Molnau announces Pawlenty re-election campaign in Luverne
LUVERNE -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty dispatched his running mate, Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, to Luverne Wednesday to announce their re-election campaign. Molnau made the standard political speech. It was only after it had ended -- when she responded to questions from the small gathering in the basement of the Rock County Library -- that an element of campaign passion was ignited.
When asked to reveal what impressed her most about the governor during their first term together, she had a quick answer.
"The fact that he really cares," Molnau said. "He really takes everything to heart. He's sincere. ... He's competitive, too. I think that's a good thing. And he's also a quick study."
As if to prove the governor's genuineness, Molnau said that while in office together, either she or Pawlenty had attended every overseas troop deployment or welcome home in the state. In fact, she said, Pawlenty has made a commitment to attend the funeral this weekend of a Minnesota National Guardsman who was killed last week -- forcing postponement of Saturday's Republican Party convention, where the governor is expected to win easy endorsement.
"We'll have to move that, because the governor wouldn't have it any other way," Molnau explained.
Many political analysts believe Pawlenty's "likable" personality will help him in his bid for re-election. Molnau said Wednesday that she agrees with that assessment, but she was careful to list the governor's first-term accomplishments at her Luverne press conference.
"We had a great first term, and I'm proud of everything we were able to accomplish," she said.
Molnau said that since Pawlenty was elected, almost 100,000 new jobs came to Minnesota. The state has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, she said, and the governor has introduced rigorous educational standards. Penalties for sexual predators were strengthened, and more has been done to shut down methamphetamine labs. Molnau also touted efforts to expand alternative fuels.
"We are looked at nationwide as a leader in alternative fuels. And nobody has to tell anyone in this area how important it is to you," she said.
Meanwhile, critics are wasting no time taking issue with Pawlenty's record. Even as the 2006 legislative session ended in May, Minority Leader Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul, accused the governor of failing to improve school funding, provide for health care and gain permanent property tax relief. His inaction on providing outstate communities with much-needed Local Government Aid (LGA) was particularly disappointing, he said at a May 21 stop in Worthington.
Elsewhere, a television ad from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota charges that Pawlenty's budget cut 38,000 Minnesotans from purchasing health insurance through MN Care. On Friday, Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Mike Hatch, said Pawlenty's focus on "stadiums and casinos" failed to address the future of Minnesota in a global economy.
When reminded of Hatch's remarks Wednesday, Molnau used transportation as a foil.
"We had over 207 transportation projects, state projects, going on last year, and we had about 170 this year," she said. "We aren't talking about those projects any more, we're doing them."
Portraying her running mate as a can-do governor, Molnau said Pawlenty has made a "huge commitment" to protecting the environment. And in an oblique reference to Democrats, she said Minnesota's economy cannot improve by raising taxes. She said Minnesotans in favor of capping property taxes should vote Republican, adding, "We can't say that we're undertaxed. Because we're certainly not."
Molnau steered clear of stadium issues in the Luverne announcement. Last week, Pawlenty signed a controversial bill for a new Minnesota Twins ballpark, but when asked after her press conference how she believes the issue will play out in the November election, Molnau spoke of a need for "amenities" to attract people and businesses to Minnesota.
"We've been talking about a stadium for 12 years. I think (Minnesotans) have been stadiumed out. They just wanted this issue to move forward," she said.