Kelliher takes a calculated risk with choice of John Gunyou as running mate

The DFL brought out big names -- former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Minnesota Secretary of State Joan Growe -- for Margaret Anderson Kelliher's announcement of John Gunyou as her running mate.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
The DFL brought out big names — former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Minnesota Secretary of State Joan Growe — for Margaret Anderson Kelliher’s announcement of John Gunyou as her running mate.

By selecting John Gunyou as her running mate, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher showed today that she’s not afraid of risk.

On the surface at least, the current city manager in Minnetonka and former state financial chief under Gov. Arne Carlson is a wildly untraditional choice, especially given the fact that Kelliher, the endorsed DFL gubernatorial candidate, faces a huge primary fight.

Gunyou, who has never run for political office, is not the sort of choice who would seem to galvanize the classic, liberal DFL base. He’s not a populist, who can walk into an Iron Range union hall and get the place rockin’. And he’s not, outwardly at least, an environmentalist, who can stir the imaginations of metro-area tree huggers.

And it’s not certain he’s really a DFLer.

‘A Kelliher Democrat’
“I’m a Margaret Anderson Kelliher Democrat,” he said this afternoon at a news conference where the House speaker announced his selection. “… I’ve voted Democratic more often than Republican. … I’ve always had problems with idealogues of either party.”

One more non-traditional fact about Gunyou: He’s not a woman. Minnesota hasn’t had a male lieutenant governor since Lou Wanberg served under Al Quie in 1983.

“I think it’s time to have a guy back as lieutenant governor,” said Kelliher, the first woman to be either party’s endorsed candidate for governor.

“I’ll break the gender barrier,” said Gunyou with a laugh.

What Gunyou does do for Kelliher is show that she’s not going to veer from a strategy of portraying herself as the person most ready to take over as governor.

“I will surround myself with the best and the brightest,” said Kelliher.

She also said that she believes that Gunyou will inspire many who would not otherwise vote in the primary to rally around the Kelliher cause.

Of course, Republicans were immediately attacking Gunyou as “a tax-and-spend liberal” for his recent call for a 25 cent-per-gallon gasoline tax. Gunyou, in response, said the issue is not about tax increases or tax cuts, but about tax reform.

As city manager, he has been a frequent critic of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s anti-tax positions, saying, as many other city leaders across the state have said, that Pawlenty cuts of Local Government Aid have forced communities to raise property taxes.

Gunyou certainly wasn’t afraid to take on Pawlenty and the GOP’s endorsed candidate, Tom Emmer, in remarks this afternoon.

He said that “the radical Emmer will follow the same misguided path” that Pawlenty has followed.

Republican Party officials acted offended by those comments.

Michael Brodkorb
Michael Brodkorb

“They’re not running against Tim Pawlenty anymore,” said Michael Brodkorb, deputy chair of the Republican Party, who went on to say that Gunyou’s comments were very inappropriate and overly strident. (Brodkorb said that with a straight face — somewhat surprising, given his scorched-earth approach to politics.)

But Gunyou also took a shot at the man who appears to be the No. 1 obstacle standing between Kelliher and the November ballot, Mark Dayton.

“We can no more tax our way out of our problems than we can cut our way out,” said Gunyou of the deficit the next governor faces. He also repeatedly made references to “bumper sticker” campaigns, references that could be aimed at either Emmer (“cut government”) or Dayton (“tax the rich”).

More helpful choice for primary or general election?
Brodkorb said that Gunyou was a choice “geared to winning the primary, not governing.”

But that view doesn’t ring true.

Actually, Gunyou would seem to be the perfect November choice. He would appeal to moderate suburbanites. After all, he was Carlson’s finance whiz when Carlson followed Gov. Rudy Perpich into office and inherited a $2.5 billion deficit. It took two years of hard negotiations, Gunyou said, but the Carlson administration did find “a balanced approach” (cuts and tax increases) to fix the budget.

How would Gunyou compare Carlson and Kelliher?

“I’m happier,” said Kelliher, to laughs. (Even on his best days, Carlson was known as a grouch.)

“Other than personality,” said Gunyou, “they’re very similar.”

Go back, however, to the big question: Does Gunyou help Kelliher in a primary?

She finds herself in an ironic spot. Here she is, the first woman to have a major party’s gubernatorial endorsement and yet many see her as an “insider.” And insiders don’t seem to be very popular these days with many people.

Supporters of the candidates who Kelliher defeated at the DFL convention note out that it was the support of the party’s “super-delegates” (elected officials and other party insiders) that set up her endorsement victory.

Those in the DFL base upset by the way Pawlenty has been able to dominate the policy agenda despite the DFL’s huge legislative majorities, question her leadership as House speaker. In their minds, she was the “insider” who couldn’t get it done.

Joan Growe, former secretary of state, feminist and, in 1984, the first woman in Minnesota to win endorsement for a U.S. Senate seat, does find it ironic that now the first endorsed woman for governor should be burdened with an “insider” label.

“It just shows how hard she’s worked throughout her career to get into a position of leadership,” said Growe. “It shows how she always has been able to win the trust of people.”

Growe, a big supporter of Kelliher, is convinced that Gunyou is the sort of choice that will help in the August race.

“DFL voters will look at who can win in November,” she said. “This is a great choice.”

Kelliher was the first of the DFL primary candidates to name a running mate. Dayton reportedly will name his choice on Monday, and Matt Entenza is to announce his running mate in the middle of next week.

Emmer previously had named political commentator and conservative activist Annette Meeks as his running mate. The Independence Party’s endorsed candidate, Tom Horner, will have to name his choice before the election filings close June 1.

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 (15)

  1. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/21/2010 - 04:01 pm.

    Outstanding move!

    What a novel concept… Get someone in as LG who actually know something about finance and has experience in the area under a Republican governor.

