Will Tom Horner be the IP candidate for guv?

Tom Horner
Tom Horner

Tom Horner, a lifelong moderate Republican, is thinking about running for governor and, if he did so, it seems most likely he would do so via the Independence Party.

“I have been approached and I certainly believe there needs to be a moderate in the race,” Horner told me.

If the IP can land a candidate with the profile and skills of Horner, an oft-quoted political analyst and a partner in the Himle Horner Public Relations firm, it will have interesting and potentially significant impacts on the 2010 race.

Horner is definitely not committing to run, but when I heard that he was talking to the IP about the possibility, he confirmed that he has been in talks with the IP about the idea and that he is quite intrigued about the prospect. He has had similar conversations in previous cycles, but they have been “more intense” this time around.

He also had some conversations about a candidacy that might try to revive moderate Republicanism from within the Republican field. he believes there are plenty of Republicans that feel the way he does, but he and they are “outside of the party apparatus that controls the endorsement and nomination process.” So, if he does run, it will probably be for the IP nomination.

Horner said that as a practical matter, he will have to decide by sometime in January, although, if he decides to run, he might announce later than that.

Horner is 59. He came into politics in 1978 with the Dave Durenberger Senate campaign, then went to Washington as Durenberger’s press spokester and eventually became chief of staff. At Himle Horner, which he co-founded in 1989, he has worked largely on public policy issues, although the firm does no lobbying and has not explicitly represented candidates or political parties. He is a frequent TV and radio guest when Minnesota politics is analyzed.

Horner told me he is reluctant to break with the party to which he has belonged all his life but is also concerned about the ideological and partisan polarization of recent years.

“I don’t think we can stay on this trajectory and continue to be the kind of state that people like me have benefited from,” said Horner, a Minneapolis native. The declared candidates are “too far to the left and right and too far out of mainstream,” he said.

He said it’s urgent that there be “somebody in the race who is talking about real solutions that are practical and meaningful, not just solutions that appeal to one ideological group or the other. We suffer from an inability of Democrats being to see any good in Republican ideas and vice versa. We need to find some common ground to move those solutions forward.”

Horner said he would almost certainly not run if someone else who represented a pragmatic centrism got into the race. That could conceivably be former Sen. Norm Coleman, depending on whether and how he decided to run, Horner said, but he believes Coleman will ultimately decide that it’s too soon after the bitter and exhausting 2008 Senate race and 2009 recount to launch another candidacy.”The raw feelings [from that race] are still too close to the surface,” Horner said.

It is widely believed, especially in DFL circles, that the Independence Party nominees helped bring about Republican victories in the last two governor races. Said Horner:

“I think it is true that in 2002 and 2006, the IP did take more votes from the DFL candidates, but that had as much to do with the dynamics of those particular races.”

The IP nominees, Tim Penny and Peter Hutchinson, were both former DFLers. If Horner ends up on the ballot this year, it would be the first time that the IP had chosen a former Republican as its candidate in so prominent a race.

Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 12/14/2009 - 03:40 pm.

    I’ve listened to Mr. Horner for years now. I like what he has to say both politically and policy wise.

    I suspect that Mr. Coleman will be the GOP nominee and that Mr. Rybak will be the DFL nominee. With Mr. Horner in the mix, it should provide for some very thoughtful conversations about policy, taxes and how they relate to the direction our state will take for the next ten years or so.

  2. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/14/2009 - 04:11 pm.

    I’d like to know who those far-out lefties are that Horner mentions. BTW – this is why we need IRV for the state. The gubernatorial elections have turned into contests in which the two major parties compete to lose the fewest votes to the independents, thereby ensuring that virtually no governor will get a majority of the vote.

  3. Submitted by Bruce Anderson on 12/14/2009 - 06:13 pm.

    Run Tom Run!

  4. Submitted by John Olson on 12/14/2009 - 07:32 pm.

    Eric, my recollection is John Himle was a Republican while he served in the legislature–not a Democrat.

    I agree 100 percent with Richard that it will be Rybak and Coleman.

  5. Submitted by Sheri Smith on 12/14/2009 - 11:06 pm.

    Rejecting both the Left and Right may resonate with quite a few people. But I still would like to know what Mr. Horner thinks about the issues of our day. Would he restore GAMC?- the health care program which serves the poorest in the state? How about the issue that seems to be the major difference between the candidates this year?

    What does Mr. Horner feel is the correct role for government? Does he think it is to maintain a safety net, educate our children and build communities? Or does he believe as those on the right seem to think that it is to enforce property rights and get out the way of business?

    It is not all window dressing. The differences between the parties and factions impact our lives.

  6. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 12/15/2009 - 08:07 am.

    In a practical sense, the Independence Party is essentially a “none of the above” party. Whereas I think Tom would have good ideas and be capable of governing – just like Tim Penny and Peter Hutchinson – the voting system means that independent (small i) candidates have little chance of winning. The election of Ventura was a fluke. Even Ventura didn’t expect it. (He was the dog that caught the car.) And that occurred for several reason (Hunting & Fishing Amendment, Ventura was the only pro-choice candidate and Humphrey ran the worst gubernatorial campaign in Minnesota history) none of which are going to happen in 2010.Tom, consider it a letter you wrote but never sent. Save yourself a LOT of time, money and frustration. Watch from the sidelines and deliver clever comments instead.

