State Rep. Paul Thissen, a DFLer who represents Minneapolis and Richfield, will file papers Monday for a 2010 gubernatorial run.
Thissen has not been among the “big names” mentioned for the race, but has some intriguing qualities. At 42, he’s fresher-faced than Tim Pawlenty, a city resident who represents a district that’s mostly suburban.
Thissen is also a respected policy wonk who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee. He says he has paid special attention to affordable health care, and was instrumental in extending coverage to kids in the last legislative session.
He also jokes that he and fellow Rep. Aaron Peterson worked for a renewable-energy standard in 2004, “before it was cool.” The measure passed this year.
Thissen, an attorney, was one of the organizers of the legislature’s 2020 Caucus (now known as the 2020 Conference), a bipartisan, bicameral effort to enact legislation addressing the state’s major demographic shifts. He and GOP conservative rising star Laura Brod recently co-authored a piece on long-term care for the Strib.
The short-term problem for Thissen: a potentially crowded DFL field against better-known rivals who share many of his attributes and accomplishments.
Legislative leaders such as St. Cloud Sen. Tarryl Clark, House Speaker Margaret Kelliher are oft-mentioned; ex-heavyweights such as Matt Entenza and Mark Dayton can bring big checkbooks to the race, and State Rep. Tom Bakk and Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner have already declared.
Thissen — who says he will abide by the party’s endorsement — acknowledges he has to create a campaign committee now to raise the funds to be competitive.
“The bottom line is, to put together a serious campaign, you have to start early. There will be a lot of good choices and options out there. But we don’t know really who is going to get in,” he says.
While he’s been flying under the radar, Thissen notes he’s helped DFLers in 50 counties — necessary chit-building for a statewide run. Politics in Minnesota has called him “one of the Democrats’ best strategic minds.” For a race like this, he’ll have to be.