FALCON HEIGHTS -- Nothing like a little politics to go with those Pronto Pups.
Candidates of every stripe pressed the flesh Thursday at the Minnesota State Fair and set up attention-grabbing gimmicks, hoping to shore up as many votes as they can as the primary campaign enters its stretch run.
"One-point-five million people in twelve days. You can't do better than that," said U.S. Senate hopeful Mark Dayton, one of eight DFLers hoping to challenge incumbent Republican Rod Grams. "I wish I could spend every minute here."
After hearing Dayton in a live WCCO Radio interview, Dan Paulson said he would vote for the former state auditor if he could.
Paulson, 66, lives across the border in Luck, Wis.
Not missing a beat, Dayton advised Paulson, "It's not too late. We have same-day registration, we can give you a spare room."
While Dayton did his interview, Grams worked the crowd at his homespun booth across the street. With a wooden gazebo, decked with flowers and surrounded by benches, Grams had the most elaborate setup of any candidate.
Thomas Brown, a tech sergeant for the Air National Guard, stopped by to voice concerns about the military and its outdated equipment.
"It's been neglected. We're using stuff that's twenty years old," he said. "It's pretty sad considering we're a world power."
Grams told Brown that he has always supported the military and he will continue to do so if he's re-elected.
Mostly, candidates heard about health care issues and prescription drugs. Ruth Rice, 84, of Brooklyn Center, confronted Grams about Social Security and Medicare.
"Believe you me, you've got to help seniors," Rice told Grams.
Grams, gripping her hand lightly during the entire conversation, promised, "I'm gonna be there working for you."
Rice said she plans to vote for Dayton.
Construction executive Rebecca Yanisch also emphasized health care. She unveiled a 4-foot tall prescription drug bottle that fairgoers can fill with their "prescription for Minnesota." Yanisch intends to deliver the message to Grams before the Sept. 12 primary.
Less than 50 yards from Yanisch, trial attorney Mike Ciresi passed out red and yellow balloons with his campaign logo.
The DFL-endorsed candidate, state Sen. Jerry Janezich, skipped opening day to campaign in Duluth. He is the only candidate among the four leading DFLers yet to run television ads. His campaign and state DFL Chairman Mike Erlandson acknowledged that Janezich needs the fair more than his competitors.
"He's gonna have to shake a lot of hands and work it hard," Erlandson said.
Janezich plans to hunker down at the DFL booth through the final 11 days of the fair.
The fair can be a big boost for a campaign. In 1998, Jesse Ventura said the turnout at his fair booth convinced him he had a good shot at becoming governor. James Gibson, the endorsed Senate candidate in Ventura's Independence Party, simply hopes to get his name out.
"We're certainly in a different position than the governor," he said. "He had huge name recognition before the fair."
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