Although Minnesota’s gubernatorial election is still 14 months away, candidates from both parties are already beating a path on the campaign trail. While campaigning has thus far been limited, and many candidates have yet to formally launch their campaigns, the race is steadily heating up as candidates vie for the opportunity to represent their respective parties during in the 2018 election.

State House representative, and former House Majority Leader, Erin Murphy (64 A, DFL) visited Granite Falls last week as part of a tour of western Minnesota that also included Marshall and Redwood Falls. In between talking with voters and attending local events, she sat down with our reporters to discuss the issues she’s passionate about and what she hopes to accomplish if elected governor.

A former nurse who served as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Nurses Association, Murphy has made healthcare a major priority of her campaign. Describing her decision to run for office for the first time in 2006, Murphy said the experience of caring for her mother in old age, and having to take on the insurance companies to ensure that she got the care she needed, deeply influenced her views. Murphy also recalled her work as an organizer for the MNA helping to pass the bipartisan MinnesotaCare program in 1992.

In recent years, however, Murphy has been troubled by what she sees as a new direction in healthcare. “The insurance companies [and] the drug companies are first in line most of the time now,” adding that she supports a single-payer alternative as the best way forward. “We can’t afford all the money [currently] going to vendors in the middle,” she said, alluding to the special fees and royalties earned by private insurance providers and pharmaceutical corporations. She recognized that single-payer is a new direction for Minnesota, but declared that “Minnesota has always been a leader in healthcare” adding that it’s “time for us to lead again.”

On the topic of education, Murphy criticized the current approach to funding, which she called “unpredictable,” saying that this makes sustainable investment in education difficult. She went on to outline her vision for the next generation of Minnesotans, saying that “the place where we can make the most significant impact for the next generation of kids is by continuing to focus and make a more stable commitment to early learning. Whether it is high quality childcare (which is scarce and expensive, especially in Greater Minnesota), in Head Start, in home visiting, or in prenatal care.”

Murphy also talked about her desire to see “more of the trades back in the high schools.” She noted that the demand for professions like plumbing and carpentry made it all the more important to train and prepare young Minnesotans for trade jobs. She added that schools were “anchors for our communities” and noted that improving education would also have positive economic consequences down the road.

Murphy also spoke at length about her concerns over the growing divisions which she argues is hurting Minnesota; divisions of geography, class, gender ethnicity, and political party. While she accepted that some of the recent anger was understandable, she argued that many of these divisions were “caused by political intentions to divide and separate us from one another,” further explaining that these efforts “are threatening our way of life and our future.” She went on to stress that many of the problems facing Minnesota could only be solved by working together.

Murphy also took time to address a controversial issue throughout most of Greater Minnesota; buffer strips. She said that she supports Governor Mark Dayton’s vision on buffer strips, saying it’s part of her support for “conservation efforts to clean our water.”

“I think that the buffer idea is a pretty common sense idea, but it got pretty divisive right away because of the way that it was approached. There were farmers that I had talked to who felt that they got blamed for something that they don’t feel was all their responsibility.” She explained that it was important to maintain clean water systems while also listening to the needs of farmers.

She stressed that water was an important asset to Minnesota, and felt that most people understood the importance of it. “We need to do more to make sure we’re not just conserving water, but recognizing that we have issues with our water because of the kind of work that we do in Minnesota.” She stressed the importance of funding additional research to develop better solutions to keep our water clean, adding that having clean water and saving agriculture jobs went together. Asked how she would ensure compliance with the buffer regulation, Murphy shied away from specifics, saying instead that her approach would be less antagonistic and would depend on mutual understanding with farmers.

Asked if she supported a minimum wage change, Murphy touted the minimum wage legislation she helped negotiate as House Majority Leader in 2014 (which gradually raised the state’s minimum hourly wage to $9.50, and indexing future rates to inflation starting next January). Although she recognized that increases to the minimum wage put additional pressure on some employers (specifically for small employers), she was quick to argue that “when jurisdictions have raised the minimum wage, it has not caused job loss -- it has expanded the economy.” She did not mention any specific changes to the existing state standard.

Murphy said she is excited to continue meeting and talking with people from across the state. “Minnesotans are really great teachers. I have a lot of faith in our capacity to solve the problems facing our state. The best way to succeed is by spending time with the people of our state.” Murphy next planned to visit Fergus Falls, but added before leaving that she hopes to be in Granite again soon.