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Dayton running mate visits new DFL office in Bemidji

BEMIDJI -- DFL candidate for lieutenant governor Tina Smith visited the new local DFL headquarters in Bemidji on the campaign trail Thursday .

Smith joined local legislators Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, and Rep. Roger Erickson, DFL-Baudette, at the event, where she reminded the audience of the necessity of getting out the vote.

"Remember, the governor won with 8,866 votes and Rep. Erickson won with about 2,000 votes," she said. "That means, somewhere along the way, if 2,000 people don't show up to vote this year, we're... I almost said something impolite," Smith said to guffaws from the crowd.

When asked to list issues that specifically affected northern Minnesota, Smith first mentioned aquatic invasive species. The Legislature in 2014 allocated millions of dollars to combat AIS, both for the University of Minnesota's research facility and for local initiatives.

"We've put some resources into trying to control the transmission of AIS, and I think we need to keep on working on that," she said.

Next on Smith's list was transportation.

"We need to figure out how to deal with the deferred maintenance and lack of investment in our roads and our bridges," she said. "Also, (mass) transit for people... who don't want to be dependent on cars."

Smith then talked about was jobs and economic development. DFLers at the event touted new employment numbers released this week showing Minnesota at its lowest level of unemployment since 2007, but Smith said the prosperity isn't there in all areas of the state and there's still work to be done.

"We need to pay attention to it from a statewide perspective, but we need to have regional strategies," she said. "We might have one of the lowest unemployment rates... in the country in Minnesota, but there's still serious pockets of unemployment all over Minnesota, including here."

Republicans have criticized the Gov. Mark Dayton/Smith ticket as not representative of Greater Minnesota since both candidates hail from the metro area.

"It's true, I've lived in the metro area," Smith said in response. "I've worked on statewide issues a lot over the course of my career, but... I'm a good listener, too."

Smith served as Dayton's chief of staff for past three years, and also did a stint as Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's chief of staff prior to that.

So far, most of the Minnesotans Smith has talked to on the trail haven't brought up social issues, she said.

"It's interesting, I hardly ever have anybody bring that up to me," she said. "My sense is that one of the lessons learned in 2012 overall is that people... just want to warmly let things be, and they're happy with the way things are right now."

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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