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Nevis Muskie rolls out pink carpet for pig racing fans

A kiss is just a kiss... Governor candidate Tom Horner primed his pig for the race, giving her a smack on the snout before she began her journey round the track. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)1 / 3
Belle arrived to meet and greet pig racing fans. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)2 / 3
Fans cheered as the porkers rounded the racetrack. There were contests among lawyers, businesses, politicians and more. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)3 / 3

It was a great day at the races - pig races, that is.

People arrived from far and wide to view the event and meet politicians stepping on the soapbox.

"This is fabulous," Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner said. His porker claimed victory by a whisker over pigs representing Republican Tom Emmer and Democrat Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

That was after smooching his racer, to the delight of the audience.

An estimated 1,200 arrived for the event, Mother Nature smiling weather-wise.

"Minnesota doesn't lack for smart, creative ideas," Horner said. "Sunday afternoon at the races... How much better does it get?"

But he was also on the campaign trail, discussing legislative issues and the election ahead.

"Minnesota is so polarized," he said of the last legislative session, when much of the financial burden was passed on to cities and counties. "The issues are so critical. We need to be focused on what's right for Minnesota."

He's advocating investment in health care, jobs, economic development and education. "Solutions start at the community level," he said of engaging the "60 to 70 percent" of the people who feel disenfranchised by the current political arena.

As an Independence Party-endorsed candidate, he said he would appoint a cabinet that reflects Minnesotans. "The governor has to get everyone involved and impose a consensus on the Legislature.

"You don't need a governor to set broad policy." He advocates engaging "smart mayors, commissioners and school districts to do the right thing."

Spending reductions, he predicts, will be "deep and painful. We need comprehensive tax reform," he said of the system created in the 1960s and '70s.

"I tend to be conservative, but there are good ideas coming from the Democrats. We need to put all the ideas on the table.

"As an Independent who's willing to be the lightning rod, I'll take the hit. This is the capstone to my political career. I need to make sure Minnesota will be here for my kids."

Minnesota is not as financially desperate as some states, he said, citing California and Michigan. "But we need to look at the future," Horner said of financing early childhood initiatives and infrastructure. "Minnesota is known for its bioscience industry; we should be investing in this. We should be doing so much more. The risk is being satisfied with OK. We can't compete at the level.

"More and more Minnesotans understand this is a critical election," with "solid solutions" needed. "It's a year when Minnesotans are open to the Independence Party."

The estimates $2.5 million is needed to "get the message out," an ambitious goal," he admits.

After the primaries, Minnesotans will see Republican and Democrat candidates "locked into narrow ideologies," he predicts. But Minnesotans are ready to step outside party affiliation to get something done, he said.

"Minnesota needs an independent thinking governor who will do the right thing," he said, just before stepping into the ring to kiss his pig.

He wore a Spam hat as a reminder of what the future holds for slow pigs.