Too much at stake to vote blindly

The gubernatorial race is coming to the U, so why not come hear what the candidates have to say?
October 11, 2010

The three candidates for Minnesota governor met in a debate at Hamline University on Saturday night. It was a feisty affair, with the candidates taking aim at each other’s budget plans, leadership abilities and, perhaps most importantly for this campus, their plans for making college more affordable.

For an electorate looking for its first new governor in eight years, it was an event to behold — a discussion on the future of the state and the differing approaches the candidates would use to get us there.

But unless you turned on a TV, you probably missed it. The debate took place in a Hamline conference hall, with a small audience there to watch.

That won’t be the case this Friday afternoon. Republican Tom Emmer, DFLer Mark Dayton and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner will debate at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center. There are 300 tickets reserved for students at mndaily.com/debate, and additional tickets are available for faculty and staff. It’ll be the first, and likely only, event featuring all three candidates at the University at the same time.

The repercussions this election will have on the state are well-documented. The state faces a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit. The recession continues, and after two years of budget cuts, public institutions are looking for some relief. There’s no doubt they’ll still be looking after the Legislature adjourns next May.

The University has been hit hard by the recession. The Legislature was forced to cut the University’s state funding down to 2006 levels last year, to $1.2 billion. Tuition increased 7.5 percent this year (if stimulus money isn’t accounted for), and for the first time ever, tuition revenue outweighs state support here.

The gubernatorial candidates will argue there’s little they can do to stop tuition from going up, and to a certain extent, they’re right. But they set the tone for the Legislature, and the appropriation from that body will determine what the University is forced to do with tuition and job cuts in the years ahead. If you care about the future of this school, not to mention the state at large, you’ve got to make a choice in the voting booth Nov. 2.

So The Minnesota Daily, along with the undergraduate and graduate student governments, the political science department and the Minnesota Broadcasters

Association, are here to help you make that choice. At 4:30 p.m. Friday, the three candidates will come to McNamara and talk about their visions for the state. Over the course of an hour and a half, they’ll talk about the direction they’d take Minnesota. The last half hour of the debate will focus squarely on issues of higher education. We’ll give you the chance to ask questions as well by submitting them online. So, if you’ve got something you want addressed, here’s your chance.

There have been an incredible number of debates this election cycle. Saturday night, Dayton joked that it was their 23rd debate of the year. Emmer followed up by saying that number was at least in the high teens. That’s an awfully stacked schedule for the candidates and for political junkies following this campaign blow-by-blow. But each debate is different. Every audience has new sets of ears and a smattering of undecided voters hearing the candidates and their positions for the first time.

If you’re in that camp, come to McNamara on Friday or watch the debate online at mndaily.com/debate. There’s too much at stake this year to vote blindly or, worse yet, not vote at all.

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