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Don Davis, Published August 25 2013

Minnesota political notebook: Gov. candidate faces questions from fairgoers

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. - Rob Farnsworth was a bit on the lonely side as the Minnesota State Fair opened. It may be that 15 months before the next general election, Minnesotans are not very into politics this year. And the Farnsworth name is not a draw like “Dayton” or “Klobuchar.” But the Hibbing special education teacher was happy to talk to anyone he could as he seeks for the Republican nomination for governor.

Farnsworth, 35, may be spending more time at the fair – two long weekends – than any other candidate, and has one of just a handful of political booths at the fair.

One visitor to the Farnsworth booth was eager to pepper the candidate with questions about where he stood on raising the minimum wage.

“Is it now $6.25?” Farnsworth asked haltingly as he began his answer.

The visitor shot back that it is $1 higher than that, and a governor candidate should know the answer to a question about such a major issue.

When Farnsworth said that an improved education system, not a higher legal minimum wage, is the answer to low wages, the visitor said he would not vote for the GOP candidate and left.

Farnsworth talked about his education ideas, including combining into one agency the state Education Department, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the University of Minnesota and the Office of Higher Education.

When asked about how he would deal with the University of Minnesota, which has a special status in the state constitution, the candidate hesitated, then declared the constitution would have to be changed.

The teacher, who spent his first eight classroom years instructing social studies, said the number one fair question he received was: “Who are you?”

As for the guy whose job he wants, Farnsworth said of Gov. Mark Dayton: “I like him. I think he is a nice guy.”

Taxing time at fair

Gov. Mark Dayton wanted to avoid political talk, but drink lots of chocolate malts, at the Minnesota State Fair.

“This year’s different,” he told reporters shortly after arriving for his first of several planned visits. “I’m not in campaign mode.”

But some political questions cannot be avoided.

Standing a few feet from the Minnesota Farmers’ Union booth, the logical question was what would he tell farmers about his failure to convince Republicans to fold a farm implement repair tax repeal into the Sept. 9 special legislative session agenda.

“I will tell them I am very sorry,” Dayton said. “I wanted to eliminate the tax and couldn’t get an agreement to do so.”

Dayton said Republican leaders could not guarantee that they could keep their members from bringing up other tax issues.

Minnesotan missing

When Minnesota State Fair visitors walk into the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party booth, they can’t miss life-size photo cutouts of the president and first lady, with Hillary Clinton nearby.

Clinton is a popular figure and potential presidential candidate. But when a DFL official was asked why there wasn’t a cutout of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, since she is being discussed more and more as a presidential possibility, the official could only stammer that there is a big Klobuchar sign out front.

The Minnesota senator recently visited Iowa, the first of what will be a long string of potential presidential hopefuls in the first caucus state.