When told Tom Emmer called the gubernatorial race a two-man battle, Independence Party candidate Tom Horner agreed - at least partly.
While in Marshall on Saturday, Emmer, the Republican nominee, said the race is going to come down to Democrat Mark Dayton and himself after learning Horner's camp had previously predicted a two-way race between Horner and Dayton.
Hold on, says Horner.
"I do think it's a two-man race," Horner said in an interview with the Independent this week, agreeing only that Dayton is the common denominator in the race for the state's highest leadership seat.
"For Rep. Emmer, even before he got into the race he had no more than 70 percent Republican support; now it's down to 65 percent," he said. "Democrats won't vote for him and many independents aren't going to vote for him. The challenge for him is how is he going to broaden that base?
"For me, there's a much more clear avenue to winning," Horner added. "I need to do a couple things. I need to keep raising money to keep our message out there and I need people to see we are a vote for the future, a vote for a candidate that will take a step forward. I think Minnesotans see that Emmer has reached a ceiling."
Horner seems to be gaining some late-season momentum, garnering endorsements from a number of daily newspapers, including the Duluth News Tribune, Fargo Forum, Bemidji Pioneer, Grand Forks Herald, West Central Tribune and, most recently, the Minneapolis Star and Tribune.
Horner also received an endorsement from former Minnesota Gov. Al Quie on Thursday.
"I feel very good about the endorsements," Horner said. "For all of them to have such strong endorsements it makes me feel very positive about the kind of campaign I've been running. They feel that I am the only one who can build a bridge between Democrats and Republicans. That's why I got into the race."
Horner said recently that rural elected officials have reason to be concerned about Emmer's proposed budget, more specifically, his Minnesota Fair Plan to replace the current system of Local Government Aid, which all three candidates agree has become less effective. Under his plan, Emmer said the base level of LGA would be reduced to 40 percent of the 2009 level for cities over three years with the balance of the funds given to counties to distribute among any and all of the localities within their county as they see fit. The plan, he says, would eliminate the current practice of allocating LGA resources by city. Dayton, like Emmer and Horner, is a supporter of LGA. He said cities can't afford any more cuts to LGA and that under his budget LGA would be funded through a new tax bracket for individuals who earn more than $130,000 per year and couples who make more than $150,000 per year. Dayton's revenue proposal also includes raising money through a new property tax bracket of 2 percent on homes worth more than $1 million and opening a new state-owned casino.
Horner said because the economy is dynamic and always changing, he supports funding LGA at the full level but adjusting it on a regular basis and working with communities to make sure they are using tax capacity first and LGA as a funding source to ensure they can continue to provide core services.
"We just have to do some common sense things up front," Horner said. "Right now, local governments are required to pay a sales tax to the state government and the money goes to St. Paul. We ought to exempt local governments from paying that sales tax up front. It will save administrative costs and communities would get more money."
Horner also said his main focus on conservation is water quality and protecting the quality of the state's lakes, waterways and groundwater. His eight-point conservation plan focuses on making sure the state works with communities to have solid shoreline ordinances to protect lakes and to make sure resources are available for conservation easements. He said the state should use bonding to purchase Conservation Reserve Program easements along drainage ditches.
"I think we need to do them in a way that works with farmers, so we're not taking land out of production forever," Horner said. "Those kinds of things will protect our waterways. There needs to be more of a partnership between local and state governments."