Senate 44 Candidates Gaither, Bonoff Debate In Plymouth

The two candidates vying for MN Senate District 44 debated issues at a public forum Oct. 4.

As the 2012 Election season heats up, local candidates are discussing and debating issues that matter to Patch readers at local public forums.

Patch attended the Oct. 4 public forum of Terri Bonoff (DFL) and David Gather (GOP) vying for MN Senate District 44. The forum was hosted by Wayzata/Plymouth Area League of Women Voters at Plymouth City Hall.

The two candidates were asked questions submitted by the audience, collected by Girl Scout volunteers and given to the moderator throughout the forum.

Each candidate was given two-minute opening and closing statements, a minute response to questions, a minute rebuttal with one rebuttal each and 15-second responses during the lightning round.

Among the variety questions asked, topics included: reforming education policy, the state's role in providing healthcare and transportation/transit. 

Bonoff touted being a "strong champion for education reform," she said.

"This excites me more than anything because the upside is so great," Bonoff said. "We lead the nation with scores, but our achievement gap is the second worst in country, we need to make significant changes."

Being outspoken on this issue, Bonoff spoke about teacher performance being looked at and leveraging technology to engage every child in new ways.

Gaither emphasized how education reform is very important to him. Gaither who also talked about looking at the achievement gap, said it wasn't a revenue conversation, but about subject matter.

"We must look at the educational models we have," Gaither said. "We should promote a kid when they master a subject not when they become a year older...move through a curriculum as they master a skill."

Answering the question about the state's role in providing healthcare, Gaither said he has a fundamental belief that the system is flawed.

He said he knew more about when his own deck needed work, how much work it needed and what it would cost then he did when he need work on his own knee. He said this was because there is a need for a better direct relationship between those who provide healthcare and those who receive it.

Bonoff said Minnesota has a nation leading healthcare model. She spoke of Minnesota Care, which helps those with their healthcare needs based on a person's ability to pay, she said. Its a private market that provides service to low income individuals, Bonoff said.

On transit and transportation, Bonoff and Gaither differed more, especially when it came to looking at the Southwest Lightrail project and expansion work on Interstate 494.

Bonoff said she supports the lightrail project and doesn't see a choice having to be made between the lightrail and widening or adding lane(s) to 494 in Plymouth.

"Widening 494 is an immediate need and we have a plan in place, but it's not moving fast enough," Bonoff said. "The lightrail is an economic imperative to our future."

Talking to secondary education providers and local businesses, Bonoff said she continues to hear the need to bring better transit to keep companies competitive and help with job growth.

Gaither said he sees a clear distinction between supporting the lightrail for the area and providing more with roadways like 494.

He said the lightrail is 20 times more expensive to construct than the work needed for 494. 

"Lanes before trains," Gaither said. "The notion of cost is clear and the utility is obvious."

Bonoff countered that Gaither's providing misinformation about the lightrail to make it a choice between the lightrail and 494. 

"Priorities must be set for what makes the most amount of sense for the most amount of people for the best cost," Gaither said. 

In their closing statements, Gaither pointed out that MN Senate District 44 voters have a clear choice with two candidates that have two different perspectives with different sets of experience to choose from.

"I'm really invested in this community and what happens here matters to me," Gaither said.

Bonoff said her work as a Senator has been a direct correlation of the relationship she has built wih constiuents in every sector and from every area of the community.

"We're getting stuff done and making the changes needed to get things done," Bonoff said. 

Wondering about more questions answered by the candidates? The forum was videotaped and will be replayed on Northwest Community Cable Channel 12 on the following dates and times or you can watch the video attached to this story: 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12; 3 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13; 11 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14.


