GILFILLAN - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer took some heat from Democratic candidates Wednesday at a Farmfest forum.
DFLers Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza, along with two Independence party candidates, joined Emmer in debating issues relevant to rural Minnesota.
The candidates were asked to go on record whether they support ethanol mandates in the state.
All support the mandates except Independent Rob Hahn, who said he is hesitant to support any mandates by the government. He went on to assure listeners he does support going forward with the ideas that are in the mandates.
Emmer was called out for his voting record on ethanol support by Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who said he had voted against biofuels in 2005 and 2008. This left left Emmer momentarily confused before he told the audience he "was pretty sure he voted in support of ethanol."
Emmer later clarified his voting record, saying he voted against biodiesel, but for E20, a 20 percent blend of ethanol in gasoline.
Other shots were taken by Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza, who reminded Emmer at one point that talking louder doesn't change the facts.
Without naming names, criticism of a presidential run by current Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, was plentiful. Independent Tom Horner described his bid for governor as his career capstone, not a stepping stone. Kelliher said she was not interested in being president or senator or anything else.
The Independence party candidates stayed largely out of the mud-slinging; Hahn even cautiously agreed with Emmer on points regarding lowering property tax burdens after noting Emmer had becoming the candidates "punching bag."
The Democratic candidates turned their comments to their extended family's farm roots - Entenza described his family losing its farm in the Great Depression, adding he is the "most rural" candidate, growing up near Worthington. Dayton talked of his grandfather's land. But only Kelliher had recent farm experience, having grown up on a farm and serving as state 4-H president as a youth. Kelliher said her mother still owns the family land.
Each pledged not to forget where they came from.
Emmer told the crowd he had just bailed hay last month, something he admitted he wasn't very good at.
Hahn and Horner were the only candidates not to try to win favor through their farming experience, and tended to stick to a theme of promoting less government interference in local matters.
It wasn't difficult for the candidates to know where their questioners' opinions lied, and therefore play to the crowd.
A question by Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap about how they would respond to animal rights groups looking for more state limitations on animal agriculture brought unanimous support for the farmers, with each candidate promising they understand farmers know best.
The forum tent, packed with an estimated 1,000 people, erupted in cheers when Emmer told the crowd of his plan to bring all government agencies with ties to agriculture under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture.
""If we are your governor," he said, " I will work with you to take every enforcement and regulatory agency that touches on agriculture - whether it be the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the DNR, you name it - and put them under the Department of Agriculture, because guess what? They have to work for the farmers, with the farmers instead of against agriculture."