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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published August 08 2010

Minnesota Political Notebook: Interesting politics keep cropping up at FarmFest

MORGAN, Minn. – If Minnesota farmers are as successful producing crops as this year’s FarmFest was at producing political news, grain elevators had better expand their capacity this fall.

The main jobs of the all-things-farm show in southwestern Minnesota is not to display politicians, but that is what happens every election year.

Observers speaking privately said there were two surprises among candidates: U.S. Rep. Tim Walz was especially fired up, and former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, a governor candidate, was not.

Perhaps Walz’s passion was meant less for his constituents and more for fellow congressmen back in Washington. Walz strongly hinted that he may be in the running for a leadership position if he is elected to a third term.

“I think we will see some changes,” he said.

Of course, that is a good campaign line when he is seeking re-election in

what appears to be a hot race with Republican Randy Demmer.

Observers also wondered what was up with Dayton, who has led recent polls in a three-way race for the Democratic-Farmer-Laborite governor contest.

One Democratic insider wondered if Dayton was trying to play it safe headed into Tuesday’s primary election. The insider was puzzled why Dayton did not play up his experience on the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, which could have given him instant respect by the farmer audience.

‘I’m a farmer’

A candidate tradition at FarmFest is to show all possible connections to agriculture.

DFL governor candidate Matt Entenza talked about his forefathers’ farms in the state, but opponent Margaret Anderson Kelliher had a more conversation-invoking line as she greeted farmers: “There never has been a former dairy princess as governor.”

GOP governor candidate Tom Emmer was ready. He has heard the criticism that he would not be a good governor for farmers, so he proposed moving all state functions “that touch” agriculture into the Agriculture Department, an agency that is farmer friendly.

Emmer said he baled hay last fall and doubted other candidates had done that. He said he thinks he has the only offspring who was in 4-H.

Emmer said he wasn’t good at bailing hay and admitted he did a better job waiting tables last month in the midst of a controversy over whether tips should be considered wages.

‘Everyone’s talking’

Everyone in Minnesota is talking about two issues, according to Rob Hahn, an Independence Party candidate.

One is the money the state sends to local government, which they say needs to be changed, and the other is the need to build a Vikings stadium, Hahn said.

Turkey promise

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton promised that if elected governor, he would try to get state funding for a turkey research facility in western Minnesota.

The state is the country’s leading turkey producer.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.