MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Ken Pentel hasn't owned a car since 1981; he borrows one to campaign for governor. And if the Green Party candidate scores a huge upset, he says he'd bike the two miles from the official residence to the Capitol instead of driving.
Pentel practices what he preaches and wishes others would, too. As governor, he'd mold society in his philosophy -- with new taxes to punish people in gas-guzzling cars, for instance, while rewarding those who adopt environmentally friendly lifestyles.
Is he idealistic? Perhaps. Are his plans controversial? You bet. Will he temper his views to win votes? No way.
"At least I'm being honest with people," Pentel, 41, concluded Monday in a 90-minute interview with editors and reporters from The Associated Press.
"If I'm honest with them that gives them the sense that I have integrity," he said. "I'm not going to pander. They know where I stand on things."
Pentel's positions set him far apart from those of his rivals: Republican Tim Pawlenty, Democrat Roger Moe and the Independence Party's Tim Penny. Pollution taxes, state-run universal health care and proportional voting in elections are proposals Pentel holds alone.
"Pawlenty, Moe, Penny are offering a phony discussion, in my opinion, if they are talking about the overall welfare of the people of the state of Minnesota and reducing people's stress and their cost of living," he said. "They're gentlemen offering up 1950s politics."
Asked how he would balance Minnesota's budget, Pentel struggled to identify things he would cut but he rattled off several revenue-raisers: increasing income taxes on "those who can pay," hiking auto tab fees cut under Gov. Jesse Ventura, taxing industries for toxic emissions and assessing a surcharge on cars "with bad MPGs."
Yet Pentel maintained that his vision for the state would shrink government more and cost citizens less in the long run than his competitors'.
"I'm the guy who is honestly talking about reducing taxes," he said.
A long shot, Pentel probably won't get a chance to try out his ideas. Only 3 percent of the respondents to a poll published Tuesday in the St. Paul Pioneer Press said they would vote for him. But he's got a big microphone to air his proposals.
Pentel is invited to all debates, thanks to the major party status the Greens earned with Ralph Nader's 5 percent in the 2000 presidential race. That designation also brings him almost $240,000 in public campaign funds, meaning he'll far exceed the $17,000 he spent toward a fourth-place finish in 1998. He said he's not sure if he'll run TV ads this fall like his competitors will.
The longtime environmental activist and Green Party organizer says his aims are clearer and ideas more mainstream than people might think. What's wrong, he says, with charging more for gasoline if it reflects its true cost, including society's price of treating health ailments or fixing environmental problems caused by high auto emissions?
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