One of Minnesota’s most historically popular governors, Arne Carlson, this morning announced that he is endorsing Independence Party candidate Tom Horner for governor.
Carlson, a Republican who in his time never was popular with the socially conservative base of his party, has embarked on a quick mini-tour of the state with Horner. The two are to appear in Rochester at 9 this morning, on the steps of the state capitol at noon and in St. Cloud at 3 p.m.
The endorsement is not surprising, but it is significant.
It’s not surprising because Carlson, in recent years, has expressed an intense dislike of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s style and policies. He also has bristled at the ever-rightward philosophical direction his party has taken.
Carlson always was at odds with the social conservatives in his own party, never winning their support.
Recall, that in 1990, the party faithful turned to Jon Grunseth to be their candidate to run against incumbent Rudy Perpich. Carlson got on the ballot only after Grunseth withdrew from the race after a scandal erupted about his personal life. Carlson defeated Perpich by just 3 points.
After a successful first term, the party, dominated by social conservatives, again rejected Carlson in 1994, endorsing Allen Quist. Carlson easily won a primary race against Quist and then trounced John Marty in the general election.
Carlson never has stopped irritating his old party. Just two years ago, he endorsed Barack Obama.
Not surprisingly, the state party has expressed an intense dislike of Carlson, claiming he’s not really a Republican.
Since his days as governor, Carlson has, at various times, claimed to be a Republican and an independent.
He has maintained a high profile in Minnesota, appearing regularly on talk radio programs and writing newspaper commentaries. He also announced earlier this year that he was going to embark on a “Paul Revere’’ tour of the state, warning Minnesotans of the coming budget crisis. That tour really has never developed – perhaps until now.
“If you believe, as I do, that our problems are too large and the other candidates too extreme to be trusted with the future of the state, this election demands we take another path,” Carlson said in endorsing Horner.
From the beginning of this race, Horner has had the support of former Sen. Dave Durenberger, who, like Carlson, is a moderate Republican.
The Republican Party quickly responded to the Carlson endorsement by blasting him as just another tax-and-spend liberal.
“Arne Carlson’s endorsement of Tom Horner comes as no surprise, given his previous endorsements of Barack Obama and other big spending liberals,’’ said Tony Sutton, the party’s chairman, in a statement.
“Carlson is endorsing a candidate who represents the same old approach he had as governor; increasing the sales tax, presiding over double-digit percentage increases in the growth of state spending every biennium and preserving the status quo in government.’’
The party’s news release stated Carlson hasn’t been a Republican for more than a half decade. It cited a 2004 news clipping in which Carlson said he was an independent.