fingers and be a critic."

To find solutions to the current economic crisis facing not only Minnesota, but the United States as a whole, Coleman said lawmakers would need to reach across party boundaries.

"These issues are too big for one party to solve," he said, noting that it was "time to bring people together."

His solutions for reviving the economy and putting Americans in financial trouble back on their feet, Coleman said, were centered around "five principles that guide me."

Principle No. 1, Coleman said, is that "the way you grow jobs is to cut taxes and expand markets."

Others on his list concerned limiting the size of government, protecting the rights of unborn children and foreign policy.

"Limited, effective government is better than bigger government," Coleman said, adding, "The answer to everything is not (to implement) another government program.

"I truly believe in an unfaltering commitment to life...that every child is a gift from God," he continued, adding,

"My opponent (i.e., Franken) is in a very different place."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454