Cheryl Poling October 06, 2012 at 11:24 AM
Precisely what type of journalism is this article? I find it shocking that you would refer to David Gaither as a "newcomer". He is anything but a newcomer. Gaither served in the Minnesota House of Representatives and was Chief of Staff to then Governor Tim Pawlenty. This isn't a David versus Goliath story that you are attempting to make it out as. This is one GOP insider attempting to take a seat away from a moderate, strong business advocate who has listened intently to and represents well the community.
Daryl Fryxell October 06, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Cheryl, you're wrong. Terri is not a moderate. She is a run of the mill DFL liberal hack. Small business advocate? Please. She's voted for every tax increase that has come down the pike. She wants cap & trade and all manner of other government shackles that inhibit business and hold down economic growth. Terri is a liberal through and through. We're done with that. Gaither will use common sense and look out for the Minnesota taxpayers. The choice is clear. Gaither deserves our votes.
Stefanie Briggs October 06, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Cheryl- There was no intent to make anything out to be a David v. Goliath story. This article post is a brief recap that briefly touches on a few points both candidates made during a public debate. The entire debate on video is with this article for those who want to see it as well. The word "newcomer" was, in fact, a typo and has since been corrected. As always, I greatly appreciate all respective, constructive feedback. Thank you for commenting!
Tim Anderson October 06, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Cheryl - take two minutes and look at this video: http://northstarliberty.blogspot.com/2012/10/terri-bonoff-lifelong-democrat.html. And yes, I know it's a "right wing blog" but the words are 100% Bonoff's. She markets herself as non partisan these days because that's what's popular. Are these the words of a non-partisan moderate? Yep, Bonoff has passed on some tax increases. Political thought is a rarely black and white and few politicians, Republican and Democrat both, are all to one side or another. But fundamentally she's a nanny state, social engineering Democrat. She voted against more fireworks, for putting 8 years olds in car seats, against withholding LGA from sanctuary cities, and for reducing the threshold from 2/3 to 50% of city council members required to approve affordable housing. She votes 100% with abortion advocates, and for mandatory sex ed in schools. She voted for the early expansion of Medicare under Obamacare and loves the corporate welfare and social engineering of light rail. While she'll tell you it's Federal money, 50% of the build and all of the operating expense of the train to Eden Prairie comes from the state. A huge portion of that comes from us in Hennepin County. And by the way, while there are "plans", there is no project start date on 494. Another pandering Bonoff dodge. Represent our community? I don't think so.
dipper October 06, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Stephanie, I attended the candidate forum and I commend you for accurately reporting much of the sense of the event. Senator Bonoff described her moderate, thoughtful and 'big picture' points of view and accomplishments, while Mr Gaither proposed platitudes, sound bites ("lanes before trains") and such a fixation on taxes that it was not clear that he had any other real priorities. Mr Gaither did propose to "work across the aisle", but it's obvious from his persistent fixation on costs rather than efficiencies of service, from his repeated misrepresentations of Senator Bonoff's record and positions, and from the name-calling and the untrue comments of his supporters here on Patch, that his election would provide the Republican majority with yet one more obstructionist, more interested in bringing state government to a halt than in the possibilities of compromise and cooperation. Senator Bonoff's passage of many, many pieces of bi-partisan legislation, her steadfast willingness to cooperate with Republicans even against the wishes of her own party, and her endorsements from the local and state Chambers of Commerce and from nearly every other possible business, professional, labor, environmental and service group, all speak to her superiority as a candidate, and the need to return this accomplished Senator to office.
Dave Thomas October 06, 2012 at 10:17 PM
I think it is important to remember that Senator Bonoff has a clear and proven record of "uniting the middle." She has worked continuously with Republicans on reforms which benefit our state. We need more leaders willing to lead and not be so willing to follow candidates and politicians who belt out slogans which sound good in the heat of a campaign. Senator Bonoff's track record is the reason SHE, and not her GOP opponent, has been endorsed by several pro-business groups---not just the State and local chambers of commerce. I think that is telling of her strong and dedicated work to make our state and our communities stronger.
Charlie McGee October 06, 2012 at 10:32 PM
As a matter of interest--completely nonpartisan-- I would be interested to know why Mr. Gaither left the Governor's office so abruptly after only a year of service. Bonoff brought this up briefly and was stopped. I think it is a good question as we, the voters, examine their records.
