ST. PAUL-Minnesota's three major Democratic governor candidates give voters a choice in the Aug.14 primary election:

  • U.S. Rep. Tim Walz has by far the biggest war chest among Democrats, raising $1.3 million this year, and says his time in Congress helped him become a leader in agriculture and veterans' issues. He has good name recognition in his southern Minnesota district, and he says he is the best choice for greater Minnesota because he lives there.
  • Attorney General Lori Swanson has received more votes than any other Minnesota candidate. She says her dozen years as attorney general have connected her with people across the state. She also says running mate Rep. Rick Nolan will be especially helpful attracting votes in the 39 counties he has served during two tenures in the U.S. House.
  • Erin Murphy brings the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement to the primary election. She also promotes her 12 years in the state House, in which she traveled the state talking to Minnesotans of all types about any number of issues. She also draws from her nursing background as she calls for changes in the health care system.
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Admittedly, the three have more in common than they have differences, but they are not three peas in a pod.

Murphy, 58, appears to be trailing the other two in the few public polls. However, she contends that her travels are drawing voters in a primary election that pundits say is unpredictable. "I am talking to Minnesotans all over this state on a regular basis," she said.

In an interview with Forum News Service at the Capitol, Murphy said the voters she hears from give her a clear message: "There is a real frustration of what's happening within this building."

Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton failed to get most legislation signed into law. But having served in the state House since 2007, "I have a pretty good relationship with a lot of Republicans," she said

Murphy said she will be open in her dealings with Minnesotans, including lawmakers. And in an effort to end massive problem-filled bills that appear in the governor's office with less than a day remaining in a legislative session, she pledged not to sign a bill into law that has not been on her desk at least 24 hours.

Swanson, 51, said that if elected on Nov. 6 she will meet with each of the 201 legislators before the early January start of the legislative session.

"If people know each other ... you can get a lot done," Swanson said. "That means compromise.That means no one gets their way 100 percent."

She said that Nolan, her lieutenant governor candidate, will be a liaison to state and federal lawmakers.

"You have got to show some respect for your colleagues and their ideas," said Nolan, who Swanson brought to her Forum News Service interview. "That is what we have been doing all of our lives."

Walz, 54, said he is one of the most conservative Democrats and works well with Republicans.

Keeping in mind that rural voters are overwhelmingly Republican oriented, Walz emphasized that he is one of the most conservative Democrats in Washington, and he can work with Republicans. "I have a great track record of getting them on board. ... The critic against me on the Democratic side is I talk to everybody."

Walz likes to point out that he won his 2016 congressional race in a district that Republican Donald Trump easily carried in his bid for the presidency.

On other issues:

  • The three candidates seem to agree that former Gov. Tim Pawlenty will win the GOP primary.
  • "I am strongly opposed to private prisons," Walz said, referring to a proposal from the Appleton area to reopen a private prison there to help ease overcrowding in state prisons.
  • Murphy said that she and her office will go to the people. She said she would open eight regional offices around the state so Minnesotans would not need to travel to the Capitol to be heard.
  • Swanson and Nolan present the image of a team approach to governing. Most lieutenant governors have been pretty much invisible, but Nolan says he will be more involved.
  • Walz' gun stance has been of interest. "I grew up hunting," he said, and he took a shotgun in his car to school so he could hunt after classes. But, he added, with school shootings, things have changed. He said he supports universal background checks before guns are sold and to temporarily remove guns from homes where there is a danger that someone could be hurt or killed.
  • Swanson proposed a "career and technical education czar" who would coordinate training for technical jobs. "A four-year college degree is not the right path for every student. There will be tens of thousands of good-paying jobs in technical and career fields open in the next six years, and we need to make sure we are preparing students for these jobs."
  • Minnesota legislators have been dumping more topics into a single bill, which some say violates the state Constitution provision banning more than one subject in a bill. Murphy said voters are talking about that. "If people are talking to me about the single subject clause, it is a problem."

Democrats will see five names on the Aug. 14 primary ballot. Besides the big three, perennial candidate Ole Savior and St. Paul real estate investor Tim Holden are running.