MORTON - The campaigning for Minnesota gubernatorial and legislative candidacy is already under way for 2010. But no matter the final choices, candidates visiting a Senate District 21 DFL fundraiser Saturday said it was important that Democrats stand united.
"We're going to have to stand up and be Democrats," said Minneapolis Mayor and gubernatorial candidate R.T. Rybak.
"Minnesota is no longer a state that works," said Al Kruse, DFL candidate for House District 21A. To change that, he said, voters would have to come together in support of vital services like education and health care.
Governor candidates Rybak, Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Matt Entenza and Rep. Paul Thissen, and local House candidate Kruse were among the speakers at the fundraiser, held at Jackpot Junction.
Some candidates said they were hearing specific concerns from Minnesotans while on the campaign trail, like health care, unemployment and the economy. Kelliher said the budget remains a big challenge for the state. Entenza said in southwest Minnesota, the concerns were "very much about jobs."
Entenza said continuing to develop alternative energy sources in the state is one way for Minnesota to help build up its economy.
"We have to stop buying coal that isn't from around here," Entenza said. Besides developing greater energy independence, Entenza said continuing development of wind, ethanol and biodiesel would help create jobs.
Thissen said another challenge to rural Minnesota is how to encourage agriculture when fewer and fewer young people are becoming farmers, and high land prices provide an obstacle to getting started. Thissen said he is working on legislation that would provide tax credits or other incentives for buying farmland or transferring it to a new owner.
Thissen said he also had some concerns about health care. While the passing of the national health care bill was a positive thing for many people, he said, "I worry we're not going to be able to maintain the system" financially. That system might need further regulation, he said.
Thissen wasn't the only official to mention the health care bill Saturday. U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson addressed his voting against the bill during a short speech at the fundraiser.
"I'm aware people are very much disappointed in my vote," Peterson said, citing thousands of phone calls and e-mails at his office. "There are reasons for it," although he said it would take more time than he had to explain them all. Now that it has passed, however, Peterson said, "I will support it, and I will work to make this work."