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Dayton rallies students, discusses election issues

Gov. Mark Dayton stopped at Bemidji State University to show support Wednesday for four DFL candidates seeking office this November. The governor also spent time answering tough questions from students. Shown above is Dayton, flanked by, Sen. Tom Saxhaug, left, and Rep. John Persell. Not pictured are House District 2A candidate Roger Erickson and Sen. Rod Skoe. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Although he won’t be on the ballot again for another two years, Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday this year’s election will be the most important of his life.

Dayton, along with DFL legislators, spoke at Bemidji State University Wednesday afternoon.

 Dayton used the event mainly to encourage students to vote and discuss issues facing the state. Joining him were Sens. Tom Saxhaug and Rod Skoe, Rep. John Persell and House District 2A hopeful Roger Erickson, whose campaign signs stood in front of the podium.

Addressing students gathered in Hobson Memorial Union, Dayton touted the importance of higher education.

“What you’re doing here is the ticket to a successful future,” Dayton said. “We’ve got such a stake in all of you.”

Dayton said it has been “terribly misguided” to cut funding for the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system in recent years, adding that his proposed budget at the beginning of the session two years ago that would have raised taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans would have raised $1.5 billion.

“That would have funded an increase in funding for the University and for MnSCU,” Dayton said.

Dayton also touched on several election issues during a question-and-answer session with the audience.

Dayton referred to the voter ID amendment as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” adding that it won’t solve the problem of felon voting. He also said he personally opposes the marriage amendment.

“Your student ID isn’t going to be sufficient for identification to vote,” he said, adding that that would also affect senior citizens who may have to travel to get a valid ID and would cost local governments to implement.

When asked if there are certain guidelines he’d like to implement if the voter ID amendment passes, Dayton said he and the Legislature would have to follow the constitution, but he would like to mitigate any affects the amendment would have on voters.

“I would hope that we wouldn’t put something into the constitution that we don’t know the ramifications of,” Skoe said.

Dayton also criticized Republican legislators a couple of times during the visit, including once for standing on the “extreme right wing of the information highway” when opposing the health care exchange. The exchange would act as an online marketplace for people and businesses to buy and compare health insurance plans, which proponents say would foster competition among insurers and health care companies.

“To me, there’s no question that, based on a performance evaluation on the two years that they’ve been in the majority, that they deserve a demotion,” Dayton said. 

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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