Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Bonoff and Johnson appeal to business leaders at TwinWest forum

TwinWest candidate forum. (Photo: North Star Liberty)
DFLer Terri Bonoff and Republican Judy Johnson, opposing candidates for the Senate District 43 seat in the Plymouth-Medicine Lake-Minnetonka area, introduced themselves to voters at Tuesday's TwinWest Chamber of Commerce candidate forum at the Sheraton Minneapolis West Hotel, near the Ridgedale mall in Minnetonka. It was the candidates' first appearance at a public forum. Partisanship was practically non-existent between the candidates; in fact, at times cordiality ran so high that they almost sounded like members of the same party preparing to face each other in a primary election.

Approximately forty attendees sat at the five round tables for lunch, with over twenty more in the cheap seats around the perimeter and spilling out into the hallway outside the small banquet room, where hotel staff delivered an extra stack of chairs. Most of the attendees were TwinWest Chamber of Commerce members, but a few Wayzata school board members and Plymouth City Council members (including Johnson's campaign manager Tim Bildsoe) were also there. Lloydletta's Nooz blogger Eva Young introduced herself to me; she was already acquainted with Johnson and struck up a conversation with Wayzata School Board member Gary Landis.

One of the local TV stations covered the event with a videographer and reporter. Both candidates had a campaign brochure at the registration table, and Bonoff wore a campaign button. There were no signs or other campaign presence, which was appropriate for the event.

The moderator emphasized at the beginning of the program that the nonpartisan TwinWest does not endorse candidates.

Terri Bonoff and Judy Johnson at the TwinWest forum. (Photo: North Star Liberty)
TwinWest asked the candidates two questions prepared in advance. Then eight written questions from the audience were read to the candidates by the moderator. The candidates took turns answering first. Both candidates were also permitted opening and closing statements.
  • Transportation - both candidates agreed on the importance of a comprehensive transportation plan (including roads and transit) to the public and business. Johnson said that growing population projections make such planning imperative.

  • Legislative priorities - Bonoff would introduce bills to support
    early childhood and higher education, saying that her "strength" is in education policy (which a glace at her resume confirms). Johnson would address unfunded mandate relief for local units of government (cities and school districts among them), and rising health care costs to business and consumers.

  • Intelligent design (ID) - I'd bet my MOB t-shirt that Eva Young threw this one in. Johnson is relatively new to the ID/creationism/evolution debate. She believes that "all points of view" should be taught, but also believes that curriculum decisions should be made locally. Bonoff called ID/creationism a faith matter best taught at home or in parochial schools, but not in public schools.

  • Income Taxes - Bonoff believes in a sufficient level of taxes to support high quality services, but claims not to be "a tax-and-spend liberal," citing her business perspective (most recently as a vice president at Navarre Corporation). Johnson said that government shouldn't penalize success (a reference to progressive income taxation), and that the entire tax code should be evaluated as a whole for sound fiscal practices and reformed where needed.

  • What Senate committees would you like to join if elected? Johnson would join Sen. Larry Pogemiller's (DFL-Minneapolis) Taxes Committee, in a heartbeat. She noted how taxes touch virtually every aspect of citizens' lives. Johnson is an opponent (yes, an opponent) of TABOR, as you may recall from her lively discussion with David Strom on his radio show awhile back. For Johnson, local control trumps "no new taxes" dogma. Bonoff would join the majority party in Sen. Steve Kelley's (DFL-Hopkins) Education Committee, where special education would be an area of interest.

  • Health care costs - Bonoff believes health care costs should be shared between employers and employees. Johnson favors competition between insurers, and employees who take personal responsibility for their health. She cited her family's experience with the more visible expenses in a traditional high-deductible major medical plan, compared to a co-pay type plan like an HMO.

  • Would you favor government-mandated production of energy using renewable resources? Johnson would oppose production mandates, but instead would favor incentives for using renewable energy. She also cited an endorsement by an environmental group as evidence of her dedication to a clean environment. Bonoff would favor mandating a specific percentage of energy produced from renewable sources by a certain target date.

  • Repeal of the 2001 property tax shift - Bonoff says no, Johnson also said no. Confession: I am not a political reporter, I just play one in the blogosphere. I do know that "the shift" screwed up K-12 finance and local government aid when income tax and sales tax collections went south. Johnson revealed her inner tax policy wonk during this discussion, demonstrating how the she would keep up with the best of them in Sen. Pogemiller's committee. I also know that because Mayor, mom, and taxpayer Johnson knows this stuff cold, as a constituent, you could walk up to her at Cub Foods and say, "Judy, could you explain what this market value credit deal means to me," and she could clearly explain it to you in the time it takes to walk from one end of Produce to the other.

  • Caucus discipline - Johnson said that although she is onboard with advancing the Republican agenda, and will vote with the party most of the time, she put Senate Minority Leader Sen. Dick Day (R-Owatonna) on notice that the interests of SD 43 and the state will come before party when she casts her vote in the Senate. Bonoff said that her campaign slogan, Uniting the Middle, says it all. She will not hesitate to break ranks with her party, to work with both sides of the aisle.

  • Clean water - Bonoff is proud of the clean water initiatives in Minnetonka and Plymouth. She is a strong advocate of clean water, while allowing environmentally-sensitive development. She feels that SD 43 municipalities can serve as a model for the rest of the state. Johnson said that funding the Clean Water Act now is imperative for future growth in SD 43 and other fast-growing Minnesota communities.
In closing, Johnson highlighted her experience as a "proven leader" on the Plymouth City Council, as mayor of Plymouth, and as president of the League of Minnesota Cities. Bonoff said that she would take the longterm view in the tradition of past visionary governors, rather than see only until the next election.

UPDATE: I was informed that WCCO-TV was not at the forum, it was another station. I have modified my story accordingly. Also, although I am certain that the TwinWest moderator said that they do not endorse candidates, I have since learned that the TwinWest Political Action Committee will announce an endorsement soon in a press release. Eva Young has informed me and the world via the Internet that she in fact did not submit that ID question (see Comments).


lloydletta said...

Matt - that wasn't me asking about ID. So you've lost your shirt. (I would have worded the question differently if I had asked the question).

I did put in a question about stem cell research - but it wasn't asked.

Matt said...

Darn. Can we call it a rhetorical bet?