Governor Dayton, Jeff Johnson, Hannah Nicollet face off on MNsur - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Governor Dayton, Jeff Johnson, Hannah Nicollet face off on MNsure, DMC

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Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL)
Jeff Johnson (R) Jeff Johnson (R)
Hannah Nicollet (IP) Hannah Nicollet (IP)

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Governor Mark Dayton met his two challengers for office in the first debate of the election season Wednesday in Rochester at the Mayo Civic Center.

GOP challenger Jeff Johnson was on the attack against Governor Dayton, tearing into issues including the economy, MNsure, and local government aid.

This was the only debate where Hannah Nicollet's participation has been confirmed, and on many issues, though not all, she shared similar sentiments with Johnson.

Some of the toughest words exchanged during the first gubernatorial debate came on the topic of Minnesota's Health Care exchange MNsure, and much of that criticism came from Johnson. "I can tell you right now that I will fire every member of that board and the top staff because they are incompetent," he said. "I will take away their ability to make rules without public input, and I will work very hard to remove barriers for the public sector to actually compete."

Nicollet also criticized the roll-out of the exchange and proposed improvements. "We find software and administrative handling of an exchange that is actually working well and we tailor it to Minnesota and implement it here," she said.

Dayton defended the exchange, where more than 300,000 Minnesotans have enrolled in health insurance plans. "We have the second lowest percentage of people uninsured in any state in the nation and hundreds of thousands of people have had access to healthcare that they didn't have before because of disqualifications for preexisting conditions," he said.

The health care law wasn't the only piece of legislation Dayton praised, he also talked about Destination Medical Center. "It is a phenomenal project for Rochester, phenomenal for the state of Minnesota for reasons I described before, and should it be a model for other investments of that type, other partnerships? Absolutely," he said.

Johnson, however, said the law would have had to more narrowly define the projects that could get state money before it would get his support. "I would have had a difference of opinion on the definition of infrastructure," he said. "I've been very clear on that with respect to this bill. Had I been a legislator and not able to change it, I likely would not have been able to support it."

One issue all three candidates agreed on: all three supported Sunday liquor sales.

Dayton and Johnson have at least four more scheduled debates between now and the election.

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