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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published October 29 2010

Campaigns heat up as big day nears

ST. PAUL – A governor’s campaign argues that a poll it lost is inaccurate, state auditor candidates squabble about being a bully, and famed humorist Garrison Keillor tells Democrats that his congressional candidate is more honest than her opponent.

It must be nearly Election Day.

Indeed, the general election is Tuesday, and emotions heated up Thursday as candidates worked to gain every vote possible in a typical last-minute scramble.

A Minnesota Public Radio-University of Minnesota poll showed Democrat Mark Dayton pulling away from Republican Tom Emmer, 41 percent to 29 percent, in the Minnesota governor’s race. Tom Horner of the Independence Party fell further behind at 11 percent.

Deputy GOP Chairman Michael Brodkorb called the poll “complete garbage,” and the Emmer campaign issued a news release saying its own internal polling shows the race to be a dead heat. However, the campaign refused to release supporting documents so reporters could verify the poll.

Emmer campaign manager Cullen Sheehan said the MPR-university poll is not accurate.

“Four years ago, this same poll predicted that Mike Hatch would beat Tim Pawlenty by 6 percentage points,” Sheehan said. “Minnesota should be as confident in this poll’s prediction as Gov. Hatch was during the last gubernatorial campaign.”

Republicans say the poll typically contacts a smaller percentage of Republicans than the political divide would suggest is fair.

The poll continued showing the trend of a growing Dayton lead since it found Emmer and Dayton tied in late August. Other public polls also show Dayton leading and Horner dropping deeper into third place, but the MPR survey released Thursday was the biggest margin between the leaders.

An analysis from the university’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance indicated that Dayton has expanded his coalition of supporters more than has Emmer. He also has capitalized on the unpopularity of incumbent GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who chose not to seek a third term.

While governor campaigns argued about the poll, state auditor candidates argued about bullying.

Auditor Rebecca Otto, a Democrat, said on a Thursday MPR debate that Republican challenger Pat Anderson bullied local governments when she held the office.

“Stylewise, she tends to have a bullying style,” Otto said about the woman she beat four years ago.

Anderson, who held the auditor’s office one term, denied being a bully. She said that Otto is not aggressive enough when auditing the financial books of cities, counties and other local governments.

“Your job is to lay things out that need change,” Anderson said about her time in office. “You could trust what came out of the office. That is what we need again.”

Anderson said she went after waste and fraud. “I got things done.”

Otto, meanwhile, claimed to be bipartisan and has increased the office’s productivity with a smaller budget.

Bringing people together has not been the theme of a congressional race in a district stretching from St. Cloud across the northern Twin Cities. That is where U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann faces a challenge from state Sen. Tarryl Clark in the country’s second-most expensive contest.

Keillor sent a message to Clark supporters Thursday accusing Bachmann’s campaign of making “wildly false statements.”

“I take a personal interest in the 6th District since Lake Wobegon is there, and I think the good people of the 6th deserve able and honest representation,” wrote Keillor, of “A Prairie Home Companion” fame.

Tonight is the final televised governor debate. It airs live at 7 p.m. on most Minnesota public television stations and on the Minnesota Channel on all public stations at 10 p.m.

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