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Candidates meet in forum Thursday

Republican Bill Ingebrigtsen (left), of Alexandria, and Democrat Jim Thoreen, of Morris, led off the candidate forum Thursday night at the Morris American Legion. Ingebrigtsen and Thoreen are candidates for the Minnesota District 11 Senate seat. Candidates for House District 11A, Stevens County Commissioner, Morris Mayor and City Council and the Morris Area School Board also made statements and answered audience questions during the event, which drew about 100 people.

Candidates for statewide offices painted contrasting pictures of themselves while those running for local offices focused more on how those who will be serving in St. Paul had to get their acts together to prevent financial hardships for elected officials and residents back home.

Nineteen candidates in state senate and house, county commissioner, mayor, city council and school board races met Thursday to introduce themselves and answer audience questions during a two-hour forum that drew about 100 people to the Morris American Legion.

Bill Ingebrigtsen and Jim Thoreen, candidates for the Minnesota District 11 Senate seat, opened the forum and were followed by House District 11A candidates Dave Holman, Bennett Smith and Torrey Westrom.

The state candidates were followed by Stevens County Commissioner candidates Jeanne Ennen and Steve Storck in the District 2 race, and Phil Gausman and Roger McCannon in the District 5 race.

Morris mayor candidates Sheldon Giese and Sheila Hemming spoke briefly, as did Morris City Council candidates Jeff Miller, Rachael Rendon and Twig Webster. Morris Area School Board candidates Laura Carrington, Kurt Gartland, Troy Goodnough, Marshall Hoffman and Mike Odello wrapped up the forum. School Board member Lory Lemke was unable to attend the event.

Ingebrigtsen, the District 11 Senate incumbent Republican from Alexandria, and Thoreen, the DFL candidate from Morris, espoused different views on the need for tax increases to help take a bite out of the estimated $5.8 billion shortfall the state is facing.

Ingebrigtsen said he wouldn't propose any tax hikes and would take a "meat ax" to the state's spending programs to balance the budget. Ingebrigtsen said he was not a "lock-step" Republican but that a strong Conservative agenda included the changes the state needs.

"Folks, we need to spend within our means," Ingebrigtsen said. "The way we've been doing business lately has got to change," adding that he believes failed policies of the Democratically controlled Legislature over the years are the culprits for the state's budget mess.

Thoreen said he considered nothing untouchable as the state tackles its deficit and said reasonable, progressive taxes - especially on higher income earners - and a "scalpel, not a meat ax" were needed to slice spending, raise revenues and not devastate services.

Regarding election photo IDs, Ingebrigtsen said the 2008 Minnesota Senate election proved the "democracy is in jeopardy if there is no photo ID requirement."

Thoreen said the state's handling of the Senate race recount has been almost universally praised for it accuracy and integrity and that proper election safeguards already are in place.

"Photo ID is a solution in search of a problem," Thoreen said.

For more information about this race and others in Thursday's forum, see the Morris Sun Tribune Web site Friday afternoon and the Saturday print edition of the Sun Tribune