Sunday, April 25, 2010

Who will FNR Endorse: Learning about Tom Emmer

I'm impressed with Tom Emmer's gubernatorial campaign. On April 22 I wrote the first in the series, Who will get the Friendly Neighborhood Republican's endorsement for governor: Emmer or Seifert, and I asked for anyone with any information on either candidate to contact me. Last night, the Emmer campaign did just that.

Looking at the how the two candidates feel abut the issues could lead one to believe they are incredibly alike. So when the Emmer campaign represenative called, I was able to ask my most important question, which is: "What is the biggest difference between the two candidates?"

The gentleman I spoke with, Chris Van Guilder, was happy to answer that question and just speak with me about the campaign in general.

So, what is the biggest difference between Emmer and Seifert? According to the Emmer campaign, it's that the two men formed their experience in two different walks of life. Tom Emmer's experience is life experience. At age 49, he's the elder of the two men. He's spent years as a small business owner, and five years in the legislature.

Marty Seifert, on the other hand is 38-years-old--quite young for a gubernatorial candidate. He was first elected to the Minnesota legislature in 1996, just one year after graduating from college. He has served in the legislature since then.

The Emmer campaign's position is that nearly all of Seifert's experience is from "within," while Emmer's experience was gained overwhelmingly from a life lived outside of government.

The two men's biographies included in their official websites could not be more different.

Seifert's bio focuses mainly on his childhood growing up on a farm in Springfield, Minnesota, and his college years. The biography lists 11 years of private sector experience: five years as a school teacher and six years as a school counselor before taking an unpaid leave of absence in 2006. It mentions that he co-owns a business, Seifert Properties, LLC with his wife, but not for how long or what exactly the business is.

Emmer's biography, on the other hand, is quite extensive before it even begins to speak about his legislative career. He is the father of seven children, very active as a volunteer in his community, and an award-winning trial lawyer. He received his Juris Doctor from William Mitchell College of Law in 1988 and is licensed to practice law in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. The biography details a long and distinguished career practicing law, and lists articles he authored and cases he defended.

When the biographies turn to their legislative careers, they seem quite different as well. Seifert was first elected in 1996 and, his bio reads, has been re-elected by large margins every two years since, always winning re-election by over 20 points. It also points out that he has had strong bi-partisan support from Independents and moderate/conservative Democrats.

Emmer's highlights the fact that he has served as chair, co-chair or a member of nine legislative committees and lists some of the legislation he has written, including truancy reform and stringent penalties and alternative treatment options for the "worst of the worst convicted sex offenders."

If one were to look at their respective biographies as the only consideration for who would make the better governor, Emmer would win. Van Guilder said, "Tom's job is to negotiate outcomes. That's his training," adding that it's an excellent skillset to have as governor.

If you want to listen to the radio interview Rep. Emmer had yesterday with Chris Baker of KTLK-FM, click here. Yesterday's blog post about getting to know Seifert focused on this set of interviews, but only on Seifert's portion. I urge you to listen to Emmer's portion as well.

During the interview, Emmer displayed his sense of humor when he described working on legislative projects such as native earthworms and warning labels on bags of mulch instead of working to balance the budget. He had a very down-to-earth persona as he spoke about Minnesota's having the best health care institution in the world (the Mayo Clinic), getting down to the real business of the people instead of pet projects, and pondering why some Americans feel success is a bad thing. It had the feeling of having a chat with a neighbor, rather than listening to a politician's prepared set of talking points.

Detailing Emmer's KTLK-FM interview on this blog isn't as important as it once was because I decided to focus on the information that came in from his campaign last night.

Thanks to the Emmer campaign for calling to talk to a little blogger from Eden Prairie about their candidate. It shows they are really plugged in to what people are saying about Emmer, and it shows an admirable committment to winning. I'm still comparing, but today's lesson in getting to know Tom Emmer has been quite valuable.

next: Campaign style--does it matter?

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