A conservative firebrand, Tom Emmer isn't afraid to speak his mind.

When the Legislature debated a smoking ban a couple of years ago, Emmer remarked, "If this is what government is for, let's go to the next step -- why not cheeseburgers? Big Brother has got to take care of us because we are too dumb or too lazy to care for ourselves."

When asked about reducing government at a recent candidates forum, he said, "The sky's the limit."

Emmer has made tax cuts and reducing the size of government cornerstones of his campaign.

"I will drastically reduce the size of government through elimination of duplicative programs and services within state agencies, and the employees who provide them," he says. "Lower taxes will make Minnesota more appealing to those looking to start small businesses."

Emmer has suggested a voter referendum on whether profits from a new state-sponsored casino should pay for a Vikings stadium, a position that puts him at odds with his running mate, Annette Meeks. Founder of a conservative think tank, she has been on the board of Citizens Against Gambling Expansion.

Emmer, 49, of Delano, has been a member of the Minnesota House since 2005. He first won wide attention for sponsoring legislation to mandate castration of some sex offenders. He also has fought to require voters to show photo IDs.

He is a trial lawyer who made a name for himself representing insurance companies and the insurance interests of several cities and counties.

Emmer has been criticized for proposing lessening administrative penalties for people arrested for drunken driving. Instead of facing license revocation soon after their arrests and before court appearances, drivers would be subject to revocations only after they're convicted or plead guilty.

Emmer's record of drunken driving arrests 20 and 30 years ago has been cited by gubernatorial opponent Marty Seifert.