MANKATO, MINN - Three Gubernatorial candidates converged on Mankato Thursday night at the Verizon Center to talk about issues facing Greater and Southern Minnesota.

Jeff Johnson (R), Tim Walz (DFL) and Erin Murphy (DFL) touched on several issues affecting Greater Minnesota throughout tonight's gubernatorial forum.

Each candidate had time to relay their message, beginning with a discussion about bridging the gap between rural and urban Minnesota. 

"I think here you don't have to guess how I would bridge this divide. You've seen how I've governed as a member of Congress, of bringing people together to solve problems," said Walz. "Of trusting the people closest to the decision–making to make those decision."

"I think having somebody who has lived and worked in each of those areas is a way to bridge that divide and hopefully gain some trust that other leaders might not have." said Johnson.

"I've campaigned across the state, I have spent my time with people all across the state of Minnesota," said Murphy. "Frankly I think that's the best preparation to do the job of being the governor for the state of Minnesota."

Local Government Aid is a program created in 1971 to distribute funds evenly across the state. The candidates had an opportunity to share their thoughts on that topic.

"Remember the Minnesota Miracle, the Minnesota Miracle was predicated on sharing," said Murphy. "Sharing the benefits and the burdens of the state's economy and the budget to make sure that across the state people had what they needed. That's the principle I will use when I am the governor."

"Essential things in one community might be different from another community." said Walz. "It might mean fixing a wastewater treatment plant or building a childcare facility. Or maybe even this; the idea that we might enhance our communities with a water park that makes a difference in quality of life so that Greater Minnesota is better. As your governor we will get back to where we were, we will continue to invest and we will make one Minnesota stronger together."

Johnson wouldn't commit to increasing spending for the program but said he supports the concept.

"It was created to help smaller communities, particularly in Greater Minnesota that had a tax–based problem," said Johnson. "That had trouble providing basic services without sending property taxes skyrocketing for their citizens. I think that actually makes sense."

Agriculture was another critical issue for Greater Minnesota addressed tonight.

"Making sure that we're doing things for our beginning farmers and ranchers," said Walz. "The average age of a farm family in Minnesota is 57.2 for someone on the land. We need to make sure we're incentivizing to bring that forward."

"We have to change the culture and attitude of that in some of our state agencies," said Johnson. "From that of controlling and directing and telling everyone else how to farm their land or run their business or raise their kids to actually serving people who pay their salaries."

"The number one issue that I hear from people who are living on farms is health care and the cost of health care." said Murphy.

Tonight's forum will air Saturday right here on Fox 12 Mankato at 1 PM.

-----KEYC News 12