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Rybak campaigns for Dayton, Olson

Democrat gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton's plan to tax the wealthy will help middle-class Minnesotans send their kids to college, says Minneapolis R.T. Rybak.

"Mark's saying something pretty simple," Rybak said in an interview Tuesday night. "It's tough, but it's simple. We're going to ask the people who make the very most money in the state to give a little more, so middle-class Minnesotans can afford to go to college. That's fair.

"I think as we talk to people, they get that," he added. It's a very clear and simple discussion."

Rybak and Minnesota DFL Party Associate Chairwoman Donna Cassutt will visit with Bemidji State University students this morning in support of the campaigns for Dayton and Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji.

"The reality is that the state can only move forward if middle-class people can afford to go to college. And we're losing the ability for middle-class people to go to college in Minnesota." Rybak said.

"One of the things I like about Mary Olson is that she's gone down there (St. Paul) and ruffled feathers for the right reasons -- she stands up for consumers and that makes the insurance industry nervous," said Rybak. "So they have a hand-picked candidate running against her."

Challenging Olson is Bemidji insurance agency owner John Carlson, president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

"She's somebody who goes down there and tries to open up government, which makes some of the lobbyists kind of nervous and they try to run a campaign against her," Rybak said. "Mary's unbought and she's tough. That's what people need in tough times."

Olson said in the past session there were three different issues that the insurance sought that she supported, against the lawyers' lobbyists.

"I'm not anti-insurance, it's just that there are a lot of other situations like using credit scoring to determine insurance rates which have been shown to increase the profit for insurance companies or in looking at health care reform and making it better for consumers."

Rep. Tom Emmer, the Republican for governor, is staunchly against the health reform bill passed by Congress, but Rybak said it will help Minnesotans in many ways.

One way, he said, is the provision where parents can keep their children under their policies until age 26, freeing up more money for college tuition.

DFLers are optimistic about Dayton, who could become the first Democratic governor in nearly 30 years, said Cassutt.

Independence Party candidate Tom Horner is dividing the Republican Party, she said. "There's a lot of rumbling, a lot of undercurrent within that party."

Cassutt said that "for us, it's clear. You can't support George Bush for eight years and Tim Pawlenty's policies for eight years and expect and expect us now to think you're something different."

With Emmer, "it's more of the same failed policies of Tim Pawlenty," she said.

Dayton isn't too far to the left, Cassutt said. "What Mark has going for him is he's authentic. He's honest, he's direct. He's tackling the big issues in a forthright manner that we haven't seen from either of the other candidates."

That, she said, precedes right, left, center or whatever. The middle class has borne much of the tax burden, also property taxes, "and Mark's saying let's spread that out a little bit more."

Rybak said Bemidji and Minneapolis are similar, with both on the Mississippi River, and he's forged a partnership with Olson on several issues, including working with American Indian youth in the urban city to gain more cultural knowledge on the reservation and sharing that with their urban counterparts.

"We're going to talk about college affordability," Rybak said of this morning's visit to BSU. "We're just going to hammer home that Mary's been working to keep college affordable while Tim Pawlenty hasn't. We're going to talk about the issue that students can now stay on their parent's health care until they're 26 which allows them to pay off college debt, while the person running against Mary doesn't like tax reform."

A great Minnesota has to have an affordable way for a kid to go to college, Rybak said. "Mary and Mark Dayton have that idea and the other people don't. It's just that simple."