    Time to get together and fix this current mess. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

    MAK has made a good and gutsy move here.

  2. Submitted by James Hamilton on 05/21/2010 - 06:08 pm.

    An interesting choice and one that moves me closer to MAK’s column come November.

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/21/2010 - 06:20 pm.

    For those who may be interested, Annette Meeks, in addition to hosting a popular radio show, served as deputy chief of staff for House Speaker Newt Gingrich, was chief executive officer of the Center for the American Experiment before founding and the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (it’s kind of like a conservative MN2020, except without relying on “spousal support” for financing).

    I guess you could call that being “active”…so, yeah, she’s an activist….and one heck of a smart woman.

  4. Submitted by David Willard on 05/22/2010 - 12:44 am.

    Hmmm. Think I’ll scoot over to the Emmer side, since Minnesota Democrats have yet to prove they can produce jobs via tax increases.

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 05/22/2010 - 06:42 am.

    Thomas, pretty much anyone who uses “left” and “right” had better be directing me to the men’s room at this point. Otherwise, there’s smarter conversation to be had with the urinal cake. But I do want to say that I observe Newt Gingrich to be a political opportunist of the first order.

  6. Submitted by Charles Leck on 05/22/2010 - 07:09 am.

    Doug Grow continues to prove himself, time after time, as one of the best news writers around. ChasLeck

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/22/2010 - 10:34 am.

    “Doug Grow continues to prove himself, time after time, as one of the best news writers around.”

    Which incidentally goes to the self defeating nature of the Strib’s early retirement policy.

    The choice of Gunyou is fascinating. It sends the message that Margaret is serious about addressing the state’s problems. The downside is that much of the state isn’t. Voters, so far at least, prefer the fantasies of Mark Dayton, or the denialism of Tom Emmer. No one yet seems interested in Entenza’s campaign emphasizing his humble past while avoiding the subject of his humble present.

  8. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/22/2010 - 12:33 pm.

    Richard, where did I use “left and right” in my comment? May I respectfully suggest you divert your attention from the urinal cake at least until you read the opinions you wish to respond to?

    You can label Gingrich however you choose, but the fact is that he had a profound effect on US Government. Further, in his prime, he was acknowledged as the most powerful elected official in the country, the President withstanding….one might reasonably conclude he would pick his staff members carefully.

    Personally, I do hope the Democrat candidates and their supporters continue to take Annette’s skill for granted….the look on their faces when they get run over by the approaching train alone will be worth the price of admission.

  9. Submitted by Howard Miller on 05/22/2010 - 01:12 pm.

    I find Gunyou to be a compelling choice – he seemed to be a straight-shooter and straight-talker. He also really knows his way around public budgeting. I’d rather he was the candidate for governor over the many other choices Minnesotans have this election season

  10. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 05/22/2010 - 03:07 pm.

    There is a vast difference in intellectual ability between Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. But there is no difference in what they say anymore.

    I happened to catch Newt’s speech on C-Span recently and decided to refresh my memory re: his experiences in the US Congress via Wikipedia.

    Frankly, it explains everything:

    “On January 21, 1997, the House voted overwhelmingly (395 to 28) to reprimand House Speaker Newt Gingrich for ethics violations dating back to September 1994. The house ordered Gingrich to pay an unprecedented $300,000 penalty, the first time in the House’s 208-year history it had disciplined a speaker for ethical wrongdoing.[18]”

    It gets even more interesting as one reads how the Republican congressional leadership threw him under the bus…

  11. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 05/22/2010 - 09:43 pm.

    Unlike MAK, Mr. Gunyou does not have a consistent record of voting for higher taxes and larger Government.

  12. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 05/23/2010 - 04:45 am.

    Wake up and smell defeat, Obama Democrats:

    Frank Rich latest Column on “Randslides”:

    “But the enthusiasm gap remains real. Tea Partiers will turn up at the polls, and not just in Kentucky. Democrats are less energized in part because even now the president has not fully persuaded many liberal populists in his own party that he is on their side. The suspicion lingers that a Wall Street recovery, not job creation, was his highest economic priority upon arriving at a White House staffed with Goldman alumni. No matter how hard the administration tries to sell health care reform and financial reform as part of the nation’s economic recovery, these signal achievements remain thin gruel for those out of work.

    The unemployment numbers, unlikely to change drastically by November, will have more to say than any of Tuesday’s results about what happens on Election Day this year. Yes, the Tea Party is radical, its membership is not enormous, and its race problem is real and troubling. But you can’t fight an impassioned opposition merely with legislative actions that may bear fruit in the semi-distant future. If the Democrats can’t muster their own compelling response to the populist rage out there, “Randslide” may reside in our political vocabulary long after “Arlen Specter” is leaving “Jeopardy” contestants stumped. ”

  13. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 05/23/2010 - 10:44 am.

    As Mr. Gotzman points out, Mr. Gunyou may be perceived as someone with a more moderate background with regard to fiscal policy. As Gunyou was a former state financial chief under Gov. Arne Carlson that point is well reasoned.

    Perhaps this move by Speaker Kelliher is one towards the center. I would have to say this move has more upside to it than otherwise. Although I do have to wonder how she will address the GOP banner of:

    “The DFL wants to raise your taxes and the GOP does not”.

  14. Submitted by Rod Loper on 05/24/2010 - 08:19 am.

    It drives home the fact that Dems are adults and Reps live in a frontier La La land. A great move
    by our dairy princess.

  15. Submitted by Colleen Morse on 05/24/2010 - 09:31 am.

    I honestly don’t feel that Brodkorb is a very bright person. He’s missing half his crayons. Remember, he used to run Minnesota Democrats Exposed, which is about as far from an intellectual forum as you can possibly get.

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