Pubdate: Tue, 25 Oct 2005
Source: Austin Daily Herald, The (MN)
Copyright: 2005 Austin Daily Herald Inc
Author: Josh Verges


The favorite to challenge Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2006 officially joined 
the race Monday, and was fund-raising in southeastern Minnesota on Tuesday.

Attorney General Mike Hatch is making his third run at the governor's 
office, but unlike 1990 and 1994, he's expected to win the DFL 
endorsement this time. Also running for the office are real estate 
developer Kelly Doran, state Sen. Steve Kelley and painter Ole Savior.

Health care reform tops Hatch's agenda, followed by maintaining clean 
waterways and increasing the quality of public schools and access to 
higher education.

In an interview at the Austin Daily Herald Tuesday, Hatch said 
Pawlenty's health care policies have fallen short. Hatch said he 
intends to cut the costs Minnesotans pay for pharmaceuticals by 
negotiating prices with major providers.

"You can make change and this is one way to do it," he said.

Gov. Pawlenty's Web site connecting patients to Canadian drugs didn't 
get much use and hurt Minnesota pharmacies, Hatch said. He also wants 
to prevent health problems by establishing school-based clinics; 
Hatch said they've worked in several schools around the country.

Hatch blamed Pawlenty for this year's partial government shutdown. He 
said the governor's no-tax pledge and casino and stadium talk were a 
distraction. The attorney general - who argued which lights should 
stay on during the shutdown - said he would find commonalities from 
both sides of the political aisle to get the state's work done on time.

He said he wants to change the attitude in St. Paul that "being pure, 
not compromising, is political accomplishment."

In the first city in the state to pass legislation on precursors to 
methamphetamine, Hatch strayed from his speaking points Tuesday to 
say that the ordinance - and a more comprehensive bill later passed 
by the state - is not helping much. He called Pawlenty's work on meth 
"a great cosmetic bill. It has accomplished nothing."

Hatch called for treatment programs and for ephedrine and pseudo 
ephedrine to be regulated like a narcotic. If that fails, he said, 
the state should consider a ban by weighing the value of cold 
medicine against the destruction of methamphetamine.

Further, Hatch wants to bring back a statewide gang task force, which 
would work to shut down the interstate and international drug trade. 
Citing an estimate that only 20 percent of meth in Minnesota is 
cooked in the state, he said only the task force could clean up the state.

On the topic of economic development for outstate Minnesota, Hatch 
dismissed Pawlenty's JOBZ program as offering incentives for 
businesses that already planned to expand. He said the state needs to 
help individual businesses, and that a priority should be convincing 
Northwest Airlines to maintain its Minneapolis hub.

As the only elected official in the DFL bunch, Hatch is considered 
the favorite challenger to Pawlenty. That - and that Hatch's 
gubernatorial aspirations were no secret - were evident in the 
preparedness of the incumbent party to attack the challenger.

The state Republican Party quickly set up an egg pun-laden Web site 
challenging Hatch's record, and party chair Ron Carey sent an e-mail 
to supporters charging Hatch with breaking his word by taking another 
shot at the office.

"Democrats realized a long time ago that to know Mike Hatch is not to 
like him. Now Minnesotans are going to have a chance to really get to 
know him," Carey said.

Hatch does have the support of Austin DFL Rep. Jeanne Poppe, who said 
she got to know Hatch 20 years ago when he served as Insurance 
Commissioner and Poppe was a paralegal.

"He is such a strong advocate for vulnerable people and people who 
have gotten the raw end of the deal," she said.
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