It was a cordial Minnesota 6th district congressional debate right up to the closing minutes. That changed when Joe Perske (DFL) gave his closing remarks.
Perske, who had been reserved and focused on the issues during the previous hour, took aim at Tom Emmer’s (R) behavior and record in the Minnesota legislature that Perske characterized as “divisive” “bullying, threatening” and “uncooperative” not just to Democrats but to Republicans as well.
Perske also made reference to a bill Emmer sponsored in 2009 that would have allowed drivers convicted of a DWI to get their license back faster. Emmer himself had been ticketed for DWI multiple times. Asked about the tickets in 2009, Emmer said that he’d learned from the mistakes. “We all come to the Legislature with life experiences, but it has nothing to do with this bill,” he said. “This is a good bill.”
Given an opportunity during Tuesday’s debate to respond to Perske’s remarks, Emmer declined.
Political observers say Emmer is the favorite to win the seat currently held by Rep. Michele Bachmann who is retiring from congress. Even though Bachmann barely won re-election in 2012, the district is heavily conservative.
Transcript of Perske’s closing remarks
Moderator: Joe Perske, you get the final comments today.
Joe Perske: I’ve been waiting for this question because I’ve wanted to tell you what I’m all about and and I want to speak from the heart because this election has been flying under the radar. We can do better because congress isn’t’ coming together to solve the problems we’re facing as a nation and the gridlock is killing us. The government shutdown, the sequestration, the fiscal cliff are all signs of a dysfunctional congress and Michelle Bachmann has not done anything to get us out of that gridlock and I’m afraid my opponent Tom Emmer just going to be more of the same.
In fact, I’m in this race because of Tom. Had it been a moderate Republican, I wouldn’t be here. I would be teaching school in Sartell. I would still seeing… being myself as the mayor of Sartell. But we’ve got to change. Now this is difficult for me to say because I’ve always been taught to be a nice polite person. But shouldn’t we believe that a person’s future performance should be based on what the person has done in the past? And I think we need to look at Tom’s past. Tom has been very dividing. Very divisive. Even in his own party. In the legislature he’s been bullying, threatening. Not just with Democrats, but again with his own party. He has a record of being uncooperative. Even shouting across the aisle. And even at sometimes being self-serving when it came down to some legislation to erase some of the DWI arrests that he had. We need to change that.
I’m running because we have many challenges facing this nation. And these are not Democratic or Republican problems. These are changes that need to happen because we have to put those polarizing politics aside. In my ten years as mayor and on the council, I’ve always been about people. And my whole life has been about people. Whether it’s being a teacher, being a coach, being a dad, being the mayor or being the husband to that woman over here.
I’m going to hopefully go to Washington and be elected and represent you and do what’s right for you, the people of Minnesota and the people of this great nation. Some of you folks know that I’ve run a hundred marathons in my life. I’ve run 90,000 miles. I have that passion in me and I’ve had it in this campaign and I will take that passion with me to Washington and serve you. I’m very much approachable. It’s the number one thing on my, on my ah sheet. Vote for Joe Perske. You’ll have my trust. I trust you. Thank you.
Moderator: Uh Tom, did you want a one-minute rebuttal to that?
Tom Emmer: Ah, no. Thank you for having me today.
Moderator: OK I want to thank all of our participants and the St. Paul Rotary Club for participating with this sixth congressional candidates debate. Thank you all for being here. And just a couple weeks we’ll have the opportunity to pick which centimeter we’re falling in. So thank you all and thanks for being part of rotary and the chamber.