Kevin Terrell, 50, a business consultant with previous involvement in foreign intelligence work for the U.S. government, will announce his candidacy this afternoon for the Independence Party nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Al Franken.
Terrell, who lives in the Lynnhurst neighborhood of Minneapolis, has his own one-man firm called Katana Consulting. He has been active publicly on the issue of airport noise, has been active in the IP for several years, and has been successfully vetted by the party to seek the nomination at its convention, which will be held Saturday on the campus of Minnesota State University in Mankato.
It remains to be seen whether Terrell will develop into a serious contender for the Senate. But because of Minnesota’s unusual three-party system in which the IP generally holds centrist ground between the DFL and Republican Parties, an IP candidate always has at least the possibility of playing a role in the final outcome. Only once, with Jesse Ventura’s 1998 election as governor, has an IP candidate won a statewide race.
But Terrell’s race could also turn out to be vital to the IP’s future. The party has to reach at least 5 percent of the vote in at least one statewide race every four years in order to maintain its legal standing as a “major party” under Minnesota law, which gets the party easy access to the ballot, access to state matching funds and an extra argument for inclusion in televised debates (although that last one is not a legal matter).
Because the party didn’t make a serious run in the 2014 Senate race won easily by Democrat Amy Klobuchar, its major party status is on the line this year, although it could preserve its status by breaking 5 percent in the races for senator, governor or any of the statewide constitutional offices, all of which will be on the ballot.
I had heard persistent rumors that the IP was hoping to coax its founder, Dean Barkley, into the race. Barkley ran three times for the Senate as the IP nominee, cracking the 5 percent mark each time and reaching a high of 15 percent in the 2008 Franken-Norm Coleman-Barkley race. But Terrell told me that Barkley is supporting him and will be at the announcement of his candidacy this afternoon.
Earlier in his career, Terrell worked for the Defense intelligence Agency, overseeing analysis of Soviet troops in Belarus, the Baltic States and the Ukraine. His knowledge of the Ukraine gives him some involvement in one of the current foreign- and military-policy hotspots. After leaving the DIA, he said, he worked for five years a contractor for the CIA.
Terrell said that the general description of the Independence Party as “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” is a pretty good summary of his policy orientation.