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Red Lake hosts gubernatorial forum

Four Democratic candidates for governor are slated to attend a forum Saturday at the new Seven Clans Red Lake Casino.

All DFL and Republican candidates were invited to the forum, but only four have committee, said spokesman Michael Meuers. They were all contacted by both e-mail and a follow-up phone call.

Confirmed are Sen. John Marty of Roseville, Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner.

"We are proud to be hosting the first event to be held in the new casino event center, following the Grand Opening held this past weekend," said Michelle Paquin Johnson, co-chairwoman of the sponsoring Red Lake Political Education Committee.

The non-partisan event is 1:30-4 p.m. Saturday at the new casino south of Red Lake at the reservation border on state Highway 89. There will be food (chili and fry bread) and non-alcoholic beverages available at no cost. A full-service restaurant and snack bar is also available in the complex.

"We hope to draw both Indian and non-Indian participants from Senate Districts 2, 3 and 4, which includes Minnesota's three largest Indian reservations," said RLPEC Co-Chairman Gary Fuller. "We expect local and tribal elected officials, political activists and an interested electorate seeking information about candidates just prior to the Minnesota caucuses."

Earlier this month nine of the 10 Democratic candidates for governor -- Gaertner was the lone holdout -- at an American Indian issues forum at Bemidji State University. Republicans were invited but none attended. All six GOP candidates, however, did attend a Republican-sponsored forum Tuesday night in Bemidji.

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton appeared at the former event, but isn't confirmed for Saturday's Red Lake forum. This week, in the Twin Cities, Dayton said he would support a state-run casino in competition with Indian casinos which now have a monopoly.

Saturday's schedule has a social from 1:30-2 p.m. and then from 2-4 p.m. a candidate forum with introductions, speeches and a question and answer session.

Candidates will be allowed to display brochures and signs at designated tables. The Gubernatorial Candidate Fair is sponsored by the non-profit committee, the Red Lake Tribal Council, Seven Clans Casino Red Lake and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.

The Red Lake Political Education Committee was formed in 1996 to support and conduct non-partisan research to increase public awareness, increase voter participation in all elections, and increase voters' knowledge of political and social issues.

The forum comes just days before Tuesday's precinct caucuses at which party members will elect delegates to attend higher party gatherings at which an endorsement will be given for governor.

Three candidates, however - Dayton, former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza and Gaertner - have said they will go onto the Sept. 14 primary.