On the opening day of the 2009 Minnesota State Fair on Thursday, politicians aplenty showed up to be seen, say a few words, shake a few hands – and smile for the hoped-for cameras.
One of those on hand in Falcon Heights on Thursday was DFL gubernatorial candidate Sen. Tom Bakk, of Cook, who stopped by the DFL booth for a 6 p.m. appearance.
The burly Bakk, 55, a longtime carpenters’ union official who’s in his second term representing Minnesota’s largest district in the Senate, is one of two dozen announced or potential candidates of all political stripes crowding the campaign trail 15 months before the election.
And it showed: Bakk encountered a sparse crowd Thursday at dinner time on the opening evening of the fair. But the Iron Range pol soldiered on and spoke for about 10 minutes.
Bakk, who’s chair of the Senate Taxes Committee, stayed on script in the DFL tent, stressing jobs, jobs, jobs as the best solution to the depressed economy in Minnesota.
It’s the primary message Bakk has been delivering for months. After Bakk’s relatively brief remarks, a listener asked what he’d do as governor to create jobs. Bakk said he’d push stimulus money toward water infrastructure projects throughout the state. “We could easily spend a couple billion dollars on water infrastructure, and think how many jobs that would be.”
In an interview afterward, Bakk said the candidate that connects most deeply with voters on the issue of jobs will prevail in the election to replace two-term GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
“I think voters will look at me and say, ‘He understands, because he’s someone who’s been on unemployment and lost unemployment,’” Bakk said. “I think I’m the candidate in the best position to connect with people on the issue of jobs.”
Bakk compared the difficult economic situation in Minnesota now with the circumstances facing the candidates battling for governor in the bad economy of 1982, when Rudy Perpich emerged to grab the governor’s seat. Not coincidentally, Perpich is also the last DFLer to be elected governor – and, oh, yeah, he was from the Iron Range.