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IP governor candidate Hahn calls for fat tax

Publisher Rob Hahn hopes to win an August primary on the Independence Party ticket and continue his gubernatorial candidacy into November. - R-E photo by Jen Cullen

Rob Hahn sees himself as a visionary.

He sees a system of state-run hospitals. He sees a tax on fast food. And he sees himself in the governor's office.

That Hahn is virtually unknown to most voters doesn't bother him in the least, nor does it drain a confidence that he can win in November.

"Absolutely," the 41-year-old St. Paul resident said. "The climate is ripe for someone who's an outsider."

Hahn, an owner of a publishing firm, is campaigning under the Independence Party banner, a battle he says he'll wage all the way to the August primaries, where he'll likely he will face Republican-turned-Independence Party challenger Joe Repya.

The idea to run for governor came up last year while writing the as-yet unreleased novel "Robbob for Governor" - a fictional tale that Hahn said was not conceived as a campaign tool.

During the writing process late last year, Hahn said he had the proverbial "a-ha moment."

"Maybe I really should take my real life and turn it into some sort of political campaign," the self-described political moderate said.

After announcing his run in January, Hahn said he's been hard at work mobilizing a "grassroots, populist campaign."

State finances head up Hahn's priorities. He said that will mean a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, the latter of which he realizes are thorny.

"No one likes to hear that, but that's reality," he said.

Among his goals is creation of a state-run system of hospitals and clinics, where he said patients could go for free or low-cost health care. He said such a system would coexist with private health care systems.

Hahn, a Winona native, said he'd like to find more revenue sources in ideas like racino, which he says could be expanded to Minnesota auto racing tracks.

And while he admits that another idea - riverboat gambling - is an uphill battle, he knows that's not his most controversial proposed funding source.

Hahn proposes what he calls a "fat tax," which would be applied to fast food restaurants. He said the tax of up to 5 cents per dollar would go toward offsetting state health care costs fueled by obesity.

He hopes voters will embrace ideas like those.

"I don't like to dance around issues and generalities," he said. "I think people are more hungry for that than ever."

And Hahn expects that he'll be as competitive as any of the other major party candidates once the race heats up. Hahn figures that apart from Democratic candidate Mark Dayton, none of the other gubernatorial candidates has especially strong statewide recognition.

"That's a good thing for me," he said.