Race for governor begins to shake out and shape up

This week’s news of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman bowing out and House Minority Leader Marty Seifert winning the Republican Party gubernatorial straw poll bring the first signs of clarity to a race that has been otherwise tough to find focus. 

Seifert’s decisive win in the GOP straw poll is impressive but not surprising. He has been the perceived front runner since the day Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced he wouldn’t seek re-election. Seifert was the first to hire staff. He’s also presumed to be the top fundraiser and is the most aggressive at traveling the state.  That said, there is still a notable undercurrent of GOP leaders and activists who don’t think that he is the best candidate the party can put forth next November.

So who is?  The surprise candidate of the race has been Rep. Tom Emmer, whose authentic communication style and plain spoken stories overshadow Seifert’s well-known quirkiness. Emmer gained momentum going into the straw poll and beat former state Auditor Pat Anderson, the leader of one of the GOP’s most effective interest groups, the Minnesota Free Market Institute (formerly known as the Tax Payers League Education fund).

A breakdown of the numbers shows that Seifert’s trouble is that he is not very popular as the delegate’s second choice, meaning that if people aren’t supporting him, they are not likely to. Meanwhile, Emmer and Anderson are battling over the libertarian and socially conservative activists within the party. Seifert’s problem, on GOPer said, is that poll indicates that 63 percent of the delegates don’t think the presumptive leader of the party after Pawlenty is the best candidate to run in 2010.

Dropping out and jumping in
In the near term, rumors will swirl about other GOPers dropping out of the race, and other GOPers getting in. State Sen. David Hann was the surprise strong performer in the poll, but dropout rumors will likely focus on state Sen. Mike Jungbauer, former Minnesota Reps. Bill Haas and Paul Kohls. Don’t expect any sudden moves, but keep an eye on them if they can’t continue to raise funds.

As for getting into the race, the names of these two GOPers are coming up most often: state Rep Laura Brod, who is recovering from a personal health issue, and Minnesota Business Partnership CEO Charlie Weaver.

On the DFL side, Coleman’s move was shocking to the field, but not to those close to him. His passion for his home city, where he is mayor, ultimately outweighed his ambition to seek an office that many thought he was a front-runner for. Most notably, St. Paul has tremendous economic development opportunity with the construction of the Central Corridor, the resurgence of office and retail-entertainment in Lowertown, and the potential for high-speed rail to Chicago.

Those are infrastructure and economic opportunities that St. Paul has positioned itself for over the past 30 years. If the favorite son continues to attract jobs and investment to the city, he will be well-positioned to run for any office in the future.

And what does that do to the DFL field? 

It helps state House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher tremendously. Many of the party faithful were conflicted over Coleman and Kelliher as to who would be the strongest statewide candidate and receive the party’s endorsement. If Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak decides to get in, Kelliher will be able to capitalize on her popularity among key DFL allies outside of Minneapolis and DFL delegates.

So as the race begins to shake itself out, there is still a lot of campaign left. The two parties are in different places. DFLers understand that once Rybak decides, they will have their pick in a group of candidates who all can make the case for winning. GOPers, however, feel like they need one or two more candidates to really put their best foot forward.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by John Olson on 10/09/2009 - 11:54 am.

    Entenza and Dayton with their own financial resources are factors that can’t be overlooked or ignored. If either one is not the nominee for the DFL, the question will be whether they contribute to the endorsed candidate or not.

    I’m still having a hard time imagining Rybak getting enthusiastic support outside the metro area, if history is any guide.

    And let’s face it, the actions/inactions of the Obama Administration and Congress over the next 13 months will affect every race, right down to local dogcatcher. 2010 could be 1994 all over again, depending on what happens between now and then.

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/09/2009 - 12:21 pm.

    I’m glad to hear that Chris Coleman will remain St. Paul’s mayor. He’s done much good in spite of the huge financial shortfalls thrown his way by outgoing (thank goodness) Governor Pawlenty.

    Ms. Ng may have many good qualities, but she seems wedded to corporate beliefs and practices that would not do St. Paul much good. We need someone who believes in the power of government to make life better for all as well as in business’s role as the builder of society’s wealth.

  3. Submitted by Terry Stone on 10/09/2009 - 05:21 pm.

    Hann’s strong showing as a second choice candidate was the only surprise of the GOP State Convention. It deserves a closer look.

