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Seifert talks jobs, change on campaign trail; vows to speak out when views differ from fellow GOP members

WILLMAR -- Expect to see more of Marty Seifert now that he is seeking the Republican Party's endorsement as its candidate for governor. And, expect to see a different side of Seifert now that he has stepped down as House minority leader to wage his campaign.

No longer bound by his role of carrying water for the party, Seifert said during a stop in Willmar on Tuesday that he will be speaking out more when his views don't match that of his party.

Characterized as a solid conservative, Seifert launched a statewide tour last week that saw 500 people come to hear a message that focused largely on the issue of the day: jobs.

"To me it is the issue,'' Seifert said.

He called for reforms to speed up the pace at which government regulatory agencies issues permits. He wants to eliminate and reduce unfunded state mandates placed on local government units.

He also spoke out for privatizing more government services.

He'd like to see the state fully utilize Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton to hold state inmates.

"These are the types of opportunities we need to take advantage of with 21st century government,'' said Seifert after explaining how the state saved money by bidding out its printing work, instead of maintaining its own printing operation.

Seifert's visits to Kandiyohi County will be on the increase as he attempts to woo GOP delegates. He believes the party's off-season convention, now scheduled for Oct. 3 at River Center in St. Paul, will be crucial to his campaign. He anticipates a field of 11 or 12 GOP candidates for the governor's office by that point. The off-season convention is likely to winnow the field to four finalists, he said.

Seifert should enjoy support as the former minority party speaker and for the name recognition he holds. But Seifert could be facing well-known and well-financed candidates, including former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman by the time of the convention.

Despite that prospect, Seifert said he will keep with a decision to not accept any money from lobbyists for his campaign. He also said he will abide by the party's endorsement process.

Money will certainly be the topic for the candidates who eventually square off in the race for governor as well. Asked if he felt Gov. Tim Pawlenty had pushed the budget deficit off to his successor, Seifert answered: "There has to be a reckoning long term on the budget.''

The candidate said he wants to see changes in state government that go beyond what he termed the dickering over a "plus or negative three percent'' change in budgets.

He said he was open to the idea of means testing to qualify for state assistance, and to other, larger changes in how Minnesota operates. "It's time to start moving down the road,'' said Seifert. When it comes to state government, the candidate said too many still have a hard time grasping that "it's not the 1950s.''

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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