CANDIDATES STRESS CHOICES, NOT ISSUES, AT DEBATE IN ST. PAUL
Terry Collins / Star Tribune
No long stares, glares or insults were exchanged Thursday night; the real debate among three lesser-known presidential candidates was not about voting for them, but about choosing someone besides their more familiar opponents.
"The question is not about who is going to win," said Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party nominee. "But will you vote for the person who you feel can make a real difference?"
Browne, Constitution Party candidate Howard Phillips and the Natural Law Party's John Hagelin, who battled Pat Buchanan for the Reform Party nomination, shared their ideas with nearly 200 people during the 90-minute debate at the Roy Wilkins Ballroom in St. Paul.
Before the event, sponsored by the Independence Party, Gov. Jesse Ventura rousingly reminded the crowd that despite the single-digit support for the candidates at the debate, the event still merited attention.
"Don't accept the [two-party] system as it is. This is the way it should be done," Ventura said. "We deserve an America with more than just two choices."
Keeping that in mind, Alisha Kirchoff, 18, of St. Cloud, asked the candidates why they are running with the odds overwhelmingly stacked against them.
"We need to restore government on solid, common-sense principles," said Hagelin, 46, of Fairfield, Iowa, who, like the other candidates, stressed the need for campaign-finance reform. "We need to improve our health care, more crime prevention and improving education."
Stressing a need to "go back to the constitutional agenda," Phillips said he wants to scale back government, eliminate the income tax, sales tax and the estate tax, and privatize Social Security, so "recipients can get every dollar they have coming to them." ...
Browne said he wants to be a leader, not "a dictator of the world," while supporting a citizen's right to bear arms, working for affordable health insurance and devising a strategy to stop the "war on drugs." ...
Hagelin said voting for either Vice President Al Gore or Texas Gov. George W. Bush is choosing the "lesser of two evils."
"By voting for them, you're saying you're content with your country," he said.
Browne agreed, saying: "Feel clearer, fresher, more happier than you've ever voted before. We can take this country back. Don't vote against anybody, vote for your beliefs as a vote for yourself."