In their first one-on-one debate before the November elections, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Republican challenger Jeff Johnson discussed the issues in front of a town hall crowd in Duluth.
In some of Johnson’s campaign ads, he has accused Dayton of being unaware of the key elements of major bills he signed into law, including the Vikings stadium.
There was the standard rhetoric involved – Johnson called Dayton “out of touch.” Dayton called Johnson a “huckster.” All in all, nothing too unusual for politicos.
But when the topic changed to the Vikings stadium, things got testy. Johnson took the offensive on the issue, saying that Dayton “didn’t have a clue” what was in the stadium bill, adding that the state needs a governor that is more engaged with the issues the state is dealing with.
Johnson also accused Dayton of breaking his pledge not to use general funds for the project. When the anticipated funding source (electronic pull tabs) failed to materialize, he had to come up with public money to pay the state share – which was done primarily on the backs of cigarette smokers, who had to pay a $2.50 a pack increase to help cover the state share.
Dayton did admit that he was unaware the stadium bill included a provision for personal seat licenses, but accused the Vikings of deception, claiming they changed the name of the PSL to “stadium builders license” to disguise the true intent.
Johnson took the offensive, using the stadium for political gain, saying, “The whole thing has been a disaster. I think it’s been a terrible idea for Minnesota” – conveniently adding that he’s a huge Vikings fan.
Dayton countered that without a stadium the Vikings likely would be gone from Minnesota, adding, “Tell the 7,500 people working to build that project that it’s a disaster.”
Don’t be surprised if both sides use the Vikings stadium as a political talking point even more between now and the elections next month. Even though the Super Bowl alone will bring in much more than $100 million in revenue that the state invested, it’s what politicians do to get elected.