Keynote speaker and former First District Congressman Gil Gutknencht exorted those in attendance not to be overconfident in the face of the Obama admnistration's recent failings and weaknesses, reminding them that the purpose of a political party is to offer superior ideas. He also asked three very pointed questions for reflection:
"Are Republicans prepared to win the seats Democrats are expected to lose?"
"How long can Minnesota continue to export wealth and import dependence?"
"Are we consigning future generations to a lower standard of living?"
And following Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton's rousing speech regarding the unique electoral opportunities before Republican candidates this fall, the forum began with a series of questions:
GMAC: What do you know about it?
Seifert: Voted to deconstruct the program and move the beneficiaries to other programs. GAMC is growing above and beyond capacity to pay for itself.
Emmer: The wrong idea at the wrong time. $400 million dollars every two years for 40,000 people. You can not continue to make deals on things that do not work.
Pull government out of those programs. It's time to negotiate outcomes that are based on less government. More government is not the solution.
Q: How would you prioritize the state budget and balance the books?
Emmer: Tax cuts alone are not the answer but you have to attack the structural size of government. Redefine priorities and redesign government. Create an economy that attracts business to Minnesota. Attract new horses to pull the wagon of Minnesota.
Seifert: Reduce taxes, paperwork and costly mandates that keeps business away from Minnesota. Cut government. This state is spending $2-$3 million dollars more a day than it takes in. Prioritize people over bureaucracy.
Q: How would you have approached the bonding bill that the governor vetoed?
Seifert: Minnesota government is broke. When it comes to these projects, the bonding bill costs $1 billion plus $400,000 in debt services.
Not just line item; stop the spending.
Emmer: We should have taken this opportunity to address the structure of government. After six years in office, I have yet to see a bonding bill that prioritizes the needs of Minnesota.
Q: Should the state of Minnesota mandate that a certain amount of energy be produced by renewable sources?
Emmer: Cap and trade is already here. I offered a bill to repeal it. We want to be good stewards of the environment but not at the expense of our children's future.
Seifert: I voted for the bill in 2005 but would veto it if it came to my desk. I voted for the bill but it's the wrong priority. My plan is to lift the nuclear ban, import clean coal and promote market based energy policies.
Q: What is your plan to keep Minnesota competitive in the job market and how would you change state law to make it happen?
Emmer: Redesign a smaller government, bring taxes down, eliminate licensing and costly mandates and requirements for businesses and health care. The 68 mandates in health care raise the cost for every one of us. You must have tort reform for contractors: loser pays. Workers compensation reform to bring costs down.
Seifert: We need to downsize, right size and economize state government. Worker compensation reform. Reduction of fees that make Minnesota less competitive. Tax, fees, licenses have to be reformed and sometimes done away with.
Q: Would you oppose the implementation of President Barack Obama's health care reform and how?
Seifert: The best health care provides in the country are in Minnesota and the federal government wants to screw that. We need to say "no" to Obamacare and exercise our 10th Amendment rights. We need to push back because it is the right thing for the people of Minnesota.
Emmer: I have been doing that already. I offered a bill that provides government cannot pass a law that interferes with an individual's ability to chose one's doctor. Make sure we maintain the best care and drive the cost down ourselves. Deduct cost of their health care insurance, reduce mandates and encourage competition.
Q: What is your voting record on tort reform?
Emmer: We need comprehensive tort reform, not pick and choose who it applies to. Caps are part of the answer. Tort reform based on best practices.
Seifert: 100% in favor of reform. Voted for every tort reform bill that has come across the legislature. Caps on attorneys fees are a good idea. Judges should not be allowed to go above what the compensation is.
Q: Will you honor the endorsement process and ensure a unified party?
Seifert: Yes, I will abide by the endorsement. I believe very firmly that we have to be united as a party. I have no backup plan. I feel very confident that I will be the candidate.
Emmer: Yes. It's about leadership and decisions that affect people's lives.
Emmer: Jackie and I have been blessed with 7 children, 6 boys and one beautiful girl. I have been in the legislature for 5 years. Jackie and I were dumb enough to believe this was a part time job. What we did in the early 70s was to make this an every other year proposition. It has become a career. Decisions are now made based on what is going to be best for the next election. It is no longer community service.
People are fed up with the growth of governemtn and career politicians. We need to put up authentic people who do what they say they are going to do.
Seifert: An opportunity to right size, downsize and economize government. They believe now that they are the boss and the people are servants. Elected officials feel entitled to teach teachers how to teach, farmers how to farm and business owners how to conduct their business. I don't want us to become a colder and smaller California, where people leave at a rate of 1,000 people a day. 1,000 people a month move to Minnesota for welfare purposes.
As Republicans, we must prioritize. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. It's not about limiting government but cutting it. Repealing laws, not creating more.
Questions from the audience:
Q: How do we deal with the situation with education?
Seifert: The federal government to stay out of local education. Children should be treated equally despite of where they live. Children spend less time in school today than they have ever had before even though we spend more money on education than ever before.
Emmer: Adress funding disparities. Tie the funding to the child. Parents are the ones who need to make the best educational decision for their children. The future in this state is moving to a public charter school model. Reward good teachers and let the poor ones go.
Q: Would you work to make voter ID a reality?
Emmer: Yes! WE should have voter ID.
Seifert: You need a photo ID to get a library card, a credit card, etc. It must be included as a reform item.
Q: If you could take back one vote, what would it be?
Seifert: The energy vote was the one in which the governor of my party cleaned it up but it wasn't the best of both worlds. An error is not a mistake until you refuse to correct it.
Emmer: There isn't one. I read everything before I vote. I base my decisions based on life, liberty and property. I have been applying those principles from day one.