Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


A very early look at how the Trump phenomenon could affect the Minnesota governor’s race

REUTERS/Mike Segar
President-elect Donald Trump gestures from the front door at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Sunday.

For a political candidate, name recognition is usually an asset. And most of the names of the politicians considering a run for Minnesota governor in 2018 have at least some voter recognition stemming from their years of public service.  

But in in the era of Trump, that familiarity may breed contempt. 

Trump lost Minnesota to Hillary by less than 45,000 votes. A considerable amount of his appeal was not only his stands on trade, immigration, and national security, but his promise to attack those problems with reforms that owed no allegiance to either major political party. 

Yet consider the current names that could top the ticket in 2018: On the DFL side, there’s state Rep. Erin Murphy, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Attorney General Lori Swanson, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, among others. For Republicans, there’s Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt and GOP party chair Keith Downey.

All of them have something in common: all are party insiders whose accomplishments may not turn out to be great assets to a campaign. “If you really want reform,” said political consultant Lonny Leitner, who helped organize the Trump efforts in Minnesota and Iowa, “You don’t give one of these guys a promotion. Voters are still looking for an outsider with different types of experiences.” 

Leitner, a St. Paul native who was initially a Jeb Bush and Scott Walker supporter in the GOP nomination race, said that neither party appears to have yet grasped the significance of the Trump vote. “Minnesota is a diverse state with 87 counties,” he said. “Who are those Trump voters, who is that coalition? People get so trapped in the bubble in St. Paul, they forget the real needs, real concerns and fears, if you will, of the average Minnesotan.”

Republicans, who picked up legislative seats in greater Minnesota, may be in even worse shape that the metro-centric DFL, he suggested. “I worry looking at the Republican party, or lack thereof,” he said. “Until we can win metro seats, we are dying party.”

Former Senate majority leader Amy Koch has also been talking to other Republicans about where the party should be heading. “In 2010, we had a historic majority with no road map,” she said, a situation she believes needs to change for the next election cycle.

“We don’t even have conversations about a governor nominee,” she said. “It’s about the party. Some of it is about party structure. Some of it is about policy… like transportation, higher ed, and health care.”

And the groups, mainly organized at the local senate district level “very much get it,” she said. “I think the Republicans really need to understand what Minnesotans are concerned about and everything else will follow.”

Multiple factors will play into each party’s selection of a gubernatorial candidate, of course, including the actions of the legislature and the first two years of the Trump administration. But for the moment, the one-time fringe candidacy of Donald Trump could become the campaign template for Minnesota’s next governor.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Roy Everson on 11/22/2016 - 11:34 am.

    Never forget “lock her up!”

    If there is any justice, if Minnesota is as great a state as it purports to be, then any support shown for Trump will be a political death sentence.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/22/2016 - 01:07 pm.

      “lock her up”

      An attention-getter, certainly prompting further examination. Those results, well, determined her results.

      It’s time for very many exhausted minds to tell their fingers to pick up a good book on something non-political.
      Those who are determined to be political creatures simply invite pervasive unhappiness.
      Take a break. Enjoy something that counts.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/22/2016 - 02:48 pm.

    There’s little comfort

    …in an image of Minnesota’s next Governor being someone who uses Donald Trump as a template, and I say that as an elderly white male who’d have little to fear from Trumpian racial, ethnic or cultural norms. He (It would, of course, have to be a “he,” since in Trumpworld, women are basically only worthwhile as breeding stock and sexually attractive trophies…) would need to be a Minnesotan with a history of occasionally-dishonest dealings with business associates, an affinity for lying and then denying the lie, and be a “mature” Caucasian who doesn’t mind using offensive racial and ethnic slurs in referring to Minnesota’s growing non-Caucasian population.

    He would be in favor of local limitations on the 1st Amendment, though not at all in favor of limitations on the 2nd Amendment, as least as he understood both of those amendments from the 45 seconds’ study he’d devoted to them. He’d want the state’s Attorney-General to prosecute those who had the temerity to publicly criticize him personally, or his policies. And, he’d fall pretty much in line with the quaint, 15th-century notion of women as chattel. He’ll have paid no state income taxes, so will have made no contribution at all to Minnesota’s physical or cultural infrastructure, but, having no intention of paying taxes himself, he’ll enthusiastically embrace almost any tax-cut proposal as a favor to business acquaintances who still believe in the fiction of supply-side economics.

    There could be more, but you get the idea. If Ms. Brucato is correct, and she may well be, I’m not likely to have much to worry about personally from the next Governor of Minnesota, but I’m not at all sure that would be true for the majority of Minnesotans.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/22/2016 - 05:07 pm.

      Cyndy had to submit something.

      Discussing Governors now is simply too too much for my political interest level. I’d prefer her to stay on the more immediate topic of fallout from the election just TWO weeks ago. Cyndy’s a great and smart and experienced Minnesota Republican functionary of the Carlson Administration brand. She speaks and writes well, but not always on the pertinent topic of the day.

      Cyndy, as one who truly respects your attributes, can’t you give us just a little breathing room here? I care right now about who’s going to be in the gubernatorial mix about as much as I care today about which teams will be in the national college football championship this year. And, I’m a big college football fan.

      I’ve suggested you might serve us well here in the MinnPost cavalry by giving us an insightful piece on exactly why Jason Lewis pulled off a win over Angie Craig. That’s the story of this Minnesota election, at least in my multi-spectral view. I’m otherwise disengaged from State office speculation. Any attempt to make Minnesota Republicans relevant right now seems to me to be too soon and too trivial, given their far greater need for personal RAM and Internet speed.

      Frankly, after the MinnRep duck and cover response to the national candidate, it’ll be awhile before any of these chickens even find a new roost.

      Too many metaphors, for sure. Please excuse. How about reporting what they are doing, not what they might do in some coherently organized and united spirit. That, they are not. The question is open for now.

  3. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 11/22/2016 - 03:05 pm.


    Always prepare for the last war.

  4. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 11/22/2016 - 11:15 pm.

    A Momentary Phenomenon?

    The Trump “phenomenon” may still be in play in 2018 but I think it equally likely that voters are worn out by Mr. Trump and the hard shell conservatives dominating the Republican Party in both Washington and St. Paul.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/26/2016 - 07:44 am.

    Trump phenomena?

    Again, the DFL problem is that they always have a hard time producing strong candidates, this isn’t a new Trump related thing, it’s been their problem my whole adult life.

Leave a Reply