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Engaging Emmer and cautious Kelliher show sharp contrast in style at today's gubernatorial race filings

If politics is as much about style as substance, the DFL would appear to again have its hands full in the gubernatorial campaign now unfolding.

This morning was a classic example of the style differences between Tom Emmer, the Republicans' endorsed candidate, and Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the DFL's endorsee. Both were at the secretary of state's office — at different times — to file for office. (The filing fee is $300 each for governor and lieutenant governor.)

Kelliher arrived first, shortly after 8 a.m., accompanied by her running mate, John Gunyou, and her campaign manager. A handful of supporters greeted her with applause. She briefly acknowledged the cheers and went about the business of filing.

Gunyou noted that the notary, Nancy Breems, who was witnessing the process, was wearing a Neil Diamond trinket on her necklace.

"Went to his concert years ago," Breems said, "but it's one I'll never forget."

Gunyou said that he, too, had been to Diamond concerts and loved them.


Kelliher entered the conversation.

"We once played 'Sweet Caroline' in the governor's office while we were negotiating," she told Breems and Gunyou. "Sen. Bakk wanted it so I played it on my iPhone."

That little comment was the last moment of easy-going conversation on Kelliher's part.

Formal Kelliher
After filing, she met with reporters and, in formal, play-it-safe tones, answered a few questions from reporters.

The Kelliher-Gunyou campaign, she said, is going to cross Minnesota "corner to corner … talking about the values important to Minnesotans. … Job One is more jobs. Job Two is solving the budget."

She was asked if support from Education Minnesota might actually harm her campaign, given the frustration so many seem to feel with the status quo in the state's educational system.

She suggested that her primary opponents "might be jealous of me having that support." She talked about the importance of "accountability" in education and then moved on, Gunyou following.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher

Even in this relatively informal session, Kelliher had refused to show her own personality.

Shortly after Kelliher left, Republican legislative candidates started filing en masse ($100 to file for a legislative race).

Emmer wasn't supposed to file until 9:30, but he showed up a half-hour early to schmooze with everybody in sight. He laughed easily, shook hands, laughed some more.

He talked of how his spouse, Jacqueline, was at home, doing last-minute preparations for a four-day get-away trip she's set up. "We've dispersed the [seven] kids," said Emmer.

He talked about once you've got more than four kids, people stop inviting you to dinner, but that the Emmer clan has found soul mates west of Delano.

"The Finns look at us like we've got a small family," said Emmer. "They have 12, 13, 14 kids. All play hockey."

Talkative Emmer
Emmer, a former hockey player who's now a coach, lapsed into talk of the "cosmic forces" coming together. He was born in 1961 and that was the last year his favorite team, the Chicago Blackhawks, won the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks will win, he'll win, and all the forces are coming together. Then, he laughed.

Emmer was asked about a quote of his in today's New York Times: "You cannot Band-Aid the Good Ship Lollipop. It's time to completely restructure the hull."

Emmer has made similar comments throughout the campaign, but what of specifics?

"Oh come on, man," said Emmer. "The governor doesn't have to put out a budget until after he takes office. … Before we start telling you what needs to be done, we're traveling the state of Minnesota listening."

But he repeatedly spoke of "duplication"and "excess"in government.

"We've got four agenicies that deal with water," Emmer said. "Health, DNR, PCA, BOWSER … Does that make sense? So much duplication."

Rep. Tom Emmer
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
Rep. Tom Emmer

He said he realizes some in government will take offense at what he's saying, but he's not particularly concerned.

"It's like lawyers," he said. "You get two lawyers together, and the one thing they agree on is how dumb the third one is."

The point? Even government workers would agree there's too much duplication, but it's always "the other guy" that's the problem.

"Do we have all the answers?'' continued Emmer. "No, we don't. But I do know that government is supposed to be a services business. We're supposed to support the people who elect us. From the seat I've had on the inside [as a state representative], government too often is about protecting government, not people."

The Republicans turned this filing day into a huge rally, inviting scores of its legislative candidates to file together. Then, they gathered in a room across from the secretary of state's office.

The room was jammed. TV lights were on. Several fiery speeches about pending Republican triumphs were given. Candidates and reporters and Republican Party officials were sweating.

Emmer stepped up to speak.

There was huge applause. He spoke with passion and humor, and the room got hotter and hotter.

Emmer looked around.

"This feels and smells like a locker room," he said.

And everybody laughed.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (16)

It’s not surprising that MAK is crabby these days.

Looking ahead, she’s tasked with defending a legislative record of dismal failures, and promoting an agenda that promises nothing but more of the same.

She can't campaign with her Minnesota ilk because they're all too busy fighting for their own political lives. She can't count on support from DC Democrats; most are just as unpopular as the locals, and the few that aren't, won't be in a hurry to jump into the quagmire with those that are.

If only bright spot on your horizon is that you aren't Mark Dayton; you’d be crabby too.

