Governor hopefuls to speak in Austin

Published 9:55 am Monday, July 20, 2009

Pumpkins and politics might seem to only have a first letter in common, but on Saturday they’ll be coming together in Austin.

That’s when the first ever Politics in the Pumpkin Patch event will be held at Farmer John’s Pumpkin Patch, bringing together 10 DFL gubernatorial candidates for 2010 in a fun, informal setting.

The event, which will feature discussions with each of the politicians as well as food and music, is the idea of Rep. Robin Brown, DFL-Albert Lea, and her husband Joseph Brown, superintendent of the Grand Meadow Independent School District.

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“We hope to have it become an annual event,” Robin Brown said. “We’re pretty excited about it.”

Added Joseph Brown: “Having this event is serious, but it’s also supposed to be fun.”

Along with Robin Brown, fellow DFLers from District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks and Rep. Jeanne Poppe will be helping put on the event. Robin Brown said it’s a great chance for gubernatorial candidates to get to know southern Minnesota better.

“For southern Minnesota, it’s so important (candidates) come down here and see who we are,” she said.

The event will run from 4 to 8 p.m. on July 25. Candidates scheduled to attend so far are: state Sen. Tom Bakk, state Sen. John Marty, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, state Rep. Paul Thissen, state Rep. Tom Rukavina, former state Sen. Steve Kelley, former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner and former state Rep. Matt Entenza.

“I don’t know where else in the state you’ll get this opportunity,” Robin Brown said of meeting so many candidates for governor. “It’s a real important event.”

Each of the 10 will get 10 to 15 minutes to speak, Robin Brown said, and will then be available for informal discussion throughout the evening. Piggy Blues Bar-B-Que will supply food, and there will be local musicians and horse-drawn wagon rides for entertainment. Robin Brown said the night will conclude with a straw poll after people have gotten to know the candidates better.

Robin and Joseph Brown said they want the event to be fun and family friendly, particularly so they can get more youth involved with politics.

Robin Brown said she personally invited outgoing and incoming seniors at both Albert Lea and Austin high schools to attend.

“It’s important to get young people involved,” she said.

Tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased through Senate 27 DFL Chairwoman Norma Nelson, or at the Albert Lea Seed House or the Coffee House on Main in Austin.