The three candidates for governor in Minnesota met for a debate today in St. Paul, and argued over budget issues, health care and education. And then, at one point, a talking baby doll made an appearance.Republican Tom Emmer argued that both his opponents stood for bigger government and would hurt job growth in the state, while he advocated “redesigning government.” Emmer brought many of the issues raised back to the need for more jobs. The Democratic nominee, former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, said that “one of the key issues facing this next decade of leadership” is how to make health care affordable. He noted that “about half” of the people using Medicaid services in the state were children under 18, and touted his experience in public service. Horner positioned himself as an alternative to both of the major party candidates, arguing that the state needed a leader who can “forge consensus among the public, and bring that back to the legislature.”
On health care, Emmer argued that a focus on job growth would solve the cost and access problems identified by Dayton. “Fewer and fewer people that are employed means more and more services that the government has to support,” he said.
Horner hit Dayton for overreaching in his vision for state services, and said “leadership is about setting priorities.”
“If everything’s a priority, Mr. Dayton, nothing’s a priority,” Horner said.
For his part, Dayton lashed out at Emmer for insisting that government solutions to social issues were mostly wrong solutions.
“If you don’t believe in government, why do you want to be in charge of it?” Dayton asked Emmer, rhetorically.
The most unexpected moment came toward the end of the debate. While Emmer was talking about Horner’s budget proposals, a young man interrupted the proceedings.
“Hey Emmer, pick on someone your own size!” the man yelled, approaching the stage and shouting “education, not deportation” twice. Then he thrust some kind of talking doll in Emmer’s direction, before being escorted from the stage. A brief silence fell upon the stage.
“Hey guys, it was better than the pennies,” Emmer finally said, to laughs (referring to the time he had a bag of pennies dumped on a table in front of him at a town hall). “I got to say, that was easier than the pennies.”
The TPM Poll Average for this race shows Dayton (38.9%) leading Emmer (34.8%) and Horner (15.2%).
Late Update: The Associated Press reports that the man who thrust the doll at Emmer was none other than Nick Espinosa, a.k.a. Robert Erickson, the same man who dumped all those pennies back in July. And that’s not all: it turns out the doll was a talking Dora the Explorer.