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Gubernatorial candidate Hatch touts agenda during brief stop in Willmar as part of five-city tour

WILLMAR -- Mike Hatch said his campaign for governor is "so red hot" that his campaign vehicle caught on fire Monday while on a five-city tour that included a stop in Willmar.

Whether or not it was because of his campaign or not, the vehicle Hatch and his campaign workers were traveling in did apparently blow a hose and overheated after leaving St. Cloud.

The car trouble caused Hatch to be about 45 minutes late to his appearance before local supporters at Northern Grounds in Willmar.

Animated and in good spirits, DFL Attorney General Hatch said Minnesota is at an "extremely important juncture" in its history with the opportunity to take the state in a better direction.

He criticized Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty for eroding the "great pride" Minnesotans have had in quality of jobs, health care and education.

Hatch said college tuition that has increased 59 percent in the last four years, decreased child care funding, increased property taxes and increased fees -- including a $2,800 cost to nursing home residents -- are the harsh results of Pawlenty's $4.8 billion budget-cutting maneuvers that have fallen on people who are "less able" to bear the extra costs.

State budget cuts that affect local family service programs have meant that counties are left "holding the bag" and often left no choice but to increase property taxes to pay for state-mandated programs.

"We can change this state," said Hatch, and "restore pride" in Minnesota.

Hatch, who emphasized the need to make education at the state's colleges affordable, said he would fund colleges by collecting an estimated $1 billion in tax revenue he says is left sitting on the table because of corporate tax loopholes. With more aggressive auditing, he said more money can be found and collected.

"The money is there. It's real," he said.

During Hatch's brief stop in Willmar he spent considerable time praising Sen. Dean Johnson's work as Senate majority leader. Hatch said Johnson is "well thought of and well-respected" and has made "a lot of difficult decisions."

Johnson, DFL-Willmar, is being opposed by Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, for the Senate District 13 seat.

Hatch said the district where the majority leader resides usually "does well" in terms of state legislation. He said a district that's "lucky" enough to have the majority leader would be wise to make sure he's re-elected.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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