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Emmer hopes his 'outsider' status will appeal to voters

WILLMAR -- With five years under his belt as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Tom Emmer said he's not a career politician but is a political outsider who would be able to cut through the political gamesmanship in St. Paul if he's elected governor.

Emmer, 48, of Delano, is seeking the Republican endorsement for governor. He spent some time Friday at the Republican booth at the Kandiyohi County Fair in Willmar. A trial attorney, Emmer had maintained a branch office in Willmar until he was elected to the Legislature.

Emmer said many politicians are "afraid to vote a certain way" because of how it would affect their ability to be re-elected when, instead, they should vote for "what's right for Minnesota."

He said he knows what's right for Minnesota -- a smaller government that functions "within its means," an economic environment that allows the free market to grow, reducing restrictive and expensive mandates and giving people the freedom to be "stupid and fail."

Emmer said he has been accused of being "angry" at times, but he said he's just "passionate" and eager to educate people on issues, including what he sees as the failures of the Democrats' proposed health care reforms.

If socialized medicine is adopted on the federal level, Minnesota is "not in" if he's governor, said Emmer. Citing the Mayo Clinic as an example, Emmer said the state has an excellent health care system that would improve if the issues of access and cost are addressed.

Emmer expressed his frustration with the "political environment" and "abusive political behavior" during this year's legislative session, saying Democrats waited until the final days to present their budget proposal and then threatened lawmakers they needed to vote for it or risk harming the state's schools, veterans and senior citizens.

He wants to see a law passed that would allow the governor to declare a budget emergency that would require legislators to balance the budget in the first 45 days of the session.

When asked how he would work with Democrats if elected governor, Emmer said he has a "great relationship with everyone in St. Paul."

But he also said that when he reaches his hand across the aisle, it's to "grab your hand and pull you over with us."

He said compromising isn't about both sides giving up something, and negotiating legislation isn't about getting a "deal."

It's about "right and wrong," said Emmer.

Although he said Democrats' proposals are wrong much of the time, it's not right to just "mock the other guy's ideas." He said the public needs to be educated about issues, which is part of what's he's doing during a campaign tour of the state this summer.

Emmer said his love for Minnesota drove his decision to run for governor. He said he has a "wonderful opportunity" to win the Republican endorsement in April.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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