WILLMAR -- Looking fresh on the second day of his three-day tour of the state, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer brought his campaign message, and a bus load of Republican candidates and party leaders, to Willmar Thursday morning.
Willmar was the eighth town on Emmer's 20-city tour.
Emmer and a half-dozen different candidates praised each other, gav digs to their DFL opponents and gave stump speeches to a modest crowd of local Republicans who gathered in the parking lot of the Kandi Entertainment Center.
Emmer said the other candidates running for governor would take a "business as usual" approach to running the state by threatening to make cuts unless taxes are raised.
Cutting expenditures is only a "symptom of the real problem" that he would correct if elected governor, said Emmer.
Addressing the state's current deficit and ensuring its future economic health means reducing redundancy and the "bloat" of government by redesigning government and making sure services are delivered efficiently.
What Emmer's redesign plan would look like, however, isn't totally clear.
In a brief interview Emmer said he has some "strong ideas" but wants to "listen first" and use input he's been receiving from community leaders before he makes his plan public.
Emmer said he is not enamored with the redesign plan offered by the Association of Minnesota Counties.
That plan calls for counties to take on more of the state's work, like social service issues, if the state pulls back mandates that make it more expensive and inefficient for counties to provide those services.
The problem with the Association of Minnesota Counties plan, said Emmer, is that it shifts bureaucracy and services from the state to the county. With 87 counties, Emmer said there's already duplication of services that needs to be remedied.
During his rally speech, Emmer said Minnesotans are "walking with a heavy burden" of unemployment, a tough economy and fear for the future. He said it doesn't matter if people are Democrats or Republicans. "We're all Minnesotans."
But when it comes to having the answers for correcting the problems, Emmer said it "just so happens that what we offer is the right path."
Emmer accused Democrats of "living in the '70s" during the "tax more and spend more" era of the Minnesota Miracle.
He said a new Minnesota miracle means reducing business taxes and regulations so that businesses can expand and provide jobs in the local economy.
Emmer's running mate, Annette Meeks, echoed the cry to move away from an "outmoded business model" of increasing taxes and regulations and to move toward less government involvement with business and in people's personal lives.
The theme was reiterated by the other candidates, who each took a turn at the microphone, including Sen. Joe Gimse of Willmar, who is running for re-election, and Lee Byberg, of Willmar, who is running for Congress against Rep. Collin Peterson.
Byberg said the state's large 7th District is "ready for a change" of promoting free enterprise and limited government.
Electing Republicans will trade the current model where government "tells you how to live" with a new model that is "setting you free," said Byberg.
"Good job, Lee. Good-bye Collin," shouted a woman from the crowd.
Dan Severson, the GOP candidate for secretary of state, Chris Barden, who is running for attorney general, and Pat Anderson, who is looking to retake her former position as state auditor, also spoke briefly.
Bruce Vogel, of Willmar, who is running for the House against Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, in District 13B, was introduced to the crowd as well but did not speak.