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.


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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