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.