DFL lacks a frontrunner in governor’s race

The GOP straw poll for governor a few weeks ago gave the Republicans a front runner. It is Rep. Marty Seifert. On the other hand, DFLers who thought that the field would have more clarity after the summer are still without a clear front runner.

Without significant early labor endorsements or fundraising reports, DFLers are still speculating who is best positioned to garner the party’s endorsement and win a primary. Everyone in and around the party knows that the deep pockets of former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton and former state Rep. Matt Entenza will have an impact on the race — no matter party endorsement or labor union support.

Buzz among party insiders puts state House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher as the front runner, especially since St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman decided not to run. But Kelliher hasn’t had the immediate impact that people predicted.  Her most significant early endorsement is from WomenWinning, a pro-choice group that raises money and pushes to elect women to office.  It is a key win for Kelliher and helps her raise money in some important pockets within the women’s community.

Few endorsements
Labor unions are the most significant and influential constituency for the DFL Party, and so far it has been a lot of dry powder.  That hasn’t always been the case.  In prior years, unions begin to endorse early to help a perceived frontrunner gain momentum. 

In 2002, retired state Sen. Roger Moe locked down early endorsements and in 2006 former Attorney General Mike Hatch was the 800-pound gorilla in a DFL primary — with or without the party endorsement. As a result, many unions lined up to be supportive

Last week’s announcement that the Minnesota Nurses Association endorsed state Rep. Paul Thissen signals that Thissen is impressing many with his campaign, but rarely does his name come up as the leading contender to be the DFL nominee. On the other hand, the Teamsters endorsed someone who isn’t even in the race: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Rybak is expected to enter the race after his mayoral campaign, but that won’t automatically make him the front runner.  Over the weekend, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 5, endorsed Dayton.

The key unions that aren’t showing any sign of early endorsement include Education Minnesota and SEIU.  SEIU State Vice President Javier Morrillo recently told MPR that they were likely to wait in their endorsement until next year. And Education Minnesota has screened candidates, but it isn’t clear when they will announce their endorsement.

State Sen. Tom Bakk will likely wrap up most of the building-trade unions as a business representative for the carpenters and is probably the leading contender to line up the Steelworkers, whose largest membership is on the Iron Range.

Within the DFL there are also many sub-caucus groups representing groups such as veterans, GLBT delegates, seniors and numerous others who have relatively minor influence. But in a crowded field, every possible delegate could matter. Other key endorsements for DFLers are likely to come from environmental groups.

One new measurement of support could be Facebook supporters, and while highly debatable as a true measure, a tally as of this week puts Kelliher in the lead with over 1,200 supporters on Facebook, and state Sen. John Marty in second with more than 700.

Finally, another factor that could indicate front-runner status is fundraising, something again that isn’t clear because candidates don’t have to reveal totals until the end of the year. But it’s a factor because people know Dayton and Entenza have the personal resources to stay in the race, with or without endorsements from constituency groups.

So without a straw poll, or a wave of endorsements, the DFL field will continue to jockey for position like a pack of dogs at feeding time — reminded all the time that momentum can quickly emerge when there is money in the race or a few unions line up behind one candidate.

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 10/27/2009 - 09:26 am.

    “The key unions that aren’t showing any sign of early endorsement include Education Minnesota, AFSCME and SEIU … AFSCME held a candidate forum last week at its state convention and has been screening candidates but is leaving the timing of the endorsement open for discussion. ”

    Ahem. AFSCME endorsed Mark Dayton on Monday:


  2. Submitted by Paul Demko on 10/27/2009 - 09:48 am.

    It should also be noted that the Rybak endorsement was from Teamsters Local 120. It’s merely one of 11 Teamsters local across the state.

  3. Submitted by Garrett Peterson on 10/27/2009 - 09:53 am.

    In addition to being a day late and missing the AFSCME endorsement, there were a couple other omissions:

    Bakk picked up the endorsement of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.

    Rukavina was endorsed by the United Steelworkers, Local 1938, and (according to his facebook page)he also picked up Local 2660.

  4. Submitted by Don Effenberger on 10/27/2009 - 10:07 am.

    Re: Comment #1: We’ve updated Blois Olson’s post,which was written and edited Friday before AFSCME’s weekend endorsement of Mark Dayton. We should have caught that out-of-date reference before posting today.

  5. Submitted by Nancy Gertner on 10/27/2009 - 01:44 pm.

    Perhaps lacking a front-runner is a good thing, because it provides for having many voices and different perspectives in the discussion as Minnesotans explore our critical need for new leadership in the executive branch of our government.

    In fact, I would say it’s better than having a ‘front runner’ like Marty Seifert, who can be good at delivering one-liners, but may not have the vision and leadership qualities Minnesota needs right now.

    Many DFL activists are participating in the discussions without being quick to endorse or promote a perceived ‘front runner.’

    The DFL Veterans Caucus, one of those many DFL constituent caucuses ‘with relatively minor influence,’ is holding an issue forum during National Veterans Awareness Week to focus on public policy issues relevant to active military, veterans, families and survivors. The forum is free and open to the public and will be held Saturday, 14 November 2009 from 2-4 PM at the Center for Changing Lives, 2400 Park Avenue in Minneapolis.

    So perhaps in 2010 Minnesotans will elect a new governor as informed voters, and not influenced mainly by the perceived ‘deep pockets’ and group endorsements.

    I think the author’s analogy to candidates ‘ jockeying for position like a pack of dogs at feeding time’ demeans the office of the Governor of the State of Minnesota and the volunteers to serve in that position.

    But I guess if you look at campaigns as a race and everyone else as the ‘deciders’ and you’re just a spectator, it will look like whatever you see it as.

  6. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/27/2009 - 04:44 pm.

    I think the endorsement process is difficult this year and may take more time because absolutely every DFL candidate would make an excellent governor. Excellent. Excellent.

  7. Submitted by Jean Schiebel on 10/27/2009 - 06:26 pm.

    I would think Mark Dayton is the front runner for the moment. just for winning the Primary.
    I doubt if he has much of a chance for party endorsement
    But his AFSCME endorsement is quite an accomplishment at this early date.

  8. Submitted by Dave Gooden on 10/28/2009 - 01:23 pm.

    Just wanted to mention that Tom Rukavina has 950 members in his Facebook group.


  9. Submitted by Al Juhnke on 10/28/2009 - 01:32 pm.

    Too bad this article was run w/out edits. (ie AFSCME endorsement). Also, I would say it is misguided to assume Bakk will receive steelworker support. I suspect Rep. Rukavina will garner support of not only steelworkers (he has two local endorsements already) but also other unions on the Western Range. In fact, Rep. Rukavina should be considered a front runner for ALL union endorsements as one of the legislature’s strongest pro-labor supporters over the years.

  10. Submitted by Jeremy Hanson on 10/30/2009 - 08:14 am.

    FYI, R.T. Rybak has 6,200+ Facebook fans (and 5,000 friends on his personal FB page), which could come in handy if needed. Oh, yeah, and he has 5,600+ followers on Twitter.

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