  7. Submitted by Paul Gustafson on 12/15/2009 - 08:25 am.

    An odd bit of history about Tom Horner and R.T. Rybak:

    They were newsroom colleagues in the mid-to-late 1970s at Sun Newspapers, the Twin Cities suburban weekly chain. Except Tom was a higher up editor. Was he R.T.’s boss? I was there, too. I can’t remember for sure….

    Also, I wonder if Horner’s consideration of running for governor as an IR Party candidate means Jim Ramstad definitely will not be jumping into the race.

    I still think Ramstad would be formidable as a Third Party candidate. I’d be surprised if Horner hadn’t talked to Ramstad before pursuing the idea of running for governor.

  8. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/15/2009 - 08:51 am.

    John Himle was an Independent Republican who later served in the Carlson administration, Eric.

  9. Submitted by Paul Gustafson on 12/15/2009 - 08:57 am.

    A correction. I meant an IP Party bid by Horner, not IR Party bid. Neither Horner nor Ramstad could get the Republican Party endorsement.

  10. Submitted by Ellen Brown on 12/15/2009 - 10:29 am.

    Whether Horner is the IP candidate or someone else is, once again we have a three party race shaping up and the near certainty of a governor elected by a minority of the voters. Whichever major party candidate wins, we will never know the depth of their support without ranked choice voting.

    It is unlikely the legislature will enact ranked choice voting for statewide elections this year, but they could and should.

    In the meantime, how about starting to poll with a ranked choice protocol? That would provide both candidates and voters with more information and could reduce the fear that some have of voting for a moderate candidate by showing his/her depth of support.

  11. Submitted by Tom Horner on 12/15/2009 - 11:04 am.

    One of the opportunies that intrigues about a candidacy is engaging in exactly the kind of conversation that (mostly) occurs on MinnPost. Some thoughts:
    Sheri (#5)is right that ending GAMC is a disaster that not only will cost more money in the long-run, but abandons a core principle of government that it should help people at times in their lives when they truly are vulnerable. But simply extending GAMC isn’t sustainable. Health costs are breaking the system. There are good solutions — too long for a post — that can deliver high quality care to those in need, treat people with dignity and be more cost-efficient. My concern is that in our bilateral system, we are either for or against. There are better choices than that.
    Which is my ask for Jeremy (#6). He’s right — an IP candidacy takes several bolts of lightening to strike. But my frustration is that MN can take ANY candidate from column A and ANY candidate from column B and the result (with today’s field) is a campaign that not only fails to address the critical challenges of MN, but leaves us even more polarized. Campaigns are about winning — but isn’t there value in raising significant issues and solutions, bringing a different tenor to the campaign and then hoping that creates its own lightening?
    And Paul (#7) also is a former Sun colleague. I gave RT his first real job in journalism, then managed him…and we all were about 15 years old, having a great time with an eclectic newsroom.
    Keep sharing thoughts — here or at my Facebook page. This is what I need as I think about the choices ahead.

  12. Submitted by Francis Ferrell on 12/15/2009 - 12:33 pm.

    With all due respect for the ‘numerous’ folks who want to run for MN governor, this is going to be an electoral mess where nobody will truly win!

    If the three major MN political parties do not get their proverbial and ideological acts together this gubernatorial contest will be meaningless. Think about what is going to transpire.

    With the exception of two or three candidates nobody is saying anything new or earthshaking. In most cases, candidates have their own personal political agendas to promulgate with ideas that haven’t worked in the past.

    The politics of this state is so fractionalized that even the academic political scientists and knowledgeable political watchdogs have had nightmares trying to make sense of Minnesota’s political landscape. Then, you say, over 30 people want to run for governor?

    No soap opera, talk show, or Oprah could be as entertaining or frightening as the 2010 MN Gubernatorial Show. Something had better change here in Minnesota or otherwise the nation will have comedic political fodder for years to laugh at!!!

  13. Submitted by Bob Rumpza on 12/15/2009 - 12:34 pm.

    Seeing Tom perform in the not-for-profit realm, I’m impressed by his smarts and his heart.

  14. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/15/2009 - 01:06 pm.

    Mr. Horner would be a refreshing change from Tim Pawlenty. Norm Coleman, however, is a signer of the same anti-tax pledge that Pawlenty has adhered to with an undying faith in its failed ideology.

    A good Dem would be our best choice, however, if we want strong leadership and the reversal of ten years of anti-government government.

  15. Submitted by Tom Knisely on 12/16/2009 - 01:29 pm.

    Nice guy, maybe Sara Janecek (sp?) could be his LT. Governor. But seriously — Yawn. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

  16. Submitted by Tim Nelson on 12/16/2009 - 04:12 pm.

    In the high-tech age, no political answer will do the job. In previous decades, throwing bribes at small business did the trick. This ended abruptly when health care costs skyrocketed.

    Today, the public sector must downsize to the speed of new technology.

    All cuts beyond the speed of new technology is foolish in the extreme.

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