On Monday, Oct. 22, Gov. Mark Dayton stopped by St. Olaf on a swing through southern Minnesota that included afternoon stops in Owatonna and Albert Lea. Dayton spoke at 10 a.m. in Viking Theater at an event organized by the St. Olaf College Democrats. David Bly ’74, Minnesota legislative candidate and former representative from District 20B, spoke at the rally as well.
According to a press release from the Senate Democratic-Farmer-Labor DFL Caucus, the purpose of the rally was to “encourage support for DFL candidates and [to] motivate students to get to the polls on election day.”
Dayton shook hands and spoke to students while waiting for the event to get underway, joking and making conversation with students, faculty and community members that packed the theater.
Bryan Wells ’12, field coordinator for Northfield DFL State Senate candidate Kevin Dahle who wasn’t able to attend due to teaching conflicts, introduced Bly and Dayton while underlining the urgency of the 2012 election cycle for DFL candidates. Wells pointed out that St. Olaf students live in one of the most competitive districts in the state – Bly lost his seat by only 37 votes in the 2012 cycle. Bly is facing Lonsdale Republican Brian Wermerskirchen, a legislative assistant for the Minnesota Senate.
A theme of the event was the political gridlock in St. Paul, which reflects the partisan stalemate nationwide. Dayton and Bly blamed this situation on the intractability of right-wing ideologues who weren’t willing to meet Dayton halfway on issues like a tax increase for the wealthiest Minnesotans.
“[Dayton] has the right answers to things,” Bly said. “He knows what to do,” he just doesn’t have the right legislature to do it with.
Dayton portrayed himself as a check on the GOP-controlled legislature, pointing out the 55 vetoes he has issued since taking office.
But Dayton was quick to point out that he can’t veto everything.
“I unfortunately can’t veto constitutional amendments,” Dayton said. He vetoed voter ID when the legislature sent it to him as a bill, so they put it on the ballot instead. Dayton cited these ballot measures as one more reason to support local DFL candidates – if the legislature were in DFL hands, neither amendment would be on the ballot this November.
Dayton told the audience that he was cautiously optimistic that the marriage amendment would be voted down, but cautiously worried that voter ID would pass, because when people hear about it, “it sounds like common sense.” Dayton described the voter ID amendment as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” since it will disenfranchise minorities and senior citizens who are eligible to vote but for a variety of reasons don’t have photo identification. Dayton said that the voter ID amendment was an attempt by GOP legislators to hijack the 2014 election, when both Dayton and U.S. Senator Al Franken will be up for reelection.
The rally was a relatively casual event, with Dayton and Bly sitting on the edge of the stage when they weren’t speaking and while taking questions from the audience at the end of the event. Dayton and Bly fielded questions on everything from climate change to funding of public libraries, but a common refrain in their answers was the need to elect DFL legislators.
“The Governor said that electing DFL-ers to local office will finally spell out progress for Minnesota,” said Brian Thoes ’13, vice-chair of the St. Olaf College Democrats. “It was an honor to have him on our campus to speak to Oles about how much this election matters and why we need to get out the vote.”