Greater Minnesota Governor’s Forum cancelled

PHOTO: Hernán Piñera, Flickr CC

The Greater Minnesota Governor’s Forum scheduled for tomorrow night at the Reif Center in Grand Rapids has been cancelled. The campaigns of Republican nominee Jeff Johnson and Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party nominee Tim Walz both withdrew unexpectedly over the weekend.

Organized by Northern Community Radio and Lakeland Public Television, the forum aimed to focus exclusively on Greater Minnesota issues. Independent public radio and TV stations had agreed to carry it live, making it a statewide broadcast.

I was due to serve on the panel for the debate with my fellow Dig Deep commentator Chuck Marohn and producer and NCR News Director Heidi Holtan. We had spent the previous week preparing some great questions that will now have to be asked elsewhere. Dozens of people and significant resources had been committed to the event.

Heidi had contacted all campaigns months prior to the Aug. 14 primary election to secure their commitments to this should they win their party’s nomination. She also contacted both major parties to get their agreement to support the forum. We had verbal commitments from a representative from all campaigns.

Both campaigns suggested a scheduling conflict in their withdrawal from the debate.

This is pretty frustrating. We planned a fair, issues-focused forum that would be unlike your typical debate. I could offer theories as to why this happened — polling, campaign strategy, location, maybe they were just spooked by the makeup of our panel — but I’d just be speculating. It just could be an honest scheduling conflict. Maybe that’s true.

Heidi, Chuck and I will be recording a new Dig Deep on Tuesday instead and  you can hear our thoughts when that episode is released.


  1. It has been difficult to get candidates to forums up north. Folks put on a Senate forum at UMD and didn’t get any response at all from Smith. It was disappointing. The message felt like ‘you little people aren’t worth my time’

  2. There are a lot of issues about forums that lead to failures of them to be successful.

    Forums that schedule appearances by numbers of non-viable candidates are always a question. Serious candidates often avoid appearances at events that feature candidates who are not likely to play any significant role in the election, and candidates from minor parties are usually not invited to more important events either.

    This of course makes it difficult for “minor” candidates and parties to emerge from their minor status, but at the same time, audiences being forced to sit through the answers of large panels of candidates who clearly have no real chance of being elected robs the public of the chance to hear more extensive and detailed answers on a wider range of topics from the candidates who have a real possibility of being elected.

    In recent years, the GOP has also avoided many of the forums that were standard in the past, including the League of Women Voters, student groups, and minority groups. I have always been suspicious that this was partly related to the Jesse Ventura election, when Ventura was able to leverage his appearances at more neutral forums into his startling victory. The GOP candidates since have mostly limited themselves to forums run by more right wing organizers, in the Northland principally the Chamber of Commerce and the Duluth News Tribune. To be fair, after a couple of false starts — the near riot in 2010, and moderator Chuck Frederick’s open hostility toward Nolan in 2014 — the DNT/Chamber forums have usually been pretty good. Not certain how they usually go in other parts of the state.

    Candidate whose opponents dodge forums are often presented with a dilemma as to whether to appear in what amounts to a solo performance, plus many forum organizers have policies against running “empty chair” forums with major candidates missing, so one candidate dropping out can often stop a forum from happening, to the frustration of organizers and potential audiences.

    • John Packa says

      Well said. Disappointed that it isn’t going to happen, but that’s politics.

    • In line with what I said, 3rd CD incumbent Erik Paulsen has recently announced that the single forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce this week will be the only forum he will participate in during his hot race against DFLer Dean Phillips, despite requests by dozens of other sponsors to host forum events in the compact region. Paulsen, who is one of the top recipients in Congress of PAC money, seems to figure he will do better if he does not have to confront either the public or Phillips, depending on his own and third party ads to carry his message not filtered by his opponent, inquiring journalists, or voters.

      This has been the standard behavior for GOP candidates for several years, essentially dodging any questions that aren’t from right wing organizations. Watch and see if Stauber is willing to participate in any joint appearances with Radinovich in forums in CD8 other than the Chamber of Commerce/DNT event, once again to be held in the morning at 10 AM, convenient for writers for a morning paper, but not so much for anyone who holds a job or attends school. The DNT does usually have a streaming version available.

  3. Bob Carlson says

    Outstate Minnesota loses again……..

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