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Horner says race for governor is between him and Dayton

WILLMAR -- With a wave of campaign momentum on his side, Tom Horner said the race for governor is now between himself and DFL'er Mark Dayton.

During a campaign stop Wednesday in Willmar, Independence Party candidate Horner said he believes Republican Tom Emmer has tapped out his base of support.

"Representative Emmer is hitting a ceiling of 28 to 30 percent and it's just hard for me to see where he goes beyond that," said Horner, adding that Emmer has consolidated the most "conservative members of his party" but has always been unable to win over one-third of the Republican base.

"If he can't win one-third of his own political base, he's not a candidate who's going to win a lot of Democratic voters," said Horner, a self-described centrist who's been endorsed by some prominent Republicans and daily newspapers. "I just don't see where he (Emmer) goes to win the votes that he needs."

Because he's engaging voters who have been "pushed aside" by Emmer and Dayton, Horner said he expects to get votes from "soft Dayton supporters" and the "extraordinary high number of undecided voters" to get the 800,000 votes he said he will need to win the race.

"I believe my message will resonate between now and Election Day," said Horner.

That message includes frustration over gridlock at the Capitol and Horner's promise to end the status quo of making political decisions based on bumper stickers rather than good policy.

He said Emmer would take the state a few steps to the right and Dayton would take the state a few steps to the left when what's needed is to move the state forward.

"We can't move sideways. We need to be moving forward," Horner said. "This is the year in which we need boldness in Minnesota."

Horner said his proposals should appeal to those on all sides.

"I'm the one who says, 'Republicans, I've got something for you. Democrats, I've got something for you. Minnesotans I've got really good public policy for you.'"

Unlike Emmer who only wants to make budget cuts and Dayton who supports tax increases on wealthy residents, Horner said, what the state really needs is tax reform. His proposal includes lowering the sales tax but broadening it to include clothing and some services.

On education, Horner said more funding needs to be dedicated to classrooms but efficiencies, like more consolidations of districts and sharing personnel with counties and cities, are needed.

He said the bargaining entity Education Minnesota needs to work with the state or else the state will have to "go around them" to allow flexibility in teacher seniority and contract deadlines that will establish good long-term funding solutions and the best education for children, especially for early childhood education.

When asked about gay marriage, Horner said he would work to eliminate discrimination from existing state laws, like those that provide discounts on fishing licenses only for traditional families.

Because legislative districts will be redrawn next year, he said it's vital to have an independent governor overseeing the process. He said some districts are "too" Republican and Democratic and legislators have no incentive to compromise at the Capitol.

When it comes to rural Minnesota, Horner said his choice of for lieutenant governor, Jim Mulder, is a clear example of his commitment to "rural vitality." Mulder, who is from the Renville area, had served until recently as the executive director for the Association of Minnesota Counties.

Horner said he supports Local Government Aid to cities and counties and said the gas tax was a "good public policy" that should not have involved such strong partisan opposition.

Horner, who's been a Republican spokesman for years on such venues as Minnesota Public Radio and Twin Cities Public Television, promised to remain in the Independence Party if he's elected. He said he would not switch back to the Republican Party.

He said both the Republican and Democrat parties have "lost some touch with Minnesotans" and have forgotten that their job is not to "just win election" but to engage people in policies and politics to make the state work.

Carolyn Lange writes for the West Central Tribune of Willmar, which is owned by Forum Communications Co. which also owns the Daily Globe