Dayton, Johnson agree to five governor debates
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's two major candidates for governor will debate five times before the Nov. 4 election, including a Forum News Service event in Moorhead.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota’s two major candidates for governor will debate five times before the Nov. 4 election, including a Forum News Service event in Moorhead.
Campaigns for Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican challenger Jeff Johnson have been going back and forth about debates since shortly after Johnson won the Aug. 12 primary election. They reached agreement on the debates Friday.
Johnson originally sought more than a dozen debates, but Dayton said he would participate in six, after being in about 30 when he ran for governor four years ago. The campaigns could only agree on five 2014 debates.
Three of the debates will be in greater Minnesota, with two in the Twin Cities.
The Johnson campaign was upset that Dayton would not take part in two debates sponsored by Twin Cities television stations.
“Mark Dayton turned these two televised debates down because he and his handlers are afraid of what Minnesotans will quickly realize when they see Dayton and Jeff sitting next to each other debating the issues on live television: That Jeff Johnson will be a far better governor,” Johnson adviser Gregg Peppin said.
Dayton has said that he does not see a need for more than six debates. Presidential candidates take part in only half that many, he said.
The Forum News Service event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 8 in Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Hansen Theatre.
“With readers throughout Minnesota, Forum News Service is uniquely positioned to host a debate of this caliber,” news service Director Mary Jo Hotzler said. “It’s a great opportunity for our communities to hear directly from the candidates and to interact with them, and for our media organizations to do the same.”
Forum News Service covers state and regional news for media throughout the Upper Midwest. It is part of Forum Communications Co., based in Fargo, N.D., which owns about three dozen newspapers as well as broadcast stations and printing operations.
The news service’s event will be a 90-minute debate, with news service political and government reporter Don Davis moderating and WDAY television anchor Dana Mogck hosting and asking questions provided by audience members. Questions also will be accepted before Oct. 8 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
The news service will offer an invitation to appear in the debate to any candidate who obtains at least 10 percent support in an independent and established poll a week before the debate.
WDAY and WDAZ television will televise it, and it will be streamed live on Forum Communications websites. The debate will focus on greater Minnesota issues, but other major topics also may be discussed.
Besides agreeing to debates Friday, the campaigns learned that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Leadership Fund endorsed Johnson.
“We believe Jeff Johnson is the candidate who best represents the Minnesota Chamber’s pro-business, pro-jobs agenda,” said Bill Blazar, interim president of the Minnesota Chamber. “His commitment to making sure we have a competitive state economy will mean better opportunities and a better quality of life for all Minnesotans.”
Blazar was critical of Dayton for raising taxes on the richest Minnesotans and enacting more regulations.
The governor debate series will open Oct. 1 in Rochester with a 3:30 p.m. event sponsored by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, Post Bulletin of Rochester and the local chamber of commerce.
The Duluth News Tribune and the area’s chamber will sponsor an 8 a.m. Oct. 14 debate, with Fox 9 holding a 9 a.m. one on Oct. 19 in St. Paul. Twin Cities Public Television will air a 7 p.m. debate on Oct. 31.
Forum News Service and other groups also invited the two major U.S. Senate candidates to a debate, but Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken rejected most. Instead, he proposed three debates: Oct. 14 in a debate sponsored by the Duluth News Tribune and chamber, a date not yet set on WCCO television in Minneapolis and Nov. 2 on Minnesota Public Radio.
A spokesman for Republican Senate challenger Mike McFadden said his campaign is not confirming any of the events until Franken’s staff talks about more debates.