Tim Anderson October 07, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Dave, really, what is "uniting the middle"? You paint this picture like all the senators are huddled in their respective corners, and Bonoff is alone in the middle, beckoning the courageous to join her. That's preposterous. They all have a job to do and they all find common ground with members of the other party to get their bills passed. Terri's no better or worse at it than the vast majority of them. She just tells you about it. If she was such a great leader, why weren't we hearing about her bipartisan accomplisments when her party was in charge? Re: the Chamber - It's likely the endorsements had less to do with her leadership than with politics. There were 37 other senators who had better chamber voting records in 2012 than Bonoff. Yet her chamber record was the best of the democrats. And she's the #2 in the caucus. So if the business groups couldn't support a six year incumbent assistant minority leader with the most pro-business record of all democrats, then what democrat would they ever support? They needed to endorse Bonoff to show that they are bi-partisan. Furthermore, she supports the corporate welfare of light rail and the Vikings Stadium. This endorsement was a Chamber hedge. Gaither's a sure thing for solid economically rational pro-business votes. He'll do what's right regardless of whether or not a special interest group throws him a bone.
Tim Anderson October 07, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Bonoff "brought this up briefly and was stopped"?? After being called on her voting record, Bonoff violated the very clear rules of the forum against personal attacks, and was immediately cut off by the moderator. Interesting behavior for someone who claims to be above politics.
Charlie McGee October 07, 2012 at 04:53 PM
It is still a legitimate question.
Brian Matthews October 07, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Tim, I completely disagree with your sentiment about Bonoff being the "best of the worst." David Olson, President of the Minnesota Chamber said, "voting for Bonoff was the best step that citizens of District 44 can take to secure their economic future." Does that really sound like someone who is picking the best of the worst? I think your claim is preposterous and unfounded. Find something new and credible to attack her on.
dipper October 07, 2012 at 08:16 PM
@Tim Anderson, Senator Bonoff was not "called on her voting record." Rather, Mr Gaither recited a dishonest assessment of a selected few of Senator Bonoff's votes. This dishonesty regarding the Senator's record has been, unfortunately, a hallmark of Mr Gaither's campaign, and leads one to wonder if similarly dishonest behavior was invoIved in his sudden dismissal from the Governor's office. It's a question mark on Mr Gaither's record, and it *is* therefore a legitimate question.
Brian Matthews October 07, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Another point that I want to make. Is it really moderate or middle of the road or even good for businesses to NOT support the SWLRT? My guess is it is not good for business to vote against SWLRT. The Twin West Chamber keeps asking people to find out if their elected official supports SWLRT. The fact is 3,000 businesses make up the alliance that supports SWLRT. Gaither does not support SWLRT, therefore he is NOT business friendly.
Tim Anderson October 10, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Dishonest? Classic Democrat. When you can't run on the issues, start throwing mud - all the while telling people you're non-partisan. Here are the facts: (1) Bonoff voted for the 2007 transportation bill, which raised taxes by $5 billion. See Pawlenty's veto letter. (2) Bonoff voted for the 2008 transportation bill, which raised taxes by $6.6 billion. See Pawlenty's veto letter. (3) Bonoff voted for the 2009 democrat bills that (a) created a new 4th tier and (b) CUT K12 funding by $1 billion. Yes - Billion with a B. For two years 1/2 of that would have been offset by federal monies, and then it all would have kicked in. The only thing a school can do on short notice is fire teachers and increase class size. It was profoundly short sighted. 10 democrats voted against it, but not Bonoff. I'm as conservative as they come, and I never would have voted to ax $1 billion from K12. Bonoff claims she's non-partisan, yet when she's running to defeat Erik Paulsen she stands in front of a crowd and screams "I am a lifelong democrat! I took Jim Ramstad's senate seat, and I'm going to take Jim Ramstad's congressional seat!" Here's the video. http://northstarliberty.blogspot.com/2012/10/terri-bonoff-lifelong-democrat.html. You call that non-partisan? And dishonest? Go to the history in Bonoff's wikipedia page. She was so desperate to scrub evidence of her being a partisan that they even changed a direct quote from a press release about her support for Mark Dayton.
Tim Anderson October 10, 2012 at 01:30 PM
So why don't you guys just stop this nonsense. Run on the issues. Stop calling everything that doesn't further your story a lie. The decision of who to elect should be a rational choice, not a personality contest. Both candidates have voting records. Both candidates have good and bad votes. Present the facts and let the voters decide. The fist pounding and mud throwing is obnixious.


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