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Candidates for governor will debate in Farmington

It is just short of a year until the next elections, but local Republicans are already anxious to hear what voters have to say - particularly about whom they want as Minnesota's next governor.

With that in mind, the four leading Republican Party hopefuls are coming to Farmington this weekend at the Farmington American Legion for a good, old-fashioned debate.

It might seem like it's just too soon to start thinking about next year's elections, especially with this year's having just passed. But District 36B Representative Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) said the timing is actually right on schedule. Caucuses are coming up in February, so the Republican Party wants to hear from residents now.

"It's a great opportunity to hear from them," Garofalo said. "They are coming to Farmington to meet, listen and speak with local citizens."

The top candidates include former Minnesota Secretary of State Pat Anderson; Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) of Dist. 42; Rep. Marty Siefert (R-Marshall) of Dist. 21A; and Tom Emmer (R-Delano) of Dist. 19B.

Don Drewry will serve as the moderator of Saturday's event. He was selected because of his long-standing support for the Republican Party.

"Don's a well respected member of the community," Garofalo said. "He has leadership experience in the business world. Whenever we need somebody who is fair and unbiased to chair meetings, he always comes to mind."

The format is pretty straightforward, Garofalo said. Candidates will be able to ask each other questions, and citizens will also be able to pose questions of the candidates. At the conclusion of the debate, a straw poll will be taken to get a feel for who the audience liked the best.

"There's a pretty robust lot for candidates," Garofalo said. "I think the big thing about this (debate) is, this is a pretty conservative area. It's a good opportunity for citizens to meet the candidates face to face."

The event starts with a breakfast from 8 to 9:15 a.m. The debate itself will begin around 9:15, and is expected to wrap up by 11 a.m. The cost is $10 per person, and tickets will be sold at the door.