GOP hopefuls find traction with Senate building

  • Article by: BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 27, 2014 - 11:26 PM

Five who are running for governor made a rare joint appearance to criticize a proposed Senate building.

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Speaking on Thursday were, from left, GOP gubernatorial candidates Dave Thompson, Jeff Johnson, Kurt Zellers, Marty Seifert and Scott Honour.

Photo: GLEN STUBBE • gstubbe@startribune.com,

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Minnesota GOP gubernatorial candidates came to St. Paul on Thursday to bash what has been a popular target for Republicans — the proposed $90 million Senate office building and parking ramp.

One by one, they took turns at the podium to criticize the project, which DFLers folded into the tax measure that passed at the end of last session.

Marty Seifert, of Marshall, called the building “opulent and unnecessary.” Rep. Kurt Zellers, of Maple Grove, said the building is poorly conceived as potholes go unfilled and many Minnesotans are out of work. Orono businessman Scott Honour said that if he is elected, he will sublet the building to commercial tenants and use the revenue to pay for it.

The building has drawn much furor around the Capitol and in the community.

Supporters want to get the building approved quickly so it can be built and used while the State Capitol is undergoing a massive multimillion-dollar renovation. The proposed building would house many state senators and potentially free up space in the Capitol and in a neighboring building.

The only thing standing in the way of the building is a powerful House committee — which is looking for cheaper alternatives.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who is seeking re-election, has been a vocal critic of the building’s price tag, saying it was too extravagant and out of sync with Minnesotans’ values. He favors some type of new Senate building, but one that fits in better with the more utilitarian government office buildings around the Capitol complex.

This is the first time the five major GOP gubernatorial candidates appeared together at a news conference. Republicans say they believe the public outrage over the proposed building will help them win in November. The mostly little-known GOP field spent nearly 30 minutes taking shots at the building in unison, but did not offer their own broader vision for how they would run the state.

Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said the current building arrangement is just fine. He said legislators are only in St. Paul for a few months out of the year and don’t need an entire new building just for their offices. “Priorities, folks,” he said. “We don’t need this.”

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson said he is not convinced that senators need a new building, either. “I have yet to see the case that the new building is needed,” he said.

 

Baird Helgeson • 651-925-5044

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