Horner-Mulder ticket will try to sell reform, the middle road and competence

The only time the Independence Party was a winner, it was carried to the governor’s mansion on the broad shoulders of celebrity candidate Jesse Ventura.

This morning, the IP’s endorsed candidate for governor, Tom Horner, introduced his running mate, Jim Mulder. He is a broad-shouldered fellow, but hardly a celebrity. Surely, the first reaction from Minnesotans who are paying any attention at all is: “Who?”

Mulder recently retired after a couple of decades as executive director of the Association of Minnesota Counties. Before that, he worked in the 1980s for the Republican House caucus, meaning the Horner ticket will be labeled by DFLers as “just another Republican ticket” and by contemporary Republicans as “tax and spend RINOs.”

Horner, who once worked for Sen. Dave Durenberger, has never denied being a Republican until “the party left me.” Mulder says he’s never been a card-carrying Republican.

“I’ve never attended a Republican caucus,” he said. In fact, he’s twice voted for IP gubernatorial candidates, Tim Penny in 2002 and Peter Hutchinson in 2006.

What this ticket will try to sell is reform, the middle road and competence.

Policy talk
Horner and Mulder can talk policy. They even seem to like talking policy. Their news conference this morning was filled with detailed talk of everything from whether Minnesota has too many counties, to a sunsets on state mandates to the property tax evaluation of farmland.

Isn’t this ticket a little dry? Isn’t it the antithesis of Ventura?

Jim Mulder
Jim Mulder

“This isn’t 1998, when Minnesotans felt they could elect a celebrity candidate,” said Horner. “This is 2010. …” Minnesotans, he believes, are ready to take this gubernatorial race very seriously because Minnesotans understand that the state budget is a mess.

Jack Uldrich, chairman of the Independence Party, believes Minnesotans will be serious this time, too. It will be up to the party and Horner-Mulder to make wonkishness “a political strength,” Uldrich said.

But Horner added one important realistic element to the IP dream of capturing the attention of Minnesotans with wonk speak: Money. He says that the ticket will need $2.5 million to run a campaign that will allow Minnesotans to get to know this ticket.

Horner’s selection of Mulder pretty much completes the running-mate selection process.

Interesting choices, soon to be forgotten
If nothing else, this has been a year of interesting lieutenant governor choices. We have an Elvis impersonator, Todd Anderson, the choice of perennial DFL candidate Ole Savior, who this time around is trying his luck as a Republican. We have a former TV anchor, Robyne Robinson, the choice of DFL candidate Matt Entenza. We have Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the DFL’s endorsed choice for governor, picking John Gunyou, who was the finance guru under Republican Gov. Arne Carlson. We have a former Newt Gingrich staffer, Annette Meeks, as the choice of the Republican’s endorsed candidate, Tom Emmer.

Of course, now that the running mates have been selected, they’ll be pretty much forgotten.

What may have been most significant about Horner’s selection of Mulder is that since Rudy Perpich selected Marlene Johnson as his running mate in 1982, Minnesota gubernatorial male candidates typically have selected female running mates — and in the case of Kelliher, a female candidate has picked a male running mate.

Horner was asked about “two white guys” on the ticket.

“That’s out of the box these days,” Horner said, laughing. He was quick to add that “diversity is important” and that his ticket will seek “to invigorate the whole state.”

Statewide connections
Certainly, Mulder, because of his position with the Association of Minnesota Counties, has connections in county government centers across the state.

And because of his long tenure with the association, he also has been involved in studies that are controversial. This morning, for example, the state’s Republican Party was quick to jump all over an association study that once raised the possibility of reducing the number of state troopers by 50 percent.

Mulder defended that study by saying that if Minnesotans want “true reform” people have to be able to discuss all sorts of ideas, including some that are “on the far edge.”

Tom Horner
MinnPost/Jana Freiband
Tom Horner

It was obvious that the Republican Party is taking the Horner-Mulder ticket seriously. Republicans passed out a news release about the Horner/Mulder ticket even before Horner officially announced Mulder as his running mate.

“With his selection of long time political insider and former client Jim Mulder as his running mate, Tom Horner has added another cheerleader for higher taxes and more spending to his team,” Tony Sutton said in the news release handed out to reporters attending the Horner announcement.