That's so bizarre. Usually the DFL turns out gubernatorial candidates who are high on style. What an unusual departure for this otherwise well-oiled machine.

Did the press cheer for Tom Emmer like they did for MAK?

Of course Emmer and cohorts are yukking it up. They achieved their goal this past legislative session. They gummed up the works by supporting King Pawlenty's presidential aspirations -- and these depend on his no new taxes pledge. Their short-term goal is to win in November. After that---?

Democrats, including Kelliher, are appropriately concerned about the difficult choices ahead. They understand that the pain of budgeting in lean economic times should be rightfully shared by all citizens, and not fall disproportionally on the middle class and poor. This is no time to celebrate. There are no easy choices.

Susan Rego....your response is full of talking points and cliches! You didn't do your DFL brethren any good what-so-ever.

Mr. Swift offers talking points from (presumably) your perspective. So what's your point Fritz?

It is the press' responsibility to stay on Emmer's claim of an easy process of 20% budget cuts. His example of water is perfect. I hope that he understands the difference between how the health department role (drinking water) and DNR (fish swimming in water).

I also hope that someone is examining Emmer's alcohol and driving incidents. How were these handled by the local prosecutor? I wonder if the buddy system was in play.

Susan, I think the sobriquet is "King Timmy".

DFLer's tend to speak a language I call DFLish. Margaret does that a lot. She "stands up" for Minnesotans generally, and various constituency groups in particular. She visits all four corners of our irregularly shaped state. She makes "tough choices", "vibrantly" no doubt. She speaks of those jobs which are one, and she is at one with those jobs.

I would like to see DFL rhetoric loosen up a bit, become a little sharper, and maybe a little more amusing. But it isn't the job of governors to amuse, it's their job to govern effectively. Tom Emmer is a charming guy, but the problems we are going to have to deal with in the next four years are not going to be charmed away. Eight years of charm, got us in the spot we are in now. Margaret isn't a lot of fun, but no one in this race understands government and how to make it work as well as she does. No one else in this race has demonstrated anything like her ability to pierce through the partisan fog, and yes even the fog of her own rhetoric sometimes to get things done.

A vote for Emmer is a vote to be entertained for the next for years as our state continues a slide into oblivion. A vote for Margaret is a vote for coming to grips with our problems, and ultimately to make things better.

Hiram, I agree with everything you've stated -- unfortunately, style counts in elections. There is a certain chunk of voters who will vote for the person they would rather have a beer with, and there are enough of those voters to sway elections.

As I've said before: how many elections does the DFL have to lose before they figure this out? It ain't rocket science.

This election looks to be an extraordinarily costly wasted opportunity on the part of the DFL so far. I will give her a chance to prove herself, but so far I agree with the first paragraph of the comment by Hiram Foster -- stood stood standing stood -- did anyone else find that meaningless language in the Kelliher end of session statement just deeply unsatisfying, even annoying?

I would rather she spare me the "standing up for Minnesota" baloney and just talk about things that are tangible. I would rather they stop talking about "revenue" and just say "taxes". I would rather they stop B S-ing us about what a great session they had -- they punted, deciding Pawlenty was impossible to negotiate with. The sooner they say that straight up the sooner they will stop looking like big government phonies and more like people voters can relate to.

The voters do want fun, and there is nothing wrong with that, because ultimately they don't have the time to read all the ins and outs of policy and have to make choices based on social cues. The DFL is positively Aspberbers in its single minded fixation on policy and neglect of nonverbal communication. Anyone else remember how Wellstone won? Go back and look at the Bill Hillsman work.

John Olson, what is your point?

Maybe Kelliher has tired, old Democrat ideas about governing. More taxes, more spending. Maybe that's the problem. It's really funny here on Stribune Jr. how all the journalists mock conservatives and prop up the left. Yep, you guys are soo impartial. All the support is for the Old Left. Maybe get some Green party reporters for comic relief. The Old Left is such a downer.

Quoting "Even in this relatively informal session, Kelliher had refused to show her own personality."

Gosh could this story drip with more bias? Well, actually, no,

MAK could have very accurately been described as business-like, serious and intense while Emmer could have been described as flippant, cavalier, and callous of hardship that his party's hard line on budget caused people. The "listening" at this point in the campaign shows a lack of preparation, a lack of understanding, a lack of a plan and a lack of courage and commitment.

So what this story REALLY shows is Doug Grow's incredible ability to paint the Democrats as bad even if all they are doing is being serious and dedicated.

Congratulations Doug Grow on doing yet another story that is basically just an advertising campaign for Republicans!

I do not care about candidates' perceived personalities and neither should you—and neither should this paper. MinnPost should be leading the way in changing the conversation from personalities to issues and proposed solutions.

Doug Grow's article highlights the prevailing attitude so many voters have, that of voting for a guy they would like to have a beer with. Haven't we learned anything from 8 disastrous years under George W. Bush? Truthfully, I would rather see either Dayton or Entenza as our candidate, but we can't afford another Republican governor, no matter how charismatic he is.