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State Journal: Campaign overture Mise en school

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During his eight years in office, Gov. Rudy Perpich of Minnesota has established himself both as an innovator in education and as a canny politician able to survive against the odds.

Mr. Perpich, who faces a tough re-election fight, last month underscored those traits by issuing a public invitation to President Bush to visit a Minnesota school.

It mattered little that Mr. Bush was traveling to the state to campaign for Mr. Perpich's Independent-Republican opponent, Jon Grunseth, or that White House officials clearly had little incentive to generate favorable publicity for the Democratic Governor.

But the overture served to highlight the fact that Mr. Perpich's education policies--in particular the state's pioneering school-choice program--have won praise from the President and other Republicans.

A press release accompanying the invitation quotes a letter written by Mr. Bush after the education summit, in which he told Mr. Perpich, ''Your experience with choice was widely discussed and cheered."


Other governors seeking re-election are busy these days having themselves filmed in school settings.

In Florida, Gov. Bob Martinez is running a television ad that highlights the seven years he spent as a teacher.

Shown sitting at a teacher's desk in a classroom, Mr. Martinez talks about his support for greater parental choice and a 56 percent increase in education funding under his administration.

"After all," the Governor says while tossing an apple, "there's still a lot of the old teacher in me."

That brought a quick retort, though, from Mr. Martinez's former union and current political foe, the Florida Teaching Profession-National Education Association, which denounced the ad as a "blatant, arrogant misrepresentation of the truth."

Gov. George S. Mickelson of South Dakota, meanwhile, recently went to the high school in his home town of Brookings for a question-and-answer session with students.

School officials had no objection to that. But, according to news accounts, they began to grow suspicious when the camera crew accompanying Mr. Mickelson asked him and his audience to repeat questions and answers and pointed out appropriate times to applaud.

That suggested to some that the event was intended more as fodder for a campaign ad than as a nonpolitical give-and-take session between a state official and his constituents.

Governor Mickelson subsequently announced that he would not use the event in his campaign advertising.--hd

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