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By Don Davis, Published September 07 2009

State fair flush with eager candidates

ST. PAUL – It was a strange Minnesota State Fair this year, politically at least.

There generally is not much political activity in a nonelection year, like 2009. But with a couple of dozen candidates in or getting ready to jump into the 2010 governor’s race, many were interested in getting face time with fairgoers.

Candidates and potential candidates found plenty of reasons to be at the fair.

Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau was one of them, although the farmer always spends a lot of time there. This year it may have been a bit different because she is considering running for the top job next year.

Her mother strongly advised her not to run, but Molnau said she only sometimes listens to mom’s advice.

Molnau’s decision will come after a late-October family gathering.

With a decision coming that late, she will not be in contention at the early-October state Republican convention in which many candidates will look for support.

Elsewhere at the fair, many candidates hung out at one of the two major party booths.

Only state Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, had a fair booth. At $700, he thought it was a small investment to get some notice. And being the only candidate’s booth, it stood out this year.

Not open

The question floating around the Capitol these days is why the Minnesota Leadership Summit is being held behind closed doors.

House Speaker Margaret Kelliher Anderson and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, both Minneapolis Democrats, frequently complain that Gov. Tim Pawlenty will not hold budget negotiations in public. They invited economic experts and former state leaders to a summit Tuesday, but the public and media will be banned.

Pogemiller, touring the Capitol pressroom after hearing reporters complaining about the secret meeting, said some former political leaders would not attend if it were open. Former Gov. Arne Carlson has said he is one of those.

“I would prefer to have it open,” Pogemiller said.

However, he added, a meeting with so many knowledgeable leaders is valuable, even if it is in private.

Young, old split

Age makes a difference in whether Minnesotans think Social Security will be around to help them in retirement.

Thrivent Financial asked State Fair visitors and found that adults 18 to 44 do not count on Social Security to help fund their retirement. Those 45 to 64 were about evenly divided, while senior citizens said they thought Social Security will be a major part of their retirement funding.

“These findings truly highlight the generational divide Americans have around the future of Social Security,” said Wendy McCullough, Thrivent Financial director of income solutions. “No one can accurately predict how Social Security might change in five, 10 or 50 years, but given our nation’s demographics, it is highly likely that Social Security as we know it today will change over time.”

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com