Gubernatorial candidates gather at Gustavus

President Ohle delivers his opening speech at the gubernatorial forum. The candidates spoke on a variety of issues including the economy, student financial aid and gay rights. Alex Messenger.

With just about a year until the 2010 election, a dozen of the gubernatorial hopefuls came to Gustavus on Monday, Nov. 9. Democratic, Republican and third party candidates tried to convince about 200 Gustavus students, faculty and  staff and St. Peter community members that they should be Minnesota’s next governor.

Gustavus President Jack Ohle opened the event by welcoming the candidates, and Assistant Professor of Political Science Kate Knutson moderated the event. With the help of Assistant Professor of Political Science Alisa Rosenthal, Knutson also directed questions to the field.

The questions ranged from gay marriage to environmental issues, but the main focus of the night was post-secondary education. Candidates touched on creating jobs for new college graduates, funding for the State Grant Program (which funds student aid) and health care for young adults.

For now, the candidates are looking to secure their party’s nomination in the spring caucuses. All the candidates, however, are already looking to the general election in the fall.

For some, the trip to Gustavus was a return to the area where they grew up. Gustavus alum Margret Anderson Kelliher ’90 grew up just a few miles from St. Peter. “It seems like just yesterday that I was running for [Student Senate Co-President],” Anderson-Kelliher said.

Several candidates cited their rural background while in St. Peter, hoping to connect with the local community. “I think the candidate that can appeal in places like St. Peter and Moorhead is the Democrat that can win,” Senator Tom Bakk, one of the DFL hopefuls, said.

For others, it was the start of a long campaign. Mayor of Minneapolis R. T. Rybak made Gustavus one of his first official campaign stops after launching his campaign last week. Rybak just finished a lopsided victory for reelection and is already a top contender for the DFL nomination.

Though the entire field of roughly 26 candidates was invited to the forum, only 12 accepted the invitation. The top contenders for the Republican Party of Minnesota’s (RPM) nomination didn’t attend Monday’s forum, but it did draw several from the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) field. One of the major DFL candidates, Matt Entenza, turned down the invitation to the forum, but he attended a roundtable discussion with the College Democrats on Wednesday.

The field is expected to narrow before the spring caucuses. Senator Mike Jungbauer, a republican candidate, dropped out of the race Wednesday. Jungbauer cited the tough economy making it difficult for his supporters to donate to his campaign.

A video of the forum will be made available by the Office of Marketing and Communication this week.


The Weekly would like to assist the Gustavus community in getting acquainted with the candidates who have come to campus in the last week. Editor’s note: Mike Jungbauer will not be featured as he has dropped out of the race.

R.T. Rybak

Party: DFL
Current Position: Mayor of Minneapolis

“College is what made my family,” Rybak said. Post-secondary education was among his main topics. Gay rights was another. “I am an unflinching supporter of gay rights,” Rybak said. The Mayor stated that he would sign a gay marriage bill if it was proposed.

Leslie Davis

Party: RPM
Current Position: President of Earth Protectors group

“My main objective is to see that there are jobs for people coming out of schools,” Davis said. He spoke strongly about the economy, giving his mantra more than once: “You can’t pay debt with debt and get out of debt.”

Margaret Anderson Kelliher

Party: DFL
Current Position: Speaker, Minnesota House

In the visit to her alma mater, Amderson Kelliher emphasized her connection to Gustavus and the importance of higher education aid programs.“Both the state grant program and the direct aid to public institutions are very important,” Anderson Kelliher said.

Tom Rukavina

Party: DFL
Current Position: Minnesota House Representative (5A)

The Iron Range democrat drew on his rural background to connect with St. Peter residents. Rukavina focused on jobs for new graduates and higher education in his speech. He told the audience, made up largely of college students, that the most important issue they will face in the next few years is finding jobs in a struggling economy.

Peter Roess

Party: Green
Current Position: Private business owner

The lone Green Party candidate at the forum, Roess emphasized usinga “green industry” to create jobs for Minnesotans. As part of this theme, Roess spoke a great deal about building a “green” economy and preserving the environment.

Susan Gaertner

Party: DFL
Current Position: Ramsey County Attorney

The main reason the Ramsey County Attorney cited for running was that she wanted to change the culture of leadership in Minnesota. “I want to change the culture of leadership … to a culture of making tough courageous decisions that move the state forward,” Gaertner said.

John Marty

Party: DFL
Current Position: Minnesota Senator (District 54)

Healthcare is Marty’s top issue. He believes in a system that provides care for 100% of people. Marty also supports the State Grant Program, which aids post-secondary students. “When a catasrophe happens in this state,” said Marty of the 35 bridge collapse, “people don’t run away, they run to help.”

Ole Savior

Party: DFL
Current Position: Poet, artist, and writer

Perennial candidate Ole Savior believes that the issue that sets him apart from the rest of the field is his support for the Minnesota Vikings stadium. “I am the only candidate you will hear who has a viable plan to build a [new Minnesota] Vikings stadium,” Savior said.

Chris Wright

Party: Grassroots Party
Current Position: Computer technician

The unique position Wright brought to Monday night’s forum was his ambition to end the war on drugs and to use the tax revenue from the legal sale of drugs to pay for a variety of initiatives.

Steve Kelley

Party: DFL
Current Position: Attorney and professor

“What I’m most passionate about is the opportunity that we have to close the achievment gap and enable all our students to graduate from some post-secondary education,” Kelley said.

Matt Entenza

Party: DFL
Current Position: Founder, Minnesota 2020

“Minnesota has gone from one  of the top ranked states to, increasingly, a middle ranked state since the state has stopped investing [in education],” Entenza said.

Tom Bakk

Party: DFL
Current Position: MN Senator (District 6)

Bakk centered his speech on his rural upbringing and his work as a carpenter, a profession which he says has taught him essential problem solving skills that he would use as governor.

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