CHANHASSEN, Minn. - Four men who want to be the Minnesota's next governor took the stage at Chanhassen High School Thursday night, to share their common vision of replacing a Democratic incumbent Mark Dayton.
Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, entrepreneur Scott Honour, State Senator Dave Thompson, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson are the Republican nomination for governor. They all appeared at a candidate forum sponsored by the Carver County GOP Committee.
The primary election won't happen until Aug. 12, which explains why these forums don't draw huge crowds this early in the game. But Republicans face a tighter timeline of trying to win over delegates at the party's state convention in April.
The list of candidates could grow, because the filing deadline for the 2014 election doesn't close until June 3.
Thursday night the quartet of candidates took very similar ideological stands on issues ranging from taxes, regulatory reforms, school achievement, private school tax credits and gun control.
All four of the Republican hopefuls said they wouldn't change the policy that allows people with gun permits to carry them inside the State Capitol, after notifying the staff.
"As governor I'll feel safer at my desk knowing that law-abiding citizens are carrying weapons in the Capitol," Honour remarked.
Working Across the Aisle
When asked how well they'd be able to work with lawmakers from the other side of the aisle, they pointed to their experiences.
Zellers pointed out that he was able to get Gov. Dayton to sign several initiatives aimed at streamlining government, and stimulating business productivity.
The guy I most want to replace I got to sign permit reform, education reform and to repeal a tax. I think it's a pretty good start."
Johnson noted he worked across party lines on judicial reform bills during his days as a legislator.
"I carried probably the biggest tort reform, lawsuit reform bill we've seen in three or four decades when I was a freshman in the legislature," Johnson said.
Honour, who is a political newcomer, said he's accustomed to working with people who aren't on the same wavelength.
"I would not have been successful in buying and fixing 60 companies and implementing the changes we needed to implement there if I didn't know how to work with someone that might have a different view at the start," he said.
Thompson said he has worked with Democrats on issues, but he has also taken the lead on controversial issues.
"I have the courage of my convictions," Thompson said.
"I've authored the right to work legislation. I've been leading on repeal of the damaging taxes passed by this governor."
No Love for Light Rail
On the issue of transportation funding, all four men said they would address highway congestion by building more lanes of highway and supporting bus rapid transit.
The all showed equal disdain for light rail, including the $1.25 billion Southwest Line currently in the planning and design stage. Most of it will be funded by the federal government and the counties, but state bonding money is also on the table.
"The light rail line out to southwest -- and I know there may be some in the room who don't like to hear it -- it can't work. It's not going to work," Zellers said.
Honour said that I-494 in the south metro has the same number of lanes it did when he was a child and would visit his grandmother in Richfield.
"You have the Met Council putting forth a vision that has us all living in dormitories along a light rail system," Honour asserted.
Johnson said his fellow Hennepin County board members are "obsessed with trains" even though, in his opinion, they don't deliver enough congestion relief to justify the expense.
"People have romanticized rail, instead of doing a real cost-benefit analysis," he said.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)