Finally, a stadium referendum of sorts

Friday's gubernatorial debate on TPT-TV wasn't lacking for thorny questions tossed at the candidates, but the one that was most easily skirted regarded the stadium issue.

All three candidates somewhat shrugged about the sales tax imposed on Hennepin County residents for a new Twins stadium without a referendum--though it should be noted that as governor, Tim Pawlenty signed off on the legislation.

When it came to a new Vikings stadium, Pawlenty and Mike Hatch were even more vague, saying they essentially supported bringing anything about funding a stadium to the voters. Peter Hutchinson was unequivocal in his opposition to any kind of public funding.

Polls have suggested that most Minnesotans share at least part of Hutchinson's sentiment. The stadium factor will figure into local races, though the impact is not entirely clear. In Hennepin County, for instance, two board commissioners who staunchly supported the sales tax for the Twins ballpark are facing strong challengers.

In the county's Fourth District, 16-year-incumbent Peter McLaughlin faces a challenge from the Green Party's Farheen Hakeem. Both ran for Minneapolis mayor a year ago, and Hakeem had a better showing than most expected, while McLaughlin sagged by any reasonable projections. People are still hacked off at DFLer McLaughlin about the stadium, and Hakeem is just the type of viable candidate that could take votes over the issue.

Ditto in District 2, where longtime board member Mark Stenglein is facing former state Rep. Gregory Gray. Stenglein has been unapologetic in his push for the stadium deal, and though his ousting is unlikely, Gray will no doubt gain ground on the ballpark issue.

Things are also in flux in Anoka County, where several commissioners went on record toward securing public money for a Vikings stadium. Even though the Vikings/Anoka deal is waning, the issue hangs over local office-seekers.

In the First District, stadium supporter Dennis Berg is being challenged by stadium skeptic Terri Cleveland. Berg has since racheted down his enthusiasm.

In Anoka County's Second District, incumbent Dick Lang supported the stadium and a sales tax on Anoka County residents to help pay for it. His opponent, Larry Peterson, has said he's not opposed to a stadium, but that the sales tax question should be put to the voters.

Finally, in District 3, both candidates, Robyn West and Dick Swanson, support a referendum on the sales tax. That's to their advantage--stadium-friendly candidate Jim Anderson lost in the primary.

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