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Horner lashes out at frontrunners in governor's race

ST. PAUL - Lagging in the polls, Independence Party candidate Tom Horner used what he jokingly referred to as their "12,875th debate" Sunday evening to throw some verbal punches at the two front-runners for governor, Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer.

The KSTP-TV/League of Women Voters debate at Metropolitan State University covered much of the same ground -- the state budget deficit, jobs, education, health care -- that the candidates had discussed in their previous, by Dayton's count, 25 debates. But this time the IP candidate leveled some of his harshest charges to date.

Horner called Dayton a "person who keeps running from one office after another, has never shown leadership, hasn't shown the ability, the temperament to really be a leader on these difficult issues."

He also told the Democrat, "You have never met a promise that you won't make if it satisfies a special interest."

Dayton didn't respond to either charge.

When he thought Emmer had misrepresented his position on an issue, Horner told the Republican, "It's this listening problem that you have where you pretend that you know more than anybody else and then you talk to the rest of the public as if what you're saying is gospel. That's when you get stuck, when you put your stake in the ground and won't move."

Horner leveled his charges after the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune's Minnesota Poll published Sunday showed him placing a distant third in the race. Dayton led with support

from 41 percent of likely voters followed by Emmer with 34 percent and Horner at 13 percent.

When asked after the debate whether Horner landed any punches, Emmer said he didn't notice because he was too busy focusing on Dayton.

Dayton left the hall immediately after the event and was unavailable to comment.

Horner said his debate strategy was to appeal to voters who prefer him but fear that voting for him would help elect a candidate they adamantly oppose.

"A lot of Dayton supporters are not enamored of Dayton but fearful of a Governor Emmer, and so many Emmer supporters are fearful of a Governor Dayton," he said. "Those are Horner supporters if I can get them over the fear. That's my challenge in the final eight days."

The candidates are scheduled to meet at least four more times before the Nov. 2 election.