    When each candidate’s votes for second choice are compared to the number of delegates available to vote for that candidate, Seifert is number one as a second choice. The order is Seifert (21.9%), Emmer (21.8%), Haan (20%)and Anderson (17.1%).

    Convention rules disallowed the same name for both first and second choice. This rule removed 454 potential votes from Seifert’s pool of delegates available to vote for him as a second choice candidate; so a bit of math is needed to get an accurate reading on candidate strength.

  4. Submitted by Margaret Martin on 10/09/2009 - 05:34 pm.

    A correction. The Minnesota Free Market Institute was formerly the Taxpayers League Foundation.

  5. Submitted by Silence Dogood on 10/09/2009 - 08:07 pm.

    The straw poll voting rules were changed at the recent Minnesota GOP convention, which resulted in the front-runner, Marty Seifert, being penalized. The rules were changed so that if you voted for a gubernatorial candidate as your 1st choice you were forbidden to vote for that same gubernatorial candidate as your 2nd choice. Thus, Marty Seifert had the most “ineligible” ballots on the 2nd choice, because he was so popular as delegates’ 1st choice. Additionally, it is important to note that Marty Seifert was the combined 1st or 2nd choice of almost 55% of the delegates at the convention. See the below chart for details.


    Rank Percent Total 1st CD 2nd CD 3rd CD 4th CD 5th CD 6th CD 7th CD 8th CD

    M. Seifert 1 26% 625 99 71 88 66 28 73 109 91
    T. Emmer 2 20% 490 36 98 65 37 39 130 54 31
    D. Hann 3 15% 362 38 48 73 37 19 62 48 37
    P. Anderson 4 15% 356 31 68 44 47 39 61 38 28
    “NONE” 5 10% 233 14 24 67 20 4 44 29 31
    P. Kohls 6 8% 186 23 55 32 20 10 27 7 12
    B. Haas 7 2% 56 6 13 11 4 1 11 7 3
    “OTHERS” 8 2% 50 3 3 5 10 2 7 9 1
    M. Jungbauer 9 1% 47 5 5 9 4 4 12 6 2
    L. Davis 10 1% 39 2 3 5 8 7 10 4 0
    P. Herwig 11 1% 34 3 4 7 3 1 3 3 10

    39 “OTHERS”: Steve Sviggum (10), Laura Brod (10), Norm Coleman (5), Sue Jeffers (4), Morrie Lanning (2), Jim Ramstad (2), Brian Sullivan (2), Erin B (1), Phil Krinkie (1), Carol Molnau (1), “Steve Hann” (1).

  6. Submitted by Richard Anderson on 10/10/2009 - 10:54 pm.

    Marty Seifert was the 1st or 2nd choice of almost 55 percent of this convention out of a 9 person field. You can spin this however you want, but it was nothing short of a massive victory!

    Wake up!

  7. Submitted by Harry Niska on 10/11/2009 - 03:33 pm.

    Another correction, Paul Kohls is not a former State Rep., he is a current Rep.

    Richard, you need to re-do your math. Seifert’s first+second choice votes added up to barely over 50% of the total votes (see this chart: http://www.mnprogressiveproject.com/upload/Straw%20Poll%20results.jpg).

    Seifert genuinely deserves some kudos for doing what he had to do, which is take first. But his lead over Emmer (14 points on the first choice, or 11 points on first+second choice) is a lot less impressive when you consider the organizational advantage Seifert has shown so far in the race. And if Seifert wanted to claim the “inevitable frontrunner” mantle, he needed a much more convincing win.

    This race is far from over.

  8. Submitted by James Hamilton on 10/11/2009 - 04:36 pm.

    Mayor Coleman’s decision not to run for governor was a good call, from where I sit in St. Paul. He’s done a decent job here as mayor, overall, and I’d like to see him continue. I doubt, however, that he has the statewide appeal to be elected governor.

    Rep. Seifert’s nomination as the Republican candidate, should it occur, will be a windfall for the Democratic candidate. He comes across as farther to the right than Gov. Pawlenty and lacks the personal appeal that allowed the right-of-center Pawlenty to be elected twice.

  9. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/11/2009 - 09:13 pm.

    Mr. Hamilton nails it….

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