‘I don’t think that will be an issue’
The County Association was a client of the Himle-Horner firm in 2002. In fact, over the years, Himle-Horner has had large number of government clients, or clients that have done business with government. Horner said today that “I don’t think that will be an issue for the people of Minnesota.” He also said that whenever questions are raised, he’ll explain his relationship with those clients “fully.”

One final point of interest on today’s announcement. There has been considerable speculation that, in the past, the IP ticket has hurt DFL gubernatorial candidates but that this ticket may appeal to moderate Republicans who no longer feel welcome in their party.

Not only did the Republicans have a news release available at the news conference, but the party’s deputy chairman, Michael Brodkorb, also was on hand after the Horner-Mulder announcement, blasting the IPs with the sort of vehemence that he usual saves for DFLers.

Dayton5653.jpg Emmer5653.jpg Horner5653.jpg

Check out questions readers have for Minnesota’s candidates for governor (and some answers) at 10Questions.com

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 06/01/2010 - 12:46 pm.

    I don’t worry about specific clients of Tom Horner, but I find the idea we’re going to elect a lobbyist as a governor a little unnerving. How many of his opinions, over time, have been influenced by the rich and powerful, because, let’s face it, that’s who can afford lobbyists.

  2. Submitted by Brian Simon on 06/01/2010 - 12:48 pm.

    “Michael Brodkorb, also was on hand after the Horner-Mulder announcement, blasting the IPs with the sort of vehemence that he usual saves for DFLers.”

    Given the predictable nature of his comments, its a wonder journalists bother contacting him for a soundbite. I suppose, in fairness, one could say the same about Sutton.

  3. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 06/01/2010 - 06:55 pm.

    Both the DFL and the GOP should be concerned about IP candidate Tom Horner. This election has three clear choices. The GOP candidate is a “big C” Conservative and the eventual DFL candidate will be somewhere to the left of center. Mr. Horner represents the sensible middle/right which is where a vast majority of the voting public resides.

    Mr Horner has the best opportunity in many years for an IP candidate to reclaim the governorship. It is easy to see why the two major parties would like to not have him in the mix. Mr. Horner offers a credible counterpoint to the same old, same old.

  4. Submitted by Tom Horner on 06/01/2010 - 08:33 pm.

    @ Jeremy — I disagree with your characterization of lobbyists, but also should note that I am not a lobbyist, have never lobbied nor have I ever registered as a lobbyist — a fact easily validated through public records. More importantly, as we see in article after article — most recently the Strib’s examination of the candidates’ budget plans — I’m the only one offer specifics. People may disagree with my proposals, but they will know where I stand.

  5. Submitted by David Brauer on 06/01/2010 - 08:55 pm.

    Tom – fact-check there: Dayton’s budget plan was even more detailed than yours!

  6. Submitted by Ray Schmitz on 06/01/2010 - 09:30 pm.

    Had some hope that the IP would actually work on government innovation and cooperation, todays selection says to me more of the same, Mulder has never lead the AMC in a direction of reform, only to increase the power of counties to carry out the same old policies.

  7. Submitted by Laura Knudsen on 06/02/2010 - 12:59 pm.

    People were serious when the elected Venture. His celebrity grew after becoming governor. I so tired of the cheep shots at Venture. It lacks journalistic integrity and minimizes your story.

  8. Submitted by Bruce Anderson on 06/02/2010 - 01:08 pm.

    This strong IP ticket already has the RPM on the defensive.

    Amazing Sutton and Brodkorb can claim the IP ticket as insiders. How much more inside can you can with EmmerMeeks?

    And obviously Bill Cooper’s boys have not fully investigated Emmer’s tax increases when he was on a city council.

  9. Submitted by Tom Horner on 06/02/2010 - 08:22 pm.

    @ David Brauer — fair point, David…Dayton’s was very detailed. So I’ll just quote the Strib: “Dayton and Horner weighed in thoughtfully, providing the detail voters need to conclude they have a budget plan and to decide what they think of it.” Now, speaking of fact-check, when will we get media aggressively going after those candidates who claim that cutting taxes and cutting 20% from state spending will be “easy”?

  10. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 06/02/2010 - 09:37 pm.

    Since most pundits find the first narrative too technical or boring (and outside of their expertise), they’ve fallen back on more engrossing, less relevant political critiques. They are speaking the only language they understand.

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